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“Forbidden Bookshelf” Series Acquaints Public With Books Vanished by Government or Powerful Interests

A digital publisher called Open Road Integrated Media has launched a series called the “Forbidden Bookshelf,” in order to acquaint the public with books that were vanished or policed by the government or corporate entities when they were first released.

Mark Crispin Miller, an author and a professor of media studies at New York University who came up with the idea, told Firedoglake that over the years he had found that a “lot of books I wanted to assign in my courses have been unavailable,” which “speaks to certain problems in the book publishing industry.”

More importantly, Miller added, he has always been interested in “preserving freedom of expression.” He has become aware of many examples of books that were “in one way or another disappeared.” The disappearing did not occur as a result of “outright bans,” because that just does not typically happen in the United States. It is done through other means, like by giving the book a malicious bad review in a prominent newspaper or refusing to print copies of the book anymore.

Five books, which were out of print, have already been republished in e-book form: Lords of Creation by Frederick Lewis Allen, The Search for an Abortionist by Nancy Howell Lee, Interference by Dan E. Moldea, Blowback by Christopher Simpson and The Phoenix Program. 

While there is a “loose criteria” for what books will be rereleased in the series, “they have to offer truths or information that Americans need to know and they also, of course, have to be out of print.”

“We are especially interested in books that have been demonstrably undone but also books that have been conveniently forgotten,” Miller said.

Miller provided details on each of the books released so far and why he believed they had become “forbidden books.”

The Lords of Creation, according to Miller, is the only popular history by Allen that is out of print. He is well-known for Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s as well as Since Yesterday: The 1930s in America, a sequel volume. Both of those books continue to sell and are in print, however, Lords of Creation, which is “more directly pertinent to our economic crisis has simply not been revived.

It covers the period from the late 1800s to the stock market collapse of 1929 and explores how economic power came to be concentrated in the hands of the Rockefellers, Fords, Morgans and Vanderbilts, who were able to make the economy work for them as opposed to lower class Americans.

First published in 1969, The Search for an Abortionist was recommended to Miller by a writer named Katherine Silberger Stewart when he asked her what books should be featured in the “Forbidden Bookshelf” series. She said this book made a big impression on her when she read in the 1970s.

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“Forbidden Bookshelf” Series Acquaints Public with Books Vanished by Government or Powerful Interests

A digital publisher called Open Road Integrated Media has launched a series called the “Forbidden Bookshelf,” in order to acquaint the public with books that were vanished or, in one way or another, killed at birth by the government or corporate entities when they were first published.

Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media studies at New York University, came up with the idea. He told Firedoglake in an interview that over the years he had found a lot of books he wanted to assign in his courses were unavailable,” which he said “speaks to certain problems in the book publishing industry.”

More importantly, he also learned repeatedly of books that had been “disappeared” by powerful interests. Those works were not targeted with “outright bans,” because such outright censorship is unconstitutional in the United States. Rather, they were undone through other means, such as malicious bad reviews, or no reviews at all, or by the publisher not doing any marketing or even shipping copies to the bookstores.

Open Road has launched the series with five titles now available as e-books, with new introductions: The Lords of Creation: A History of America’s 1 Percent by Frederick Lewis Allen; The Search for an Abortionist by Nancy Howell Lee, Interference: How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football by Dan E. Moldea, Blowback: America’s Recruitment of Nazis and Its Destructive Impact on Our Foreign and Domestic Policy, by Christopher Simpson, and The Phoenix Program: America’s Use of Terror in Vietnam, by Douglas Valentine.

While there are “loose criteria” for what books will be included in the series, “they have to offer truths or information that Americans need to know and, of course, they have to be out of print.”

“We are especially interested in books that have been demonstrably undone but also books that have been conveniently forgotten,” Miller said.

Miller provided details on each of the books released so far and why he believed they had become “forbidden books.”

The Lords of Creation, according to Miller, is the only popular history by Frederick Lewis Allen that is out of print. He is well-known for Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s as well as Since Yesterday: The 1930s in America, a sequel volume. While both those books have stayed in print, The Lords of Creation has been unavailable since the Sixties, although “it’s more directly pertinent to our economic crisis” than those others.

Covering the period from the late 1800s to the stock market collapse of 1929, The Lords of Creation traces the consolidation of economic power in the hands of the Rockefellers, Morgans and Vanderbilts, who were able to make the economy work for them as opposed to lower class Americans. A new introduction by Gretchen Morgenson, financial reporter for the New York Times, explains the continuities between the heyday of those “robber barons” and the great financial crimes of recent years.

First published in 1969, The Search for an Abortionist was recommended to Miller by a writer named Katherine Silberger Stewart when he asked her what books should be featured in the “Forbidden Bookshelf” series. She said this book made a big impression on her in the 1970s, as it conveyed a vivid sense of how women had to cope with their unwanted pregnancies before Roe v. Wade.

Lee interviewed 114 women, whose experiences differed greatly. “The Search for an Abortionist reminds us of how perilous life was for women then, and also makes quite clear that outlawing abortion doesn’t end the practice, but only makes it far more dangerous,” Miller explained. As the right continues its campaign to make abortion unavailable from coast to coast, “this book is one that all Americans should read,” he added.

Miller clarified that he did not think that Lords of Creation and The Search for an Abortionist were “deliberately kept out of print.” They were out of print because “book publishers have overlooked their relevance, perhaps because the relevance is often uncomfortable.”

On the other hand, there are books that did not receive attention because the powers that be did not want people to learn about particular sensitive subjects. (more…)

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."