26 September 2009

The Right to Read... Whatever I Want!

Today marks the beginning of Banned Books Week, "an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment."

I think that censorship is one of the most debilitating crimes against freedom in a modern society - and not just because I love to read. Reading and education fosters critical thinking and debate - both are key to intellectual (and spiritual) growth and fair governance. I know that just reading, without the thinking, doesn't always work this way - but I do think the more you read, the more you exercise your thinking muscles - whether you mean to or not. Reading broadens horizons, allows you to encounter new viewpoints, opens worlds of possibility. Reading is a human right - reading what I want to is a human right. No one should have the right to determine what is ok for me (or anyone else) to read. Banning books bans free thought.

So, celebrate your right to read what you want - go read a banned book this week. Here's a list of the 10 most challenged books in 2008*, in case you need a place to start:
  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
    Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group
  2. His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
    Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence
  3. TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  4. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence
  5. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, and violence
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group
  7. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  8. Uncle Bobby's Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen
    Reasons: homosexuality and unsuited to age group
  9. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  10. Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper
    Reasons: sexually explicit and unsuited to age group
*from the Amarican Library Association (ala.org)


  1. Who determines what books are banned? Where are they banned from? I know very little about these things

  2. Books are challenged every day in libraries, schools, bookstores, even nursing homes - by religious groups, political groups, educational groups... really, any group afraid of something. Whether they are banned relies on the institution confronted with the request for censorship. A challenged book doesn't always get banned, but censorship does prevail at times. Challenges are generally a matter of public record and range in severity from an irate customer verbally complaining to lawsuits.