British libraries are launching a range of events to celebrate brilliant books that have been banned.
The list of 50 makes surprising reading. Included is:
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.
Apparently it was no.37 on the American Library Association's 100 most frequently challenged books 1990 - 2000. Some claimed it was anti Christian and pornographic. I remember being reluctant to read anything else by Margaret Atwood after this, scared that she couldn't possibly equal it.
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
Banned by some American libraries and schools because of its violent and sexual content. Ye Gods! That's one way of silencing survivors of violence...
A Prayer for Owen Meany - John IrvingAn extraordinary book of great heart and intelligence. John Irving has a distinctive voice, no one else writes quite like him.
It's been banned in some US states because of its criticism of the Vietnam War and Iran-Contra, so that's another reason to go buy it.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - L Frank Baum
This one really surprised me. It has been banned by many libraries in different American states for different reasons - in the South because of witches being referred to as 'good' and in the 1950s in a wave of anti Communist hysteria because it was thought to have socialist values. It's a long time since I read it but the left wing flavour passed me by unless anything intelligent that explores the human condition and doesn't talk down to children has to come under the heading of socialism.
But America doesn't have the monopoly on bad decisions.
Until quite recently any Irish author worth reading was banned in their own country. It's no surprise to find Edna O'Brien on this list because her unsentimental look at life as it was lived in the 1960s was just too much to take. But the fact that John McGahern lost his job as a teacher because of The Dark is even more revealing of a time and a way of thinking. His crime was that his beautifully written novel suggested that some priests sexually abused children...But the one that really gave me pause for thought was The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
Of course it shouldn't be on this list, or indeed any list of books worth reading, but I didn't realise that Christian leaders in the Lebanon went so far as to ban it. Sadly, not on the grounds of good taste.