This year, Banned Books Week (BBW) gets underway with the reverberations of pastor Terry Jones' recent plans for barbecuing the Qur'an still all around us. Traditionally, BBW is a time when we try to get people to read books rather than burn them, and happily, pastor Jones decided at the last minute to scuttle his planned bonfire in Gainesville, Florida.
What could be funnier than an ordained minister publicly burning, in the United States of America, the sacred text of another religion? In addition to it making a mockery of American values of religious freedom and tolerance, think of the carbon footprint of such an inflammatory event! We've got enough environmental problems as it is! If only it were satire rather than reality...
It reminds me of the Simpsons episode in which the Rev. Timothy Lovejoy presides over a public burning of Krusty the Clown toys. ("Now, we are going to set this pile of evil ablaze," says the Reverend before striking a match, "but because these are children’s toys, the fire will spread quickly, so please stand back and try not to inhale the toxic fumes.") Rev. Lovejoy, is of course, also famous for driving his "book-burning-mobile" -- taking mobile services to a peculiar new extreme.
Actually, the recent incident in Gainesville isn't so funny at all. Really, it's a stark reminder of how little most Americans know about Islam.
The featured books of BBW are often works that have been widely read. But the Qur'an is a book that most folks in the U.S. have never opened -- although the quality of public discourse might be improved if more of us did.
So what better time to stock up on the Playaway English-language edition of the Qur'an? For the devout, the Quran can only be accessed as a holy text in its original Arabic form -- any translation is an "interpretation" and not the holy word of Allah as transmitted to the prophet Mohammed. However, for non-Arabic speakers interested in learning more about the foundations of Islam, Englishman Kevan Brighting's beautiful reading of the English-language translation makes the text engaging and accessible.
For those interested in hearing an Arabic recitation of the Qur'an, a full version is available on Playaway.
Also of note is The Qur'an: A Biography by Bruce Lawrence. Launched on Playaway in September 2009, Lawrence's book was one of the initial titles in the Atlantic Monthly Press "Books That Changed the World" series. Lawrence, who is a distinguished historian of religion at Duke University, describes the origins of the Islamic faith and examines its widespread and varied presence around the world.
According to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, "at least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been the target of ban attempts." Of those 46, here are the two dozen currently available on Playaway:
1984 - George Orwell
All the King's Men - Robert Penn Warren
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
The Call of the Wild - Jack London
The Color Purple - Alice Walker
A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway
For Whom the Bell Tolls - Ernest Hemingway
The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
The Jungle - Upton Sinclair
Lady Chatterley's Lover - D.H. Lawrence
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
Naked Lunch - William S. Burroughs
Native Son - Richard Wright
Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey
A Separate Peace - John Knowles
Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut
Sons and Lovers - D.H. Lawrence
The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway
Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
Ulysses - James Joyce
When books are outlawed, only outlaws will have books. Happy Banned Books Week!
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Posted by David Perrotta, MLIS
Playaway Senior Content Strategist