Banned Books Week started yesterday. To celebrate, I like to read at least one banned book during this annual celebration of reading.
Banned Books Week, which the American Library Association started in 1982, celebrates the freedom to read. As a lifelong reader and booknerd, I support the free and open access to information and the freedom to seek and express ideas, whether or not I personally agree with those ideas. As a U.S. citizen and lawyer, I’m a staunch support of the First Amendment. There’s a reason why America’s found fathers put “freedom of speech” as part of the First Amendment.
Each year, the ALA publishes the top 10 challenged books of the previous year and compiles an annual list of all books that were challenged, restricted, removed, or banned. I’m always amused by the books on the list and amazed at some of the asinine reasons.
For example, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling made the list (again) because the books refer to magic <gasp> and witchcraft, and worse “contain actual curses and spells.”
I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve tried accio (to summon something right to your hand) and wingardium leviosa (to make items fly). And I bet some of you have even tried some of the HP-curses. But I haven’t had any luck with getting any of the HP spells to work. So I’m not sure what thought process, if any, went into the reasoning of “contains actual spells.”
Then again, maybe they know something I don’t.
And I’ll be honest. Frankly, I’m not a science person and “magic” is my explanation as to how most science or techy things works. Like quantum mechanics. I tried to listen to Feynman’s lecture and the only thing I got out of one of the quantum mechanics lectures was it’s basically magic. Think about it. Take today’s technology, like a smartwatch, and go back 100, 200, 500 years and you’d probably be accused of witchcraft.
But I digress.
I see no reason to ban any book except for maybe atrocious grammar and spelling. (Not for those books where the misspellings or awful grammar are part of the story, but because the author and, more importantly, the editor, didn’t do a proper job.) Even then, I say let the free market capitalist system do its work. Supply and demand. Create crappy products, and no one will buy it. Problem solved.
Honestly, if I was J.K. or Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale) or any of the other authors who’ve had their books banned, I’d take it as a badge of honor. In fact, I picked up the first Harry Potter way back in 1999 when the third book was released because the news was reporting that ignorant people were not only banning the HP books, but burning them. I figured if people were up in arms so much that they were burning the books, then it must be a good book.
And public book burning? You can’t buy publicity like that.
This year, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom has unveiled the Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books for the past decade.
Out of these 100 banned and challenged books from 2010 to 2019, I’ve read 14 and have another 12 on my TBR.
I admit some of these books I haven’t heard of probably because I’m not the target demographic. Some, like the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, who is awesome enough to have two books on the list, I’ll likely never read. Not because I disagree with the content, but because the book doesn’t personally appeal to me. While I’m all for reading banned books, and in fact, encourage it, my TBR (to be read) list already has 873 books on it, and it grows exponentially every year. And let’s be honest, I’m far removed from the target demographic for Captain Underpants anyway.
My favorites of those I’ve read from this list include Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. On the top of my banned books TBR is Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which gets the honor of being the top of this list, and George by Alex Gino.
(See more of my banned books picks on my Banned Books shelf at Bookshop.org.)
This year, I plan to finally read and finish Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I’ve started it before, but never got past the first chapter. This banned book has been on my TBR for far too long and 2020 seems the appropriate year to finally read it.
What banned book are you reading this week? Or share your favorite banned book in the comments below.