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Yes, people are still trying to ban books. And they should be opposed.

You can shield yourself from ideas that make you uncomfortable or that you disagree with. You may be able, to some extent, to limit the exposure that the young people in your care have to those ideas. But you cannot shield your community from the things you disagree with. That’s called censorship, and in any practical […]

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A picture essay book on the necessity of libraries from The Guardian

What are libraries about? Neil Gaiman and Chris Ridell have put together this pretty neat picture book that solidly answers that question. Sit back and take a look. You will enjoy this.   Source: Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell on why we need libraries – an essay in pictures | Books | The Guardian

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ElizebethFriedman

‘The Woman Who Smashed Codes’ taught her biographer cryptology after her death

Journalist Jason Fagon, when he set out to write a biography of the extraordinary Elizebeth Friedman, America’s chief codebreaker during World War II, had an obstacle to overcome that most biographers don’t face: He had to learn cryptology, the art and science of secret writing. Fortunately, Fagon had a good teacher: Elizebeth Friedman herself. Friedman […]

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FrancesHBurnett

A 19th century writer-rock star, King James’ obsession, costly commas, and the Clinton impeachment revisited: newsletter, Sept. 7, 2018

This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (x) on August 30, 2018 Too much good stuff to read, too little time. I am in the middle of an excellent novel by a well-known author at the moment, and I will tell you about it in a week or two. I’ve also started […]

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King James I, perpetrator of a Biblical translation, hunter of witches

The famous opening scene of The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare begins with the speeches of three witches. They predict what will happen in the play, but they are more than a dramatic device. They were a very pointed and obvious political statement. That statement — something of a cheerleader’s “We’re with you all […]

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BeatrixPotter

The scientific contributions and botanical art of Beatrix Potter

All the world knows Beatrix Potter as the author of the Peter Rabbit stories. Some of the world knows that Potter also illustrated those stories. Probably even fewer people know that Potter was a scientist and a scientific artist, and her specialty was mushrooms. As Maria Popova of BrainPickings writes: . . . no aspect […]

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Frances Hodgson Burnett, a rock-star writer of the 19th and early 20th century

Frances Hodgson Burnett, another of The Secret Garden and Little Lord Fauntleroy, wrote prolifically and made a ton of money doing it. She traveled extensively, lived peripatetically, spent extravagantly, and maintained a lavish lifestyle that most of us could only imagine. During her 30 years atop the world’s literary stage, she was one of the world’s […]

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Self-publishing workshop at Blount County Public Library, Oct. 6, 2018

My duties and responsibilities as writer-in-residence at the Blount County Public Library (Maryville, Tennessee) continue to evolve. On the first Saturday of October, I will be offering a half-day workshop on getting started with self-publishing. If you’re in the area and are interested in this topic, sign up here: http://www.blountlibrary.org/FormCenter/Public-Library-9/Introduction-to-SelfPublishing-OCTOBER-6-111 Here’s the description: Introduction to […]

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What makes readers buy books?

Why do readers buy books? It’s an ancient question with no definitive answer, but fortunately folks keep searching for one. Maggie Lynch, author of numerous books and articles, has a roundup (Opinion: What Makes Readers Buy Books? | Alliance of Independent Authors: Self-Publishing Advice Center) of some of the latest research on the Alliance of Independent Authors […]

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EdgarAPoe

John Pendleton Kennedy: Edgar Allan Poe’s literary guardian angel

John Pendleton Kennedy is a man who lived in the 1830s in Baltimore, and chances are, you have never heard of him. That’s okay, but without Kennedy, who acted as a lifeline — a literary guardian angel, if you will — you might never have heard of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe lived a scant 40 […]

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WilkieCollins

The Guardian’s August reading group: ‘the very finest detective story ever written’ 

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins — tagged by no less than Dorothy L. Sayers as the “very finest detective story ever written” — is the August selection for The Guardian’s reading group. The Moonstone is the first of the great English detective novels. The Guardian’s Sam Jordison, moderator of the reading group, says: It’s 150 years […]

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WilliamJuliaWallace

Who killed Julia Wallace? The classic locked-door mystery

When Wiliam Herbert Wallace returned to his Liverpool home from work one January night in 1931, he found his wife Julia dead on the floor of the parlor, her head caved in by a heavy object and her blood spread across the room. Deanna Cioppa, a writer and editor and fan of true-crime stories, has all […]

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Amazon a substitute for public libraries? Not on your life

Perhaps you saw this article (which has been taken down): An economics professor wrote on Forbes this past weekend that public libraries should be replaced by Amazon. The sheer idiocy of the idea is obvious, but it gave Amanda Oliver, a librarian, an opportunity to outline succinctly some of the services that Amazon never could, or […]

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Route 66, Buried Truths, Copyboy; the saga of two failures continues, newsletter, July 27, 2018

This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,251) on July 27, 2018   The summer is fully upon us here in East Tennessee — heat, humidity, and tomatoes. We always plant far more tomato plants than we need, and we are always surprised, with a bit of mock-horror thrown in, at how […]

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Copyboy, Vince Vawter’s new novel, set to launch August 1

My good friend Vince Vawter is about to launch a new novel, Copyboy. Launch date is August 1, 2018. Vince is the author of the much-acclaimed Paperboy, a 2014 Newberry Honor winner. Paperboy is about a kid, Victor, growing up in Memphis in the 1950s. Victor must deal with a disability and confront the world […]

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Writing a book? Forget the keyboard; find the audio recorder

Let’s see: It’s hardback > paperback, >ebook > audiobook. That’s the natural sequence of things, right? Maybe, maybe not. A growing number of authors are rejecting this sequence and going straight to the . . . audiobook. That’s what this recent article in the New York Times says. It uses non-fiction author Michael Lewis as an example. […]

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Good journalism saves lives

Good journalism saves lives. In this Age of Hyperbole, that’s no exaggeration. A couple of weeks ago in the newsletter, I mentioned John Carreyrou, investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal, and the book he has written title Bad Blood. The book tells the story of Elizabeth Holmes. the wunderkind of Silicon Valley, and her […]

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An offer you can’t refuse: The Guardian’s top 10 books about gangsters

If you’re like me, you’re a bit of a sucker for “top 10” or “10 best” lists — especially when it comes to books about topics that interest me. So here’s a good one. Crime novelist Ron Reynolds has written an intelligent and entertaining piece for The Guardian on his top 10 books about gangsters. […]

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JohnCarreyrou

American Fire and Bad Blood: two excellent pieces of journalism

Good journalism is hard to do — I have said this many times — and when I find some, I tend to pay some attention. A couple of examples of excellent long-form journalism that I have come across lately are American Fire by Monica Hesse and Bad Blood by John Carreyrou. American Fire: Love, Arson […]

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ThomasDixon

Thomas Dixon: a writer on the wrong side of history

Sometimes a successful writer, both in his life and in his writing, gets it all wrong. Such was the case with Thomas Dixon. Dixon was born in 1864 in North Carolina and grew up during the Reconstruction era as an unreconstructed Southerner. He attended Wake Forest and later Johns Hopkins, where he befriended a young […]

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