Fiction to be Feared and Loved

Two interesting articles that I came across recently look at the history of book production, moral panics, and PBS tackling the search for the “Great American Book.”

The Slate article, “The 19th Century Moral Panic Over…Paper Technology,” looks at the history of books and literacy. As books became more affordable in the 1800s, there was an upper class panic: “This abrupt change created a moral panic as members of the traditional reading classes argued over who had the right to information—and what kind of information ought to be available at all.” A crazy concept when considering how ubiquitous information is today.

Letter to the Editor in the Worcester Talisman– encouraging readers to stick to history, instead of “the flowery pages of fiction.”

At the end of the 19th century, parents became concerned that books were brainwashing their kids- introducing them to a life of “…crime and violence. The books were even blamed for a handful of murders and suicides committed by young boys.” This concern sounds familiar- music, video games, and movies are still blamed for encouraging aggression in young people. Sure the public still fears some works of fiction- specifically those banned books celebrated one week every year in public libraries, but to consider a time when all fiction was the subject of skepticism is eye-opening. How far we have come.

So far that PBS, which I agree with the BookRiot article is “awesome in every way,” plans to release an eight-part series in 2018 looking at the 100 favorite books as judged by the public and literary professionals.  Each episode in the series will have a theme (“What We Do for Love,” “Heroes,” etc.). Read the full press release here.

Peruse your bookshelf and scour your Good Reads account to get your list ready- I’ll share details as the polling starts! Looking forward to the debates and seeing how my local public library might get involved.

Happy “America’s Best-Loved Book” hunting!

Update: came across this great infographic featuring most challenged books of 2016 and some other fun data:

Image Credit


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