Ever wonder why certain books even make it to the library shelves?

On February 23, Mary Kierans, FVRL’s Manager of Support Services, will host a discussion of challenged books here at the library at 7:00 pm.

Deb Ireland

For the person who loves finding out something new, there really is no better place to hang out than a public library.

Earlier this week, in an e-mail from a library user, I was sent a list of the BBC’s “100 Books to read before you die”. I quickly read it over and highlighted the ones that I’d read, mentally noted how many I hadn’t read, and realized I that still have quite a bit of reading to do! But there was something niggling about what my correspondent had written about “the 100 is a bit of a cheat”, citing entries that were duplicated or multiple titles from the same author (like the complete works of Shakespeare).  

So I dug a little deeper. Turns out that a similar version of the list was first published by the BBC in 2003 and this list was morphed somehow with a list published in 2007 by The Guardian UK.

The original BBC list and the list I received (and that is currently making the rounds on the internet) share only 63 titles – a whopping 37 have been changed. Yet when the list was posted to FaceBook, it was prefaced with this authoritative sounding “fact”: “The BBC believes the majority of people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.”

Here are the things I learned: first, I learned not to believe everything you read (okay, I re-learned that one – refresher course!) and second, I learned what a meme is.

The “100 Books” list is a good example of a FaceBook meme. Merriam-Webster Online defines a meme as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture”. It’s the cultural equivalent of a gene – information is passed on and this information is subject to mutation and natural selection. Way cool as a concept but a real caveat in our electronic world.

And this ties in nicely to what is happening at the library right now as we prepare for Freedom to Read Week. We have red hearts available so people can tell us about books they’ve loved; and black hearts so people can tell us about what books they’ve wondered about, as in “Why is this book even in our library?” And on February 23, Mary Kierans, FVRL’s Manager of Support Services, will host a discussion of challenged books here at the library at 7:00 pm.

Already we have a couple of black hearts posted. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian” by Sherman Alexie and “The Sea” by John Banville. Be sure to come in before the 23rd to let us know your red heart and black heart choices.

And now I turn with sadness to note the passing of Julie Houlker, one of the three authors of the book “Choosing to Smile: Inspirational Life Stories of Three Friends Who Happened to Have Cancer”. Julie and her friends, Gloria Standeven and Michelle Rickaby, were at the library speaking about their book last October and a small but enthusiastic crowd was charmed by these three women.

This is an inspiring book for anyone whose life has been touched by cancer – so please save the date: Glenda and Michelle will again visit the Hope Library on Wednesday evening, May 25. Come and meet these ladies, they are truly awesome!


This week’s staff pick: “The Book of Awesome” by Neil Pasricha, the book that inspired the “Coquihalla School Book of Awesome”. Read it and you’ll see why!

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