Sadly, I appear to have missed a mention of Freedom to Read Week, which in Canada was marked at the tail end of February and the first few days of March.
Fortunately, there's never a bad time to talk about books, banning, and boneheads.
Every year, groups like Freedom to Read and the American Library Association come out with lists of the books that have been most frequently banned or challenged from inclusion in classrooms, school libraries, and public libraries.
Every time I see one of these lists, I have to check to make sure I'm not reading a satire site.
Is Judy Bloom really one of the names that appears most frequently on the lists of most challenged books? Yes, because Blubber will apparently corrupt the youth of America/Canada/wherever. Next thing you know, everyone will be dressing up as flensers for Halloween.
The thing that always gets me is how many people want to ban the books without having read them.
Harry Potter is about magic, therefore it's Satanic.
The N-word appears in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, so it's racist.
The Handmaid's Tale contains sex and sexual abuse, therefore it's violently anti-women. (Bonus points for trying to ban The Handmaid's Tale, a book which contains a book-burning scene!)
Of course, actually reading any of those books would reveal that Harry Potter is about friendship, loyalty, and moral uprightness in the face of evil, Huckleberry Finn is about the evils of racism, and Handmaid's Tale is about a society destroying itself through sexism.
People asking to ban books also seem not to have read very many books at all.
Listings of reasons for book removal requests from libraries, collected by Freedom to Read, repeatedly show that patrons are shocked by foul language or any mention of sex. If they're not clutching their pearls, they're angry because the author disagrees with them on Israel/Palestine, or First Nations history, or in one case, inaccurate dairy farming practices.
You can avoid most of these triggers, but it will mean sticking to a fairly narrow range of books, including Dr. Seuss (not his later, political stuff), some gardening and automotive repair books, and a handful of very cosy mystery novels. And even there, you'll run across a corpse or two, or a description of a milking machine.
People swear in real life, they say offensive, racist, and generally stupid things, they commit crimes, and they have ill-considered opinions on Holsteins.
Anything in the real world will crop up in books.
While we focus on worthwhile books, there is plenty of crap that needs defending, unfortunately.
It's easy to justify outrage when someone claims that To Kill A Mockingbird is racist, or that The Golden Compass should be burned (as one Alberta library patron suggested). It's harder to work up a good head of steam to protect Go Ask Alice, a (fake) diary of a teenager who takes a lot of drugs and dies. It lacks much in the way of literary value, but it still requires defenders, due to frequent attempts to have it tossed out the library window.
But we don't defend books because we like them. I'm no fan of Catcher in the Rye, and if I came face-to-face with Holden Caulfield, I'd try to smack the smug little self-interested jackass, but my opinion of the book's merits is not important.
We defend books because it's wrong to ban.
We can argue, cajole, and hopefully write better books. But the best, only censor is time, which allows us to winnow out the best books over time.