Dear Writers, Readers, Publishers, Civil Libertarians, and U.S. Citizens:
The ALA's Banned Books week is September 25-October 2.
To Kill a Mockingbird is #4. Huckleberry Finn is still on the list.
The Harry Potter books are the most banned books of the 21st century.

...For more info check the link:


These are books that were successfully banned around the country.  Most on the list seem to be adolescent books dealing with sexuality and/or alternative lifestyles.  The only "Crime" novel that I can recall from the list with immediancy is In Cold Blood.


Librarians, of course, believe in the "Freedom to Read" and oppose censorship.  We think patrons should be free to censor their own reading choices and parents (not librarians) should be the ones to monitor or allow what their own children read. Books should go on the shelves based on consistently applied (written) Board policies and procedures.  Decisions should not be based on popular opinion.  Policies should also include fair and accessible avenues for challenging books. 


I know several interesting stories of banned books, starting with the first controversial banning of The Grapes of Wrath in Bakersfield after its publication.  The growers said the book was "a pack of lies,"

yet there were 125 people on the waiting list for the book.  The book was not returned to that library's shelves until the 1960s.  There have been other idealistic, brave, principled librarians around the country who successfully confronted censorship.  Unfortunately, there must be many more who, pragmatically, (perhaps, for the greater good) need to keep their jobs and maintain the good will of their communities.  (As you cynical crime novelist must know is a realistic scenario.)

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LOL!!! You're a stern taskmaster, dear lady.
How did mankind heal its collective self before the almighty school of conventional medicine literally took over?

It didn't. The "natural" human life expectancy, before the advent of antibiotics, hospital childbirth and sterile surgical practice was about 35 years--and that's if you were lucky. Because of the large numbers of women who died in childbirth that number holds true until the early 20th century, virtually unchanged from the paleolithic era. That's compared to the current world average human lifespan of around 67 years. Given a choice between FDA-approved medicine and herb poultices, the application of leeches and surgery without anesthesia or sterile instruments, I'll take FDA-approved medicine any day of the week.
Doin' great! Thanks, modern medicine!
Glad to hear it, Benjamin.
At what point would you be in favor of banning a book? When it's obscene?

As you say, who's to make the call as to what is obscene? I think book banning gets very dangerous because once you start, where do you stop:? But what has to be considered is WHAT IS THE LARGER PURPOSE OR THEME OF THE BOOK?
There's a BIG difference between pure pornography and a work of literature such as, for instance, Lolita, which got people all in a twist because of the sexual relationship between a man and a very young girl. But it was not in fact pornography. Not even close.

Lolita is a beautiful, beautifully written, tragi-comic story of love and loss. Of the ineffable nature of love, the unattainability of ideal love. It was NOT written for the purpose of titillation, but to explore the quest of an expatriate for the lost love of his own childhood, and the expiation of his own guilt at having robbed a young girl of hers. And discovering, in the end, that his love for the fallen and doomed Lolita does not wither even after she herself has become an adult, pregnant and living in dreary circumstances with her working-class husband.
But all the book banners could see was the sex bits--the "forbidden" theme of man and little girl.
I'll defer to Joyce on the semantics here, but, to me, "banned" is quite different from "not stocked." While I'm never in favor of banning any book, libraries have limited space and resources. Not every book can be purchased. Quality should be the guiding criterion, which is a tough call for any librarian, because one person's "raunchy, yet thought provoking laugh fest" may be another's filth. They also have to stock books people will read, as there's no point in wasting resources just so a book can attract dust on the shelves.

"Banning" a book, to me, implies having a book removed from the stacks for reasons other than quality, as opposed to not buying it in the first place based on quality concerns. No book should ever be banned. The slope is too slippery.

It's a hard job, balancing the needs and sensibilities of all patrons, one I wouldn't want. Joyce and I disagree about a lot of things, but I think we're united in our respect for librarians.
"banned" is quite different from "not stocked."
So a library could say, "we aren't going to stock that book," when actually they may be "banning it?" I don't much like the idea of that kind of deception.

libraries have limited space and resources. Not every book can be purchased. Quality should be the guiding criterion,

But libraries owe it to their readers to stock quality books which have been accorded "classic" status---and there is plenty of room. If they can cram the shelves with Janet Evanovich books---ten copies of each---:) (not that it bothers me, since I won't even check out one of them) then they owe it to us to provide great works like "Catcher in the Rye," "Huck Finn," "Lolita," "To Kill Mockingbird," etc. etc. Which of course now they do. Oh, and the "Harry Potter" books. Promote witchcraft? What balderdash! It's FANTASY! I would worry way more about the effects of censorship on children than imaginary witchcraft!

Of course those are the books I'm most likely to buy---the ones I know I'll re-read. But not everyone can. And when does "not stocking" or "banning" a book mean not allowing it to be taught in schools?
It's just one big can of worms.

we're united in our respect for librarians.

I may not have been clear. All of the books you mention in your above comment should be in every library. What I meant to say was that the subject matter of the book, or how it handles that subject, should not be grounds for exclusion. My purchasing exclusions were solely reflective of space and resource limitations. Not everything can be bought, so some value judgments have to be made. I'm arguing they should eb amde on the grounds of the quality of the book, not it's subject.
What I meant to say was that the subject matter of the book, or how it handles that subject, should not be grounds for exclusion.

Dana, Well, I thought that's what you meant....thanks for clarifying. :) We are on the same page then. It's unfortunate that those who would ban certain books can't always recognize quality---only content!
I still haven't figured out what this is about. Are we just being made aware that it's "banned books" week? Banning a book greatly increases its sales. For that matter, it adds even to my interest. Let's not forget that the DECAMERON was banned (I suspect it's still on the forbidden list for Catholics), and what a rollicking wonderful read that was/is.

We can get most books that we want in this country. It's not necessary for the library to have everything. They tend to order what people request. University libraries have different attitudes.

What we do need more of in this country is education, both in schools and in the home. Some appallingly ignorant notions keep cropping up, in Texas among other places. And for that matter, if the level of education were a bit better, then we might not have such a single-minded demand for Evanovich.
Hey, I.J. - as a former Catholic, I'm definately going to get my hands on a copy of DECAMERON.


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