So from September 22nd to 28th is Banned Books Week. It was started in 1982 in repsonse to the rise in challenges to schools, libraries and bookshops in America. It makes me sad to think that censorship like that is still prevalent today. To me, book banning conjures up images of Nazi book burning back in the 1930s and 1940s. In fact, while researching this post, I discovered that book burning still occurs now during the 21st Century! Some of the books that have been challenged or banned over the years have become classics, often found on ‘must read’ lists. Some times the reason for banning is absurd. I’m just glad my parents never banned me from reading certain books growing up, which I believe helped me progress at my own speed. There was no passing around books in class for me! Unlike many people growing up in Ireland, which is shown here in this Beaut.ie article.
I think Banned Books Week is a great idea, there are so many pictures and articles on Pinterest of past events, where bookshops and libraries do displays and hang posters. One of my favourites is the Random House board. I think it’s important to remind people that some of us are lucky to live where there is no censorship, that we have the freedom to chose what to read. I think showing that books can be banned to younger generations can sometimes spark an interest in reading, that there must be some reason something was banned and it encourages them to get interested in reading. I think it’s a good thing that up until last year I’d never heard of this event, it obviously proves that Ireland isn’t too bad (these days!) when it comes to banning or challenging books.
Here’s a list of banned and challenged books I recommend
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Well, since the topic is banning books, might as well start with Fahrenheit 451! In this dystopian novel, books are banned for making people unhappy and it’s the job of firemen to burn books and the house they were found in. Due to a series of events, the main character Guy, who is a fireman, finds himself questioning his line of work and the world he lives in. Will he risk everything for books?
Apparently, the reason this book has been challenged is due to ‘inappropriate language’.
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
James is a young orphaned boy who is left to grow up with 2 horrible aunts who treat him atrociously. After receiving some magic green crystals from a wizard, James falls and spills the crystals on the roots of an old peach tree that has never bloomed. Shortly after, a peach begins to grow on the tree and eventually becomes an attraction as it grows as large as a house. James eventually escapes from his aunts after he’s invited into the peach by a group of creepy crawlies (who swallowed some of the green crystals and are now as large as James) and together they cut the peach loose from the tree and sail across the ocean to New York. The story follows all their troubles while on their journey.
James and the Giant Peach has been banned and challenged for a number of reasons: the abuse James suffers at the hands of his aunts, inappropriate language, encouragement of alcohol and drug abuse and disobedience towards parents. I’m going to hazard a guess that the use of magic as well as talking animals is also a reason! I think it’s a great book to read, at any age, as Roald Dahl has a fantastic imagination.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar is Sylvia Plath’s only novel and is a semi autobiographical account of her life and her struggles with her mental health.
The book has been challenged due the suicide attempts in the book, as well as other controversial issues.
I’ve written a small bit about this book before (here in this article about baths) and it’s enlightened me about mental illness, I think there is too much stigma attached to mental illness and I think it’s a real shame that many books that deal with issues of mental health, like this one, are banned and challenged. I think that just makes the situation worse, it gives the impression that you shouldn’t talk about mental health when it is so important that people not feel shame about talking about mental health issues.
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
If I need to describe this series, then you’ve been living under a rock!
These books have been banned or challenged due to magic and Satanism, violence, and religious viewpoints.
If you haven’t read this series, please do! Again I’d recommend it to any age. And if you have read Harry Potter and enjoyed it, another series I’d recommend is His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, which have been challenged or banned for similar reasons.
The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Again, if you haven’t heard of this, get out from under your rock! This story follows Katniss Everdeen, in a dystopian future where North America has been split into 12 different Districts, along with ‘The Capitol’, where each district has it’s own industry. Katniss lives in District 12, the poorest district, where many starve and die. Every year, one girl and one boy between the ages of 12 and 18 are selected from a random lottery as ‘tributes’ in The Hunger Games, an annual fight to the death event, set in an outdoor arena controlled by the Capitol.
This book has been challenged due to: violence, anti-ethnic, anti-family, offensive language, insensitivity.
I could go on and on and on about books that have made these lists (Diary of Anne Frank, To Kill a Mockingbird, Color Purple, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Catcher in the Rye, Gone With the Wind, Judy Blume books, Lord of the Flies, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Ulysses, 1984, Animal Farm, Slaughterhouse Five, Charlotte’s Web, The Giving Tree, The Lorax, The Great Gatsby, A Handmaid’s Tale, Little Women, Little House on the Prairie, Lolita, Fifty Shades of Grey, The Kite Runner, Twilight series, My Sister’s Keeper…). Chances are you recognize most of these books, if only by title alone. Hopefully you’ve read at least one and are encouraged to read others.
Sources and Links