Have you read any banned books lately?

By Casey Lynn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

As with the last week of September every year, it is Banned Books Week, which is about celebrating the freedom to read. The American Library Association (ALA) compiles a list of the most challenged books every year, from Philip Pullman’s The Dark Materials trilogy to the Gossip Girls series.  The images below are inspired by the occasion. Celebrate by reading something that someone somewhere thinks you shouldn’t!

You might be wondering why you spotted Where’s Waldo in this picture (if you’re lucky – he’s very good at hiding!). According to the ALA, this was one of the most frequently challenged books in the 1990s. Why? Because apparently hiding in those intricate scenes, along with Waldo, was at least one *gasp* bare breast. – mclibrary (CC)

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42 of the list of top 100 novels of the 20th century have been banned or challenged. Heart of Darkness is #21. I for one read this one for AP Lit in high school. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was banned in Hunan, China because it “puts animals and humans on the same level.” – mollyjolly (CC)

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I rather like the idea of pirates absconding with banned books. Arrrrr, we will liberate your libraries! Or maybe it’s more like Robin Hood. – heidigoseek (CC)

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Farenheit 451 is one of the most frequently mentioned during Banned Books Week – probably because challenging this one is so incredibly ironic. Not that that stops it from happening. In fact, as recently as 2006, some parents tried to get the book banned from a 10th grade classroom. – magisterludi (CC)

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The ALA lists And Tango Makes Three as their most challenged book for the past three years running. Based on the story of two male penguins who formed a couple and raised an egg together, the book has faced a number of requests that it be removed from school libraries on the grounds that it supposedly promotes homosexuality. – mclibrary (CC)

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This one makes me kind of sad because it has some of my very favorite books in it. I first read A Wrinkle in Time when I was eight or nine, and I’m pretty sure it solidified my lifetime love of science fiction. Apparently it has been challenged because of references to things like witches and crystal balls, and because it supposedly challenges religious beliefs. – ellenw (CC)

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And to end with something adorable: a future reader. Considering that so many of the books challenged these days are children’s books, this one shouldn’t have too long to wait! – davidsilver (CC)

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11 Responses to Have you read any banned books lately?

  1. Most of the books on the "banned" book list were not banned, as in the government made them illegal, but were challenged, as in some citizen or group of citizens objected to the book. Most challenges fail in this enlightened age.

    Anyway, these days it is hard to stop a book from being available to almost anyone, either via the internet, bookstores, libraries, internet sales, or even just friends. Even totalitarian regimes cannot ban books these days.

    If you are looking for a schema to help decide on what books to read, the list has some exceptionally good books on it, they just aren't as "banned" as the ALA would like you to believe.

    • You're right – the list is really the "most challenged" books, i.e., what parents/etc. ask libraries to take off the shelves or put in a special section or what have you. So yes, the term "banned" isn't really used in the traditional sense with respect to banned books week. (Thank goodness!)

    • To which I will add that it is not unreasonable for parents to have a say in what their children are provided to read. Nor is it necessarily a sign of unreasonable people for parents and teachers to disagree.

      • I agree that it is not unreasonable, as a parent, to have a say, but i think that when they are of an age, they SHOULD read most of these books, and the parents should be on hand to explain why they are so controversial. This, in its own right, keeps young adults open minded and educated.

  2. Most of the books on the “banned” book list were not banned, as in the government made them illegal, but were challenged, as in some citizen or group of citizens objected to the book. Most challenges fail in this enlightened age.

    Anyway, these days it is hard to stop a book from being available to almost anyone, either via the internet, bookstores, libraries, internet sales, or even just friends. Even totalitarian regimes cannot ban books these days.

    If you are looking for a schema to help decide on what books to read, the list has some exceptionally good books on it, they just aren’t as “banned” as the ALA would like you to believe.

    • You’re right – the list is really the “most challenged” books, i.e., what parents/etc. ask libraries to take off the shelves or put in a special section or what have you. So yes, the term “banned” isn’t really used in the traditional sense with respect to banned books week. (Thank goodness!)

    • To which I will add that it is not unreasonable for parents to have a say in what their children are provided to read. Nor is it necessarily a sign of unreasonable people for parents and teachers to disagree.

  3. I remember my 7th grade book fair being the year that I bought a copy of Farenheit 451 and read it for the first time. It changed my life and changed the way I thought about alot of things. It saddens me that there are some kids out there that might not ever get to read a book like this, or 1984, or even something fairly non-offensive like Catcher in the Rye that might challenge them to think differently about their lives and their current perceptions of the world.

  4. I was expecting explicit books to be listed here. If you fancy reading something that really does challenge publishing standards try out American Psycho or A Clockwork Orange.