Banned books, strongly held opinions, the oldest drawing, and what libraries are about: newsletter, September 21, 2018

September 24, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: newsletter.

This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,097) on September 14, 2018

My education continues: I am learning the ins and outs of producing an audiobook. I had thought that audiobooks were beyond me, but I find that with the right process, they’re not. My first audiobook will be (I hope) Point Spread, the young adult novel I published last year. I give you a progress report on how it’s going.

The bees sit happily in their hives awaiting the fall blooming season. Around East Tennessee, that means goldenrod and a few other things. I am beginning to see the goldenrod in the fields up and down our road, so the bees will soon be taking their field trips to pick up what the plants are offering. Should be fun to watch.

Meanwhile, I hope you’ve had a wonderful week and are looking forward to a great weekend.

Important: Remember to open the images or click on one of the links so that my email service will record your engagement and you will stay active on the list. Thanks.


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

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 sense, it doesn’t work.

Yet people continue to try.

That’s why we have Banned Books Week (in 2018, Sept. 23-29) — because despite its obvious and practical futility, people continue to try. And librarians, bookseller, academics, and many people from across society continue to oppose the people who try. keeps up with the censorship efforts that occur throughout the year and on the website is a list of the books that came under the most fire in 2017. Here’s the list, but you’ll need to go to the website (About | Banned Books Weekto find out why:

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
George y Alex Gino
Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

Efforts of censors almost inevitably fail — ideas don’t die just because you keep them out of public places — but that doesn’t mean we should stand idly by and let the censors run amok among us.

Opposing censorship is everyone’s job.


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


Giveaways and offers

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.”


The United States has always been divided in its thinking — even before it was the United States

The deep divisions in America’s current political culture undoubtedly pose serious and difficult problems for the long-term health of the nation, but they need to be set in some context.

The truth is that the United States of America has never been united except on the most basic of principles (equal justice, free speech, etc.). Americans hold strong and heartfelt opinions on just about every topic imaginable. That tradition of division dates back to before the American Revolution.

I was reminded of that recently as I have been reading Nathaniel Philbrick‘s Valient Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution.

Philbrick writes that as the American colonies barreled toward revolution and independence from Great Britain, both population and politicians were deeply divided on whether or not independence was a good thing. Those divisions led to boycotts, harassment, and even violence on both sides of the question. The divisions from neighbor to neighbor were often deep and bitter.

The American Revolution had two fronts: the war against Great Britain and a civil war so widespread and destructive that an entire continent was seeded with the dark inevitability of even more devastating cataclysms to come. (p. xvi)

This civil war that Philbrick refers to continued and got steadily worse as the war with Great Britain stretched over several years. It led to the treasonous conduct of one of America’s best generals, Benedict Arnold — which is the focus of this excellent and highly readable book.

What any reading of American political and social history indicates is that the conflict and divisions within America present at the Revolution have never ceased — and they continue to this day. The issues of today no longer include independence from Great Britain, of course, but there are issues that have been around since the formation of the Republic: how do we administer equal justice; the responsibilities of government to its citizens and vice versa; the right to vote; immigration; etc.

We tolerate conflict. We tolerate division. We are not always polite and respectful. More often than not, our feelings and rhetoric are overheated and extreme — as it is today. But that is who we are. That, I believe, is one of our great strengths.


Bob Woodward talks about his use of anonymous sources for his reporting

Using anonymous sources has always been a controversial practice in journalism for many generations.

In an interview with the New York Times’ podcast The Daily, Bob Woodward, who has been breaking important stories for nearly 50 years in Washington, talks about his use of anonymous sources for his reporting. Bob Woodward on Trump, Nixon and Anonymity – The New York Times

The central message: If you don’t use anonymous sources, you don’t get important sources.

This interview is well worth listening to.


Scientists discover what they believe is the oldest known drawing by human hands Discovered in South African Cave

Seven red marks resided in a cave in South Africa for about 73,000 years until a few years ago when rocks from the cave were extracted for examination.

Now scientists believe they are the oldest drawings yet discovered that were made by humans. They are about the side of two thumbnails, and what they mean, if anything, is anybody’s guess.

They are made of red ochre, a naturally occurring pigment, and probably applied to the rock with a stick. This New York Times story has the details:

Using a microscope, a laser and a scanning electron microscope, they (the scientists) determined that the marks were on top of the rock and that they were made from red ocher, a type of natural pigment that was often used to make prehistoric cave paintings. In fact, ancient humans in the Blombos Cave were making ocher paint as far back as 100,000 years ago. Source: Oldest Known Drawing by Human Hands Discovered in South African Cave – The New York Times

Previously, the oldest known drawings were about 40,000 years old.


In case you missed these recent (and ancient) posts on



Elsa H.: I enjoy your newsletters, Jim, although sometimes I can’t really take in much (fibro fog). I want to know more about Agatha Christie, please. I read all her books that I could find in chests that were shipped from Kenya when we moved to South Africa. I used to climb down I to the cellar (I think you call it a basement) and I had a nice little reading nook set up there together with stuff to eat. It was directly down so I had to smuggle a ladder in too. Then I found Agatha Christie. I was ten. 

The other day I downloaded the And Then There Were None movie, and it was horrifically brilliant. I think she was a Hitchcock in disguise. . . . Many Thanks for all the interesting bits!
Virginia S.: I know about the hurricane that’s happening. My husband works for the power company, and he’s heading that way. I pray for everyone in this time and pray that everyone who is headed down to help will come back safely to there families. It worries me every day, but I keep praying. Thank you and God Bless.
Frank C.: James VI of Scotland brought up on the continent?  Are you sure? His mother Mary was, but he hardly knew her since they were separated when he was an infant in Scotland. But James? I am surprised to hear he ever visited the continent let alone lived there.
A reader wrote last week that King James I had been raised in Europe, but I have not found any confirmation of that. Does anyone have any insight into this assertion?

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:

Here’s the description:

The workshop will be held Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Sharon Lawson Room. You will learn the basics of self-publishing in this half-day workshop conducted by Jim Stovall, the Blount County Public Library’s current writer-in-residence ( The workshop will cover everything you need to know about getting started in the world of independent publishing and how to make your book available on Amazon, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and other book-selling forums. Advance online registration is required as is a $10 registration fee which includes a box lunch from the library’s Bookmark Café. Lunch is not optional, and lunch order options are on the registration form below. Seating is limited to 30. For more details, call Adult Services (Reference Desk) at 865-273-1428 or 865-982-0981, option 3.

Remember, the $10 fee includes lunch!

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Benedict Arnold


When I completed this watercolor on Wednesday, I showed it to my art group (before I put any names on it) and told them to guess who it was. I gave them a couple of clues including the fact that everyone would know this person’s name but none of them had probably ever seen a picture of him. After about five minutes of guessing, they gave up. I was right. No one had ever seen a picture of him.

Best quote of the week:

Elitism is the slur directed at merit by mediocrity. Sydney J. Harris, journalist (1917-1986)

Helping those in need

This is my weekly reminder to all of us (especially me) that there are many people who need our help. It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here). When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief ( my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: America’s chief WWII codebreaker, language and dialect in Appalachia, new season for Serial; newsletter, September 14, 2018



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