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Read What Thou Wish To

Judy Blume Quote

I was brought up allowed to read anything and everything I wanted for which, when I look back, I was very lucky to have. My mum took me to the library every week (Monday night after school), to exchange my four library books for another four. I had books that I read and re-read – Enid Blyton to death, Watership Down, The Babysitters Club, Goosebumps – then as I got older Anne of Green Gables, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Point Horror, and Stephen King. My parents both read, although not as avidly as I did, and encouraged me greatly. My nana was a librarian for 45 years and adores reading as much as I do. Every time I go home to visit she asks what I’ve been reading, even though we both know she’s unlikely to read it herself, she wants to know where I am.

In case you’re unaware, this week is Banned Book Week. It highlights the great books of our time which have been banned in some areas of the world for various reasons. These books are usually already classics, or can become classics, famous for their storylines and plots but manage to outrage communities for their content.

Because of the freedom I had as a child, I was never aware if I read banned books. I had no limitations as far as I was aware. As I got older and bought books more regularly, I continue to have the freedom to choose what I wanted, and as I got older still and owned a Kindle, I could download anything which was available. For most of my younger life, I wasn’t even aware books could be banned. Why would anyone want to ban such incredible creations of worlds?

On this list from BannedBooksWeeks.org I have read three of them, without ever realising they had ever caused controversy. The Call of the Wild, Fahrenheit 451, and A Streetcar Named Desire. In fact, the latter was studied in school in English Literature. Knowing there are books out there which have been banned or censored in some areas of the world is enough to make me want to read them. I want to know what’s inside the covers that have caused such outrage.

Children’s booked get banned too. On Buzzfeed in 2011, there was a list compiled of popular children’s and young adult books which have been banned somewhere.  From this list I’ve read seven of them, many when I was a child.

In blunt honesty, I don’t agree with banning books. I think anyone who wants to read, should be allowed to read whatever takes their fancy, especially children. At the risk of sounding old, in a generation of the Internet, video games, and smartphones, children who want to read anything should be greatly encouraged!

I understand that communities have beliefs, and that some books may go against their beliefs and this leads them to feel that said books shouldn’t be read. But who gives them the right to decide what other people should believe and read? You think Harry Potter should be banned as it is based in a magical world and therefore affiliated with evil? Okay, that’s fine, you’re entitled to that opinion of course. But the person sat next to you may not feel the same way. So why ban the book from your local library?

We are all wonderfully unique people with individual ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and desires. What works for one person won’t work for another. If everyone had everything they thought was bad banned or censored from those around them, the world would be a very simple and boring place indeed. Books, along with other things, make the world continue turning. They inspire, they create, they evolve, they connect. We would be a very different place without them.

If you’re going to read a new book this week – make it a banned book.

“A word to the unwise. Torch every book. Char every page. Burn every word to ash.
Ideas are incombustible.
And therein lies your real fear.”
– Ellen Hopkins ‘Crank and Smoke’

The Bet – Day Four: Taking a Break

Today is a day off from The Bet. This is purely because yesterday was Boyfriend’s birthday and I allowed him to watch TV. When he asked if he could, I didn’t want to waste a tube journey of reading with only the London Evening Standard for company, so I chose to have today as my day off instead. Man, I forgot how much easier tube journeys are when you have a book for company. Whole stops went by and I didn’t even notice people getting on and off, or the doors opening, or the fact that we were even moving along the tracks. A 45 minute journey suddenly felt like 10 minutes, but I managed to get through 100 pages of Zoe Marriott’s ‘The Night Itself’! I recommend it if you’re into Young Adult books. It involves a 500 year old Katana, and a 15 year old girl defending modern day London from a Big Bad. Also the cover is very pretty:

The_Night_Itself_cover Small

The girl in the bookstore even commented on it and said she wanted to read it.

However, until today, The Bet has gone well. I discovered a new interest in playing games on my phone, which considering I have the world’s crappiest smartphone, is impressive. I can’t have more than one game installed at once though. It drains my memory. And I’ve discovered that if you stand up against one of the doors at either end of a tube carriage (the doors that connect to the next carriage along), you get a nice blast of cold air on your hot neck every time the train leaves a station – perfect for long, sweaty, tube journeys.

The flat is also looking tidier, as getting in from work now means I haven’t really got much to do. If I go into the bedroom to watch TV, I’m liable to fall asleep and then I’ll waste the whole evening, which I don’t want. We’ve also been busy each night so far – Tuesday we went to the cinema (Monsters University is an amazing movie), and Wednesday went to Boyfriend’s folks place for a birthday meal. Tonight we’re having drinks after I’ve finished work, and tomorrow we’re heading to Brighton for the day! This means I haven’t really had a lot of time where I would be reading.

The true test comes on Sunday – Tuesday, when I’m off work with no real plans other than wanting to relax in the sun and read on the patio.

In a weird way, it’s almost cleansing to not be able to read and write whenever I want to. It means I have to find other ways to pass the time and I’m already working out ways for me to fill it. For example, I’ve owned a book on making origami jewellery for 18 months and haven’t done anything with it. This would be prime time to making a go of it. I may need to find a craft shop first to pick up a few bits, but even if not – I have the suitable paper ready.

Before, I felt I should be writing, and thus it became a chore. But right now, because I know I’m not allowed to, I’m feeling that when I win the bet (hehe), I’ll want to again. I feel I will have missed it because I’ve been banned from doing so. I’m also planning on fully printing my draft of We All Fall Down and editing it the old fashioned with – with a red pen! I have plans to look forward to, which is really nice.

In the meantime, I have another 250 pages of The Night Itself to read before midnight! Enjoy your weekend, folks!

A Day of Happiness

Happy International Happiness Day!

(sorry, what?)

That was the response in our office as well earlier on when we heard the announcement on the radio. International Happiness Day? Apparently, (according to The New York Times blog) “the initiative for Happiness Day came from the Kingdom of Bhutan, the small landlocked Himalayan state, which adopted a Gross National Happiness Index as a better measure of its people’s prosperity than its income.” And today is the first official Happiness Day as decided by the United Nations. There’s your random fact for the day. More importantly, today is the Spring Equinox! So, Happy Equinox and Happy Ostara for those celebrating! It may not feel anything like spring outside (unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, in which case would you like to share some warmth with us poor souls in the north?) but from today the days are officially longer than the nights. What does that mean? Writing in the park, yay!

Last year I did actually take my netbook to work and go and sit in Hyde Park afterwards and write. It was warm, there were happy people everywhere, and it was much better than sitting in a stuffy coffee shop or my bedroom. Of course there’s the problem of sun glare on the screen, but at the end of the day there’s nothing wrong with good ol’ pen and paper. Sunbathing, some people watching, writing inspired by the people feeding the ducks and awkwardly learning to roller blade down the path, avoiding the people keenly out on the Boris Bikes… bring on summer! (Although, I would definitely settle for spring right now. On March 27th last year, I got quite nicely sunburnt after working outside for a morning. Can’t see that happening this year somehow.)

So International Happiness Day is all about well, being happy. So what makes you happy? Right now I’m sat with my newly aligned desk to my left, sitting sideways on my chair so my back is resting against the wall, my feet up on the bed in front of me, Top Gear’s new Africa Special playing on my laptop, and a cup of tea. This is happiness right here. I’ve done a bit of writing, I’m blogging, I’m chilling out, and tomorrow night I’m going home to Manchester for three days which is very much happiness in a little northern bubble.

Of course writing again makes me happy. I wrote on Monday but was feeling in a slum, and writing felt forced and I didn’t enjoy it too much. I was determined to push through, though, and managed 1,000 words for my new story. I didn’t write last night and I’ve done a couple of hundred words tonight already and that feeling of slipping back into the story is akin to slipping on a pair of warm fuzzy socks in the depth of winter after getting in from the cold and the dark. It’s soothing, and relaxing, and just plain nice. I have no idea where this story is going but it’s nothing serious, just something to get me back into the swing, and I like that I can just move back into the flow of it.

Randomly, the other thing making me happy is finally pushing somewhere towards the end of Stephen King’s ‘IT’. I read half of it in 6th form when I was 18, but had borrowed it from the library and I left the school before I finished it. I’ve recently started reading it again on my Kindle and am currently at 88% finished. It has taken me weeks! Reading a book doesn’t usually take me weeks but the thing is HUGE! And parts of it are a bit tough going, I feel. But, I very much like the book. As an avid old school King fan, it excites me to be able to really dig my teeth into his work. His newer stuff doesn’t really do much for me, so I like that there’s older books of his that I’ve yet to read. (Although, I will be reading the sequel to The Shining – ‘Doctor Sleep’ – when it’s released. No self-respecting King fan could resist, no matter what they thing of his recent writings.)

There’s a few little things in there, but altogether, a very enjoyable evening. Work was good, but the evening has definitely been the good part of International Happiness Day. I hope your days and evenings are being enjoyed as well.

Keep writing and be happy!

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