Banned Book Week Begins Today: Are You Ready?

Are you ready to read some banned books?

For some of us, this isn't a stretch — like Whoopi Goldberg, we read plenty of books that have been banned or challenged, like poems by Shel Silverstein. (Watch the video below.)

For others, it is novel: why read something you're not supposed to read? Someone decided it's not right to do, read a particular book — so why read it?

My question is: why let someone else decide what you're going to read?

Yes, we do it all the time. We pay attention to awards and bestseller lists, bookseller picks, our friends. But we have choices. When someone pulls a book off the library shelf, it removes our choice based on their criteria.

Libraries do not have all books on the planet (and they have fewer every day — so make sure your state and municipality support and fund public libraries!). Someone has to decide what makes it on the shelves, so why not manipulate the criteria? If I don't "believe" in evolution, or magic, or pre-marital sex, or using profanity, can't I help the library by telling them what books contain that which I find objectionable? Because libraries are for the community as a whole, and what is considered "unacceptable to the community" should be carefully and cautiously defined.

Libraries are not the only place to find books. Sure, maybe I could go buy it — but why? Why must I purchase books because someone else has decided I mustn't read them via the public library I help fund?

I am fortunate: only once did my folks suggest I not read a book. I was not even in high school and my mom thought I might want to wait until I was older to read about the Mason "family" murders. Other than that, I decided. And I want to continue deciding for myself, and making sure that the public can decide for itself.

So do what Whoopi Goldberg and I do: read banned books.  You can get a list at the bottom of this page, or ask your librarian.

By the way, if you are like me, you'll be amazed at what you've already read that's been challenged.

Read openly, read whatever you want, read freely. Read.