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06 January 2007

Reading Controversial Books

I found this list recently at Mischievous Muse, although I saw this list circulated a few months ago during banned books week. The list is from the ALA's list of 100 most challenged books. I'm always surprised that any book is challenged in schools or libraries. Often the reasons seem ridiculous to me, but I know that it is a very serious issue. Thinking is threatening to many; encouraging others to think means that there is a possibility that they might come to different conclusions, adopt different ideas. Encouraging new, maybe divergent ideas -- shouldn't that be the one of the aims of education, institutional or otherwise?

As I worked through this list I realized how many I had read. At first glance that made sense; I studied literature in college and many are in the canon. But in reviewing the list further, I realized that I read nearly half before college, while attending midwestern public schools. Perhaps it is a stereotype that most requests to remove books for classrooms and school libraries happen in conservative communities. And, maybe that is more common now that when I was in high school 30 years ago. Still, many of the titles on this list, in addition to ones that I have read, are works that I know are on school reading lists in my area. That is a good thing.

What about you? How many banned books have you read? I recommend that you read a controversial book this year and find out why some may have found it objectionable.


36 read (all or excerpts)
7 started but not finished for one reason or another
1 in process

14 (**) read in Jr. high or high school


#1 The Bible
#2 Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain **
#3 Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
#4 The Koran
#5 Arabian Nights
#6 Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain **
#7 Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
#8 The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer**
#9 The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne**
#10 Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
#11 The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli**
#12 Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
#13 Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank**
#14 Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
#15 Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
#16 Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
#17 Dracula by Bram Stoker
#18 The Autobiography of Ben Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
#19 Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
#20 Essays by Michel de Montaigne
#21 Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
#22 The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
#23 Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
#24 Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
#25 Ulysses by James Joyce
#26 The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
#27 Animal Farm by George Orwell**
#28 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
#29 Candide by Voltaire (in French & English)**
#30 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee**
#31 Analects by Confucius
#32 The Dubliners by James Joyce
#33 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck**
#34 Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
#35 The Red and the Black by Stendhal (in process)
#36 Das Capital by Karl Marx
#37 Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire (in French)**
#38 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
#39 Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
#40 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley**
#41 Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
#42 Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
#43 The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
#44 All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
#45 Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
#46 The Lord of the Flies by William Golding**
#47 Diary of Samuel Pepys by Samuel Pepys
#48 The Sun Also Rises by Ernes Hemingway
#49 Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
#50 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
#51 Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
#52 The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
#53 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
#54 Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus
#55 Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
#56 The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
#57 The Color Purple by Alice Walker
#58 The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
#59 An Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke
#60 The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
#61 Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
#62 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
#63 East of Eden by John Steinbeck
#64 Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
#65 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
#66 Confessions by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#67 Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais (in French)**
#68 Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
#69 The Talmud
#70 Social Contract by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#71 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
#72 Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
#73 An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
#74 Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
#75 A Separate Peace by John Knowles**
#76 The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
#77 The Red Pony by John Steinbeck**
#78 Popol Vuh
#79 Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith
#80 The Satyricon by Petronius
#81 James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
#82 Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
#83 Black Boy by Richard Wright
#84 Spirit of the Laws by Charles de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu
#85 Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
#86 Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
#87 Metaphysics by Aristotle
#88 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
#89 Institutes of the Christian Religion by Jean Calvin
#90 Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
#91 The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
#92 Sanctuary by William Faulkner
#93 As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
#94 Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
#95 Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
#96 Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
#97 General Introduction to Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud
#98 The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
#99 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Alexander Brown
#100 A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

9 comments:

charlotte said...

Like you, I've read many of these and it comes as a surprise that some have ever been questioned - I mean James and the Giant Peach, for goodness sake!

Growing up in South Africa, it was a matter of pride for us to get our hands on, read and pass on banned books. It was one of the few things we could do as teenagers to rebel against the apartheid regime. I remember having the doors of my consciousness opened by Steve Biko at 16!

Dorothy W. said...

Some of these are quite strange -- John Locke? Kant? Laura Ingalls? I've read 38 -- not bad, maybe, but I should read more!

Camille said...

Really interesting list. It looks like I read a lot of these in school or on my own, too. I'll have to go through the list to see how many. I agree with Dorothy W.--I mean, Little House on the Prairie?

jenclair said...

I love Banned Book Lists because it IS such a surprise to see some of the books listed.

SFP said...

I'm assuming the Laura Ingalls books may be challenged because of their depiction of Native Americans. I can remember reading a Michael Dorris essay on how unnerving it is for a Native American to read these books and encounter Ma's hatred of Indians.

Emily said...

I've read 24 of these. The amazing thing you discover when you work in the library world is that some of the books that people want to ban are banned for very "liberal" reasons, which is extremely ironic, isn't it?. It's why I so love the ACLU. After all, how can one fight against someone/something, if one can't read what he/she/it is all about?

Cam said...

Charlotte -- James & the Giant Peach surprised me too, although I knew the Roald Dahl is frequently named as an author many are oppossed to. I think Willy Wonka has been challenged previously, the objection being that it supposses a "magical" world and children being disrespectful to adults.

I can see how reading banned books would be an appropriate response for teenagers under Apartheid or any such regime. And your comment puts into a different perspective that when Americans talk about 'banned books' they are referring to books that people have lobbied to have removed from libraries and school curricula, not books that are officially against the law to own or read. It makes it seem lame to call them banned when truly there are people elsewhere who do not have the liberty to read what they would choose. Even so, we need to be dilligent to fight against censorship in any form so that we don't have one point of view dictating "culture" and to realize that removing a book from a school or library because we don't like the content/opinion/point of view of the author is the start of the slippery slope to dictating what one will read.

Perhaps it is not surprising at all that any of these are on the list and I think it is important to note, as that Emily's & SPF's comments point out, that restriction is seen in all parts of the political spectrum. And it is always wrong!

danielle said...

I haven't read as many of these as I should have! I guess I need to try and read a few more from the list this year! Heaven forbid we think for ourselves, of course quite often that's exactly what governments don't want us to do...

litlove said...

What an interesting list - but I'm with Danielle in that I had read less of them than I thought I should. Banned books are the staple of university courses, usually, because they contain the most radical ideas. I shall certainly try to get through a few more on the list in 2007.