Banned Books Week: 5 Of Your Favorites

 

This week is Banned Books Week, which celebrates the freedom to read and the First Amendment. In an age when more information is available than ever thanks to the internet, Banned Books Week highlights issues of censorship and reminds us why free and open access to information is an essential part of our society. Banned Books Week puts intellectual freedom — “the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular” — in the spotlight.

Since literature has existed, there have been calls to ban it. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato argued in his Republic that the poetry of Homer — his Iliad and the Odyssey were part of a young (male) Athenian citizen’s education — and the plays of the great tragic poets should be banned from his ideal state because they taught falsehoods about the gods and offered poor models of proper behavior and virtue. Inappropriate content — because that content is judged as sexually explicit or containing “offensive language” or material “unsuited to any age group” — remains a top reason that books end up on the banned lists of school curriculum and libraries. Fears run deep about the power of words to lead young minds astray.

But calls to challenge and ban books have their uses. Sometimes nothing succeeds like a little negative publicity to remind us of why we need books like To Kill a Mockingbird, Beloved, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm and many other classics and more recent works.

Here are just a few books that have been frequently challenged and that Care2 members have noted as favorites.


Atticus and Tom Robinson in court

“They banned To Kill A Mockingbird? Are they insane?” — Robyn B.

 

Photo by Moni3, via Wikimedia Commons

CC No 06 A Tale of Two Cities

“in elementary school our teacher Ms. Groth (wonderful teacher) had us reading “A Tale Of Two Cities“, it created an uproar among some parents and members of the school board in consertive Orange County CA. we finished our Dicken’s classic, and the controversy inspired me to read any & every controversial book I could find. thank you Ms. Groth ! “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” –Keith C.

Photo by Chordboard via Wikimedia Commons

“Interesting. Many of the top ten classics were required reading when I was in high school and college. And I’m glad I did, they truly are classics. Reading “The Grapes of Wrath” led me to reading all of the books by Steinbeck including “Travels with Charley”, an absolute delight.” –Karen and Edwar O.

 

Photo from drmvm1 via flickr creative commons

"And Tango Makes Three" by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

And Tango Makes Three is the story of two male penguins in Central Park Zoo. They “bowed and sang to each other, swam and walked together.” The zookeeper realizes “they must be in love.” So when he sees them make a nest and try to hatch a rock, he gives them an egg from another penguin couple that laid two but had never been able to care for more than one. Silo and Roy sit on the egg and care for it like all the other penguin couples. When the egg hatches there is a baby girl penguin, Tango. They feed her, teach her to sing for them when she’s hungry, they teach her to swim & snuggle her in their nest at night. They are a normal penguin family, but with two daddies, and some people just can’t stand that.” — Marlena M.

 

Photo by Kraemer Family Library

lady chatterley's lover

“What a good way to make sure that some of the best literature gets read!

“Reading banned books is such fun. I remember buying “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” in a plain brown paper wrapper from the back of the bookshop. I read it as soon as I got home.

“Most of those books that are listed here are on Australian lists to be studied in class.
Interesting, isn’t it?” — Alexandra R.

Photo by cdrummbks


Banned Books Week sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers and the National Association of College Stores.  It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. In 2011, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Council of Teachers of English and PEN American Center also signed on as sponsors.

 

Related Care2 Coverage

Banned Books Week Is Coming! Name Your Favorite

Books Banned For “Contradicting the Bible”

Because Burning’s Too Good For ‘Em: The Latest in Book Bannings

Photo by Somerset Public Library

159 comments

Dave C.
David C.10 months ago

just here for the 20 butterfly points, but it saddens me to know books are banned anywhere.....have read several of these, thanks

Jo SICK
Jo S.about a year ago

Thank you Kristina.

Barbara B.
Barbara B.2 years ago

Sadly, censorship can indeed work. A decree may provoke more interest in a book (and we, comfortable in our superiority, laugh at the banners' foolishness ), yet destruction can indeed take books' ideas, factual reportage, worldviews, even awareness of their existence, etc. permanently beyond our reach. What was lost with the Library of Alexandria, or in the mountains of Mayan texts burnt by the conquistadores? Are we even able to conceive of what is lost, much less remember and reconstruct, in the face of the Nazi destruction of books and art, the reduction of language itself in Orwell's 1984, or the elimination oral literature by colonizers who forbid the use of the indigenes' language?

ERIKA SOMLAI
ERIKA SOMLAI2 years ago

thank you for sharing

Jess No Fwd Plz K.
Jessica K.2 years ago

I think banning books just bring more controversy and attention to themselves. And a government should never ban books. A school can choose what they want, but they should keep the phenomenon of negative attention when they say a book is 'banned' especially now with free access on the internet. Thanks.

Victoria Gewe
Victoria M.3 years ago

By the way, I tried to read Lady Chatterley's Lover once and found it extremely boring, as did my best friend, a fellow English major. We never got past the first 100 pages or so.

I think that if you didn't play up that book, students would never get to the controversial parts (which my English professor, who also was a licensed pastor, said was really quite innocuous) out of boredom from the rest of the book!

Victoria Gewe
Victoria M.3 years ago

I'm shocked at the first two! To Kill s Mockingbird and A Tale of Two Cities! I can understand not wanting elementary students to read Grapes of Wrath.

On the other hand, as someone with an M.A. in English, I do have to question teaching certain books. Lolita is the one that comes to mind. When we studied it in grad school,I had to skip that class because, as the friend and sister-in-law of several women and men who have been molested, I got physically ill while reading that book and couldn't finish it. I would have qualms teaching that book, given the high likelihood that at least one or more of my students is likely to have been molested, and I just can't imagine putting them through the pain of reading a demented man's lust for a young girl. It does not become clear that she was with other men before Humbert Humbert until later in the book. I never even managed to get to that section of the book because of the horror i experienced from living in my friends' shoes, friends who are still so damaged from the abuse that they can't work or function regularly.

Leonard T.
Leonard T.3 years ago

What I've always found fascinating about lists of banned books, is they are by and large, replete with rather innocuous and inoffensive titles. Flowers for Algernon often makes these lists but one doesn't see Naked Lunch or Gravity's Rainbow, or even 120 Days of Sodom on them. I gather the authoritarian types that fear books, would be afraid to even write those titles lest they be somehow contaminated, or else they are too obscure to even show up on the radar screen.

Valentina R.
Valentina R.4 years ago

None of these deserved to be banned. Stupid, close-minded society.

Joe R.
Joe R.4 years ago

The only one I haven't read is "And Tango Makes Three." I'll have to check it out.