In the High Peaks

Friday, May 16, 2014

Swamped with WWI, YA Lit, and Edward Snowden

Regarding the World War I 100th anniversary, I finally ordered and received a book I've been meaning to read for years. I know it's a title that many of you have read: Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain. It is on my "Must Read This Summer or Die" List. It would be lovely if I could start it sooner, but I'm reading lots for the Children's Literature summer course I'm teaching starting Monday and I'm in the middle of several other wonderful books.

I wish, I wish I could get my copy of Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo for Caroline's Month of May Literature and War Readalong. But it sits waiting for me at Crandall Library, in our nearest city, and I haven't been able to get there. Time is running out! I'm still hopeful--Ken must visit the city tomorrow. Maybe I can bribe him to go out of his way to pick it up? I hate to make him go out of his way to feed my reading habit, but I think he'd also like this book.

Okay. I'm also desperate to read Ernst Junger's Storm of Steel, the German World War I classic. It's waiting for me at Crandall Library, too.

Meanwhile, I'm zipping through the 21st-century YA classic, Looking for Alaska by John Green, which won the American Library Association's highest award for YA literature, the Michael Printz Award. It is also a huge cross-over adult bestseller. And it's been hugely censored and challenged for use in high-school English classrooms all over the US, despite the fact it is still, still, a YA bestselling classic in 2014, nine years after its publication in 2005.

And last on my list to talk about this week is the just published, soon-to-be  #1 nonfiction book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald (Greenwald's blog link), the former US constitutional lawyer and columnist for The Guardian (until October 2013), and the only journalist whom Edward Snowden entrusted with the tens of thousands of U.S. "secret" documents that he seized for the purpose of informing the public of the U.S. government's Homeland Security Office top-secret surveillance of U.S. and foreign agencies and citizens. I heard Greenwald interviewed on National Public Radio's Fresh Air program on Wednesday, and I was so intrigued, I drove to a bookstore and bought it. Now I just need TIME, that most precious commodity, to read it. Fascinating article in Rolling Stone
And for the New York Times review, here's the link.


  1. I'm not one to read about wars, but I did enjoy Welsh librarian, Mari Strachan's book, "Blow on a Dead Man's Embers." It's set in 1921 Wales and features Rhiannon Davies, whose husband has returned from the war with a form of PTSD. It's quite thought-provoking.

    Also, let us know what you think of Greenwald's book. I've seen him on TV many times discussing Snowden.

    1. Kathy,
      I'm recording the title and author of the book you've mentioned in my WannaReads file. I have not been able to devour Greenwald yet. I have a wee bit of a break due to the Memorial Day Weekend coming up, but I am swamped with work for the summer course I'm teaching now and all the dozens of library books filling my house at the moment.

  2. My goodness Judith, you made my head spin with all those books. I was wishing for more time for you to read all these wonderful books. I was curious what issues the John Green book deals with to make it censored. I'm familiar with him but not this book. Hope you get some time soon to sit back, relax and read.

    1. Oh, Pam, do please keep on wishing for more time for me to read all of these books! At least we have the Memorial Day Weekend coming up. I'm going to squeeze in lots of reading time or else!

  3. I hope you'll get Private Peaceful in time. It's quite short, you might still be able to make it.
    I've got a small pile of John Green books and should really start to read him now. Many YA bestsellers get censored. It's quite infuriating as most of the time there's nothing harmful in them at all. Quite the contrary.

    1. I've already started and have made a goodly dent in Private Peaceful. I am "enjoying" it tremendously, which may seem strange to say, given its grave and solemn tone. I will be able to finish it in time. Thanks for the comment!

  4. I checked out John Green's book online to see why it's been censored and challenged. In one article, where Green comments, too, the article says that parents in some towns object to an explicit sex scene, explicit language and a character who has alcohol abuse problems.

    I suppose none of these parents thought of discussing the books with their children after they read them or along with them and take up the hard issues raised.

    My family read good books. When I was 15, I read Peyton Place as "all my friends were reading it." My father tried to dissuade me, but being a teen-ager, I had to find out for myself what was the problem. I read it and decided that it was trash, in agreement with my father. And I never read a book like that again.

    But it wasn't the explicit language or substance use that bugged me. It was the dissolute, petty and hopeless lives the characters led. They had no purpose or meaning, no kindness towards people around them. They were self-absorbed and mean.

    Children can discern good and bad books, and they can learn from books that parents may disparage. A friend's daughter, now in colldge, read all sorts of books when she was in high school. Some of the topics were really tough ones, but her mother discussed everything with her.

    These were good books, but fraught with difficult issues for teens. In her case, she learned more about the problems faced by many teens, and discussing it with her parent only helped.