Thursday, August 20, 2009

The scent of burning paper...

I was reminded this morning that banned book week is fast approaching. It will begin September 26th and will feature the books that have been banned and/or challenged this past year.

Geoffery Chaucer, Montaigne, William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, George Orwell, John Steinbeck, Joseph Heller and JD Salinger have all been banned at one time or another. Many continue to face challenges from those whose reality cannot encompass the ideas that these writers explore. The desires of a moment or a person are too often allowed to outweigh the long-term good of a culture, and it is this that led all of the authors I just mentioned to face the fire.

Books of religion and history and science have all disappeared from the shelves at one time or another, victims of narrow minds and ideologies that brook no challenge. This is why Charles Darwin sits alongside the authors of the Bible, the Quran, and the Torah on the most-banned lists. Some of the greatest minds and most influential works ever to pass from pen to page have all been censored, blocked, burned and banned.

 I challenge you to read something between now and Banned Books Week that someone didn't want you to read. Read anything from 1984 to Huckleberry Finn, to Hamlet or A Wrinkle in Time. Then come back during the week beginning September 26 and tell me about it. If you can, try to read a book you haven't read but only heard about. Then come back and tell us if what you had been told was at all accurate.

I have accumulated a stack next to my chair of books from various banned lists and I will be reading through them as quickly as ever I can and I'll let you know how it goes. Of course, there's no way I can finish them all between now and September 26th, but the reason for having a commemorative week is to remind us that we need to do this every week.


Read what you want to read. Read what challenges you. Read what people don't want you to read. Read because like muscles and brains, your freedoms will atrophy if they're not exercised. Feel free to recommend great challenging books to your fellow readers in the comments section!

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Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).