banned books week

There are a lot of books out there that I have issues with.   Some are badly written.  Some spread irresponsible opinions or misleading information (at least in my opinion).  Others are just really, really boring

Here’s the thing — I have every right not to read these books.  But I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone else they can’t.  (Shouldn’t, maybe.  Can’t, no.)

And yet there are a lot of people out there who try to tell others exactly that.  Any time a book is challenged or banned in a school or library, it’s because one individual or group of individuals thinks others shouldn’t be allowed to read it.  I understand that a lot of these books discuss sensitive or controversial subjects, and may even contain language considered offensive in everyday society.  But here’s the other thing — these writers didn’t create these controversial ideas.  These subjects and ideas and language are a part of our lives and our world, and books can help readers to process and understand how the world around them works. But in order for that to happen, books need to be available to readers — through libraries, schools, and book stores.

In order to raise awareness about banned books and censorship, the American Library Association (along with other organizations) sponsors an annual Banned Books Week.  The ALA’s site has a lot of interesting information on their site, including this list of frequently challenged classics.  (This list, of the most commonly banned books in the ’90s, is interesting as well.)

At the risk of disclosing just how many great books I haven’t read, I’ve marked the ones in this list I have read in blue, and starred the ones I’ve particularly enjoyed.   Having taught The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird to high school students, I know firsthand how much value these particular texts can bring to a classroom; it makes me incredibly sad to think of them (and others) being banned.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald*
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee*
The Color Purple by Alice Walker*
Ulysses by James Joyce
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
1984 by George Orwell*

Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller* (currently reading)
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Their Eyes are Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell*
Native Son by Richard Wright
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren*
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (partially read)
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote*
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Rabbit, Run by John Updike

Update (9/30): I realized after posting I had inadvertantly copied the wrong list from the ALA web site and have now updated the list and comments relating to it. 

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~ by Molly on September 29, 2009.

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