The week of September 21-27, 2014 is Banned Books Week, an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Paul Stebleton, owner of Landmark Books in Traverse City talks to MyNorth’s Eliza Foster about his favorite banned book, the events they are having to celebrate Banned Books Week, the revival of the typewriter and more!

So what is banned books week?

Banned Books Week was founded by library activist Judith Krug in 1982 and is sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA), the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers, National Association of College Stores, and endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.  Our freedom to read is a vital right that is protected by the First Amendment.  Banned Book Week was created to draw attention to that freedom and to celebrate books and authors who have created works of art that some have found offensive.

For those who might not have discovered Landmark Books yet can you tell me a little bit about it?

Landmark Books is located in the old Traverse City State Hospital, or Building 50 as it is also known locally.  We specialize in classic literature, poetry, modern fiction and Michigania. Our store also carries a large selection of autographed copies and out-of-print books.  We offer appraisal services and can also help build your home library.  If we don’t have the book you need we can also search for it for you.  We are open seven days a week and also by appointment if you would like to meet us after hours.

How is Landmark Books celebrating banned books week?

Landmark Books will be celebrating the week and helping ‘Keep Reading Naughty” with a display of Banned and Challenged Books throughout the week.  We will host a Poetry Open Mic on Friday with the subject being “Censorship” which is open to all ages and levels.  The event begins at 6 pm and is free and family friendly.  We will also have a short discussion on Saturday to discuss the process of challenging a book and talk about the recent example from the Traverse Area Schools in 2012.  We will have handouts listing recent banned and challenged books for anyoBanned Book Week 2014 Naughtyne who would like to read them for themselves.  We had hoped to do a tree planting, however these plans are not final yet.


What is your favorite banned book?

My personal favorite would be 1984 by George Orwell.  It was first published in England in 1949 and features a story of a future dystopian society.  The subject is a fine example where we would be if we lost the freedom to read what we wanted.  It is fitting that it remains on the list of most challenged books even today.

Why do you think that reading is important?

Reading helps feed your mind and keep you young.  It is one of the few addictive habits that can’t get you into trouble and you can share with a friend.

Who is your audience for your banned books events?

I would really like to see teenagers and college students take an interest in the events and the cause as it will have the greatest affect on them.  As our society changes they will become the protectors of our First Amendment rights.

Do you offer any kid friendly events?

We offer a monthly poetry open mic that is kid friendly and free for the public on the last Friday of every month.  There is always a theme to these readings and you may read original work or a poem by your favorite poet.

Why do you think poetry is important?

Poetry is painting with words.  It is the one form or writing that the paper truly becomes your canvas and I can think of no finer medium to express true emotion and feeling than with poetry.  Fiction and prose are a great vehicle, but the economical use of language makes poetry my favorite choice.

Northern Michigan has bred some great authors, and I heard you have signed copies of some of the best… Can you tell us about some of those books that you sell?

Landmark Books has a large selection of books autographed by Michigan Authors such as Jim Harrison, Dan Gerber, Michael Delp, Russell Chatham, Thomas McGuane, Jerry Dennis, Jack Driscoll, Mitch Albom, Robert Traver, Loren D Estleman, Tom Kakonis, Doug Stanton and Gloria Welan to name a few.  We also have books autographed by Michigan sports legends like Fred Bear and Ernie Harwell.

What is the Landmark Books “Typing Team”?

The Landmark Books Typing Team is still forming, it will be for those who are driven to type and want to learn more about how their machine works.  We plan to hold seminars on repair and maintenance of old typewriters as well as holding a yearly Type-In at the store to draw attention to these amazing machines.

Tell us about Deep Wood Press (books that you carry in your store)

Deep Wood Press is located in Mancelona and is owned and operated by Chad Pastotnik.  He produces amazing hand bound books and broadsides that are amongst the special collections of Harvard, Oxford and the Museum of Modern Art.  He has over twenty-two years of knowledge and experience with letterpress printing and uses only the best handmade papers and leather to create his books. If you can’t make it to the shop, I encourage you to visit his website,

Do you ever use an e-reader or are you a book purist?

I do not own an e-reader, I spend a great deal of time on a computer looking for books for customers and looking at another screen is the last think I want to do for relaxation.  Besides, I love the smell of the store in the morning when I walk in and they will never be able to replace that tactile feel of holding a book in your hand and turning the pages.  Studies have also suggested that your retention of material is less when reading e-books.

To learn more about Landmark Books check out their website or like them on Facebook to see their latest events.

Want more info about Banned Books Week? Go to the official website.

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