July 2013 – A Controversial Pastime

For those of us who love reading, we know that books mean different things to different people. They can be comforting, fun, relaxing or thought-provoking and challenging. A good book can open our minds to new possibilities, but can they ever be dangerous? One very famous Doctor would say yes, for that very reason (see below), but can a book ever be so dangerous that we should stop people reading it?

As a librarian, I would have to say no, but there are many people would disagree with me. The problem is that books can challenge our beliefs and throughout the world, there are many different beliefs held by very many people. What could be perceived as innocent to me could be offensive to others. Some of my favourite books ever have been banned in other countries for this very reason e.g. the Harry Potter series, which has been banned from some schools and libraries in the US for promoting witchcraft and the occult. Leaders of world religion have also protested against some books, for example, the Catholic Church expressed it’s disapproval of Dan Brown’s books, The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons by banning the filming of the movie of Angels and Demons in any of it’s churches.

Books have been banned throughout the world for challenging beliefs, but also for challenging political ideas and policies. George Orwell’s 1984 was banned in some places in the US for being pro-communist, but then, ironically, also banned in the USSR for criticising the Soviet regime. Jung Chang’s Wild Swans remains banned in China, 22 years after it’s first publication, for it’s depiction of life as a woman in China.

One reason for censorship that we can’t forget is content… if 50 Shades of Grey had been published 60 years ago, we would not have reading it so openly. D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover was banned in the UK until 1960, for it’s sexually explicit content, which would probably now seem mild when compared to recent erotic publications.

Some people would argue that the banning of books only makes them more desirable to read, so as my last thought – as teenagers, how many of us read Forever by Judy Blume (hands up, please!)? Did we read it because it was good story (it is) or that we knew that it was slightly controversial and possibly deemed a bit naughty?

My challenge (that word again) for you this month… find and read a banned book. I don’t think that you find it too hard a challenge. If you need some inspiration, take a look at some of my choices, half of which I didn’t even realise had been banned in some part of the world.

Twitter reading group will be on Tuesday 30th July, 8 pm, and we will be using #NPTfree to bring our tweets together.

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