Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Banned Books

As part of its 2011 Banned Books Week, the American Library Association has posted their list of the Top ten most frequently challenged books of 2010. Interesting reading! (The list, not the books; I haven't read them all.)

Censorship, especially for kids, is a pretty complex issue; it seems from the ALA's information that a lot of the challenges occurred in schools, which I can understand (especially in mandatory English curricula). Parents face tough calls on how to best raise their kids, and I plan on talking with my kids' English teachers about their choices in reading lists. Nevertheless, here are my thoughts on the books that I've read:

First, at #3, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World: Hasn't that book moved to "classic" status already? Also, I sincerely believe that this book is one of the great predictors of the problems of today's society (see Neil Postman's mind-warping Amusing Ourselves to Death). This one should be a fixture at libraries and has been around since 1931; are we really still fighting it?

Second, at #8, Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickled and Dimed; this one is a prime example of "stunt journalism", wherein the author leaves her cushy writing job and takes three different minimum-wage-type jobs around the country, writing up her experiences along the way. I read this book not two months ago, and it was particularly good at showing how just being poor can make life more expensive. (Example: not having cash for an apartment deposit and having to live in a hotel room paid by the week.) Ehrenreich does victimize the poor a little too much for my taste, and her proposed policy changes are a little half-baked, but I think the perspective is a valuable one that many insulated middle-class folks (especially insulated middle-class Christians) would do well to seek out.

I'm glad to see, however, that Fahrenheit 451 isn't on the list; the irony would be too great.

(Honorable mention to The Hunger Games and Twilight; though I haven't read more than snippets of either, I confess I would think twice about giving them to my kids.)