This is Banned Books Week, a week set aside to celebrate the freedom of speech and the freedom to read whatever you want. Here's more information on Banned Books Week from the American Library Association (ALA).
It's also a great time to read for yourself some of the books that have been challenged or banned. Many of them are classics or highly regarded modern books, and by reading and reviewing them, we can bring attention to some great literature that should be available for all to read.
The way I see it is that it is perfectly OK not to like a book or even to be offended by a book - if that's the case, then you don't have to read it. However, it is not OK to ban a book and remove it from libraries or schools so that no one can read it. In the case of kids, I think that it should be the parents' role to decide what books are appropriate for their kids, not random citizens whose values may be entirely different than yours.
Often, books for children or teens are banned because they deal with difficult topics - violence, abuse, homosexuality (or any kind of sexuality), racism, etc. While parents can decide what is age-appropriate for their own kids, I think it's important for kids and teens to read books that deal with these kinds of difficult topics. All of this - and more - is a part of life, and kids and teens should be exposed to a wide range of real-life issues. Books are a safe way to bring these difficult topics up and can often spark useful discussions with parents, kids, classmates, and teachers.
The ALA has published lists of the most frequently banned books by decade, including the latest decade, 2000-2009. They also have lists of most frequently banned books for each year, from 2001 - 2014.
I like to use these lists each year to choose books to read to celebrate this week. Two years ago for Banned Books Week, I read Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Both were absolutely amazing books!
Last year, I read The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (last time I read it, I was only 16) and The Agony of Alice and Dangerously Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (this series is #2 in the top banned books of 2000 - 2009).
This year, I went to the Top 10 lists at the ALA site and chose Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, #2 on the list of most frequently banned books in 2014, and Looking for Alaska by John Green, #7 on the list of Top 10 banned books in 2013. Both books were incredible - powerful and important, each in their own way.
Come back here later this week for reviews of:
- Persepolis - Thursday
- Looking for Alaska - Friday
For more information, links, and fun ways to celebrate Banned Books Week, check out Sheila's blog, Book Journey.
How are you celebrating Banned Books week?