September 25, 2010 – October 2, 2010 is Banned Book Week! Now this doesn’t mean we go around outlawing bad romance novels, but instead that we celebrate freedom of speech- specifically in the literary form. The idea is to highlight the First Amendment and the importance of allowing everyone to have a voice. Moreover it is important to allow access to these voices- even if they are screechy, disagreeable or unpopular voices. The list of books controversial enough that they have been banned or restricted is long and all encompassing.
Without a doubt, one of the most controversial books is Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” I would agree that there is little reason to print this book, beyond studying the mind of the world’s most infamous dictator. The book though, is readily available at any US Barnes and Noble retailer. In Germany however, it is a different story.
The book’s German copyright is held by the state of Bavaria, which has never sold nor printed copies of the manifesto. Instead the rights have been held in order to prevent the books distribution in Germany. This may change, as there is a growing attitude that in order to demystify the book (and all it represents) it should be published.
Not all banned books are so obviously controversial. Classics such as “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck and “The Adventures of Huckelberry Finn” by Mark Twain are among an extensive list of books once banned in the US. Twain’s iconic novel was initially banned on the basis that it used colloquial language and then later because it was seen as racist. Like many banned/restricted books, this reasoning is bizarre by today’s standards. Currently, both aforementioned books are commonplace on countless required reading lists.
Restricting of books still occurs today. The American Library Association releases a top 10 list of books challenged each year. In 2009 classics like “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee and “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker continue to be disputed. Even “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer was contested! (Although, I am pretty sure I could find more than the requisite number of people to support that application!).
So, in the spirit of free speech and fighting the man, what is your favorite banned or restricted book?