Mr. Barry, a longtime columnist at The Miami Herald, was baffled by the decision.
“I can’t imagine why the Texas Department of Criminal Justice would ban them, unless they’re worried that the inmates would overpower the guards using fart jokes,” Mr. Barry said in an email.
Another South Florida writer, Carl Hiaasen, has several books on the approved list, but one of his novels — ”Double Whammy” — was outlawed. A thriller with dark humor, “Double Whammy” is about a private detective who investigates a suspected cheater in bass fishing tournaments.
Inmates are prohibited from reading it, the department said, because it contains information about manufacturing explosives.
“Maybe the folks in the Department of Corrections mailroom are devout bass fishermen, and they feel insulted by the satiric tone of the novel,” Mr. Hiaasen said in an email. “In any case, I get enough letters from inmates to know they enjoy humorous books.”
He added: “It’s difficult to imagine how ‘Double Whammy’ would spark an uprising. I confess to feeling flattered that I made the Texas list.”
For inmates, reading is not only a form of escapism during their sentences but also an opportunity to improve their chances of assimilating back into society after their release, reports about literacy in prison have found. In general, inmates suffer from illiteracy or struggle to read at rates far greater than the rest of the population, according to a 1994 study of inmates in federal and state prisons.
“To block access to ‘Where’s Waldo’ on the one hand, and Shakespeare on the other, doesn’t preserve order,” said James LaRue, the director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association. “It preserves ignorance and imprisonment. All too often, prison censorship, in addition to being an arbitrary abuse of authority, denies the incarcerated the chance to get out of jail and…