Banned Literature: my book recommendations
Celebrating the Freedom to Read: Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.
After perusing the 100 most commonly banned or challenged books of the 20th century, I realized that a lot of them are novels I rank as my favorites. And, oftentimes, the reasons for the banning/challenges are frivolous (e.g. use of the word “whore”) or entirely inaccurate (e.g. failure to see the books is a satire, and therefore not to be taken literally).
Well, in honor of BBW, I think we should all go out and buy — yeah, spend some money! — a banned or challenged book. Here are a few that I highly recommend:
5 out of 5 stars.
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
1984, by George Orwell
Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller (All Time Favorite Book #1)
This book has the best opening line — not to mention one of the most wacky, endearing, and confusing cast of characters imaginable.
“It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love.”
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
Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut (All Time Favorite #2)
Filled with Vonnegut’s typically bizarre characters and twisted plots, this book overflows with Vonnegut’s insight and uncomfortable truths.
“Busy, busy, busy.”
A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Candide by Voltaire
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
What are your favorite banned/challenged books? Did you attend a school where you weren’t allowed to read certain titles? Do you have any suggestions for me to read?
October 1, 2010 @ 12:04 pm
Yeah, Harry Potter and 1984 are some of my all-time favorite books. We read 1984 in high school and my friends and I launched a campaign against censorship (just to amuse ourselves really) using an idea from the novel. We tied green strips of fabric around our arms (instead of the red on the thigh). We had the whole school doing it. Good times. 🙂
October 1, 2010 @ 1:11 pm
That’s pretty awesome, Holly. I’m not gonna lie. The only cool thing my friends and I did (and it’s actually not cool but really lame) was to make a poster… See, there was a school-wide competition to make posters for each classroom’s door, and the poster had to support our football team for the upcoming state games. (Our teams colors were red & white).
What did we dorky I.B. kids put on our door? We drew a giant picture of Lenin and wrote:
“The Red Terror.”
Yeah…no one got it but us and our teacher. ÜBER LAME.
October 1, 2010 @ 12:10 pm
Susan, one reason they are banned is most of them are subversive. So is the following (my favorite Twilight Zone episode):
(season 2, episode 52. “Penny for Your Thoughts”)
Question for your inner marine biologist: When does a tadpole become a frog?
October 1, 2010 @ 1:14 pm
I agree that some could be considered subversive, but… Oftentimes, they only show the futility of trying to subvert the ruling power (e.g. Brave New World or 1984).
When it all boils down to it, though, banning is often a result of fear. (Case in point: Ellen Hopkin’s Crank and her recent rejection from a Houston book fair.)
And thanks for sharing the Twilight Zone link! 🙂
October 1, 2010 @ 1:30 pm
The only time I remember ever having a book taken away from me is when I was eight. I asked my mother what a particular word meant — suffice to say it would probably get caught in your spam filter, and requires two or more consenting adults! — and she took away the True Crimes book I’d found somewhere until I was a wee bit older.
I love so many of the books on your list. I’m reading Brave New World right now.
October 1, 2010 @ 2:52 pm
I checked the list– surprising as so many of them are considered “classics”. I keep thinking we (as a society) will evolve out of this kind of thing… but it keeps not happening.
October 3, 2010 @ 6:14 am
Blue Pill or Red Pill? That’s a subversive suggestion in many of these stories. Most people distract themselves from their ultimate fears. Choose wisely, Grasshopper.
October 12, 2010 @ 7:36 pm
We’ve got to stop them from banning books. Once they start banning one form of literature, they will never stop. Next thing you know, they will be burning all the books of the world!