Yesterday started banned book week, the week where book lovers across the globe come together and celebrate the “freedom to read.” Banned Books Week is the week that you say NO to censorship and YES to reading, because people can easily be sucked into “for the good of the children” and “for the good of the community” arguments…and all I want to respond with, “let them read!” So here is my TOP TEN list of the MUST READ books on the TOP 100 Most Banned / Challenged ALA List.
Top 10 Must Read Banned Books
1. Harry Potter Series
Number 1 on the Top 100 List in 2001 & 2002 – The Harry Potter series is a must read, do I really have to tell you this? The reasons for it’s banning was because of occultism and satanism.
2. Forever by Judy Blume
I read this baby when I was twelve years old and it didn’t scar me for life or turn me into a promiscuous, loose morals woman. There is — yes — sex in it!!!! The book was number 2 in the most banned book list of 2005 for offensive language and sexual content.
3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games has been on the Top Ten list of most challenge books in 2013 & 2010, challenged because of being sexually explicit (don’t remember that), unsuitable for the age group, religious viewpoint and violence. Yes, this book has a bit of violence in it – but so does the REAL WORLD. Again, do I have to tell you to read this series? I didn’t think so.
4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
This treasure is usually banned for racism and offensive language. I’m glad the people that read this book and challenged it really understood the text. Just shows off the intellect…
5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Again, a display of the challenger’s intellect, the book is often challenged because of the offensive language and being sexually explicit. If you have ever read this book and really understood what this one is all about, well you would be shaking your head. It might not be one of my favorite books to read, it is really hard to read. But it is a must read.
6. Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause
Gaining attention because of a movie that was popular in the early 2000s, Klause’s story about werewolves and love that was published way before Twilight was added to the banned list in 2001 because it was sexually explicit and unsuitable to the age group.
7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
This is a life changer type of book, the one that you read as a teenager and it makes you question life, liberty and all that existential stuff. I do recommend that this goes to an appropriate age group, like all of these books on this list. But, it’s not about censorship, it’s more about grasping the meaning. If these books are read at the right moment, they shape thinking and understanding and expose them to something real. Most of these books aren’t that violent, lewd or pornographic, which is a shame, because at least that is a reasonable reason to slap an 18+ label on it for censorship’s sake. Because, most of them will make that child think, it might not be pretty unicorns, happy rainbows, where everyone wins and triumphs as they cash in their lottery checks…but at least it’s real. At what age will a child be given “real” that is up to the parents to decide, but I know for a fact – the later in life they get real, the harder it is. But, that is my humble opinion. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley is on the banned and challenged list most of the time, citing things like insensitivity (what is that?), nudity (is that a joke?), racism, religious viewpoint and sexually explicit content.
8. The Witches by Roald Dahl
THE WITCHES by Roald Dahl is what myself, and a few other million readers would call a literary classic, even though it is only about 30 years old (1983). Dahl’s work has been celebrated and hated since he published his first work in 1953, because Dahl wrote children’s books with an adult mind, meaning he didn’t write “down” to children. THE WITCHES is no different. Winner of numerous awards in both the U.S. and the U.K., the book is the story of a young boy who learns about witches from his grandmother and then has to later confront them. Witches hate children. Witches are quite evil. Some parents don’t like this book. A lot of parents don’t like the book, in the 90s, THE WITCHES consistently appeared on the banned and challenged list, it has dwindled down lower on the list in the 2000s, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t controversial. The majority of the controversy comes because of the fact – well it’s about witches. And witches are naturally Satanic. So are the Smurfs by the way, if you didn’t get that memo. And when children read about Witches they might want to grow up and become a witch. Because these witches are so appealing. But, it’s also a bit scary, the witches don’t play quiddich and have cuddly friends.
9. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Another children’s classic, A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle has everything I wanted in a book when I was a child: fantasy, adventure and a girl with BRAINS! I’m not alone in my worship of this book, also. Wrinkle won the Newbery in 1963, just a year after it’s publication. The book is the story of Meg and the adventure she must go on to save her father. Her father is a scientist and his research had him discovering that the universe is under attack. Upon discovery he is taken by what is attacking the universe and Meg, her little brother, Charles Wallace and a new friend Calvin must find him. It is a wonderful story, but it is also a controversial one, appearing high on the banned and challenged lists in the 1990s. The book is considered “different” and that it undermines religious beliefs and promotes occult practices.
10. The Lorax by Dr. Suess
This one gets a BIG WTF? Right? The funny thing, it was banned in California of all places, because it painted logging in a bad way. Wouldn’t want to indoctrinate our children, would we? Because if something goes against our opinion, we must ban it.
I hope you enjoy this list, some of these books are just for enjoyment and some will change your life. The only thing they have in common is that a few people thought that these books were so bad that they must strike them from existence. Which no one has a right to do. At least not in this country. I am all about a person taking an active roll in their child’s reading life, I am a firm believer that you have to read the books before your children read them. Because there is always a time and a place. I wouldn’t hand my child IT or a Nora Roberts novel at the tender age of 8, even if she possessed the skills to read them. But, I also would not wish that those novels were banned from libraries just because my child goes there. No, it is my responsibility as a parent to watch what books or movies or video games my child rents or owns. And if there are controversial topics or things that go against my religious or political beliefs, to make another choice – do I block my child from being exposed to these “other” opinions or ideas, or do I let them make up their own minds? This is the question every parent must make and whichever way you fall on this issue, that is your right. Your opinion. But, when you try and block everyone from reading this opinion, idea or belief – well then you have a right to hear my opinion also and that is “get your narrow-minded belief system out of my sphere of existence.” Have your child take a 0 in that class if you feel that strongly, or request that your child read their own book…but don’t force the entire class, or school to bend because of your opinion. You have a right to it, but that doesn’t mean you have a right to force it on others.
Fight for the right to read.
If you think that this doesn’t happen, that there are not groups that actively try to restrict our exposure to some topics, ideas or beliefs, think again. ALA.org cites that from 2000 – 2009 there were over 5000 challenge or ban reports to the Office for Intellectual Freedom. This office is dedicated to fighting censorship and promoting intellectual freedom in libraries. It also happens quietly, a mother raises the question that the book is too gruesome for her sheltered youth, or that it promotes bad behavior or language, that a child shouldn’t read books like JUNIE B. JONES, because they might get the “wrong idea.” It doesn’t have to be some conservative Christian sect that hates homosexuals and perceives FROZEN as promoting same-sex marriage (don’t laugh – this is a true story!). A lot of the times it is just a few parents that want to protect their children from not so sparkly vampires and the parents that don’t agree with them are too scared of being perceived as bad parents to speak up against them. Don’t be afraid to speak up.