Do you need something scary to do this week? Go read a banned book!

Check out the American Library Association’s banned books resource page.

You can follow BannedBooksWeek on Twitter. You can also follow ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom at @OIF. Look for hash-tags #bannedbooksweek.

Amnesty International has developed a register of journalists imprisoned abroad; they may or may not be guaranteed freedom of the press in the countries in which they’re writing.

Attend or host a First Amendment Film Festival. The Huffington Post (of course) has lots of articles and lists on commonly banned books, or “Flashlight Worthy” books (those which will keep you up past bedtime because they’re so good, and are, consequently, currently on the docket to be banned in several school districts). HuffPost also has this list of iconic films based on banned books, to aid you in all your Film Festival needs.

Or, better yet, go buy a banned book and support authors who are are publicly criticized for  exercising their freedom of expression.

I was shocked to read the top 10 most banned books annually on ALA’s register. It’s surprising to see how many books that are undisputedly in the twenty-first century literary canon were or are still frequently challenged as unsuitable reading.

In 2009, the most frequently challenged books were:

“1. “TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs
2. “And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: Homosexuality
3. “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide
4. “To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee
Reasons: Racism, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group (this one I’m OK with, but just because it’s bad writing… I suppose, on principle, we shouldn’t ban Twilight either… foolish publishers)
6. “Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
7. “My Sister’s Keeper,” by Jodi Picoult
Reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence
8. “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things,” by Carolyn Mackler
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
9. “The Color Purple,” Alice Walker
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
10. “The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group”

In honor of banned books week, I’m reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, something I’ve wanted to read for awhile, and which shows up as a top 10 most frequently challenged book (The Golden Compass) in 2007. Take that, censorship.

Meanwhile, my copies of Howl by Alan Ginsberg (bought directly from City Lights Bookstore), Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger, Harry Potter by JK Rowling, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and The Color Purple by Alice Walker are proudly displayed on my bookshelf.

And, even though I’m reading The Golden Compass on my Kindle and am thus not displaying anything, I sure am telling lots of people.

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