Books That Are Made for Burning

Author Ellen Hopkins reads for Banned Books Week, Manifesto

Tomorrow kicks off the 27th annual celebration of Banned Books Week, September 26 – October 3, 2009. First observed in 1982, BBW encourages Americans to embrace their democratic freedom to read what they wish without legal consequences. With the progression of digital medium, though, the event has also come to embrace more forms of reading, including comic books and graphic novels, news sources, blogs, and other forms of expression; BBW has truly morphed into more than what it suggests–it now encompasses the freedom to information, as well, and strives to uphold the First Amendment in all ways possible. It is an event that is mainly sponsored by the American Library Association and endorsed by the Library of Congress Center for the Book. This year’s theme is Speak – Read – Know.

Banned Books Week is an active awareness campaign that not only highlights books that have actually been banned from American schools and libraries, but, more importantly, raises awareness about books that are challenged. It’s important to remember that often times books aren’t pulled from shelves in these places because of the hard work of librarians and educators nationwide. In fact, challenged books make up the largest amount of material cataloged by the ALA in their yearly roundup. Either way, it confronts the intellectual equivalent of an attempt to destroy a book, to throw it into a fire to destroy the ideas contained within; it’s a right to access the ALA defends.

Of course, as a literary journal–one that has featured one of this year’s most-challenged authors, Sherman Alexie–we can’t help but support this cause, even on an individual level. You might wonder what you can do to spread the awareness; here are a few ideas…

So, when trying to figure out what book to pick up next, consider choosing one from the list below and celebrate your freedom to find, buy, house, and read any book you choose, whenever you’d like, and remember that books aren’t made for burning–“The paper burns, but the words fly away.”

Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.
–Alfred Whitney Griswold, New York Times, 24 February 1959


List of Books Challenged & Banned in 2008-2009

A Pet Peeve — calling Chutzpa to BBW opposition

Book Burnings: 75th Anniversary of the Nazi Book Burnings

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

Follow Me

33 thoughts on “Books That Are Made for Burning

  • September 25, 2009 at 5:22 am

    And how is this different from Hitler’s efforts at removing literature he found distasteful?

  • September 25, 2009 at 7:40 am

    i so like to read your post, but i am bad for english language. might please give a widget translator google on your side bar, on Indonesia Language of course. thanks

    Indonesian blogger

  • September 25, 2009 at 11:15 am

    A good reminder of why literature needs to be accessible regardless of what an author may say, and trust the reading public and parents to be smart enough to discern the content for themselves.

    But ALA should expand their list to include religious books of all faiths that are equally banned in public schools, or at least recognize the fact that school libraries are themselves closed off to certain points of view.

    Are we for free and accessible speech across the board? Or just for topics that suit our interests?

  • September 25, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    It’s not just the “banned books” any more. The Federal Government just came out with a bunch of regulations about garage sales – one of the kinds of things they won’t let us sell any more are children’s books from before 1985:

    “It is now illegal to resell some children’s classics due to concerns that they contain lead in their link.”

    Fines can be in the 6 figures – regardless of who sells one.

    When I was a kid, we used to read them, not eat them.

    One way to look at it is to say that this is a really good way to get rid of all those old childrens books, full of antiquated notions like patriotism, self-reliance, and such, and replace them with new ones like “Why Mommy is a Democrat”.

  • September 26, 2009 at 8:58 am

    you can’t sell children books from before 1985? isn’t that a violation of freedom of speech?

  • September 26, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Maybe actual speech is free but the written word costs more 😉

  • September 26, 2009 at 11:39 am

    This is quite interesting. I remember having bought and read Taslima Nasreen’s “Lajja”. Of course this incident is almost a decade old. The book had been banned in the author’s homeland, but somehow found its way to my local book supplier. As i was paying for it, an elderly gentleman near me, saw the book,and said, “you shouldn’t be reading this.”. I told him, “I want to know what the controversy is all about, and the only way to do so, is to read the book.”.
    (to know what angered the govt so much that it banned the book).

  • September 26, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result is tyranny and oppression no matter how holy the motives.
    Robert A. Heinlein

  • September 27, 2009 at 12:43 am

    Call me naive, but up until about a year ago I didn’t think books were still being banned. I was more than amazed…it is absolutely ridiculous! On what basis are books banned? Who makes these decisions, and the government is okay with this? If books are banned, I do not understand how we don’t have movies banned. We don’t have movies banned, do we? Regardless, it is this fear that is bred and spread quickly and loudly, and the highly dependent, gullible and holding rigid views of world and people—splitters- thinking their way is the right way, and if others do things to counter his way- just a new creation of same topic, is looked at as a threat to possibly change their righteous beliefs—and that can not happen. Controlling behavior never works. I know. My parents somehow thought that by keeping me from doing the things all kids my age were doing, they were saving me from being hurt or out of trouble etc. So, I never was allowed to grow up independently, always had to depend on parents for any money or carpooling because was not allowed job or drivers license, and of course no car. I went from a great kid with excellent grades to a liar along with friends parents too participating in lie because they felt sorry for me. I began to rebel, and that effected my grades and I was grounded for most of my highschool years. To make my point, the books kids wanted to read piqued my interest, but my mother refusing to let me led me to get my hands on it and read it. Tell anyone not to do something, and unless it is really to protect health because it is dangerous, kids and adults alike will be more prone to seek out the forbidden.

  • September 27, 2009 at 3:23 am

    the public right to know. wish we have something like this in the philippines, too. there are a lot of banned books especially during the Marcos era which, until now, have not reached the reading public yet.

  • September 27, 2009 at 4:44 am

    What utter childishness. Ma’am. With all due respect. Grow up.

    There are something on the order of 70 to 100 million titles in the world; the average school library can hold several thousand.

    Someone has to determine which books are most appropriate for each library. What you are doing, in typical liberal fashion, is screeching that anyone who doesn’t accept what YOU want, is somehow Hitler burning books.

    No one is trying to “burn” books. No one is suggesting any titles should not be printed, or that printed copies should be destroyed. They would still be available for sale to whoever wanted them. The vast majority of these cases are suggesting that some themes are not age appropriate for the audience they are being made available to.

    That’s not book burning, that’s responsible parenting in most cases, in some cases it’s over-protective parenting. But you know what? In NO instance is it “book burning”.

    How immature of you to suggest that a parent disagreeing with you about what is appropriate for their children is comparable to burning books.

    I might remind you that the closest thing we have to book burning in America is perpetrated by liberals.

    In just the past week or so a federal judge ruled as unconstitutional campus speech codes enacted by liberals in California universities.

    Liberal activists have called for the prosecution of scientists who dissent from global warming hysteria.

    ABC at the request of the Clintons, has refused to sell copies of the hit miniseries, “The Path to 9/11”. Forgoing profits in order to silence information.

    Democrats in congress, having lost the public opinion battle over the “fairness” doctrine, are working on new ways to silence conservative talk radio.

    And on and on and on.

    The left is ALWAYS the perpetrator of real oppression of ideas. Look at your buddy Hugo Chavez, darling of Obama and the Hollywood elite…he controls most of the media, he has already shut down 30 radio stations for opposing him, and recently announced plans to shut down another 30.

    It is ALWAYS the left that works to silence people, because it is the left that seeks to control people.

    Please grow up

  • Pingback: Banned Books Week « Ms.Writealot's Blog

  • September 27, 2009 at 8:45 am

    I agree with American Elephant. We want freedom of speech and press, but then hide behind closed doors when the current president was in sworn in (again) we decide to keep the voters and media out of the room. Quite common of the double standard I have come to know as the Democratic Party.

    This group would make the world’s best magician wonder.. how did they do that? It is quite apparent to me from my democratic friends that they are happy to believe and follow something they do not understand without research, knowledge or substance. This is not always been the case in this party, but certainly is now. What looks good on the outside must be good for us.

    This issue one this blog is certainly pin pointed my point. Freedom to read whatever we want right? Unless we want to speak against our new leader.

    What if there where a book that made your family look abusive and perverted. Would you be triumphing free speech? Even if it was fiction. Does not the writer have the right to express his creative ability? Just not at you is your own personal cost. And that is the key. Personal cost.

    Now let’s take this in a similar direction. Why not have public television air the creative minds of sadomasochism, porn or cultic orgies on television for all to view and give the people the choice to turn off the TV.

    Why rate a song, movie or anything that our creative mind can come up with. This way your 10 year old can go and get whatever they want and broaden their horizons. The problem is you never really examine this. You look on the service and the hear and now and cry out freedom!! You don’t understand that there must be order in your free world.

    I love books of any kind. I think that the public libraries have a certain responsibility to keep the possibility that my child will not pick up a book and thrust their developing mind in a direction they never saw coming.

    I agree that anything whould be allowed to be written and published. I have read books where I disagree but acknowledge that the writer had great points or a story line. Some however should be limited to the market for purchase. This also applies to movies and all media types.

    Media does influence in a major way. I hope we can agree on that at least.

  • September 27, 2009 at 8:55 am

    Chris Crutcher will also be speaking at Mesa Community College on September 28 at 6:30 pm (after Chandler-Gilbert CC) to talk about Banned Books and censorship —

    Southern/Dobson Campus, 1833 W. Southern Avenue, Mesa, AZ, Southwest Reading Room in the Paul A. Elsner Library.

  • Pingback: Happy Banned Books Week «

  • September 27, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Great post. I didn’t know books were being banned until a couple of years ago and being a part of my high school book club, I naturally thought this act was quite ridiculous. The ironic part is that most of the books being banned are considered classics!

  • September 27, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    I like the name Deasy. It is the name of the headmaster in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ by James Joyce. Joyce was very familiar with having his books banned. And yet he’s now heralded as one of the key writers of the 20th century.

  • Pingback: It’s Banned Books Week « WorldBuildingRules!

  • Pingback: Weekend Reading: 9/27 « Musical Essence

  • Pingback: Speak – Read – Know « Runnin' Three Head o' Cat

  • September 28, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    Dude. You work super-hard at this. Just sayin’. 🙂

    Man, I haven’t really thought about BBW in forever. At least since high school. I don’t hear about it now, but it’s still terrifying that it’s still an issue we need to be concerned about.

  • Pingback: Webfab « Hel ved

  • September 29, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    Responsible freedom is a wonderful, powerful thing, and I hope we always have it (for ALL people). We should be able to encourage and restrict our reading and our children’s reading as we see fit be it liberal, conservative, religious, political, or just plain fun.

  • Pingback: Banned Books Week Roundup « Shelf Elf: read, write, rave.

  • October 8, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    I have always heard about previously banned books but never really identified with it. I thought of these books as outdated and books I would not really have read anyway. Out of curiosity, I just read the list of books that have been banned. I could not believe some of the books on the list! A lot of them were pretty current, like one of my favorites, Go Ask Alice!

    Also, I thought it was interesting that a lot of them had to do with sexual content, and banning due to that effect on minors. I cannot believe how people think not talking about an issue means it does not exist.