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Celebrate Banned Books Week 2010 - Martha Carr

It's National Banned Books Week again, and every year more readers find a new list of good books to go check out. "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "The Catcher in the Rye" are two perpetual winners that seem to really rock some people's sense of outrage, but there are some new titles that are worth cozying up to on a cold, fall night.

"Harry Potter," the series, is on there as well as "Twilight," the series, along with the new entries of "The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things," by Carolyn Mackler, which was cited as offensive along with "The Chocolate Wars," by Robert Cormier. Both are apparently too sexually explicit with offensive language.

Keep in mind as you're wondering just what level of offense these books rise to that those are the general reasons for almost every book on the list, including "The Color Purple," another annual favorite.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" is always cited as being racist, which really makes me wonder if they've ever read the book.

There should be some credit given to those who are really ticked off because every year at least they're picking some really well-written literature. A nice list of books with great storylines that sometimes only one person has decided you really don't need to read, because they said so.

We could use the list to shop for Christmas gifts.

The celebration was started in 1982 at a time when a lot more people suddenly thought they should have the right to dictate what others get to read.

The American Library Association, www.ala.org, said there were at least 460 attempts made in 2009.

The bad news is the ALA estimates that 70 to 80 percent of bans are reported, but the good news is due to more public involvement, fewer attempts are successful. Most of the brouhaha is over books being available in school libraries, but there have been plenty of attempts at censorship in public libraries and even bookstores as well.

The majority of the reported attempts are on the east coast, and not in the Bible Belt down South, but further North and mid-West, with almost no reported incidents on the West coast. Either there are better things to do in those regions or fewer people willing to protest.

An annual list of banned books is an interesting concept that conjures up images of panels trying to decide what's officially offensive enough to not be allowed to be represented in words that are strung together. All that, so readers don't picture in their minds a certain list of banned ideas.

Our imaginations would finally be policed. At last, a good use of our time.

It takes an amazing amount of gumption to insist that too much knowledge is a dangerous thing. If we can use history to edify that thought, before books on that topic are banned, we can easily see that humanity falls off a cliff with less information, not more.

Any good dictator knows that the first thing on the to-do list after a coup is shut down the libraries. Just so we're clear, it's not because they're trying to protect all those precious little minds, but so that they can fix, manage and control, control, control.

A free flow of information means that your neighbor gets to draw their own conclusions, come up with their own ideas and then act on them. If that were to happen, democracy just might break out everywhere.

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Association of College Stores, and is endorsed by the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress. Read a book everyone.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.