Did you know that every year hundreds of books are challenged across America? Banned Books Week is an annual awareness campaign that reminds the literary community of the importance of speaking out against book banning and supporting our freedom to read. This year Banned Books Week takes place between September 23 and 29. To help you get involved, we’ve put together a list of seven ways to celebrate Banned Books Week.
Off the Shelf celebrates Banned Book Week with a list of inspiring books that have been banned throughout literary history, including “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel. Visit BannedBooks.org and ALA.org for more information.
This list contains some books challenged in recent years, not just the same classics that are perennially challenged. How many of these banned books have you read? I’ve read six.
In honor of Banned Books Week, Time looks at how the focus of book challenges has changed over the past several years.
(Artwork above courtesy of the American Library Association)
Banned Book Week is an annual event celebrating the right to read usually held during the last week of September. It’s sponsored by the following organizations:
It is also endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.
A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict the availability of specified materials. A banning is the removal of materials:
Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.
Read more about who challenges books and why at the ALA FAQ page about banned and challenged books.
Check the American Library Association’s Frequently Challenged Books list for 2014. Some of the titles might surprise you.
You can also see statistics in the form of infographics on the number of challenges by reasons, challenges by initiator, and challenges by institution.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. AP – The bestselling book “The Fault in Our Stars,” narrated by a 16-year-old cancer patient, has been banned from Riverside Unified School District middle schools over sexual content, but it is still allowed in high schools.
Some news appropriate for Banned Books Week.
Trailing Philip Roth by a few months and Toni Morrison by two years, Cormac McCarthy (who turns 81 this weekend) is one of America’s greatest and most decorated writers. His cultural stock has risen immeasurably in the last decade — whether it’s the Coen brothers adapting No Country for Old Men and winning Best Picture at the Oscars for it, or his recent (disappointing) original screenplay for the Ridley Scott-directed film The Counselor, McCarthy has made the transition from great novelist to phenomenon. He’s continuously successful, but he’s never changed, and doesn’t show any signs of letting his advanced age soften him. His entire body of work includes screenplays, plays, and short fiction — but it’s his novels that remain his greatest achievement, so to celebrate his birthday, we rank the five McCarthy novels you must read (and if it helps, the order in which you should do it.)
This was perhaps the biggest literary news of the past week:
The Man Booker prize longlist was revealed today with American authors in the running for one of literature’s top honours for the first time.
Organisers of the UK’s best-known fiction award – worth £50,000 to the winner – announced last year they were opening up the 46-year-old prize to writers of any nationality writing in English.
The American writers on the list include David Mitchell, David Nicholls, and Howard Jacobson.
Michele Filgate tells us, “some of the most interesting and useful hashtags on Twitter are designed to build community in the far-flung literary world.”
To join the community, take a look at these seven hashtags she explains.
- The Zhivago Affair: the Kremlin, the CIA and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book by Peter Finn and Petra Couvée
- The Most Dangerous Book: the Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses by Kevin Birmingham
- The Rushdie Fatwa and After: a Lesson to the Circumspect by Brian Winston
Chances are that, if you’re reading this blog, you probably already know some of the tricks listed here.
However, I bet you’ll find something new in these suggestions by Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project. If nothing else, you’ll get permission to stop reading a book that doesn’t grab you instead of soldiering through to the bitter end.
Cable network FXX will run a non-stop marathon of all 552 episodes of The Simpsons from August 21 through September 1.
If you need a literary reason to justify watching or recording, here it is:
To mark the ultimate Simpsons marathon, we’re highlighting our favourite hilarious literary references that made their way onto the show in past years.
The Randolph County school board in North Carolina has rescinded its ban on Ralph Ellison’s highly revered Invisible Man following a little over a week of intense criticism from free speech and literary advocates. The 5-2 decision, initially sparked by a parent’s complaint that the book was not appropriate for teenagers, was reversed in a 6-1 vote on Wednesday night. The ban had been widely criticized and ridiculed since it went into effect on September 16, and was highly protested, even including a giveaway of the book at a local store.
Here’s a little bit of good news for the end of Banned Books Week: Sometimes the good guys win.
Banned Books Week: September 22-28
In honor of Banned Books Week, Barbara Jones, director of the ALA (American Library Association) Office for Intellectual Freedom, offers a history lesson on book censorship over at Huffington Post. She recalls that, when she was an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the 1960s, a course called “African-American Literature” was a new offering. She also recalls:
My high school had a large Mexican-American student body, yet there were no books or history lessons about their experience. Indeed, they were “invisible” to many of us.
Jones’s high school experience was more diverse than mine. In my all-white graduating class, the only question of diversity was whether one was Protestant or Catholic. I had to wait until I got to college to meet any people at all different from me.
And so I share Jones’s baby boomer perspective:
I am deeply concerned about the current deluge of removals of classic books from the American literary canon. I thought that, as a society, we had reached a consensus that the literary canon should represent diverse segments of U.S. society. Multicultural literary works are not being included because of some need for “political correctness.” They are included because they are excellent and have been acknowledged as such by countless awards for literary merit. Though books that deal with controversial topics may make some readers uncomfortable, such literature offers a vehicle for true learning and understanding.
It’s time for all of us who believe in the power of books to enrich our knowledge and expand our perspective to stand up for this belief and fight censorship in our communities.
Late Friday (US time) Goodreads announced a change in review and shelving policy, and immediately started deleting readers’ reviews and shelves. In doing this they became censors. Limiting readers’ ability to discuss the cultural context of a book is censorship designed to promote authors’ interests.
Over on Goodreads reader Emma Sea has lashed out against the site’s new policy and has engendered quite a lot of support from commenters. I lead with this entry today because at the heart of the controversy lies the question of exactly what a book review is and what a review should—and shouldn’t—contain.
As soon as I started reading Emma’s post, I knew that the reference to Orson Scott Card’s book Ender’s Game was coming. This very popular book is being made into a movie. Card himself is outspoken in his criticism of gays and gay marriage; as a result, many people have called for a boycott of the movie, even though the book does not deal in any way with gay rights.
So, in terms of book reviewing policy, the question becomes: Is it acceptable to refer to Card’s beliefs in discussions of Ender’s Game?
I have struggled with this very question myself. Ender’s Game is one of the best books I’ve ever read. And I grew up under the school of New Criticism, which holds that literary works should be judged on the basis only of their text, not of their author or of any other external social or cultural context. However, I have reached a point in my life when I believe it’s important for me to stand up and be counted in support of my values and beliefs. I certainly stand by Orson Scott Card’s right to hold and to state his beliefs, but I also reserve the same right for myself.
But the question still remains: Is it appropriate for me—or anyone— to mention a disagreement with Card’s stated beliefs in reviewing a book that does not in any way touch on the subject of those beliefs? I’d love to hear suggestions on how to resolve this dilemma.
Why I Believe I Should Stand Up and Speak Out
Because I keep finding stories, like these, about censorship:
- NC County Pulls Ralph Ellison’s ‘Invisible Man’ from School Libraries
- True Love, Book Fights, And Why Ugly Stories Matter
some books are best experienced at a certain age, like, say, “Catcher in the Rye.” If you pick it up for the first time when you’re far beyond puberty, you’ll likely wonder what all the hype is about. Likewise, there are certain books you should read in your 20s, due to the age of the characters or the intended audience — books like Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” or Christopher Hitchens’ “Letters to a Young Contrarian.”
There are also fantastic classics that may not have been assigned to you in school but that you should pick up ASAP simply because you’re missing out — books like Doris Lessing’s “The Golden Notebook” or “A Collection of Essays” by George Orwell.
Check out the 30 books we think you should read before you’re 30:
I’m not sure exactly why the folks at Huffington Post chose 30 as the magic age. I’ve read several of these recommended books in recent years, and I’m well over 30. In fact, I like to think that I probably got more out of reading these books precisely because of my maturity.
At any rate, this is a good list to use when you’re looking for the next book to pick up.
All books are worth reading, obviously. But some books are slightly more “guilty pleasure” than “classic literature.”
Because you can never have too many good-books lists. . . .
An all-digital public library is opening today [September 14, 2013], as officials in Bexar County, Texas, celebrate the opening of the BiblioTech library. The facility offers about 10,000 free e-books for the 1.7 million residents of the county, which includes San Antonio.
I’ve always been a big fan of ebooks, but I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the idea of a bookless library. Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?
Something about the process of writing (and maybe art in general) pushes us toward the parts of ourselves and the world that we don’t totally understand. Toward the grey areas, the uncertainty, the unsettled.
I don’t write fiction myself, but I’ve heard fiction writers say that sometimes a character will speak up on its own and take over the writing of the story. Here writer Alex Washoe describes how something similar happened to him:
When we read over what we’ve written – if we’ve surrendered ourselves at least a little to the process, to the “vivid and continuous dream” – we often find things we didn’t mean to include. Stray details, odd comments, small actions – things that perhaps don’t seem to relate to the main action of the story. Things that sometimes contradict what we thought we were saying. The first tendency is always to delete these things, the smooth them over, to bring them in line with our plan. And most of the time, that’s probably for the best.
But if we are willing to stay with these things, to hold them in our minds and find where they lead, they can sometimes open up dimensions of character and story – meaning – we never knew were there. These stray details, these odd moments, these irrational tics push us away from what the conscious mind thinks it’s doing toward something a little less neat.
Readers, too, often find these little suggestive details in literature, and those details often deepen and enrich our understanding, whether we are aware of that process or not.