Friday, September 28, 2007

Banned Books Week?

September 29 - October 6 is the American Library Association's Banned books week - so read a banned book today! In fact, you probably already are reading a banned book, because the list of books which have been banned by various groups and organizations over the years is amazingly large.

According to the ALA, these are the top ten banned books from 1990-2000:
  1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  8. Forever by Judy Blume
  9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
The ALA has lots of ideas for how we can assert our intellectual freedom to read what we want because ignorance is not the way to justice or peace in the world. For some background, check out "Banned Books Online" from the University of Pennsylvania. Whether politically or religiously (or morally?) motivated, some people who want to control others by limiting their access to ideas. Everyone - not just teachers - should resist attempts to limit our knowledge.

Many readers champion Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 as a call to preserve freedom to read. According to Wikipedia, this is not Bradbury's intent:
Over the years, the novel has been subject to various interpretations, primarily focusing on the historical role of book burning in suppressing dissenting ideas. Bradbury has stated that the novel is not about censorship; he states that Fahrenheit 451 is a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature, which ultimately leads to ignorance of total facts.[1]
And of course Bradbury is correct with the problem of dumbing down as an effective tool for controlling people's thoughts ( maybe a bit also like Vonnegut's short story "Harrison Bergeron" from Welcome to the Monkey House where those who can think are intentionally burdened with handicaps to keep them from thinking ) because if people don't even want to try to think or can be sufficiently discouraged from thinking, then those in control don't even have to go to the trouble of banning or censoring ideas.

Note: Image comes from "Jovial Cynic" at



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