Monday, September 27, 2010

Banned Book Week: What Banned Book Have You Read Lately?

Visits to the public library were among my favorite summer activity growing up. My mother would pack my brother and me into the car and off we would go. We'd be let loose among the stacks and allowed to roam to our heart's content. I don't remember my parents ever telling me I couldn't read a particular book.

I do believe in a parent's right to guide his or her children in choosing appropriate reading material when necessary; I think it's smart parenting to know what your children are reading, listening to, watching, and playing. However, what I do not get behind is when someone or a group of people decide that no one should be allowed to read a particular book. And so they challenge it and request it be banned. Often books are challenged because they raise viewpoints that differ from someone else's. Or perhaps they touch upon subject matter that the person finds offensive or uncomfortable. I respect a person's right to have his or her own opinion about any book. I truly do. But do not tell me what I should and should not read, or anyone else for that matter.

When it gets right down to it, censorship is dangerous. Those who would censor argue the opposite, but shutting down ideas and thoughts, not allowing people to be heard and others to hear what others have to say is detrimental to society as a whole. You cannot protect anyone by censoring reading material. We are only made more vulnerable as a result.
The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859
To kick start Banned Books Week, which started this weekend, I followed Florinda's lead and looked over the list of books tagged as banned on LibraryThing's catalog. I was curious to see which one's I'd read. Of the top 150 books listed, I was pleased to see I had read a number of them:

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Forever by Judy Blume
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Odyssey by Homer
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Blubber by Judy Blume
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Dracula by Bram Stoker
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

I have read chunks of both The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer and the Bible, both of which were included in the top 150 books list on LibraryThing. And many more are books on the list are sitting in my TBR room waiting their turn. I look at these titles and I find myself scratching my head in wonderment at what could be so threatening about any of them.

What was the last banned book or challenged book you read?

Later in the week, I will be reviewing a book called Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, which made recent news as one man attempted to have the book banned because of its content, I chose that particular book for personal reasons, but I think it also speaks to a much broader topic, one that ties nicely into this week's theme. Books like Speak need to be read, need to be given a voice, for all our sakes. They offer much needed perspective on a serious problem in our society. Topics such as sexual assault and teen depression do more harm than good when swept under the carpet.

© 2010, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. Great post, Wendy! I think it's up to the parents to decide if the books are appropriate for their children, but to have it ban altogether is entirely another matter.

    I haven't read Speak yet, and I look forward to reading your thoughts on it. :)

  2. Hi Wendy...This was a great post and so glad every year there is a major focus on banned books. It's up to individuals and for children (their parents) to decide what is appropriate.

    Some of my favorite books were banned books: Kite Runner, Silas Marner, Les Miserables, and several more.

  3. Great post :)
    The last banned book I read was last year, Farenheit 451. I really enjoyed it.

  4. Oh, I think I missed Snow Falling on Cedars on my list - I read that back in 1996. (I only remember that because I brought it with me to Atlanta when we went to the Olympics.) That's an enlightening little exercise, isn't it?

    I don't recall my parents ever telling me I couldn't read a particular book either...but sometimes they'd say I should wait till I was older. I did the same thing with my son. I agree with you: that's responsible parenting, not to be confused with censorship.

    I'm reading Speak this week too.

  5. I've read 39 of the books you listed here. Love Chaucer and Shakespeare. I don't read books because they are banned (and often can't figure out what is objectionable), but it is easy to choose books I'm interested in from banned book lists.

  6. I suppose the one I've read most recently on this list is Fahrenheit 451. I hate book banning and agree with you that while parents have the right to choose what their own children read, other people don't have the right to tell the rest of us what we can and can't read. I'm blessed to have been raised in a home where my parents didn't censor my reading.

  7. Out of your list I've read 30. Heck, I make it my mission in life to read books that others tell me should be banned. I'm with you- censorship is dangerous!

    Read on Wendy!!! Speak is a book that was removed from my middle school shelves before I worked there. I'm proud to tell you that I put it back on the shelves where it belongs!

  8. Happy Freedom to Read week Wendy! I have read quite a few of those challenged books so that makes me happy.

    I've actually just started Farenheit 451 last night in honor of this week and I'm loving it!

  9. I just finished reading Speak, it is being read by the 10th graders I work with at my local high school. I am looking forward to your review, and will comment more then.

  10. I was suprised by some of the books ont he list. Esepcially Anne Frank! Also interesting that a lot of those are now considered classics/great works.

    I remember the fuss about Judy Blume's books at the time, but I didn't read her books so I never worried about it.

    Of course good ol Harry Potter.

    Well I was pleased that I was able to count a few of those books as being read. The rest are un-read not because they are banned but because I'm not interested.

    A very good post. I agree that censorship doesnt work it jut makes you want to read it more (to find out what the fuss is about). I think you should let you child explore any book they want and discuss the books with them if there is something that concerns you about it. Education is better then censorship.

  11. I just finished reading The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood about a week ago, and I know that one's been banned before. I thought it was a fabulous, thought-provoking book.

  12. Most of my fave reads were banned or challenged at some point. Wonder what that says about me as a person?

  13. You have read a lot of the books..way to go! I agree completely with everything you said too. I'm also miffed that the guy against Speak is in my state. It's a little too close for comfort for me. Somebody should take away his right to "speak" and see how well he likes that.

  14. You cannot protect anyone by censoring reading material. We are only made more vulnerable as a result. I agree!

    I have a couple of books in the list that I haven't read but they're in my to-be-read pile. I'm happy to know that I've read quite a few of them!

  15. Thanks everyone! I don't think there are many of us who don't agree about this topic--especially around the book blogosphere. I imagine we'll always be facing book challenges in one form or another, which is really unfortunate.


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