Banning books as a national pastime

This week the US celebrates Banned Books Week by looking at what books have been challenged for inclusion in public libraries. The week is organised by the American Libraries Association (ALA) to celebrate the freedom to read and spotlights the changing tastes of censors.

Yahoo have put together a list of the most surprising books banned books that includes Captain Underpants (“said to contain offensive language, to be sexually explicit and to be anti-family”), the Harry Potter series (“challenged for occultism, Satanism, violence, being anti-family and having religious viewpoint”) and that well-known purveyor of filth the American Heritage Dictionary which was banned in Missouri in 1978 because it contained no less than 39 objectionable words including “balls”.

The ALA’s own list of commonly challenged books includes American classics The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Color Purple. Elsewhere there’s a map of banned books in the US - Texas isn’t fond of Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was removed from school libraries in California for its “innapropriate content”.

To explain the week’s significance the ALA invokes the word of John F Kennedy: “These libraries should be open to all - except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms.”

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