One of the centerpieces of downtown Boston is our library. Established in 1848, it was one of the first free libraries in the country. Today it is home to 23 million items, ranging from maps to CDs to art to musical scores. Most of its patrons, however, are there for the books.
This week the Boston Public Library and many other libraries around the country are celebrating Banned Books Week. What are banned books and why are they being celebrated? Banned books are books that have been removed from library shelves or school classrooms because they are perceived to have some kind of offensive material in them. Many books are challenged each year, which means that people try to get them banned. Usually, they are unsuccessful, but sometimes the books they are challenging do get banned and people who go to the library don’t get a chance to read them anymore.
So why is the library celebrating banned books? Well, they aren’t really. Libraries believe that everybody should get to choose the material they personally want to read. So when they celebrate Banned Books Week, what they are actually doing is “celebrating the freedom to read,” according to the American Library Association. By bringing attention to the problem, libraries and bookstores hope to encourage people to read whatever they want!
Here are a few recommendations of classic books that people have challenged or tried to ban across the United States:
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck—This book tells the story of the Joad family of Oklahoma, who are suffering from the effects of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl during the 1920s and 1930s.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee—In this book, young Scout Finch learns to deal with racism in her Southern town. Harper Lee has been in the news recently since she just published a sequel to this book, Go Set a Watchman.
1984 by George Orwell—Orwell wrote this long before the actual year 1984, and it predicts a really creepy future where technology can track people’s thoughts and movements. Read it and see if he was at all accurate in his predictions!
The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tokien—You know these books! They were made into Oscar-winning movies! Frodo Baggins must return the One Ring to the Mountains of Mordor before the evil Sauron gets hold of it!
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair—Don’t read this book while eating! This book exposed the disgusting practices of meat-packing factories in Chicago in the late 19th century. People were so grossed out that President Teddy Roosevelt created the Pure Food and Drug Administration to prevent future problems.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald—This one was a recent movie too, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire. It is a classic of the 1920s and describes the mysteriously rich Jay Gatsby and his quest to woo his lost love Daisy.
Find out more about Banned Books Week here: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/bannedbooksweek
Or here: http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/
Yes, the word freedom is misspelled here. That’s on purpose! It’s a play on words! (We can talk about those in the next blog entry!)