Banned Books Week: Self-Congratulatory Hype?


By Neal Comment

Banned Books Week is the book industry’s annual celebration of their own self-satisfaction and self-importance,” say the owners of an independent bookstore in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Their complaint against the annual PR-driven event is a simple one: “Of all the books that they are so ‘bravely’ selling, how many have been considered ‘dangerous’ in the past ten years? How many have been banned in a marginally enlightened society in the past twenty years?” Meanwhile, the unnamed contributors continue, many store owners routinely keep books like The Anarchist Cookbook or Tintin in the Congo off their shelves due to their politically or racially offensive content. “Book stores shouldn’t have to rally around themselves once a year to proclaim that they hate censorship and the banning of books,” the post concludes. “Such a concept should be an integral part of every book store, library and reading room.”

Wouldn’t that be nice? It’d be nice to live in a world where eternal vigilance wasn’t the price of freedom, too. That’s why it’s important to remember that Banned Books Week isn’t about patting ourselves on the back for refuting the complaints of previous generations over Huckleberry Finn, but about the 546 challenges recorded in 2006 by the American Library Association‘s Office of Intellectual Freedom against contemporary books like And Tango Makes Three and the Gossip Girls series as well as literary classics.