Freedom to Read

I had planned to write about fall and harvesting the fall book releases. But the more I attempted it the more it became clear it was not the topic that was wanting my attention today.

This week is Banned Books Week. Every year at the end of September various sponsors bring attention to our freedom to choose what we read; unrestricted by culture or government or schools. For those living in the United States, perhaps you think that we don’t think we have to worry about censorship.

The American Library Association maintains an Office for Intellectual Freedom that receives reports from libraries and schools where there are attempts to ban books. Challenges are attempts to temove but are not banned while banned books are actually removed from the shelves. In 2012 there were 464 challenges to books that were reported. The top challenges?

Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
Amazon Indiebound Audible

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.
Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
Amazon Indiebound Audible

Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
Amazon Indiebound Audible

Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
Amazon Indiebound Audible

And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
Amazon Indiebound Audible

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
Amazon Indiebound Audible

Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
Amazon Indiebound Audible

Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
Amazon Indiebound Audible

The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
Amazon Indiebound Audible

Beloved, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence
Amazon Indiebound Audible

I can understand when people are concerned for the well-being and safety of impressionable or vulnerable people. Parents want to protect their children from ideas that they fear are dangerous. But a society built on freedom must allow ideas, even those we oppose, to be shared with the public. TAnd in return there is a greater responsibility as citizens to share our thoughts and beliefs about these ideas. As a reader, I have a responsibility to be thoughtful about what I read. I also have a responsibility to share my thoughts and ideas. If I believe the ideas in a book are dangerous, it’s up to me to share my views in an honest and straight forward manner. However, it’s not my right to tell others what they can and cannot read. And thank goodness for that.

I encourage you to learn more about banned books. There are some great websites including:
American Library Association and Banned Books Week. And perhaps you could be daring and pick up a banned or challenged book and share your thoughts and opinions with others.  Let them know this is a challenged or banned book and encourage them to read it and make up their own minds.

Here is a list of banned books from the past many are today considered classics.

* Baldwin, James – Go Tell it on the Mountain
* Burgess, Anthony – A Clockwork Orange
* Burroughs, William S. – Naked Lunch
* Capote, Truman – In Cold Blood
* Chopin, Kate – The Awakening
* Dreiser, Theodore – An American Tragedy
* Ellison, Ralph – Invisible Man
* Faulkner, William – As I Lay Dying
* Fitzgerald, F. Scott – The Great Gatsby
* Golding, William – The Lord of the Flies
* Heller, Joseph – Catch-22
* Hemingway, Ernest – A Farewell to Arms
* Hemingway, Ernest – For Whom the Bell Tolls
* Hemingway, Ernest – The Sun Also Rises
* Hurston, Zora Neale – Their Eyes Were Watching God
* Huxley, Aldous – Brave New World
* Joyce, James – Ulysses
* Kesey, Ken – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
* Knowles, John – A Separate Peace
* Lawrence, D.H. – Lady Chatterley’s Lover
* Lawrence, D.H. – Sons and Lovers
* Lawrence, D.H. – Women in Love
* Lee, Harper – To Kill a Mockingbird
* London, Jack – The Call of the Wild
* Mailer, Norman – The Naked and the Dead
* Miller, Henry – Tropic of Cancer
* Mitchell, Margaret – Gone With the Wind
* Morrison, Toni – Beloved
* Morrison, Toni – Song of Solomon
* Nabokov, Vladmir – Lolita
* Orwell, George – 1984
* Orwell, George – Animal Farm
* Rushdie, Salman – The Satanic Verses
* Salinger, J.D. – The Catcher in the Rye
* Sinclair, Upton – The Jungle
* Steinbeck, John – Of Mice and Men
* Steinbeck, John – The Grapes of Wrath
* Styron, William – Sophie’s Choice
* Tolkien, J.R.R. – The Lord of the Rings
* Updike, John – Rabbit, Run
* Vonnegut, Kurt – Cat’s Cradle
* Vonnegut, Kurt – Slaughterhouse-Five
* Walker, Alice – The Color Purple
* Warren, Robert Penn – All the King’s Men
* Waugh, Evelyn – Brideshead Revisited
* Wright, Richard – Native Son

What do you think?  Are there legitimate reasons to ban books?  What banned or challenged book do you want to read?


2 thoughts on “Freedom to Read

  1. Marika says:

    It is an important topic and clearly this is what you were meant to write about. Books have been banned for centuries for one reason or another, and sadly that despicable act won’t stop just because we are going into the future. People will still remain people with their prejudices and misconceptions, and sadly those in power will always use them to their benefit.

  2. Marika, It seems now more than ever we must be vigilant. I was amazed at what people thought to challenge. Thanks for stoppping and reading.

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