Banned Books Week – 2014

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I took this picture at the Bebelplatz Square monument for the 20,000 burned books in Berlin, Germany.

It’s always shocking to me when books are banned. I don’t understand the purpose of banning a book. It goes to argue that if something is banned people flock to it to see what the hoopla is all about, right? I guess that makes free publicity for the author.

In my opinion, books are a form of art. I’m sure someone could argue that point with me too, but I’m not going there now. For the purpose of this post…books are art. Art is an expression from an individual. That expression is left to the interpretation of others. Sometimes people interpret art differently than the artist intended. Books are intended to transport a reader to another world. This world may be completely different from their normal environment and there is nothing wrong with that. Depending on the book it can give you an insight into a culture that could be impossible for you to experience. The artist (writer) shares their culture or beliefs through their books.

Just because I don’t agree with something that is written doesn’t mean it should be banned. It means I should put the book down and not read it anymore. It means I should start a dialogue with others to see if other people are interpreting the book the same way I am. It means that book is not right for me so I should move on. It means I won’t recommend it to friends and family to read.  Simple, right?

This week is Banned Books Week and I wondered what books made the list of challenged books this past year. I was surprised at the books that made the top 10 list for 2013. The Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey is number 1 on the list for the 2nd year in a row! Books by John Green and Toni Morrison made the list too. Most surprising to me was the presence of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James at number 4 and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins at number 5!  These are mainstream titles being challenged that people want banned.

I will admit Captain Underpants is not my thing but it does get kids reading and I think getting kids to read is important. I will also admit I didn’t like Fifty Shades of Grey. Gasp!  I couldn’t get through the first chapter because of how it was written, but that doesn’t mean the book should be banned because I didn’t like it. That series got millions of people reading that may not have otherwise read a book. There are so many reasons why people don’t like certain books and they are all valid reasons for that person. That doesn’t give anyone the right to then make their reason the governing one for everyone else.

I will admit I’m a book nerd. I love books. I went to the monument of the 20,000 books that were banned and burned on May 10, 1933 in Berlin, Germany. Through this window in the ground, in Bebelplatz Square, people can see the empty bookshelves that have enough room to hold 20,000 books. As I was standing there my heart sank. People burned 20,000 books that would never be read again. I stood there and wondered what book was burned that I would never experience or know I liked. I was never given the opportunity to decide for myself and it made me a little mad on top of the sadness.

What is right for you, may not be for me and vice versa. That is the whole purpose of art.

So I ask you, is banning a book really the answer? Would simply putting the book you don’t like down be a better answer so someone else can make the judgement of liking it or not?


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Filed under Banned Books, Publishing, Writing

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