It’s time for one of my favorite weeks of the year: Banned Books Week! As a kid, books were among my prized possessions and I would yell at my brother regularly for what I thought was his careless disregard for the pristine nature of my books. Thankfully, I’ve mellowed out since then—although I still cringe a bit every time I see a book thrown haphazardly into the backpack abyss, doomed to a life of cover creases and weirdly folded pages—but my love of books has remained a constant.
So, any celebration of books is right up my alley, and Banned Books Week celebrates those books that have challenged our perspectives or forced us to contend with unpleasant issues like abuse, racism, trauma, homophobia, etc. For 2015, “Looking for Alaska,” “I Am Jazz,” “The Holy Bible” and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” were among the Top 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books list from the American Library Association.
And since the Baltimore Book Festival just happened this weekend, let’s keep the book momentum going. Baltimore’s literary scene is thriving.
Sometimes, reading feels expected of us—especially for students—which can take the fun right out of it. I think that’s why I love Banned Books Week. Reading a book that is frequently challenged or banned feels a little illicit, like a walk on the wild side. Making reading subversive makes it fun.
As it happens, some of my favorite books live on the top 100 most frequently challenged/banned books of the last decade (2000-2009): “Harry Potter,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Giver,” “His Dark Materials,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Slaughterhouse-Five,” among many more.
Let’s all let out a little of our inner rebels this week and read a banned book. And, bonus for families, the top banned books lists (linked above) are not just adult books. There’s plenty of both children’s and young adult books, so everyone can get in on the action—from the library, from one of the many local bookstores or even from the shelves of that one bookish friend.
They say knowledge is power, right? So, this Banned Books Week, arm yourself with a good book.