It’s Banned Books Week. As an avid reader of all kinds of books, I find it tremendously disturbing that any one person or group would seek to control what I choose to read.
As an author, I would consider it a high compliment if my work sparked an attempt to ban it. That means its important, meaningful, and a bit threatening to the status quo.
As a member of the human race, I understand the deep power of story-telling and why, sometimes, this power frightens people into trying to control it. I remember the sentiments of the fire chief in Fahrenheit 451, who reminds us that all those books and authors with competing world views led to confusion and distress. Burning the books led to a much simpler life. A life so simple, in fact, that most citizens needed sedative medication to tolerate it.
Nothing else has the power of story-telling, and of all the forms of story-telling we have available to us, perhaps books are the most potent. Because they rely on words, and we must contribute images via our own imaginations, so we become co-conspirators in the telling? Perhaps. Or because they are portable and lend themselves to being read in private, like kids do with flashlights under their covers? Could be. Or because they represent one of the most profound political and social changes in human history, when the written word left the exclusive purview of the elite and found its way to the masses? I wouldn’t be surprised if it is all of these qualities together that make books so frightening, and so wonderful.
To celebrate freedom of thought, expression, and the power of human story-telling, read a banned book today. You can find lists of them here. I’m joining you by reading Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut, which is on the all-time list.
Share your favorite banned book, and why you love it, in the comments.