This is a big week for book lovers all over the world. We celebrate the freedom to read commonly banned books and all books without censorship, even while some schools in our nation and many countries all over the world still face frequent attempts to censor the written word.
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 help decide when they are mature enough to process information.
But when that same healthy parental fear is the same fear that allows government or school 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, for example, censorship had more 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.” 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.”
This is exactly what Book Oblivion fights against each day. When we say we are rescuing books from oblivion, it’s the not necessarily the censorship that comes from somewhere else, but the laziness that pervades our culture when it comes to reading and celebrating books and their ideas.
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.
Below is a list of previously banned books that are widely considered classics. Leave us a comment and tell us what classic you’re glad you don’t have to live without.
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