Confession: I have actually never read Ulysses. Yes, I am a poser.
So, I recently (like, five minutes ago) discovered that this week is Banned Books Week! This is even more exciting than National Punctuation Day, which I missed celebrating on Friday. It is pretty astounding that people still try to get books banned. Books are an incredible source of knowledge, and I particularly love the way fiction can reveal so much about what it means to be human, in all its beautiful, terrible complexity. And the real shame is that the books that reveal the most are the ones that are the most honest, which also seems to land them on the banned and challenged book lists.
I try to understand that people who want to ban books are, in a twisted way, doing it because they care about children and young adults, but the whole idea is just disgusting and misguided, and sometimes even discriminatory. In general, the idea of restricting knowledge really gets my panties in a bunch, if you'll forgive the antiquated phrase. And when this happens, then I become somewhat irrational and unable to form coherent sentences. So I won't go on about it too much. Instead, I will focus on the positive, the freedom to read!
The American Library Association has compiled this list of the most challenged titles of 2009. While I am familiar with nearly all of the titles on the list, I haven't actually read a single one (no, not even Catcher in the Rye or The Color Purple, and not even Twilight). So this week, I am going to acknowledge Banned Books Week by going to the library and checking out one of the books on the list.
If the issue interests you, I recommend you do the same, or do one of the following:
- Check out BBW website for a list of events that may be happening in your area.
- If the books on the 2009 list don't tickle your fancy, here is another ALA list of banned/challenged books that also appear on somebody somewhere's list of the top 100 books of the 20th century. Of these, I can personally recommend The Great Gatsby, 1984, Of Mice and Men, Brave New World, Slaughterhouse Five, and Go Tell it on the Mountain, although I really need to get around to reading the others on that list as well.
- Pop over to maybe genius and read what she has to say about attempts to get the novel Speak banned.
- Read (or re-read) Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, which not only appears on the ALA's list of the top ten challenged books of 2008 (the first book is also on the 2007 list) but also features themes about knowledge and how it's accessibility is directly related to freedom. Also, the series happens to be a personal favorite of mine.
- Get a more global perspective through this list of books banned by governments according to wikipedia.
- Explore this totally sweet map featured on the BBW website:
View Book Bans and Challenges, 2007-2010 in a larger map
But most of all, celebrate your freedom to read!