Sunday, September 26, 2010

Banned Books Week

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 Gatsby1984, 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:

But most of all, celebrate your freedom to read!


  1. I definitely agree with you on this one. This issue has always been big for me but especially in high school when one of my friends wasn't allowed to read the Harry Potter series because it "went against the bible". From this I assume satanism/witchcraft. The only way someone could come to that conclusion about HP is by NOT reading the book. It's unfair in my mind that people make these judgments without knowing what they're talking about. There are so many good books on the ban list, I hope there are very few people who would pick books around this list.

  2. Agree! It's appalling. Nothing should be restricted or censored.

    I have a banned books bracelet, I should dig that out to wear this week. Yay reading!

  3. This is such a great post! I totally agree with you, any restrictions on knowledge make me really cranky. I cant believe classics like To Kill a Mockingbird are on that list!