Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Endorse Your Freedom to Read

Banned Books Week is being observed Sept. 26-Oct. 3.

This celebration should have the support of every writer and reader. Particularly in a time when libraries across the nation are closing because of lack of funding and schools, libraries, bookstores and, yes, publishers are being assailed with bans and challenges to our freedom to read.

The community where I grew up didn’t even have a library until I was in high school. Fortunately my father had a good selection of books and I was free from an early age to read whatever I wanted. I absorbed everything from Edgar Rice Burroughs and Zane Grey to Herman Melville and Miguel de Cervantes.

People and groups challenge books for a variety of reasons. Often those challenges are based on the slimmest foundations, on prejudice, on hearsay and other false premises. I remember when the film based on Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel The Last Temptation of Christ there was an outcry to have both the book and the film banned. It wasn’t the first time the book had been challenged. As a reporter, I did a story on the issue. I didn’t find a single person who endorsed the ban who had actually read the book.

How can you judge a book you haven’t read? If you want, any book may be deemed offensive to someone. Does that mean it should be taken off the shelves and burned? I hope not. I just looked at this week’s New York Times list of top 10 bestsellers. There are only one of two on that list I’d care to read. Would I want the others banned? Absolutely not. Tastes and choice vary.

A long time ago Sir Thomas Overbury wrote “Books are a part of man’s prerogative.” I agree and I don’t believe any man, woman or group has the right to dictate what another can or can’t read.

The national celebration was launched in 1982 and is sponsored by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores. Banned Books Week is also endorsed by the Center for the Book of the Library of Congress.

More information is available here

1 comment:

  1. There is no doubt that I would not be where I am today, or who I am today without our local libraries. We never had books in the house - couldn't afford them and there were no book shops in the vicinity, but there was a treasure trove of books in the local libraires. Nearby a "knitting shop" i.e a shop where they sold wool and knitting patterns, had a library, you could borrow a book for a penny. Wonderful. Thank you libraries everywhere.