Today is the final day of Banned Books Week. Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. It was launched in 1982 due to the increased number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries.
I’ve shared my opinions on this matter a number of times, so I won’t bore you all with that.
Last year, 729 challenges to library, school and university materials and services were tracked by the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom. According to the ALA’s website, ala.org, those challenges resulted in more than 1,597 individual book challenges or removals.
For those that don’t know, the difference between a challenge and a ban is pretty self-explanatory. A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A ban is the removal of those materials.
This year, most of the top ten most challenged books of 2021 shared similar reasons for being challenged. Those reasons include: LGBTQIA+ content, sexually explicit content, profanity, depictions of abuse, violence, and more.
On the ALA website, there’s a cool feature that tells you the top 100 challenged/banned books of each year and for each decade. For instance, take a guess at what the second most banned and challenged book for the 2010-2019 decade was.
I’ll give you a second or two.
Okay, tell me your guess.
Okay, so I can’t hear you, but did you happen to say “Captain Underpants” by Dav Pilkey? For a reference point, “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James was 8th place on that same list. “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood was 29th place.
Can we take a moment and recognize the fact that a book about a futuristic world where women are strictly controlled, unable to have jobs or money and are assigned to various classes received less challenge complaints than a children’s book about a wedgie-powered superhero.
The Harry Potter book series claimed the number one spot for 2000-2009.
You’ve probably read a banned book and didn’t even know it. Now, if you’re sitting here reading this and you say, “But Jim, I love reading Captain Underpants. Should I stop since it was banned all those years ago?”
Well, I’m not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t be reading. If I did, then I’m no better than the people that submit those challenges. If you feel that the book, you’re reading makes you feel uncomfortable, then stop reading it. If children attending a school for witchcraft and wizardry clashes with your religious beliefs, then close the book. If you hate the fact that your protagonist fights crime in his tighty whiteys, then set it down and find another book to read.
Everyone has different tastes in books.
Personally, I like to read a variety of content. I have a friend that said that she had just finished a very disturbing but thought-provoking book. So, I asked her for the title and borrowed it from the library. It was disturbing but was interesting and well written. It did cause me to think about a few things too. Overall, it was a good book.
When you label a book as “banned” it gives the book a negative connotation. Sure, you can’t judge a book by its cover, but apparently you can judge it by the number of challenges it receives.
Do you want to know what another good book ranked #6 on the banned list for 2015? It was The Holy Bible for religious viewpoint. I know a lot of people that have read that one.
Until next time, keep calm and write on!