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September 29, 2011

Happy Banned Books Week!

Normally, I write about science and skepticism here, but I am a self-professed bibliophile as well. One cause that's near-and-dear to my heart, therefore, is Banned Books Week. Many of the most contested books are science fiction, fantasy, or historical fiction; however, texts like Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species often also appear on lists of banned books. Plus, part of a complete education is reading anything one can get their hands on. So, in honor of that and the joy of reading... have a wonderful banned books week!

Cross-posted from Teen Skepchick

Here in the U.S.A, the last week of September is always Banned Books Week. This campaign, started 13 years ago by the American Library Association, is designed to raise awareness about censorship and encourage everyone, particularly kids, to expand their horizons and read books that others find questionable enough to try and ban. It's a celebration of the right to read.

Every year, hundreds of books are challenged by school boards, religious groups, teachers, and particularly parents, often with the best intentions. These adults want to "protect" children from sexually explicit scenes, profane language, depictions of violence, descriptions of drugs, homosexuality, and things generally "unsuited to age group".

Turns out, though, that the most challenged books aren't always the ones you'd expect. Take And Tango Makes Three, for instance, the first book I ever heard of being banned. It's a children's picture book, about two penguins that successfully hatch and raise an orphaned egg. It's a sweet, heart-warming story. Who could possibly have a problem with it? Well, here's the twist: the parents in And Tango Makes Three are both male. And because of that, it has been the most challenged book for four out of the past five years, topped only by the ttyl series by Lauren Myracle in 2009.

Many of my all-time favorite books have been in the top 10 lists of banned and contested books from the last decade as well. For instance: the entire Harry Potter series; His Dark Materials trilogy, by Phillip Pullman; The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky; Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson; My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain; and Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George.  There's several others that I've read as well. Nearly all of them are books I'd recommend, or that had a big impact on me growing up.

Banned Books Week 2011 runs until October 1st, so there's still time to start a new (or an old favorite) story from the banned books list. Go out and exercise your right to read, and feel free to tell us about your favorite banned book.

All images credit the American Library Association