Yet another list.

by sam on 02/26/2007

From keeping up with my RSS reading, I saw that Doppleganger over at 50 Books had posted another of her famous lists, this time in connection with Freedom to Read week in Canada. It’s similar to Banned Books Week in the US, except that it’s occurring now, instead of the last week of September. Since I didn’t feel like waiting until September to see how many books I had read, I thought I’d add them up now. The list is derived from a variety of banned book sites, including those cited at 50 Books, the ALA and Wikipedia. My list is only at 70, but I’m sure that I’ve read other banned books that just weren’t listed.

Andrews, V.C.: Flowers in the Attic
Angelou, Maya: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Atwood, Margaret: The Handmaid’s Tale
Blume, Judy: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
Blume, Judy: Blubber
Blume, Judy: Superfudge
Blume, Judy: Tiger Eyes
Bradbury, Ray: Fahrenheit 451
Capote, Truman: In Cold Blood
Carroll, Lewis: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Carroll, Lewis: Through the Looking Glass
Dahl, Roald: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Dahl, Roald: James and the Giant Peach
The Daily Show with John Stewart: America (The Book)
Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby
Frank, Anne: The Diary of a Young Girl
Haddon, Mark: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Handford, Martin: Where’s Waldo?
Golding, William: Lord of the Flies
Grimm Brothers, Little Red Riding Hood
Hinton, S.E.: The Outsiders
Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World
King, Stephen: Carrie
King, Stephen: Christine
King, Stephen: Cujo
King, Stephen: The Dead Zone
King, Stephen: Different Seasons
King, Stephen: Firestarter
King, Stephen: It
King, Stephen: Pet Sematary
King, Stephen: The Shining
King, Stephen: The Talisman
Lawrence, D.H.: Lady Chatterly’s Lover
Lee, Harper: To Kill a Mockingbird
L’Engle, Madeleine: A Wrinkle in Time
Lewis, C.S.: Chronicles of Narnia (series)
London, Jack: The Call of the Wild
Miller, Arthur: The Crucible
Miller, Arthur: Death of a Salesman
Mitchell, Margaret: Gone With the Wind
Moore, Michael: Stupid White Men
Morrison, Toni: The Bluest Eye
Orwell, George: Animal Farm
Orwell, George: 1984
Proulx, Annie: Brokeback Mountain
Rowling, J.K.: Harry Potter (the series)
Salinger, J.D.: The Catcher in the Rye
Sebold, Alice: The Lovely Bones
Shakespeare, William: Hamlet
Shakespeare, William: Romeo and Juliet
Shelley, Mary: Frankenstein
Silverstein, Shel: A Light in the Attic
Silverstein, Shel: Where the Sidewalk Ends
Steinbeck, John: Of Mice and Men
Stowe, Harriet Beecher: Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Twain, Mark: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Various: The Bible
Vonnegut, Kurt: Slaughterhouse Five
Walker, Alice: The Color Purple

What really amazes me is that I’m fairly certain that at least 80% of these books were read for school. I’m also kind of amazed that the bulk of the list consists of books that I read when I was younger – I suppose as I’ve gotten older, the books I’m interested in aren’t targeted to kids in the first place, making them less likely to be the target of wrath by bizarre closed-minded parents. And I don’t even mean that as a dig against right-wingers. Huck Finn gets banned regularly for the use of the N-word, even though it’s clearly literary irony, since Jim is by far the best individual in the book (and it’s Huck’s recognition of that throughout their journey). Gone with the Wind was banned for depicting slavery in a positive light. Now, I’m obviously sympathetic to the sentiments of the people who don’t like the book for that reason, but banning books is never the answer. The answer, first and foremost, is to read the book and try to understand it. Not to agree with it, but to understand it.

In college, I took a core class in american studies. Since it was taught by a literature professor, we basically read a variety of books (most of which are on this list) throughout the semester. I was apalled at reading the Great Gatsby’s intensely anti-semitic characterizations of jews in the book, but that didn’t mean that the book should be burned. It meant that we had some really deep discussions about Fitzgerald’s anti-semitism and the society at the time the book was written.

Then, of course, there were the bannings that can only be described as ironic. Anne Frank? sure, let’s supress a book by a girl that was murdered by one of the most oppressive governments in history. 1984 and Brave New World? Let’s control and limit peoples’ access to books about future dystopias where every thought and action is controlled! And of course, the granddaddy of all ironic book banning, Fahrenheit 451. I know it’s pretty much a cliche at this point, but banning a book about…banning books! That’s how we teach our children that we live in a free and open society!!

And then there’s just the silly stuff. Judy Blume is one of the most banned authors in history. I read her by the truckload as a kid, and somehow I didn’t end up entirely warped. Shel Silverstein gets banned because he apparently teaches kids to misbehave. in a book. I agree that books can be powerful and life altering, but come on!

So. When I get home next week, there’s clearly going to be another trip to the bookstore to pick up a few suggestions off of one of the lists. I’ve never read Lolita. or Heart of Darkness. Those may have to get added to the “to read” pile shortly.

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