More Musings on Banning Books

Possibly because I've been typing up all those banned book notices for the other blog, I have become a bit obsessed with banned books and the results of banning books. One of the things I've been turning over in my head is the way banning a book impacts sales -- it guarantees them.

So, it has always seemed to me an odd paradox. If you want a book to never be read and disappear from the face of the earth, why on earth would you create a media maelstrom and loads of publicity? This drives curiosity about the book which drives sales. By telling people that they shouldn't read a book it almost always guarantees that they will.

If I had a book I didn't want people to read, I would start a word of mouth campaign telling people why it wasn't worth reading. Some people might read it, but most will assume you know what you're talking about. A negative word of mouth campaign is insidious and almost impossible to combat. If one of my friends tells me that a book isn't worth reading, I'm less likely to read it. If someone in the news tells me I shouldn't read it, I go find the nearest copy.

What I'm trying to get at, is that I don't understand the point of trying to get a book banned. It always has the opposite effect of what the banners intended, and it almost always puts the banners in a negative light. No one likes to have someone else tell them which of their freedoms (in this case freedom of the press) should be restricted.

I think we should all start a campaign for the inclusion of all books regardless of your opinion of them. Any book that makes it through the arduous publishing process deserves its place in the market. It may not be a book you like or approve of, but that just means that you weren't the intended audience.

I challenge every reader out in the kiddie-litosphere to read at least one banned book before the end of Banned Book Week on October 3. Then feature that book on your blog. If possible, try to pick a book you might not even like all that much. After all, there probably is someone out there who would appreciate the book. If you need ideas for banned books, check out my daily listings at BookKids Recommends or the ALA's Banned Books Week site.

Read. Post. Fight Censorship in all its forms.


PJ Hoover said...

I could go with The Lorax. My son just mentioned this yesterday.
Hmmmm....did he hear it in school? Course we don't do much forestry here in Austin, do we.

Gottawrite Girl said...

It's very true. Mention a banned book, and I'm all over it. Reading it twice... must be that "don't push the red button" mentality!

Lynn said...

Students in the library (pre-service teachers specifically) are always surprised by the breadth of issues behind banned books week. The biggest issue is usually the idea that if a book has been challenged and/or banned it may have been done so be by only one person in one library, and has not been banned for everyone.

The ALA banned books materials are great resources, especially the most frequently challenged books pages.

To me it is just as interesting to see what has been challenged and banned somewhere as it is to see what is not on the list.

Abbie Hilton said...

I was reading a book a while back (I think it was Elizabeth Eisenstein's The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe) in which the author talked about early Protestant printers setting up shop on the edge of Catholic countries. Basically, the printers would get their catalogue from the Catholic Index (the list of books banned by the church), and those books would sell like mad just across the border. Those were the _hot_ titles. This sort of thing has been going on since the invention of the printing press. It's really fascinating.

Emily said...

I am also completely obsessed. After we built that display, I kept researching. I have ordered a couple of banned books BP doesn't carry for my own library.

I agree with you, though. You mention a book is banned and it immediately generates interest in the title.

Plus, I think it has a very negative impact on young readers - where if you let your child read a book and then talk to them about the "negative" or controversial aspects of the book, you can have an open dialogue about your values and opinions. But if you tell your child not to read the book, that it's horrible and naughty, you close that dialogue, since they'll probably read it behind your back and not tell you about it.

The short: censorship sucks, unless you're a bookseller.

Bobbie said...

Oohhh, I like this idea. I decided earlier today to start reviewing books on my blog, and now I know where (more or less) to start.

That I'm sure I've written what will be 2 (soon to be 3) banned books if they ever get published just inspires me even more.

My brother owns a bookstore my sister manages. An old high school friend of hers sent her an email, complaining that the store carried "The Golden Compass." This was before the movie came out. My sister's response was like yours: If you want to guarantee a book's success, ban it. She also told her that you can't protect your children from the things you're afraid of. Rather than warning them off, you'll only make those things more appealing.

I bought my son "The Golden Compass" that week. If we can't trust our kids to judge a book by its content and not its cover, we're handicapping them for life. We're telling them that thinking is dangerous and that being challenged is dangerous. And we're telling them we don't trust them to think or be challenged without failing.