Banned Books Week

by Jamie Klingler

Banned Books Week cover art

This week is Banned Books Week in the United States. It’s an annual event, celebrating everyone’s right to read whatever they damned well choose, thank you very much, and a reminder of the problem of censorship in the US, where there’s been a surge in the number of ‘challenges’ to books stocked in schools and public libraries.

According to the American Library Association, books are challenged and banned on a whole number of grounds, including being “sexually explicit” or containing “offensive language”.

Titles on 2012’s list of most-challenged books fall within these categories, like E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey – others, like The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, apparently fall foul of people’s sensibilities on sexuality and religion (it’s been challenged for homosexual content, and its religious viewpoint).

And it’s not just recent, populist titles that come under fire – the classics aren’t safe either. Quite frankly anyone who thinks their fellow humans would be better off without having read To Kill a Mockingbird; 1984; and The Lord of the Rings is daft and wrong and needs to have a quiet sit down with a cup of tea while they examine their prejudices.

I’m quite upset at the thought that people feel they have the right to tell other people what they’re not allowed to read. If you don’t like something, don’t read it.

Don’t broaden your mind, and open yourself up to new and different perspectives. Don’t empathise with people who live different lives and have different stories to tell. Don’t learn about the world we live in, or imagine completely different ones. Don’t scare yourself witless or make yourself laugh or crumple into tears or escape from the mundane or stay up until 2am because you can’t bear to go to sleep without knowing how it ends.

But don’t you dare try to stop the rest of us from doing just that.

Tomorrow, from 5pm – 7pm BST, people are urged to show their support for Banned Books Week on Twitter using the hashtag #bannedbooksweek. For more information, head to http://www.bannedbooksweek.org

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