Sunday, October 3, 2010

Banned Books

On Friday, Kimberly Loomis posted a list of 50 banned books and I love her proposal of reading all of these.  I thought in an effort to assist you on choosing, I'd give a brief description of the ones I've read... (plus my always intelligent assessment of what I plan on reading)   
Red=probably won't read,  
Blue=on my list,  
Black=read and reviewed
Recommended by Jan so changed from red to purple

1.   Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger 

2.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
This is a fabulous book.  It was required reading my Junior year in high school and I think I got more out of it for the discussion we had,

3.  Forever by Judy Blume.
I didn’t think they let a girl go through puberty without having read this. Did I miss something? Have the rules changed?

4.  The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.
Reading this out loud was a little difficult, but it is a pretty darned good book. I like the parallel world thing a lot.

5.  Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
This one isn’t so much ‘good’ as important.  I read it to both kids before starting middle school.  I felt they needed some perspective on how awful kids can be to each other if they engage in group-think.

6.  The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling.
These are my favorite books EVER. These books made me a writer and I love them deeply.

7.  Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.--good movie, but not compelled to read.

8.  James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.--I've seen the movie and liked it—probably past my reading Roald Dahl though, until grandkids (BFG is my favorite—though I love Matilda, the movie).

9.  And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.

10.  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.
Read this to my daughter and liked it—I think it is top notch for its era, but I think later young reader books get a lot better.

11.  The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier.

12.  The Giver by Lois Lowery.

13.  The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

14.  A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

15.  The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Steinbeck is an important author for historical perspective. I'm not sure it matters WHICH Steinbeck you read—this happens to be mine (this and Cannery Row) but we all need a Steinbeck.

16.  Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriett Beecher Stowe

17.  The Lorax by Dr. Seuss 

This is my FAVORITE Dr. Suess. (The Sleep Book is #2) Most Dr. Suess is about reading or just for fun. The Lorax is Environmentalism... both EARLY and hard-hitting for a 'child author'. This is one that I feel ALL PARENTS should read their kids. It is our hope for the future.

18.  he DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
Oh, I know—you all grumble.  But I liked this one. Then again, I read it before I wrote.

19.  1984 by George Orwell
As a 1984 graduate, I felt compelled.  Not bad.

20.  Animal Farm by George Orwell 

21.  Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

22.  Candide by Voltaire

23.  Lady Chatterly’s Lover by DH Lawrence
I am convince I read this, but remember nothing about it. I think my thought was 'what is the fuss' because at the time it was written, it was controversial, but it is controversial in the way that ankles were controversial before WW1... just nothing of note WITHOUT the context. I think this would have been better as part of a class.

24.  Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

25.  Fanny Hill by John Cleland

26.  Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

27.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I read this in high school and found it somewhat boring, but worth banning?  Not so much.

28.  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

29.  The Kite Runner by Khaled Hossieni
This was a tragic and beautiful book (beautiful in that the horrible tale was told so well)

30.  Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

31.  The Awakening by Kate Chopin

32.  Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

33.  Rabbit, Run by John Updike
I haven't read this but this is my chance to go on record... I DON'T like John Updike.

34.  Anne Frank:  Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
I think this is a must read for all middle school students.

35.  Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov
This is another horrible story told so incredibly well that it is a fabulous book. In fact I bring this one up a lot as the rare example of a horrible MC that is somehow still compelling. I HAVE TO always credit Nabikov's writing, though. In a lesser writer's hands Humbert Humbert would have repulsed me too much to read.

36.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I had a teacher in high school that I could never praise highly enough—she led us through a number of REALLY important books (it included Huckleberry Finn and A Streetcar Named Desire)

37.  Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

38.  The Color Purple by Alice Walker
This was required reading in one of my college classes, but I loved it anyway. It takes a little time to fall into the cadence, as the narrator (in diary form) can't spell or punctuate, but her story is deeply compelling.

39.  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

40.  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
This was the first 'novel' my mom read to me—I think she read it twice, and then I read it once. I love Jo. An MC who is a writer speaks to us all, and I love the historical picture this gives us.

41.  Catch-22 by Joseph Heller 

42.  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Odd... I'm not sure if this feels juvenile because it was so far ahead of its genre and it has come so far since then. I KNOW for when it was written, it was ground-breaking, but it felt like... fan fiction or something to read. It is interesting which predictions came true and which were really off. I think this is an IMPORTANT book, but I think it is best read within a historical context, as what is important about it may not be obvious, and what is HOKEY, isn't so hokey if you look at when it was written and what the meaning was.

43.  Native Son by Richard Wright

44.  Beloved by Toni Morrison
No light, lovely tale, but a good one to have read. Brings up a lot of questions on where the line falls between ghosts and personal haunting (all in the head) and I personally believe as a white person from whiteville, that several of these cultural immersion experiences are good for me, too.

45.  As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

46.  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
I LIKED this book but LOVED the movie—one of the rare cases of the movie catching all the essence that mattered and then some. It also has the bonus of being filmed at Dammish—Oregon's 'closed' mental hospital.

47.  The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
While I didn't LOVE this, I still think this is an important book—it comes back to me with some regularity, as the 'future dystopia' seems more realistic that some, and more subtle, which is in a lot of ways, more frightening.

48.  In Cold Blood by Truman Capote—movies--both the one of the same name and Capote, which was of his making of it... not my stuff, but interesting to know ABOUT.

49.  Slaughterhouse – Five by Kurt Vonnegut
I'm not a Vonnegut fan. REALLY. I can't even remember it, except not liking it.

50.  East of Eden by John Steinbeck


Briony said...

OK, I know I can be incredibly slow on the uptake, but I really can't see how a lot of those books can be banned... I mean, James and the Giant Peach? Really? I don't remember the story that well, but I thought it was pretty innocent. I can't remember anything controversial in it at all...

*shakes head, walks away*

Alexandra Crocodile said...

Lots of great books here - and I see that we don't agree on everything:) I also have no clue why James and the Giant Peach was banned. Makes no sense what so ever.

Jemi Fraser said...

I love the Giver - read it often to my students. I read a lot of these in high school -- Animal Farm, 1984, Lord of the Flies, Fahrenheit 451, Flowers for Algernon, Gatsby, Brave New World. I found them so mind opening & loved them all. Some of them still haunt me with their vivid pictures of humanity and the 'what ifs'

Lisa said...

I've read some of the books on this list and the thing that strikes me is that the reasons for banning the books has been so incredibly subjective. I guess that's the whole point and exactly why book banning is ridiculous.

I'm glad that people who love books and value the freedom to read and think for themselves are pointing out how wrong this idea of book banning is.

Jan Morrison said...

Excellent response to the fury of book banning that is going around. Now, if I may be a poopy older sis there are just a couple of these that you have in red that I wish you'd read because I adore you and think you'd love them - and they are Leaves of Grass by Whitman (and while you're at it if you haven't read Howl by Ginsberg), The Awakening by Chopin, Madame Bovary by Flaubert (there is a grand new translation which has the literary world abuzz). And I loved Fanny Hill back in the day but am not sure I would now!

Hart Johnson said...

I THINK the James and the Giant Peace thing is because James manages to (hurt?--do something?) his horrible aunts so it was about a kids disrespecting authority or hurting their family or something--but since I HAVEN'T read it, and the movie is a Tim Burton film (so possibly darker than the book), I can't say for sure.

I think a lot of these ARE great for school--I also think that is what put several of them on the radar--parents get upset about what their kids are having to read.

Jan, I will change those to purple--I just had not felt compelled, but I trust your recommendation.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why these books (the ones I've read anyway) were banned. Because they don't match up to some committee's idea about what is appropriate to read? Do they explain why they banned them? Because I don't get it.

SY said...

Ok the created of the banned book list was an idiot.. how many classics can you ban in one sitting.. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD!!! What the hell?? Best book ever! Sure it was racially charged but that's life...

I am just kinda pissed now.. ugh!

SY said...


Old Kitty said...

Oh Fanny Hill by John Cleland is fabulous! LOL!!! I hug my copy! :-)

Enjoy your reading!! That's the beauty of the written word and free will. You choose what to read and make an informed decision whether you like it or not or whatever but it's your choice, your subjectiveness, your mind - no one telling you either way.

Take care

Erin said...

I think I must first start off by saying that banned books are the best and it's probably my goal to read every single one of them if I ever have time. I'm also offended that you don't have a more modern banned book on there that is quite amazing, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Second, I think that on your list of ones that you don't plan on reading, The Bridge to Terabithia and And Tango Makes Three are both really cool books. They're both really quick reads (And Tango Makes Three is a picture book!) and they're really adorable stories, even if people end up dying at the end of one. I really like those two, though. They're two fabulous banned books. You should give them a shot.

On the other hand, books that you should not read... Of Mice and Men and The Giver. Maybe you should ignore me on The Giver, but I really really hate Of Mice and Men. Enough that I didn't finish reading it when I was in Intro to Lit and was required to. I just looked up what I needed on SparkNotes, it was so horrible at some parts to one of the main characters who obviously has some kind of mental disability. And there was absolutely no variation from chapter to chapter.

Actually, I take back saying not to read The Giver. It's an amazing idea... not really written as well as I think it could be and it's far too short and in not enough details for my liking.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The Lorax and Flowers for Algernon? Really?

Ezmirelda said...

These books are banned? Seriously. I've read 80 percent of those books, most of them because they were on my summer reading list. Who are these ppl who decide whether or not a book should be banned? It's like the fire fighters from farenheit 451 come to life! O-o

Cold As Heaven said...

Good list. My has read/ won't read list would be very similar to yours, except I've read the books by Huxley and Henry Miller, and liked them. Another good one that you should read is Catch 22, that's a hell of a funny book >:)

Cold As Heaven

Hart Johnson said...

The books were all banned at some POINT and perhaps are on some local banned lists to this day? I'm not sure... I adopted a list. I know there are a lot more banned books (or books that have been banned)--I believe technical BANNING is not allowed, but deciding school curriculum is another matter entirely. My own district disagrees with banning philosophically.

I remember in high school I needed a permission slip to read 'A Streetcar Named Desire' because of the rape. I can get along with that, i suppose--I mean the student can still read it on their own, but a parent choosing what their kid is required to read is fair enough (if stupid)

Shayda Bakhshi said...

My fiance LOVES Candide. Actually, every one of my friends who's read it kind of loves it. It's on my to-read--I'll let you know how I like it!

Sugar said...

wow...that's quite a list.. I think I've read most of them! lol... and loved them all!
Just more to add to my "to be read list" too! :)
gotta shake up the man somehow..might as well be reading "banned" books :)

Bridge Marie said...

Who bans the Lorax? That's terrifying. It's terrifying that anyone would ban books, but that's particularly alarming. And do read Catch-22, it's fabulous.

Cheeseboy said...

I have to say - why? for most of these. Every child should read every single one of these books sometime in their youth.

And I love the Thorax. To Kill A Mockingbird is my all time favorite.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

I can't even start to understand why some of the books on the list are on the list.

Ketutar said...

Bridge to Terabithia was one of my favorites when I was young. It got to the banned list because of the profanity, disrespect and that one of the main persons die.

I like to find out WHY these books are banned. Little Women, for example, is banned because it's anti-Feminist. James and the Giant Peach is mainly banned, because the old man gives James "magical seeds", and he starts seeing giant insects... it's about drugs :-D The aunts get also smashed by the peach, so that's violence.

Anyway, don't just decide not to read a book, especially not because of the movie version. Movies are not books. Books are not movies. The experience is quite different. I hate Space Odyssey 2000, the movie, but I like the book very much :-)
Of course, life is too short to read "bad" books, but how do you know a book is "bad", if you haven't tasted yourself?

Powdered Toast Man said...

Where are these books banned? Schools? I read a few of these in school. I don't understand why they ban books, it's so dumb.

jenny milchman said...

I love your color coding scheme--and agree with so many (I mean, beyond, if it's banned, read it) but I would offer: BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA is one of my all time fave childhood books, and I also loved FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON.

Anonymous said...

Interesting reading your thoughts on these! I admit to having read pretty much the few you haven't read: Catcher in the Rye and Catch-22. The first I would read again while the second I couldn't stand. Well, okay, to be fair it was more that it was interesting for the first several chapters, but after a while it just got on my nerves. A friend and I are starting with "Brave New World". :)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts (and the link)!

TreeX said...

Tami, you can't recommend 1984 and then not do Brave New World! Brave New World has the same theme as the book Orwell became a synonym for, but instead of oppression through violence and grief, it oppresses through happiness and persuasion!

You may say that you can't oppress through happiness, but surely the idea that everyone is on a drug that keeps you in a perpetual state of bliss whatever they do to you (and trust me, a lot of it is very bleak) is an idea that might just be far more dangerous than Orwell's pretty straightforward account of 'classical' oppression?

I say you need to read both sides of what is essentially the same story, because either way is as plausible as the other.

Darrin.. said...

I've read many of these books, and can't believe Of mice and men (one of my faves of all time) is banned.