Thursday, October 05, 2006

Recommending Books

My post last week on commending readers and authors of challenged and banned books garnered exactly one comment. However, the commenter did rightly question my blanket statement of recommending books because they are banned. That's not quite the issue.

No, upsetting someone is not a good reason to recommend a book. However, I have read most of the books on the banned/challenged book list over the years and found them to be worthwhile and meaningful. Thought-provoking. Challenging. Inspiring. Many people do. I would hazard to say that most people do.

I find the reasons that these books have been challenged to be specious and narrow-minded. I find the idea that those who dislike a book or find part of it offensive should be able to prevent others from reading it, to be extremely distateful. It's one thing to want to censor your own reading list, quite another to decide that your morality must somehow be applied to everyone.

So, I commend those who continue to write books that challenge readers, and I commend readers who continue to read books in face of such censorship. Read -- disagree or agree, it makes no difference. Let your kids read it, or don't -- that is your business. But exposure to ideas that are different and perhaps uncomfortable is important.

There are books that are rightly shunned -- but censoring them, even if we disagree with them -- is dangerous. Would I recommend a book on the wonders of slavery? Probably not. Not every book has intrinsic value. But I will not join in any argument trying to remove it from the shelves, either. Those books that aren't valued for their content or message or voice aren't going to be around long enough to have much of an impact.

But I also don't see any of those on the list. What I do see on the list are classics of american literature, and books that address sex, free-thinking, and difficult topics. Books that have been long accepted as important works in their own right. Look at the list: these are not fringe-published screeds. Some of the classics in literature have been on this list at one time or another.

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