Banned Books Week

Today marks the start of Banned Books Week 2009, an event created to celebrate the importance of the First Amendment. The American Library Association (ALA) offers some good insight into historical banned books on their website, and it's worth poking around if you are interested in the subject.

A quick glance over the top ten banned books lists from 2001-2008 reveals some interesting and unexpected finds. Julie of the Wolves, a childhood favorite of mine, and the His Dark Materials Trilogy. The usual titles pop up: The Adventures of Huck Finn (for racism and language) and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (for much the same reasons).

In honor of the week, I will be breaking my personal book-buying-ban to read And Tango Makes Three, which was the most challenged book for 2006, 2007 and 2008. I'd never even heard of this one until I started looking into banned book lists; I wonder what this says about the efficacy of book-banning efforts. Rather than banning the title, the book-banners have served only to bring it more and more into the public eye.

This seems to be somewhat of a continuous occurence. Recall last fall when there where vicious and unsubstantiated rumors floating around about Sarah Palin's book-banning efforts, if you will. While the rumors turned out to be false, they brought the issue of banned books back into the spotlight. People once again realized that book banning has not disappeared - rather, it is rampant across the United States (see a map of banning efforts).

In the end, maybe we should let the crazy people try to ban books. More often than not, they will fail; the First Amendment may be complicated for some issues, but the matter of censoring reading materials seems pretty black-and-white in regards to the law. In the process, though, banned books will be remembered, old favorites picked up and seen in a new light, and, hopefully, we can remember that we are almost all, on some level, passionate about books and reading. If it takes a controversy to remind us of that, I'll take it. And I'll take those banned books, too. Off to the Strand...

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