“Any book worth banning is a book worth reading.”
This is a big week for book lovers all over the world. We celebrate the freedom to read not only commonly banned books but all books without censorship. Schools all over the world, including right here in the United States, censor the written word more than you probably realize. The banned books list below will surely open your eyes to the way a spirit of fear aims to suppress knowledge. The result will be tragic – a culture of what T.S. Eliot calls, “hollow men.”
After all this time, why do we still face censorship attempts? I suggest to you that it all comes down to fear.
Sometimes that fear is healthy. Say you have a six year old reading well beyond her grade level. She is likely to open up chapter books with what you consider questionable material. For example, maybe the characters in her book start dating or share a first kiss. Is your daughter too young? Probably.
Should you pre-read every book you allow her to crack open and keep some from her until you believe she is ready? Maybe keeping them from her until she is ready is the answer, but maybe just talking to her about dating so that she understands what she is reading will suffice. This is all part of parenting. There is wisdom and discernment that we practice with our children and we decide when they are mature enough to process information.
But when that healthy parental caution is the same fear that allows the government and schools to censor books and limit distribution, it is downright dangerous.
It almost always has to do with the colorful language or the sexual content of the book in question, but why wouldn’t we let our citizens decide for themselves? Do we not trust that they can detect when ideas are problematic? What are we so afraid of? What does it say about a government that believes citizens can’t think for themselves?
In the past, censorship had everything to do with the ways the book conflicted with country’s government. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque comes to mind. This one German soldier’s account of World War I questioned the governmental motivations for the war and the nationalism he was suppose to feel. Talk about a perfect recipe for a banned book within a totalitarian regime.
The fact that censorship has led some countries to destroy books and others to limit their distribution is equally problematic. John Milton argued in Areopagitica,
“He who destroys a good book, kills reason itself.”
John Milton, Areopagitica
And this same sentiment is championed in Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel, Farhenheit 451. It blows my mind that the novel that predicts reality TV about 50 years before its time is the same novel that describes a society that outlaws and burns books. Doesn’t it makes sense, though? After all, it was Ray Bradbury who said,
“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
Ray Bradbury, Farhenheit 451
This is exactly what Book Oblivion fights against each day. When we say we are rescuing books from oblivion, it’s a fight against censoring the mind from wonder whether that is something institutional or a consequence of our factory-model education.
This week while we celebrate the freedom to read banned books and all books, we just want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts and the last page of our books for being a part of our reading community.
Banned Books List
- Ulysses by James Joyce
- Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
- Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
- A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
- Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
- Candide by Voltaire
- The Crucible by Arthur Miller
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck