“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” Joseph Brodsky
Censorship seeks to maintain social control by depriving people of information that challenges the status quo. Brodsky would know, having first been committed to a mental hospital then sent to a work camp before the Soviet Union expelled him in 1972 calling his poetry, “gibberish.”
Poets and writers have likened books to many things, beacons of light, navigational tools, gardens, and magic tickets. All of these represent possibility. Books can transport you to another time and place, or they can change your worldview. However, an unopened book is a dead object. Unlike censorship which can still allow ideas to flourish through unofficial channels, choosing not to read something is a form of self-censorship. It is perhaps an even more insidious one since apathy and inertia squash the need for state control over what we read.
National Library Week is a good time to celebrate our freedom to read whatever we wish, and to reflect on the possibilities and advantages of our intellectual liberty.