Are You with the Banned?

Celebrating Banned Books Week,

September 30th-October 6th

Banned Books Week is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary! “Celebrating the freedom to read,” this annual event aims to raise awareness for the works of literature that are frequently challenged by and even banned from communities across the country.

Did you know that some of the best works of all time, and very often the ones you’ll have studied in school, have at one time or another been censored from the public? Did you know that the practice of censorship in literature still goes on today?

Yup, somewhere out there, a blinkered individual could actually be pondering at this very moment the dangers of a mind raised on an “occultist” story like Bridge to Terabithia, while someone of the same mindset argues that the bildungsroman The Perks of Being a Wallflower is “unsuited to a teenage audience.” Seriously.

And it’s not all Sex, by Madonna, Gossip Girl and l8r, g8r that are considered poised to corrupt our youth either. No, those are part of a tiny minority. What are the most frequently banned books? Our greatest ones, of course.

Of Random House’s list of the 100 best novels of all time, 46 classics have been either challenged or banned altogether, some on a frequent basis. Of Mice and Men is one that is commonly challenged today. Even in the last decade the list of banned books still includes To Kill a Mockingbird (for “racial themes”), Brave New World (for “insensitivity, offensive language,” and probably for being dystopian), and The Catcher in the Rye (for being “a filthy, filthy book”), proving we are far from the progressive culture we may like to think of ourselves as.

No sauciness allowed. Of all the reasons books are banned or challenged, sexual explicitness is cited the most often.

Even when it does not concern “important” works, the point at hand here is that individuals and governments consider it their right to censor what others read, and that (to me) sounds borderline Cultural Revolution/Big Brother-esque. It’s a tad hypocritical that the freedom of speech has been such a huge part of the public discourse lately, while so little thought is ever given to intellectual freedom:

Intellectual freedom can exist only where two essential conditions are met: first, that all individuals have the right to hold any belief on any subject and to convey their ideas in any form they deem appropriate, and second, that society makes an equal commitment to the right of unrestricted access to information and ideas regardless of the communication medium used, the content of work, and the viewpoints of both the author and the receiver of information.

Intellectual Freedom Manual, 7th edition

If libraries begin to ban books from the public, we’ve basically descended into a Fahrenheit 451 situation. Oh wait, that’s another banned book, so that analogy means nothing…

If a book offends you, don’t read it. But please, don’t worry that Harry Potter will turn an entire generation of kids into wand-wielding Satan worshipers. Moreover, if the people trying to censor these stories really took the time to read them, they might just realize how much more faith in humanity these “offensive” books store than the censors do themselves.

There’s a lot more out there to fear than a mind fed with imagination, fantasy, and original thought. And with that, I’ll get off my soapbox.

To see a visual history of the last thirty years of banned books, check out this great timeline from the American Library Association. It contains thirty entries between 1982’s banning of Slaughterhouse Five (a “just plain filthy” book) and 2012’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed (banned for concerning “ethnic studies”). You can also find out who’s behind most of the book challenges, and other information, in the ALA’s Statistics page.

More famous banned books:

The Hunger Games Trilogy, Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Reasons: offensive language, racism, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence

My Sister’s Keeper, Reasons: homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence

The Chocolate War, Reasons: nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

His Dark Materials trilogy, Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group

What are your thoughts on banned books? Do some deserve to be taken off the shelves? If so, which ones? We’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!


159 Comments on “Are You with the Banned?”

  1. As a true believer in free speech, I think that no book should be banned, no matter the subject or the perceived offense. Censorship is problematic because it relies on the sensibilities of the person who judges each work and writing, like all artforms, is subjective.

  2. PrettyGee says:

    I love hunger games and will try to check out sisters keepers. Nice post.

  3. Not His Dark Materials! Love that trilogy!
    It makes me sick knowing this still goes on.

  4. Reblogged this on The Stoic Squirm and commented:
    I admit, I’m not much of a reader but these titles seem really interesting!

  5. retrogurl72 says:

    I’m surprised 50 Shades Of Grey isn’t mentioned! I never knew The Golden Compass was banned, that’s really interesting, great article :)

    • jhgardner says:

      I know! Funny how the predominant books that are banned are classics. I wonder whether it’s that certain groups fear thought-provoking literature. More likely, though, it’s that parents don’t want these sorts of books taught to their children in school, and Fifty Shades (fingers crossed) isn’t likely to be assigned as required reading (please, please no).
      Thanks for reading!

  6. IamJoyceee says:

    Great post. Would start reading up on some of these books!

    This post is timely to what is happening to my country’s internet ‘freedom’ which is now gagged by the Philippine government with their CyberCrime Act Law. :(

  7. jessmittens says:

    I’d say the only books that need to be taken off shelves are the ones written really terribly.
    And Night of the Living Dummy. That thing gave me nightmares when I was 9! haha

    Lovely post, and I think I’d like to write a book that gets banned, that way people will think it’s harder, and more mysterious than what it probably will be.

    • jhgardner says:

      Good point. I wondered myself whether some of these books became so famous in part because they were banned at some point. But when you get down to it they’re also examples of fantastic literature. So that’s all it takes: write a provocative book that the whole world will love. You can do it! :)

  8. i have played banned players on video games and i have even played a banned video game but i have not yet read a banned book so this may be for me a good time to start

  9. lukejax says:

    My Sisters Keeper is about as violent as my pet dwarf hamster. Outrageous!

  10. Jean says:

    If it’s books that are text than graphics, most of it: No. However, some of the stuff does require open discussion with several other people with divergent views.

    But now we have the open Internet, with porn, offensive stuff and some of it downright dangerously violent to some folks. So banned books wk. needs to rebrand and retool for the 21st century reality of the digital world.

    • jhgardner says:

      That’s an interesting thought. There is no “safe search” function available for literature like you can set on your browser. What I find off, though, is that of these books that have been censored (bar the Gossip Girl type of work) they’ve been banned for the wrong reasons: TKAM, for instance, for dealing with racial issues. If there’s ever a book to teach you how to fight racial prejudice, it’s that one.
      Ban the porn from being accessible to kids, for sure. But preventing students from reading material that will open their minds in a good way will stunt their creativity and compassion, in my opinion.

      • Jean says:

        We have a much tougher challenge now with the younger generations: capturing and maintaining their interest to read traditional novels from cover to cover instead of flitting around with soundbytes of information from the Internet. So banned books issues must still be fought, but we are getting alot more younger generations lacking critical thinking skills and analysis to figure what is good, reliable information vs. biased info. Hard to tear people away from their iphones, iPads, etc. and listen to what teachers/critics have to say.

  11. Fay says:

    I find it hilarious that a few of those books have been made into films that people of all ages have enjoyed and loved however thing the text is intrusive and offensive. Maybe they are frightened of books!

    As you mentioned we are in a forward thinking and progressive society surely such a list should be subjugated and banned itself. But this may just be a fallacy of what our society actually has become.

    Great post and congrats on the FP :D

    • jhgardner says:

      Thank you and thanks for reading!
      Sometimes I do feel that people are frightened of books. Movies do seem to be more digestible for people, I agree. And it’s funny (to me) how acceptable violence is to the public when it’s on a screen as opposed to on a page, even though in the former it’s often way more gratuitous than in the latter.
      I don’t know (shakes head).

      • Fay says:

        Definitely have to agree with the violence issue – it is far more damaging for young children to see it acted out. however some may argue that those with an over active imagination may make it worse! Sad times!

  12. chiclygreen says:

    I just got my very first library card (as an adult) last week, and checked out “The Great Gatsby” because I’ve always wanted to read it. How appropriate that I’m reading it this week, since it’s #1 on the banned list you link to. Thanks for this!

  13. Mrs. P says:

    Parent’s being the number one reason for censorship is not surprising. But, nowadays kids can access almost anything via the internet. Even if their parent has internet blocking,someone they know is bound to have unblocked access via an ipad or iphone. It seems like banning books is an impotent activity, these days. Thanks for the “must read” list!

    • jhgardner says:

      True, kids have access to lots of inappropriate things. I suppose parents want to preserve their child’s innocence for as long as possible. But by preventing them from reading a book that is really no harm to them at all (Where the Wild Things Are, for instance, is on the list) they are only steering them away from literature and towards much more unsuitable material.
      Thanks for reading!

  14. edgeledge says:

    Books that get banned can end up being more people than they should be, e.g. 50 shades of grey. I wonder if the morality police are as prudish as they make out, and they should ban the bible for its violence and racism.

    • jhgardner says:

      Right! If extreme violence is okay in religious texts, how can much much lesser violence and complex material be banned in secular books? Especially in ones that have an important moral to “love thy neighbor,” like To Kill a Mockingbird?
      Thanks for reading!

      • Religious texts are some of the most banned books there are. Try getting your local public school to read through a book of the Bible. It’s not going to happen. I thought your article was lacking when it comes to the censorship of religious texts, and some of your comments (like this one) seem to imply that you think religious texts are not banned at all. If this is indeed what you think, then you did not research this subject properly before writing.

      • jhgardner says:

        In this post I’m merely going off of the list from the Banned Books Week website, which is dedicated to banned fiction.I know that there are banned religious texts, but that’s not what this post is about.
        Additionally, I don’t think that religious texts should be banned either; there’s no better way to understand others’ beliefs than to read their holy book. I’m merely saying that it’s hypocritical for the same people who approve of reading the violence in a religious text to say that the less explicit violence depicted in a novel is inappropriate.
        Religious texts may be kept off of public school curriculums for the fact that it’s messy to mix government funded schooling with religion, due to the separation of church and state. That said, in high school I was assigned to read the New Testament alongside Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I do think it’s possible for religious texts to be assigned in school without people worrying that some agenda has been enforced on them. In the same vein, I would expect others to think the same when they decide whether or not to allow a book like The Golden Compass, which leans the other way, to be allowed on the shelves of their public library.

  15. My Christian, private school kept me in the dark, so I’ve made a point to read every possible banned book in existence then give the book to my kids. Although, with books like the Hunger Games, my kids give them to me.

    • jhgardner says:

      Hey, it makes for a good reading list :)
      Hunger Games is quite violent and troubling, but it serves a purpose. I think a lot of people underestimate that children are able to grasp the bigger picture in these sorts of books. Plus, dystopias are important to read, and since it’s unlikely that a 13 year-old would/could pick up Brave New World, The Hunger Games is a good mini-step.

      • navyphoto22 says:

        I read Brave New World when I was 13. Thankfully, I had teachers that exposed the class to such books. I’ve read many of the banned books on the list. The more they ban them, the more people want to read them. Censorship is counterproductive and stupid. People should never be afraid of writing or of expressing ideas.

  16. I think that getting into censorship is a very dangerous thing, because like you said, we could descend into a Farenheit 451 situation, or become very much like countries like Iran or North Korea, who ban anything that might “corrupt” their people. Personally there are books I’d like to see banned, like the one written a couple of years ago that told pedophiles how to “love” children “safely”, but like I said, I don’t want to wade into those waters.
    Besides, if my novels ever get published, I’m sure there will be some people who would want me banned for plenty of the reasons listed above. That would either really suck, or it would drive up sales a bit, I’m not sure which.

    • jhgardner says:

      Right, whether we agree with a book or not, the issue at heart here is censorship, and it’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that such a thing could happen on our own doorstep. It seems like something that could only happen in far off places where choice is more limited.
      I think the controversy of being banned does get books more attention. But regardless, you’d be in good company if your writing was ever banned. Looking at the list of classics, it’s not as though the branding is a poor reflection on the writing itself.

  17. I am totally convinced that most adults are quite capable of deciding for themselves what is and is not safe for them to read. It may be different for children but their parents or guardians are usually capable of guiding them. Surely there is no need for self-proclaimed “experts” on “suitability”, governmental or otherwise, to tell us what we should or should not read! And besides, I don’t trust their motives.

    Congrats on being Freshly pressed!

    • jhgardner says:

      I agree–parents should be able guide their own children in whichever direction they want, but applying that decision to everybody else’s? That I don’t like. We wouldn’t allow it to happen with other aspects of parenting.
      Thanks for reading!

  18. lexy3587 says:

    I hadn’t realised there was a banned books week at all! very cool.
    I recently heard about a proposal to remove the ‘N’ word from Mark Twain’s novels. While I agree that, no, it’s not an appropriate word to use now, the idea of modifying the books is horrifying. You don’t modify the past to suit present day morals, because that gives you the opportunity to forget the mistakes from the past, at which point you’re doomed to repeat them. Let’s see… tom sawyer. well… we’ll get rid of the “n” word, of course. Also, slavery is bad. So Jim isn’t a slave, he’s just a man travelling with the child Tom. wait, no, that’s kind of sketchy sounding isn’t it? Ok… Tom and Jim (same age) who are of undefined ethnic origins run away. No… not run away, that might encourage children to run away. They go… to the park. with parental supervision. Yes. Ok. Now we’ve got a book!

    • Pit says:

      @ lexy3587
      “Modifying the past to suit the present”: quite Orwellian, isn’t it?

    • jhgardner says:

      Ha, I love it! No, you can’t rewrite these old texts. They serve a historical purpose. It’d be like censoring parts of history itself. People just see the shock and political incorrectness of the ‘n’ word in the text without thinking of why it’s there. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to read nowadays, given the connotation, but that’s how you’re SUPPOSED to feel! Why would we want to become numb to that?
      Great comment, and thanks for reading :)

    • lsurrett2 says:

      Brilliant!

  19. Many of my favorite books are on a banned list or have been challenged. I do not think they should be taken off shelves. Maybe designated to be introduced at different times, when the book can be understood by the reader. That being said I think we should give our kids way more credit in their ability to understand what they’re reading. I don’t think an elementary aged child will understand The Handmaid’s Tale, or 1984, but that doesn’t mean they should be banned, maybe just wait till it can be appreciated.

    The thing also about banning a book is it sometimes makes people want to read it for the “sensationalism” rather than enjoying a great piece of literature.

    • jhgardner says:

      I agree with everything you’ve said. Certain books aren’t age appropriate, and should be brought into the curriculum when children are mature enough to handle them (after all, we give ratings to TV and movies based on age appropriateness). I doubt an elementary school teacher would ever reference 1984 in a class anyway.
      But the annoying thing is that these books are being censored to kids exactly at the age when they should be reading them. Brave New World has been banned from certain high schools, for instance. What kind of message does that send? Either that adults think teens are incapable of grasping the mature content (which is patronizing), or that kids should steer clear of books. We should be encouraging voracious and diverse reading, not restricting young people to what we deem safe.
      Thanks for reading and for your insightful comment :)

  20. AD says:

    I’m going to ‘The Satanic Verses’ by Salman Rushdie next.

    • jhgardner says:

      Nice one! There’s no better way to understand the controversy that surrounds a text than by reading it.

  21. Yay for Banned Books! I’ve been celebrating the banned all week on my blog. I think whoever protested His Dark Materials for reasons of offensive language, sexual explicitness, and age inappropriateness is a load of hogwash. They were probably completely freaked out by Pullman’s take on religion but didn’t want to sound like bigots. That’s my theory anyway :).

  22. Banning books is one of the most terrible ways to restrict thought and freedom of expressing/innovation. Thanks for a great article post :)

    Cheers,
    Courtney Hosny

  23. I don’t believe any book should be banned or censored. If it offends a person the easiest remedy is they can opt not to read it but should not insist others share in their moral outrage.

    • jhgardner says:

      Right! I’ll never read Twilight, but I won’t begrudge anybody else who wants to pick it up. Books are so subjective, and we can’t restrict other based on our personal views and tastes. If a book gets children or teens reading, I think that’s basically a good thing.
      Thanks for reading :)

  24. ivfmale says:

    Every time I hear about books being banned I can’t help but laugh. What does this group of people want young kids to read? They want them reading the Bible. A book that has the “Song of Solomon” within its pages. They can try to spin its real meaning all they want. But anyone who has actually read the Song of Solomon can’t deny it has far more erotic imagery than any of these books they are trying to ban for the same reason.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    • jhgardner says:

      Yup, violence is appropriate for kids when it’s in The Passion of the Christ on a movie screen, but not when it’s way more diluted and in the pages of a secular book. It would be different if the mature content in any of these novels was gratuitous as well; if a novel deals with difficult racial issues, it’s for a reason. Reading it is not going to destroy a child’s innocence, or teach them bad morals. In fact, it will probably make them better all around.
      Thanks for reading :)

  25. antarabesque says:

    Many of the books on the ‘banned’ list were required reading in the schools me and my husband attended. I still own them, and have reread them numerous times.
    When I was called as a minister to the community I currently serve in, The Shack, was declared ‘banned reading’ by the wife of a pastor from another denomination. Needless to say, the local bookstores couldn’t keep up with sales!

    • jhgardner says:

      Wow, well there you go, everybody loves a controversy. Maybe we should actually be grateful to the banning of books just for the free press?

  26. Pit says:

    That reminds me of those very dark years in my native Germany when – under the Nazis – unwanted books were burned. And then there was “undesired” art. And then there was “undesired” life, which lead to euthanasia and the gas chambers. A horrible development.

    • jhgardner says:

      Too true. Once censorship begins, where does it end?

    • lemoed says:

      I, too, am from Germany and it was also the first thing I thought of. Banning books is only a first step of making sure there is only one opinion and controlling what it is. It’s great that there is a Banned Books Week and thank you so much for raising this issue! It’s so important!

  27. Reblogged this on Whirling Words and commented:
    Paper for thought. Thought is evil. Just do what we say! Okay, that’s enough from me. Now go read this post.

  28. Great post on banned books, I like the graph especially. I think “unsuited to age group” is just a silly excuse for people who don’t like a certain concept.
    I remember when I was a little fangirl of Harry Potter, and my entire school tried to convince me that I was “dabbling in the occult”. Pffft. Puh-lease.
    Oh, and congrats on the FP!

    • jhgardner says:

      Thank you! Yes, I remember a girl down the street whose mother wouldn’t let her read HP, and who called the rest of us who did read it “little witches.” I’ve never known a book that so preaches the virtues of love and acceptance in my life! It’s perplexing to me. If only everyone would open these books with an equally open mind.

  29. Shana says:

    First, Congrats on being Freshly Pressed by WordPress.com! :)

    As for banned books…I don’t think books should be banned, in a ‘stomp on the smoldering ashes of the book bonfire’ but I can definitely see a need for a basic rating system similar to movies to help people avoid contend they might find offensive. As a spiritual/moral person I think there are certain things that children should not be expose to at an early age. Explicit sexual content, strong/profane/cuss language(pick your term but you know what I mean), graphic violence etc. Do I want my 8 year old reading Harry Potter? NO, Do I mind my 15 year old reading Harry Potter, NO. Maturity makes a difference in how we are able to process, absorb and express the ideas that we read about in some of these books. Do I want my 16 year old reading 50 Shades of Grey? Hell NO! lol Some times a heads up is warranted, and not all books are warranted for a situation or a class.

    • jhgardner says:

      That’s true. I wouldn’t bring a small child to an explicit movie, and I wouldn’t put an inappropriate book in their hands either. (Not that they would like it anyway.) The funny thing is that these banned books only really affect the age groups that are supposed to be reading them. Where the Wild Things Are was banned from the children’s book section of certain libraries, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower was similarly banned from the young adult group. And if anyone should be reading a book about the troubles of going through adolescence, it’s a teenager.
      I agree with you that certain books are way over the heads of certain age groups (though we should also treat each child’s maturity level individually). That choice should really be up to individual families, though, instead of being applied to everyone else’s children. To each his own, right?
      Thanks for reading!

  30. segmation says:

    Your stats go only to 2010! I don’t know I think I need to see more updated stats!

  31. WOW, I loved The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (just had to read for a graduate level course) and never would have thought I would see it on the list! I’m sorry, but censoring a book only makes me want to read it more…

    • jhgardner says:

      That seems to be the overwhelming reaction! Humans are just too curious. Maybe we should be grateful to banned books? Strange thought.

  32. Reblogged this on inspiring introspection and commented:
    It makes me happy to see how many people appreciate a good book, and would dedicate an entire week to celebrating them.

  33. Tracy says:

    The list of banned books helps me pick out what to read next! When will they learn?

  34. Reblogged this on Digital Pittsburgh and commented:
    Really good post.

  35. Miriam Joy says:

    So many books are banned for reasons that prove the people who ban them have never read them. Most people I’ve encountered who won’t let their kids read Harry Potter think that the non-magical folk (Muggles to you and me) are the evil ones and only the wizards are good, which is obviously wrong, and proves they totally missed the point. So many books are banned in church schools because of magic or whatever – and yet some, like The Lord of the Rings, were written by Catholics or other Christians! What’s with that?

    I don’t think the government or the authorities should be allowed to decide what people can and cannot read. I’m lucky in that I was never forbidden to read anything, only discouraged from doing so until I was older and more able to make up my own mind about its ideas / understand explicit content. However, the idea of censorship still really irritates me, because… ugh. It’s just annoying.

    • jhgardner says:

      Right! What’s HP’s overwhelming message after all? To love and accept people from all walks of life. Same with To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the most challenged books of all time. Either the people who ban them never read them, or they’re… well, I won’t finish that sentence.
      You know, The lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is equally magical, yet because it has an explicitly Christian message, it’s considered non-controversial. To me, it’s message and Harry Potter’s are pretty much indistinguishable from each other.
      But at the end of the day, yes, this is about the pitfalls of censorship, which is just not cool.
      Thanks for reading!

      • Miriam Joy says:

        I definitely think the good over evil, love over fighting, is Harry Potter’s main message. I actually wrote a blog post on the subject a few weeks ago, not knowing that Banned Books Week was coming up. If I had, I would have saved it until now. *sigh* I’m just ahead of the times, clearly.

      • jhgardner says:

        It’s not easy being a trendsetter, but I see reblogs in your future.

  36. Awesome post! I love banned books and have seen nothing wrong with them being banned. There is too much rubbish out there that should be banned and unfortunately ‘classics’ have taken a beating. It’s sad. I’m off to read My Sister’s Keeper!

    • jhgardner says:

      I think it’s interesting that you love banned books and see nothing wrong with them being banned at the same time. I suppose even when books are banned, there’s always a way to find them and read them on your own. I just worry that kids would be discouraged from reading because of the banning. Then again, it seems like there’s nothing that makes a book more enticing than the sensationalism of its being banned!
      Enjoy My Sister’s Keeper!

  37. maviedesign says:

    Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire.

    I respect Freire for his critical observation on the world we live in. Everyone should grab that book!

  38. lsurrett2 says:

    I love that you used the irony of book banning and F451. Great post. Judy Blume has a book out “Places I Never Meant to be” on her experiences with censorship, its excellent.

  39. “Martin Eden” by Jack London is one of my favourite previously banned books: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/book-review-martin-eden-by-jack-london/ It was among the books being publicly burnt by the Nazis.

  40. bustingboredomsince2012 says:

    I think this is a great idea. My parents always allowed me to read whatever I wanted to, within reason, and I wish that all children were allowed to do the same. Reading has widened my own horizons and if only books were always allowed maybe we’d have less adults who don’t read themselves.

    • jhgardner says:

      Right. The only outcome of preventing kids from reading books is a generation of sheltered adults. I think it’s very sad how few people are avid readers. It all starts at home. And if parents let their children choose their reading, I can guarantee, no child is going to pick up something that isn’t suited to their maturity level–they wouldn’t want to read it!

  41. antarabesque says:

    Reblogged this on I Am with you always and commented:
    I haven’t read Lord of the Flies, Catch-22, Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, Catcher in the Rye, etc. in quite awhile. Maybe it is time to rummage through the book boxes.

  42. Amanda says:

    I did a research paper in college a few years ago on banned books, specifically To Kill a Mockingbird. I don’t believe for one minute the people banning the book took the time to read it first. I think it’s horrible those who are so close-minded and wary of what will “hurt” or “negatively influence” our children are the ones banning books when, in my opinion, they are the very influences we should most worry about.

  43. ethelthedean says:

    Man, I totally love me some Robert Cormier. That dude sure knew how to write compelling as heck YA. This post is very timely – I’m re-reading The Illustrated Man by Bradbury and just this morning read The Exiles. The ending always brings on the tears as well as tying my stomach in knots.

    I’m glad to have found this blog and am really looking forward to checking out more of its content!

    • jhgardner says:

      Thank you! I can tell by your reading list that you have good taste, so that is high praise indeed.

  44. villem592 says:

    Back in ’87 my then-girlfriend thought my literary tastes were outdated, and she wanted me to read ‘something modern’. She suggested A Prayer for Owen Meany. I went to the PL and got it from the New Books section. After I read it, I went to back the PL and checked out The Satanic Verses. Read it, too.

    She was horrified.

  45. brookegouldvsbipolar says:

    Hunger games??!! What the. I was thoroughly disappointed in the lack of sex. Here’s hoping these people stay a minority and not come to a power high enough to actually sensor us people that love to delve into a trashy romance novel and read about romps you know your loyal devoted partner would never invoke on your senses.

  46. kari kruger says:

    Some of them I do understand like the Hunger Games. The movie was awesome, but I can imagine the book to be a bit gruesome. Then again I guess people should have a choice anyway whether or not they want to read such books and or can handle it. Books like ‘My Sisters Keeper’ I really do not understand their reason for banning. I mean look at what they air on television these days! All in All, I think it is one of those matters where it is not for someone to decide, but for the people to decide themselves :)

  47. Reblogged this on LaughingNewbornArt and commented:
    If you haven’t heard of Banned Books Week, check this out… We still have another three days to go.

  48. Reblogged this on Expanding Fractallacious Reality and commented:
    If you haven’t heard of Banned Books Week, or even if you have, you should check out this post. We have three days left, y’all.

  49. adamjasonp says:

    Books without images, sanitized versions of Shakespeare – there’s no reason to ban books that the children probably won’t or can’t read!

  50. soweird666 says:

    Well, my opinion is that no book should be banned. However, I do have a suggestion for both the libraries/bookstores and parents. For the libraries and bookstores, I would put the books that are banned higher on the shelves, or possibly in a totally separate section. As for parents, I would read the books that the child wants to read or are required to read before the parents pass judgment. The parents’ opinion on the book may change after reading the book or books in question.

  51. letsgodownttown says:

    Jodi Picoult’s books should be banned simply because she is the worst writer ever!

  52. chyrondave says:

    If there is any argument I would support, it would be the age appropriate one, but only as long as that is not the excuse for banning a book outright (example: third graders should not read The Hunger Games, but it’s okay for sixth graders). Otherwise, I would not advocate banning any book, even the really badly written ones. After all, someone had to have liked that book enough to get it published in the first place, right?

  53. I want my granddaughter to read banned books. Shoot, I do. What? I didn’t know Alexie’s “Diary of a Part-time Indian” made the list! Glad I read this post. Thanks.

  54. mirrormon says:

    good post.. and a great point that u raised!!…. I think this idea is similar to the one where someone passes a rude comment to us and and we go on to smashing their face… The un-acceptance in us for others’ viewpoint, either for it clashes with u, or it hurts ur sentiments because its directed towards you…. so we box ourselves up in a world where what we see is only what we wanted to see…
    but then easier said than done I’d say… I m huge proponent for honesty, but there s only so much I can take, I have a threshold, after which things get disturbing…
    Same is the case with books, as much as I advocate freedom of expression and freedom of speech, I would want to find out that what way is out there to restrict a person of a tender age from reading things that may have a very adverse/ disturbing effect on their brain….
    But then apart from making a book unavailable to certain age, i dont see why there should be a ban, if one finds a topic particularly disagreeable then they shouldnt pick that book in the first place, but making it unavailable to everyone is not the best thing to do..
    Infact I want to find out more about the banned books and read them, if anything, thats what the ban did for me personally.

  55. miaka1977j says:

    Books should never be banned, just as we should never have our words censored. Some of the books on this banned list are favorites (I remember reading The Chocolate War in high school and loving it). We can’t hide our children from the truths in this world.

  56. It’s ridiculous that some of the books you have mentioned have been or are potentially banned. Enjoyed your blog – Thank you

  57. Keisha says:

    When books are banned, I want to read them even more! The middle school I attended banned ALL Stephen King books, and probably my high school library too. I didn’t read one of his novels until I was in college. Misery, omg that book is phenomenal.

    Yet To Kill a Mockingbird nor Lord of the Flies (now THAT is a book with some serious violence) or Of Mice & Men were banned. I’m also surprised no one is going around banning more inaccurate books.

  58. Ratya says:

    Reblogged this on The Old Nikon D40 and commented:
    Banned

  59. pezcita says:

    I once had to read a book for a college class that has been banned, censored, or out-of-print for most of it’s existence. It’s titled Black Boy: American Hunger by Richard Wright. The book is not blatantly anti-American, but it does show how the American society of Wright’s time (1920s-1960s) was often towards minorities and single mothers. It is not an optimistic book, and I think that is why most people don’t like to read it. For my part, I never saw Black Boy as an anti-American book. Poverty and racism can be found worldwide. Black Boy just tells the story of how they affected one person’s life.

    • jhgardner says:

      I’ve read that book for class too! Yes, I think it’s awful when books are banned seemingly out of shame for the history that the novel depicts. We can’t censor parts of history just because they’re ugly–how would anyone ever learn from that?

  60. Amy E says:

    This list makes up most of my bookcase. Honestly, if it’s not banned, it’s probably too boring to read

  61. Katie says:

    There is a NEVER a good reason to ban a book! You can not control people’s thoughts and their souls which are found in their words. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    • jhgardner says:

      Thank you very much! I agree with you, badly written or provocative (for whatever reason) I don’t think any book should be banned. Everyone should have the freedom to choose what to read based on their individual tastes.

  62. roshni15 says:

    Hey, thanks for the post…I wasn’t aware that this was ‘Banned Books’ week. One thing that I want to point out is that it’s not necessary that a banned book is one you can’t read. This is true for most books, but not all of them. The kind of ban actually differs in countries…for example, in India, I cannot possess a copy of Satanic Verses, but nobody can stop me from reading it off a ‘cloud’ online. In such a case, the ban is not on reading the book, but only on possessing it. Fifteen years ago, this directly translated to not being able to read the book, since the internet was not so prevalent then. But now, it takes on a whole new meaning.

    Like you said, for the books that have been banned even for reading, its just not acceptable. Nobody’s perfect, and I don’t agree that the judge who decided on banning the book has the perfect opinion. To hell with his views, I will read whatever I please.

    • jhgardner says:

      Yes, that’s true. Nowadays there’s nothing to really stop you from finding and reading a banned book. The issue here is that the banning of these books in the United States has led to their removal from public libraries in certain areas. And to deny the people a title from a public library, which is a civil service, in essence means that the government of that area has been allowed to affect what you are allowed to read and how you read it. It’s that part of censorship that I find scary and ugly.
      Of course, the nationwide banning of a book like The Satanic Verses in India is on a totally different level.

      • roshni15 says:

        Hey. I agree with you, trying to censor books is just unacceptable. Yes, the ban on The Satanic Verses in India is on a completely different level – being on religious grounds. However, it is still a ban and is still unacceptable…you wouldn’t find a copy of the book in libraries in India either. It is okay to issue an advisory regarding a book or rate the book, but that’s about it. It’s amazing how quick governments are when it comes to banning books. Let’s hope that someday, common sense prevails and the banning of books is something future generations would not have to experience. :)

  63. I’m teaching banned books week to my 8th graders. Our next novel is Tom Sawyer. My students mentioned that the more adults tell them NOT to read a book, the more they will go out and read it. I told them I should ban the standard K-12 canon then :)
    Great post.

    • jhgardner says:

      There you go. I guess in the school systems where these books aren’t banned, it makes them more intriguing for kids to read. Great idea to educate them on banned books week :)
      Thanks for reading!

  64. yosephvera says:

    What are the most frequently banned books? Our greatest ones, of course.

    :: the Bible is it?

  65. E. says:

    His Dark Materials trilogy is banned because of its “offensive language, sexually explicit” and is “unsuited to age group”. really? REALLY?! i sincerely wish they could come up with more imaginative and fascinating reasons to ban a book. at least make it equal to all the hard work the author spent on the book.

    i believe there should be nobody to tell whether one should read a book or not. to read is to learn. how will one learn if one is constantly told what to do? — one should be told not to read the Twilight saga and 50 Shades of Gray though.

    • jhgardner says:

      Perhaps, “Banned due to the unnatural presence of talking polar bears, daemons, and parallel universes”? I mean, at least be up front about it! Nobody will believe that a children’s fantasy novel is really “unsuited to age group.”

  66. memoricprism says:

    No book, (except the horribly written ones, which I was a bit dismayed when I saw them highlighted on this article) should be banned. Some of the craziest or most impressive books. (I love Lolita!) re on the banned books list.

    I wish people would opens their eyes. Books are meant to let the mind roam, not to let the mind drown.

    • jhgardner says:

      Which books are the poorly written ones that you think should stay banned? That seems to be a popular idea among commenters here, but how can we determine what is “good literature” vs bad? We definitely have high and low brow lit, but where does one draw the line at what is badly written?

  67. Just so much unnecessary repression. It’s so sad that it can scare new writers into writing what they really want to. It’s just madness that is completely out of control. Kids need to know about sex and violence -these things exist, there isn’t any point hiding from them. Isn’t it better that they find out about it through books than actually having to experience it?

    • jhgardner says:

      Right, and I think it’s weird that people would think that reading a novel that contains sex or violence would inspire young readers to go out and commit those things. But besides that, the books listed as violent or sexually explicit are hardly as heinous as certain TV programs and movies that many parents seem to be fine with their kids watching.

  68. Scribbler says:

    Loved “My Sister Keeper”. Such a poignant story that emphasized the struggles of closure in a family and what support really means.

    Adieu, scribbler

    • jhgardner says:

      Glad to hear the “homosexuality” and “sexism” within it didn’t turn you off!

      • Scribbler says:

        I read the book, didn’t really see the first, some of the second was evident but there is not many good books with literary merit that don’t challenge some social norm.

        Adieu, scribbler

  69. Kaberi Chand says:

    Banning books means banning ideas,thoughts and simply banning people’s ‘minds’.There’s freedom to thought,which gives a person the right to express them(maybe through a book) and there’s freedom to choice which means that we can choose what to read.

  70. ordos20 says:

    I am curious: where were these books banned? Because the only books that come to mind that that are still being banned (and for two good reasons) are:
    Mein Kampf
    120 days of sodomy

    The first one for obvious reasons (6 million dead jews is a good indication), the latter I did in fact read small parts from (thank you internet), which made me physically ill. So yeah that was, for even a jaded mind like me, way too much.

    But books like the hunger games and such. What kind op hypersensitive person bans that?

    • jhgardner says:

      Pretty much all of these books on the list have been banned from public and school libraries as well as school curriculums at one point or another. They’re not necessarily subjected to a widespread ban, but have been noted for being banned in various districts around the country.
      Definitely not on the level of the two books you’ve mentioned. The significance is that banning a book from a public library (a public service) is slightly oppressive. You could technically still buy these books somewhere, but not being able to check one out from your public library is at the least inconvenient and at the most insulting. I would understand it if they were defamatory, but in my mind at least none of these on the list are.

      • ordos20 says:

        Thats actually pretty sad, and unfortunately only sets a precedent. As mentioned before, there are indeed a few books which deserve not to be offered to the public, or in more accurately they should be supervised to a certain audience, in general, censorship is just plain bad. And quite the opposite of what the US (I presume we are talking about US public libraries?) stand for. But then I wasn’t surprised: mostly because of the trend sweeping the globe recently (where the neoconservative movement/fundamentalist movement is slowly getting a grip on our day to day life).

        BTW a surprising fact: when I was working in India a few years back, there were huge stacks of Mein Kampf available. All newly printed as well. That was quite odd to see for a foreigner.

  71. this is pretty damn cool!

  72. dwander909 says:

    I’m with the bulk of your audience. No book should ever be banned. Every book should make us think, and often those most feared or banned do so more. Making books age-related I get, but banning them from all? Never!

  73. wordalpha says:

    Now I just think the groups who ban these books do it based on popularity. My junior high english teacher assigned my class the project of reading a banned book and writing papers on it. Once I finished “The Book Thief” by Mark Zusac, my first thought was, “How is this banned? Are these people blind or just ignorant?” The best thing about banned books are it’s a guarenteed great read.

  74. mayim009 says:

    Reblogged this on thelastpicturesque and commented:
    These Books or literature holds such strong beliefs and content. It doesn’t matter if they are banned or not ’cause a reader can always find their way to these books.

  75. mayim009 says:

    These Books or literature holds such strong beliefs and content. It doesn’t matter if they are banned or not ’cause a reader can always find their way to these books.
    Those are inspiring, intresting, intriguing and yeah absolute classic.

  76. Maddie says:

    Wow! The government has already tried to take away so much and now they want children to be uneducated and without an imagination. I have read quite a few of the books you mentioned and am I a boy crazy, lunatic who’s in a cult? No!!! I was very surprised that To Kill a Mockingbird was on that list because of its racial issues, that’s the way America was during that time. it is almost like the government is trying to deny that they had anything to do with racism. I have enjoyed and been inspired by many of these banned books and will continue to. Thank you for posting this!

  77. jncahill says:

    I do not believe any book should be banned. Some of the reasons for banning certain titles is just ridiculous. If you do not like a book or think it is “evil”, that should be YOUR opinion. But no, parents or people will complain and then suddenly no one can read it. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day people were trying to make it so only the Bible can be read–all other books must be destroyed! :-P

    I always find it ironic to find books such as Fahrenheit 451, 1984, and Brave New World on the Banned Books list. The people who got them banned/challenged clearly missed the point and needs to learn to comprehend what they are reading. On the plus side, at least banning or challenging books seem to make people all the more eager to read them. As long as we have people like that, we should be okay. It’s the ones who seem to want to ban everything that worries me.

  78. Why would they ban the Hunger Games, how is it sexually explicit? No book should be banned, if you don’t like it don’t read it, simple. Funny how the best books are banned (1984, amazing read), like they want to discourage people from reading.

    http://futuretechreview.wordpress.com/

  79. umanbn says:

    Phillip Pullman…..banned….??? My imagination, education, came from books like these….

  80. sil86as2 says:

    Reblogged this on gottopickapocketortwo and commented:
    Great post on types and reasons for books being banned. I remember when Lady Chatterley’s Lover was banned and it seems tame by today’s standards. Very thought-provoking article.

  81. elizabethweaver says:

    I’m astonished how many people will ban a book but use the TV as a sitter. Great post!

  82. Danielle says:

    I honestly think only book featuring encouragement/instruction of child abuse should be banned. Anything else is free for all, no matter how offensive or ‘wrong’ it may be.

  83. Kayla says:

    Children are able to safely explore darker themes that they don’t understand and might not feel comfortable talking with their parents about through books. Children often do not understand or are able to identify their feelings about complex topics. These banned books help children to explore those themes in a safe place. And if the worst offense your child does is read a banned book, I would count your lucky stars! :)

  84. justinblush says:

    Reblogged this on The Wax Podcast Blog and commented:
    This Weeks Featured Blog Article from eNotes.com Check it out! Good Stuff!

  85. thorsaurus says:

    I love Sherman Alexie. “Reservation Blues” is devastating in its candor. Great writing can be a risky proposition, but I doubt any great writer ever feared being banned. It’s just not part of the creative mindset.

  86. kabir says:

    What ‘they’ need to understand is, the more you ban something, the more people will want to know what it is The more the ‘no’, the more the ‘why not!’ And yes, progressive = not this society.

  87. lostlifefound says:

    The Golden Compass is an amazing book, it is hard to see how it would offend but as my mother did her Master’s thesis on Philip Pullman and C.S Lewis, I remember both authors caused great debate in our house.

    Brave New World is my favourite book ever, I did not find it offensive, just fascinating.

  88. drjones890 says:

    Reblogged this on nowthatyoucanhearme and commented:
    This makes for a writers great study material.

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