Did you know we are in the middle of Banned Books Week? Banned Book Week (or BBW as I call it because I'm cool like that) is September 22nd through the 28th. The American Library Association describes BBW like this:

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read....it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

The first BBW was in 1982. It was inspired by an increasing number of challenges to books in schools and libraries. The American Library Association says that despite the perception that censorship no longer occurs in the United States, attempts to ban books frequently take place in schools and libraries. There were 464 reported attempts to remove or restrict materials from schools and libraries in 2012 and more than 17,700 attempts since 1990, when the ALA began to record book challenges.

In 2012 these were the 10 most challenged books:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.
  3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
  5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
  6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
  8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
  9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
  10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison

OK, so I haven't read any of those books yet, I do have a Captain Underpants at home. But, some of the most challanged books of all time are classic American book and some of my favorites like:

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
1984, by George Orwell
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

In fact, 1984 is one of the top five books I have ever read. I love to reread it every year or so, and when I do it's like a new novel. The book is so rich that I find something new with each reading because current events and new understandings change the way I experience Winston's world. My life would have a huge hole in it if some loud mouth, worrywart had keep that book from me. I read Gatsby and Lord of the Flies nearly 20 years ago and both are still fresh in my mind. Mockingbird and Brave New World have given me insight and understanding of myself and the world.

It all goes back to the simple truth: if you don't like it that's fine, but leave other people alone. I cannot imagine the bland existence I would inhabit had it not been those stories, and others. It's not just about books either. Movies, TV shows and music are all things that enrich life with stories. Humans have this compulsion for art. We need to explore and explain our world with stories. And if you don't like what I like that's great, leave me alone and I'll leave you to enjoy your particular brand of art. So, go explore. Read a banned book for Banned Book Week.