So I was working hard on an assignment and didn’t get a chance to post about Banned Books Week during banned books week, so here’s my belated BBW post.
Each year, in the last week of September, librarians, bibliophiles, and book enthusiasts celebrate Banned Books Week. Throughout the history of the written word there have been critics of the written word. Some critics are so vehement as to call for the censorship of specific books.
For now, I’m just going to talk a little about challenged and banned books Just because a book is challenged doesn’t mean it was banned. A challenge is basically a call to ban a book. Libraries are frequently asked to remove materials from their shelves for various reasons. Public Libraries especially are put into a difficult place when this occurs. Public libraries usually get funding from the community, so when the community calls to remove materials, they are put at odds with the very core of a library’s mission to be the keepers of information and culture. Even if that information or culture makes some uncomfortable.
Books are challenged for various reasons, but in general challengers believe they are acting in the best interest of society in calling for a book to be banned.
Here is a list of Classics that have been challenged or banned at one time or another:
1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
9. 1984, by George Orwell
11. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
12. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
15. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
23. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
26. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
27. Native Son, by Richard Wright
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
29. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
30. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
33. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
36. Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
38. All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
40. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
45. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
48. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
49. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
50. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
53. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
55. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
57. Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron
64. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
66. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
67. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
73. Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs
74. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
75. Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
80. The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
84. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
88. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
97. Rabbit, Run, by John Updike
The American Library Association also provides the 100 most frequently challenged/banned books by decade:
I wish I knew why some of these are on the list. I can understand why some folks don’t want The New Joy of Gay Sex on the shelves (though I personally don’t have a problem with it and feel there should be far more resources for the LGBTQ community) but The Goosebumps series? And I read Are you There God, It’s Me Margaret in the 80s. I can’t believe it was challenged so recently. (We of course all read it because it had curse words in it.)
Here’s a link to the 2000-2009 most challenged/banned books.
Here we see that Harry Potter as a series has moved up considerably, it’s now at number 1 on the list. You’ll see some perennial favorites on the list Go Ask Alice, The Color Purple, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye but there are always books that make it onto this list that I can never fathom being controversial: Blubber (it seems Judy Blume will always have a place, and from a quick skim, it looks as if she has 3), Draw Me A Star (by Eric Carle, really, the guy who wrote The Very Hungry Caterpillar!).
Some of the books you can probably guess why they are challenged, some are less obvious. Whatever the reasons, as long as there are books, there will be those that seek to censor them, and it is the library’s job to protect this content, to keep it available, to be a storehouse for our culture. No matter how uncomfortable some of that culture makes people.
Have you explored Banned Books Week? What books are the most surprising to you that are on the lists of frequently challenged/banned books? How many from the lists have you read?