Better late than never - Banned Book Week 2015

It’s been a crazy few weeks over here, not least due to a wonderful trip to Switzerland last week. Because of all the jet-setting and general life admin, I started - but didn’t complete - a post of my thoughts on this year’s Banned Book Week - which ended over a week ago! Whoops! Not like me to drop the ball, but if you’re still interested, here it is, and I’ll try to be more relevant in future.

It’s coming to the end of 2015’s Banned Book Week which according to all the Twitter trends has been a really popular event this year. Of course I love any event that gets people reading, or at least talking about reading, and Banned Book Week is no exception, especially as it gives a naughty forbidden angle to books. That, and laughing at some of the ridiculous reasons for banning some of these books.

However this, and the recent furore over ‘Trigger Warnings’ in American colleges does make me despair ever so slightly. Reading, by definition means learning - expanding one’s ideas and knowledge about the world. Whether you’re reading fiction or non-fiction you are stepping into another person’s story, history, way of looking at the world for a little while. If you read widely (and I’m pretty sure it’s a consensus that that’s a good idea) you are always going to find things you like and agree with, and things you don’t. Of course you could stick to reading books that are in your comfort zone and that you can nod along to, happy in the knowledge that the world is as it should be and everyone agrees with you. But then where would we be if everyone did that? No progress, no debate - women not able to vote, children still stuck up chimneys and all other sorts of ‘look how far we’ve come’ cliches. Debate is good, and to have that we need to be exposed to other ideas. How else would we know that we are truly right in our beliefs, and be able to form informed opinions?

Most of the books that are banned are due to being about ‘unpleasant’ topics, violence, sex, homosexuality, abuse etc. I can completely understand avoiding books that may be upsetting, such as books on child abuse. But I don’t understand not reading something just because you disagree with it, or because it’s at odds with your religious beliefs. You really do have to question the logic behind this. If your beliefs are so weak you can’t take reading something that disagrees with you, maybe have a think about your beliefs, not your reading material. I read about true crime and serial killers, it’s yet to make me into one…

At the end of the day, I really can’t tell people what to do - but that’s the whole point. I can understand people not liking certain controversal books, so: if you don’t like it, don’t read it! But, don’t enforce your reading habits on others. It’s not a bad maxim to live by; if people could apply this to everything in life (I don’t like your… religion/way of dressing/taste in music/gender of marriage partner/way of raising your children …but live and let live) then the world would be a much better place. Just my humble opinion!

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