Banned Books: What Are You Reading This Week?

Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings.  -Heinrich Heine, Almansor, 1823

The last week in September is Banned Books Week, and as usual, I’m celebrating by reading something that has been banned somewhere. This year, it’s one of my old favorites, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.

The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.  -Henry Steele Commager

I oppose book banning because it’s a slippery slope. I see the potential for it to become a place for the politically inclined to score points, with everyone losing in the long run. Just imagine–one faction bans Judy Blume, and the opposition retaliates by banning C.S. Lewis. One group bans Huckleberry Finn; another strikes back by banning The Diary of Anne Frank. The Koran is pulled from libraries in one area, and the Bible is banished in another. As the idea-rich pool of thought shrinks, minds and hearts desiccate, leaving nothing more than bland encyclopedia summaries to be forgotten at the end of the day.

We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.  -John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 185

Books are powerful– they can change hearts, minds, lives. I read to learn, grow, remember, and yes, to laugh. I read to enlarge my world, and I write to open doors for others. I shared books with my children to open their eyes, hearts, and minds to ideas and people they didn’t encounter in their daily life, and I want them to have the opportunity to do the same for their own children.

Books won’t stay banned.  They won’t burn.  Ideas won’t go to jail.  In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost.  The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.  -Alfred Whitney Griswold, New York Times, 24 February 1959

I’m not willing to allow others to decide what I read or write; therefore, I relinquish the option of deciding what others read. Instead of trying to suppress ideas that I don’t care for, I can write books that share what I do believe. And so can you.

The populist authoritarianism that is the downside of political correctness means that anyone, sometimes it seems like everyone, can proclaim their grief and have it acknowledged.  The victim culture, every sufferer grasping for their own Holocaust, ensures that anyone who feels offended can call for moderation, for dilution, and in the end, as is all too often the case, for censorship.  And censorship, that by-product of fear – stemming as it does not from some positive agenda, but from the desire to escape our own terrors and superstitions by imposing them on others – must surely be resisted.  -Jonathon Green, “Did You Say ‘Offensive?'”

Books Words

Words Matter Week Blog Challenge: Writers That Make My Heart Sing

Wednesday’s blog challenge question for Words Matter Week is:

Writers are people who take isolated words and craft them into memorable phrases, stories, poems and plays. Who are the writers who make your heart sing? What is the magic ingredient?

Different writers appeal to me at different times, and the magic ingredients can be found in different proportions in most of my favorites.

Here are the magic ingredients for me:

  • A sense of possibility
  • A big idea
  • Humor
  • A worldview that I can believe in
  • A wonderful setting (usually foreign)
  • Something unexpected

Writers who make my heart sing:

I love C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien anytime, all the time.

Other authors who’ve had the magic touch at some point in my life (and usually still do– I tend to remain loyal):

  • Madeleine L’Engle (Crosswicks Journals, as well as her middle-grade fiction)
  • Rosemary Sutcliff (Dawn Wind)
  • Edith Wharton
  • Dorothy Gilman
  • E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • Mary Stewart
  • Edward Ormondroyd (David and the Phoenix)
  • Frances Mayes (Under the Tuscan Sun)
  • L. Frank Baum
  • William Butler Yeats
  • Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Gift from the Sea; Journals)
  • Laurie Colwin (Home Cooking)
  • Annie Fellows Johnston (Little Colonel books; Mary Ware)
  • Clair Blank (Beverly Gray series)
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Isak Dinesen

Of course, there’s always a flip side– things you couldn’t pay me to read. I won’t read anything in which an animal is harmed, and I am dismally bored by whiners, navel-gazers, chronically-depressed characters, and insecure people in unhealthy relationships. I confess to a completely low-brow desire to spend my reading time with characters, ideas, and settings I find interesting. Life’s too short to tolerate bores!

You can visit the Words Matter Week website and blog to find more posts from the blog challenge. They’ve been a lot of fun to read.