BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — When Ryan Holiday and his wife, Samantha, opened The Painted Porch Bookshop in Bastrop, the dream wasn’t to get rich. As an author, he was drawn to the idea of sharing his passion and love of reading with new audiences, inspiring people to crack open new titles.
As conversations surrounding books’ themes and content have led to reviews, bans and analyses around the state, Holiday said he wanted to use his platform as a business owner to send a message.
“As booksellers, obviously, this is alarming,” he said. “As a writer, this is alarming; but, as human beings, we think that words matter. And truth matters.”
The Painted Porch Bookshop partnered with the e-book and audiobook company Scribed to host two “Banned Bookmobile” events at his shop this past weekend. The two businesses distributed thousands of free titles to customers as part of the initiative.
In Texas, concerns surrounding books’ content has risen to the forefront of conversations at both the state and local level.
In November, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a letter to the Texas Association of School Boards regarding concerns voiced by Texas parents on books, graphic novels and other materials in ISD libraries and school systems.
“The most flagrant examples include clearly pornographic images and substance that have no place in the Texas public education system. These parents are rightfully angry,” Abbott said, in part, in the letter. “Parents have the right to shield their children from obscene content used in schools their children attend. They are right that Texas public schools should not provide or promote pornographic or obscene material to students.”
Abbott’s letter followed an investigation launched by Texas Republicans into school districts’ curriculum and books used on campus — specifically those addressing race and sexuality. In an Oct. 25 letter to the Texas Education Agency obtained by the Texas Tribune, Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, noted book removals in ISDs around the state and compiled a 16-page list of nearly 850 books that he had concerns with regarding their content.
As a parent, Holiday agreed that there are some titles that are more appropriate for older children than younger ones. However, he said it’s also important for parents to be able to have conversations with their children about new ideas or topics — even if those conversations aren’t the easiest or most comfortable to have.
“Our kids being exposed to new ideas in books is a really good problem to have,” he said. “I’d much rather be having to explain something unusual or challenging or uncomfortable, even explicit, than have the opposite problem, which is that my kid isn’t interested in books at all, or doesn’t know how to read.”
Given the success of these past two events, Holiday said he’s looking forward to holding these giveaways more frequently in the future, to help not only keep focus and attention on the topic, but also to keep people reading.
While Holiday said he and Scribd representatives offered a wide variety of titles at their Banned Bookmobile events this past weekend, he said one title in particular seemed to garner a lot of popularity: “Fahrenheit 451.”
For a nearly 70-year-old title, Holiday noted its content is clearly still resonating with new generations.
“That’s a book that we read in school, and we can’t miss what it’s about, right?” he said. “It’s not just that the government can come and try to take books away, but that we ourselves wanting to have everyone get along and to not have controversy and to not upset anyone can end up censoring ourselves.”