This is Banned Book Week: Which ones have you read?

Banning books is so hard to do these days that the new phrase we use is “challenged.” Which makes sense. I mean, really does a list of books banned in North Korea or Iran have any purpose other than pointing out the obvious? What is more interested is seeing which books get challenged by self righteous citizens or groups in the context of a “free” society.

So let’s have a look.

Here is a list of the most frequently challenged books according to the American Library Association.

A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. The number of challenges reflects only incidents reported. We estimate that for every reported challenge, four or five remain unreported.

Of those listed for the last ten years, I’ve read:

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (only saw the movie! … I have a teenage daughter)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by J.K. Rowling (the series)
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Yeah, I know, I don’t get out much. But of course, perhaps the same could be said of you! Have you read any banned books lately?

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17 Responses to This is Banned Book Week: Which ones have you read?

  1. jamessweet says:

    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by J.K. Rowling (the series)

    snirk.

    Li’l copy-paste error there Greg :)

  2. jamessweet says:

    So these seem to (very generally) fall into three categories:

    1) Books for teens that deal candidly with sex or sex-related issues, like The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things. It is easy to see why these would be challenged, as it makes the prude conservobots feel all tingly. (I would also loosely put And Tango Makes Three in this category, even though it isn’t for teens and doesn’t actually deal with sex — but it rankles the asshats for the same basic reasons)

    2) Books that either explicitly or implicitly encourage freethinking and open questioning, like Catcher in the Rye, or Brave New World, etc. It is also easy to understand how people stuck in an authoritarian mode of thinking would feel uncomfortable with these books.

    3) Books whose presence on the list is a big WTF. These are mostly things that made the list because of Evangitards strange obsession with witchcraft (Harry Potter, Twilight) so I guess that makes sense. But it’s still somewhat amusing — in a depressing sort of way, at least. The surreal nature of the culture wars really comes into focus when they stop banging on about their usual hangups of sex and authority, and suddenly start blathering about magic spells. Fuckin’ idiots…

  3. Rebecah Moore says:

    People seem to forget a lot of what is “banned and challenged” is just never talked about. Tingly feelings?

    Great that you think all Christians have the self observation skills of a monkey. But you don’t support Kiddie pron in the school library either, do you? (No, of course not, but you forgot that materials like that are banned in the U.S. on several levels…)

    Other works are just as dangerous if for other reasons. In books,the recent one making waves is a seemingly innocent one, “Keeley Thomson: Demon Girl” By K.L. Byron.

    The characters are likable on the surface, though some are homosexual, and they think a little too much about sex (oh, those tingling sensations again!) but the real danger is that the book seeks to covertly lead people away from god.

    As in an actual attempt being made to directly attack and invalidate a specific religion by affecting children’s minds. The book claims that Christianity is just the “church of the shared imaginary friend” and that most of the problems in the world can be linked back to it directly.

    If we allow a hostile environment against religion then we undo a lot of the good that is America.

    Not all book banning is wrong. Just remember that.

  4. Leander says:

    From the lists concerning the last ten years I have only read Brave New World, Harry Potter and Julie of the Wolves. Guess I have to read more…

  5. edivimo says:

    The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
    To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson (the movie at least)
    Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
    Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut (pretty weird)
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
    Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury (Irony, it burns!!!)
    The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende (WTF! Why!)

    I’m not a native english-speaker, but now I have a nice list of books to read.

  6. jamessweet says:

    If we allow a hostile environment against religion then we undo a lot of the good that is America.

    Allowing a book critical of religion to be in a library is not “allow[ing] a hostile environment against religion,” it’s just leaving it on a level playing field with everything else in the marketplace of ideas.

  7. K.B. says:

    @Rebecah in #3 – I’m quite sure others will be along to dissect your response in a bit more detail, but this gives me the opportunity to ask a question that’s been simmering for a while now.

    Is your faith so tenuous that an author, or anyone, shouldn’t be allowed to question it?

  8. blotzphoto says:

    8) Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich

    W…T…F?
    IMHO this book should be REQUIRED reading…

  9. Mr Ed says:

    #3 Rebecah: Decaf try it.

    May I recommend Fahrenheit 451. The author wrote it a a social commentary but you might be able to use it as a how to.

  10. Becca Stareyes says:

    The characters are likable on the surface, though some are homosexual, and they think a little too much about sex […]

    You are aware you are essentially saying that homosexual people are less liable than ‘normal’ straight folks? If that wasn’t your intent, I’ll accept your apology, but if it was… well, this ‘less likeable’ homosexual is ignoring you now, kay? :D

    but the real danger is that the book seeks to covertly lead people away from god.

    So, let’s hypothetically suppose I reproduce or adopt a child. I’m a secular humanist, so my kid will be raised as a nontheist. What you might see as ‘leading people away from God’, I see as ‘reminding Junior that s/he and hir family are a form of Perfectly Normal’.

    And I wouldn’t want to go to the library and ban Narnia because it might expose Hypothetical Junior to covert* theism. One, because my hypothetical nieces and nephews will probably be raised Catholic, and they deserve books about people like them and their family too. Two because Junior can and should be exposed to many types of ideas — if they aren’t age-appropriate, I’d rather sie discuss them with a Trusted Adult while sie read, but prohibiting parts of knowledge bothers me.

    (And three because I enjoyed parts of the Narnia books as a kid, even though I kind of ignored the religious bits. I was seriously annoyed at how Lewis ended the books.)

    Also, I certainly wouldn’t equate ‘characters express opinions on religion’ or even ‘fantasy cosmology that may conflict with religion’ with ‘violence and porn’. Seriously?

    * Okay, not so covert.

  11. Kiwi Sauce says:

    @3 questions:

    What are self observation skills, is that looking at oneself in the mirror?

    But you don’t support Kiddie pron in the school library either…Other works are just as dangerous if for other reasons
    Setting aside the definition of porn, all books contain are ideas or statements. It is the actions taken on the basis of ideas that can be problematic. But there is always the person’s choice on whether to act on ideas or not. For example, I am atheist and no amount of religious material is going to change that position.

    the real danger is that the book seeks to covertly lead people away from god
    So what? Is your god so pathetic that some words in a book can change a believer into a non-believer?

    As in an actual attempt being made to directly attack and invalidate a specific religion by affecting children’s minds. The book claims that Christianity is just the “church of the shared imaginary friend” and that most of the problems in the world can be linked back to it directly.
    That’s the wonderful thing about writing down ideas, someone can come along and argue against them. Whining, on the other hand, is not argument.

    If we allow a hostile environment against religion then we undo a lot of the good that is America.
    Publishing books/articles/blogs that are critical of xtianity, or present alternative views, is not creating a hostile environment. Please demonstrate evidence of a hostile environment, e.g. by showing how marriage between xtians is being legally banned, by showing an orchestrated campaign into demonising sexual relations between two adult consenting heterosexual xtians, etc.

    Not all book banning is wrong. Just remember that.
    It is when only one group gets to define the books to be banned.

  12. jamessweet says:

    by showing an orchestrated campaign into demonising sexual relations between two adult consenting heterosexual xtians, etc.

    Oh, that’s easy.

    Biblical marriage dictates an asymmetrical power relationship premised on gender. That gender-based power imbalance is fundamental to the institution.

    If you expand the institution so that you cannot always parameterize the distribution of power based on gender (by allowing same-sex marriages), then you undermine Biblical marriage.

    The problem is not with loving gay couples forming a lasting partnership of equals; the problem is that it suggests maybe straight couples should be equal partners too. And we simply can’t have that. Am I right, fellow penis-wielders?

  13. Nemo says:

    Rebecah Moore, methinks perhaps you’re confused about where you are. “Freethoughtblogs”… get it? I don’t think your argument is going to get much sympathy here. Certainly, I have none.

    Keeley Thomson, eh? I’ll see if I can get some kids to read it. Thanks for the recommendation.

  14. I was introduced to Huxley’s work through my High School teacher in a very rural town. It was controversial for her to teach such works as A Brave New World but these are very powerful and insightful works. Such literature is very important to society along with books like 1984 and A Clockwork Orange which are frequently banned. See my visual commentary and portrait of Huxley on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2010/07/aldous-huxley-rolls-in-his-grave.html

  15. Nemo says:

    You know, after reading the comments on the other banned book thread, I begin to wonder if this is actually a stealth marketing effort for Keeley Thomson.

  16. Nemo says:

    (And by “this”, I just mean the two comments that purport to be from Christian would-be censors.)

  17. jamessweet says:

    I was introduced to Huxley’s work through my High School teacher in a very rural town. It was controversial for her to teach such works as A Brave New World but these are very powerful and insightful works.

    I went to school in upstate NY. We did Brave New World in high school — maybe even as freshman? It seemed to me it was fairly early. And it was totally uncontroversial to do so. Woo hoo!

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