In his novel "Fahrenheit 451," Ray Bradbury describes a society in which books are outlawed. "Firemen" destroy them - hence the title, the temperature at which paper burns.
We may be a long way from such a society, but the American Library Association (ALA) and several groups of booksellers, publishers, and authors are spending this week highlighting the importance of being able to choose one's reading.
From Sept. 23 to Sept. 30, they are sponsoring the 19th Banned Books Week. "The American public has to be aware that their First Amendment rights are fragile," says Judith Krug, director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom.
Each year, the ALA publishes a list of books that have been challenged in schools and libraries around the United States. For every challenge they record, they estimate five go unnoted. Between 1990 and 1999, a total of 5,718 challenges were identified by the Office for Intellectual Freedom. Topping the list is Alvin Schwartz's "Scary Stories" series. Other frequently challenged books include "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain and "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger.
Ms. Krug says only a small fraction of these books are actually banned. …