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4,240 book ban tries, not bad for media that futurists said would be dead by now
The Book of Popular Science encyclopedia.

I do not consider myself a nerd.

But what you are about to read may make it hard to believe that statement.

My mom didn’t splurge on “luxuries.”

She didn’t own new furniture — with the exception of a mahogany formal dining room set that was a wedding gift from my dad — until she was in her late 50s.

But there were a few things that most wouldn’t consider essential, that she made sure she bought regardless of the scrimping it took.

One of them was encyclopedias.

The value of books, especially encyclopedias, was instilled in my mom by her mother.

Edna Towle’s formal education ended in the eighth grade.

Grandmother taught in a one-room school house for two years in the wilderness that was the Smartville area in western Nevada County just after the dawn of the 20th century.

She became a cattle rancher’s wife and then ended up as the rancher when my grandfather left her high and dry with seven kids to raise at the start of the Great Depression.

It clearly was a struggle. Despite that, she found a way for her kids to have a used encyclopedia set at home.

My mom started acquiring encyclopedias for her kids the way many households did in the 1950s and early 1960s.

It was one volume at a time through weekly grocery store promotions.

That is how our family’s first  encyclopedia set, The Golden Book Children’s Encyclopedia, was obtained.

It was also the way the second set, The Golden Book Encyclopedia for Home & High School, made its way into our household.

When my oldest brother was about to enter high school, mom decided she needed to get better encyclopedias.

The result were three sets she bought on the installment plan for what was then an ungodly sum of $200.

They were the Book of Knowledge, Grolier Encyclopedia, and The Book of Popular Science Encyclopedia.

She also, for a number of years, bought a hardback annual recap of world events the Book of Knowledge published each year.

When I was 7 years of age, there were five encyclopedia sets in our house.

My brothers used them to help with homework.

I went one step further.

I read them for pleasure. All of them.

I would entertain myself for hours doing just that.

If that doesn’t strike you as a bit nerdish, it was just a precursor.

By the time I was in the eighth grade and earning money doing odd jobs, I was able to put aside money not needed for clothes to buy subscriptions to three magazines.

Boy’s Life? Sports Illustrated? Popular Mechanics?

Try Newsweek, Time, and US News & World Report.

Three weekly news magazines I couldn’t wait to arrive in the mail.

I took it further.

My mom allowed me to tack the covers of Newsweek and Time — US News & World Report was pretty boring — to my bedroom wall.

Other preteens had posters of sports figures and such plastering their walls.

I had images of politicians and newsmakers.

Real photographs from Newsweek and artist renderings which was Time’s forte.

It goes without saying that I place a large degree of value in the printed word, literally and figuratively.

It doesn’t take too much of a leap to figure out that I had a well-worn library card growing up.

That said, I’m not a book collector, per se.

I do have some books that I keep and periodically reference and read again.

The biggest collection is centered around water and it’s politics.

Much of my reading today consists of PDFs produced by government agencies that are sometimes so laborious and lengthy, they take longer to download than the “Titanic” takes to upload.

It’s been more than a few years since I’ve made my way to the library to browse the shelves.

That, by the way, is the best way to find something of interest that you’d never try on your own. More horizons and such get opened up that way.

Which is why I abhor algorithms — think Netflix — to recommend what you should explore. All it does is limit your world if you follow their led.

It is also why I take a dim view of those seeking to ban books that they don’t agree with or feel threatened by.

There were 4,240 different book titles targeted for banning in 2023, according to the American Library Association.

It’s the most titles ever since the association started tracking book ban efforts decades ago.

For a bit of comparison, the 2023 numbers for books targeted for banning in schools and public libraries was up 65 percent from the previous year.

It’s roughly 15 times more than in 2015 when 275 titles were challenged including the Bible.

The two biggest states for attempts to ban books were Florida at 2,672 titles followed by Texas at 1,470.

James LeRue, Director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom back in 2015, noted book bans reflect the fact “cultures change over time, and the things we fear, or celebrate, change with them.”

Going from 275 unique books being targeted for banning a decade ago to 4,270 today does indeed reflect there is a lot of fear today.

California, by the way, in September of last year thanks to legislative action, became one of two states to outlaw book bans in public schools.

Book bans speak volumes.

Especially today, 24 plus years beyond when some futurists in the 1980s predicted libraries would be obsolete and printed books superfluous.


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at