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Freedom to Read
Banned Books

Freedom to Read
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Banned books are books or other printed works such as essays or plays which are prohibited by law or to which free access is not permitted by other means. The practice of banning books is a form of censorship, from political, legal, religious, moral, or (less often) commercial motives. This article lists notable banned books and works, giving a brief context for the reason that each book was prohibited. Banned books include fictional works such as novels, poems and plays and non-fiction works such as biographies and dictionaries.

Banned in the United States
Banned in the United States
Several countries around the world celebrate their nationalism or independence in March. They include South Korea, Bulgaria, Sudan, Ghana, Gibraltar, Lithuania, Mauritius, Grenada, Hungary, Tunisia, Pakistan, Zambia, Cyprus, and Malta. Rightly proud of their cultural heritages, they honor those who fought to liberate their citizens from conquering oppressors, yet oppression, in some form or another, still continues in the world today. 

Often governments fear the uncensored freedom to read. The greatest fear of a government is, if such civil liberties are left unchecked, subversive ideas may lead to civil unrest.  If all citizens has the right to vote for their governing leaders, those leaders have a vested interest in ensuring that the public does not have access to the information that will inspire discontent and thoughts of unrest or may lead to a revolution.  The World Heritage Encyclopedia lists 100-plus of the most famous books that have been banned. 

It is interesting to note that the list of books that have been banned in the United States of America, Canada, and England ended up being some of the most famous books: for example, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath; John Milton’s Areopagitica; Lewis Sinclair’s Elmer Gantry; Schiff Irwin’s The Federal Mafia; Wilson Edmund’s Memoirs of Hecate County; Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead; Allen Ginsberg’s Howl; D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover; Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin; and, James Joyce’s Ulysses.  Which leads one to ask, do we really have the freedom to read we presumed?
What is Immorality?
What is Immorality?
Books have been banned since the fourteenth century for reasons ranging from immorality to obscenity to political offense. In addition to banning selected titles, those who ban books also target the authors of those books. 

Books that inspire intellectual curiosity and intellectual freedom also inspire independent thought. Without such books to nudge, lead, or even shock us from our comfortable mental ruts, we succumb to intellectual complacency. Whether one seeks knowledge or truth--and they’re not the same--the action of doing so and the freedom of material should be our inherent right to read.

The historical reaction of such freedom has ironically lead to tighter restrictions and punitive action, which then feeds the discontent of the oppressed. Often causing the very books which were banned to become the most popular.   

Cult Classics
Most classical literature focuses on the movers, shakers, and doers of the cultures of the authors who wrote them. Notable exceptions include the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and the All-of-a-Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor. The rationale for this bias is simple: the movers, shakers, and doers have historically been male, particularly men of high social status and power. They are the ones who can make a difference, defeat monstrous foes, and rule over the weak peasantry.

Books that inspire independent thought through solid argument, factual evidence, and real data enable the dissenter to defend his or her ideas with appeals beyond emotion. Independent thought, however, does not necessarily require that one stand against the tide or defy the majority. It does require knowing why one bucks the trend or follows it.

The World Library prides itself on offering works spanning a millennium of thought, books with opposing viewpoints and those that towed the party lines of their contemporaries. Whether one reads the Malleus Maleficarum or Mein Kampf, a critical mind remains necessary to evaluate and judge the ideas being poured into one’s mind. Only through such freedom to read can the mind forge insights which becomes wisdom.  

By Karen M. Smith

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