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Banned Books Week - Read a Book and Pass the Word!
Sep 29, 2009
Observed during the last week of September each year, Banned Books Week is a fine time to pick up a good book and celebrate the freedom to read anything you want. Learn more about this week and find a list of banned and challenged books to read and discuss.
The American Library Association (ALA) first observed Banned Books Week in 1982 to encourage American readers to celebrate the freedom to choose books with unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints. The ALA records the many attempts that individuals and groups make each year to eliminate the availability of certain books in libraries and schools. The efforts of the ALA, combined with those of librarians, parents, teachers, students and other concerned citizens, have ensured that challenged books stay on the shelves for all to read. You can show your appreciation and join the crusade by reading a banned or challenged book and telling other people about Banned Books Week.
Banned and Challenged Books to Read (Classics)
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
Originally published in 1951, The Catcher in the Rye has always been a popular target for censors. The brilliant coming-of-age novel details two days in the life of an angst-ridden 16-year-old, Holden Caulfield, who has been kicked out of prep school. Holden despises phony people, uses foul language, makes sexual references, and seems on the brink of a breakdown. His character is unique yet universal and offers amazing insights into human nature.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird is frequently challenged and has actually been removed from several schools. It has been called 'filthy,' 'trashy,' and 'profane' among other things. The story follows the life of 8-year-old Scout Finch and her family and explores several big themes, including race, class, justice, and childhood innocence. To Kill a Mockingbird is arguably among the most readable classics and touches almost everyone who checks it out in some way.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn tells the story of a 13-year-old boy who sets sail down the Mississippi accompanied by Jim, a runaway slave. Although this book is considered by many to be the best work Mark Twain ever produced, it is frequently banned from schools and challenged by concerned parties who condemn the racial slur that's peppered in with the text. In certain districts, teachers are required to participate in racial seminars before adding the book to required reading lists.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The fantastic Of Mice and Men focuses on the complex bond between George Milton and Lennie Small, two migrant ranch hands. The 1937 novella from John Steinbeck has been banned in communities all over the world for 'blasphemous language,' 'excessive profanity' and 'morbid and depressing themes.'
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway combines love and war to create an unforgettable plot in For Whom the Bell Tolls. The book was banned in a number of countries because some people viewed it as pro-communist. However, it is still considered to be one of the 20th century's best war novels.
Banned and Challenged Books (Contemporary)
The Perks of Being a Walllflower by Steven Chbosky
Chbosky's first novel is a sweet and memorable coming-of-age tale that is written in letter form to an unknown pen pal. The letters are written by Charlie, a socially inept wallflower entering his freshman high school year. The Perks of Being a Wallflower was removed from high school classrooms in 2008 after complaints about the book's mentions of homosexuality, sexual behavior and drug use.
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
Susanna Kaysen's poignant memoir details the two years she spent in a Boston psychiatric hospital in 1967. The book smartly and honestly explores mental illnesses and treatment. Officials at a New York school tore entire pages out of the memoir last year to keep students from reading what they called 'inappropriate' passages. The school board eventually agreed to replace all 50 of the defiled copies.
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
This hefty piece of historical fiction was an Oprah Book Club selection. The plot spans 35 years in 12th century England and lasts for nearly 1,000 pages. The Pillars of the Earth contains several gruesome battle scenes, but parents who demanded its removal from a high school English class were most concerned with the passages of explicit sex.
Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison
Commonly called a 'Bridget Jones' for the younger set, Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, is a sharp and funny story from a British comedy writer. The teenage girl protagonist makes observations on everything from her 'boyfriend potential' to her embarrassing and prudish parents. The book was deemed offensive by a parent last year and led to limited availability of the title and other titles from a school library in Wisconsin.
Whispers from the Dead by Joan Lowery Nixon
Whispers from the Dead is a suspenseful young adult mystery that has been banned from middle school reading lists and temporarily removed from school libraries due to its dealing with 'the occult.' The story follows Sarah Darnell, a teenager who begins hearing noises, whispers and strange sounds after a near-death experience.
Need an update? Check out our 2010 list of 10 free banned books.