Banned Books Week 2011


“Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents—and only parents—have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children—and only their children—to library resources” (ALA).

Take a bit of time this year to pick up one of these books. They’re not all great, and I haven’t read them all, but you deserve to form an opinion. Banning books is a sign of a closed mind. Rather than read them and confront the issues, having teachable moments with your children. Protect your children by not letting them read something until they’re old enough to deal with those issues, yes. But banning books is the first step down a dark road. Read to be informed rather than to perpetuate ignorance.

Below I’ll comment on some of the books from this list which I have read.

The Top 100 Banned or Challenged Books of the Last Decade (via ALA)

1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling

This is one of the best series in the last two decades. It’s complex and uplifting, heartwarming and heartbreaking. Objections to magic? It’s just like The X-Men. No one sacrifices any babies to the devil.

2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck

Beautiful language abounds in every Steinbeck novel. Yes, there’s language. Yes, there’s a tragedy at the end, and yes there are references–very oblique ones–to sex. It’s a novel everyone should read.

6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman

I wasn’t in love with this series, but there are some great discussion points to be had. It answers C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, but it brings up a great set of discussion points. I am deeply in love with the Narnia books–all the more reason to defend its honor by reading the other books and then talking about which is better.

9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Myracle, Lauren
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

This is one of those books that really looks intimately at a situation in which a great number of teenagers find themselves. “Really, this is one of those books that’s got some slightly mature elements–I’d recommend this to older teens–but it’s one that embodies what many teens go through.”

11. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey

Really? Really?

14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

This is one of the greatest novels of all time. In fact, it may be the great American novel, next to To Kill A Mockingbird. The racism that pervades it is evocative of the time and–again–can lead to some great conversations.

15. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
16. Forever, by Judy Blume
17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

A heartbreaking book. Not one I’d read for fun, but it’s inspiring and beautiful. It highlights a terrible time in American history through one woman’s story.

18. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

This is certainly not a book that I love, but it deals with issues many teens face. He may not make the best choices or put himself in the best situations, but we can learn quite a bit from the manchild that is Holden Caulfield.

20. King and King, by Linda de Haan
21. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

This is the great American novel. No one who is thinking clearly should ban this–everyone should read this at some point in their lives. I wouldn’t give it to a seventh grader or anything, but the themes of racism, of growing up, of fatherhood, of prejudice, are all significant and universal. It is one of my favorite novels–in my top 5, easily.

22. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
23. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
24. In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
25. Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
26. Beloved, by Toni Morrison

This novel drives home the significant, horrific impact that slavery has upon those under its thumb. It is brutal and terrifying, tragic and heartbreaking. It’s also difficult, but it’s a must-read.

27. My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
28. Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson

This is a heartbreaking tale of loss at a young age–but it’s also one of the lasting effects of friendship. There is no reason for this to be banned. It’s important to realize that people can experience death at any age, and there are many ways to deal with that. It’s beautiful and haunting.

29. The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
30. We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
31. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
32. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
33. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
34. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
35. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison

I can understand this one, though again–have conversations, use it as a tool for learning. This is about a girl’s quest to be kissed, and she often goes far. She uses some crude language and references sexual things, though she never goes that far. It’s about a shallow girl not making great decisions, but I say that if a girl reads it, it should be in concert with her mother (or another female authority figure) with whom she can discuss choices. It’s certainly realistic in its portrayal of relationships, and may be a lesson in how not to do things.

36. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
37. It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris
38. Arming America, by Michael Bellasiles
39. Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane

This is one of the most difficult books I ever had to read. It depicts the brutal life under apartheid in South Africa. It’s important that, though this is horrible

40. Life is Funny, by E.R. Frank
41. Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
42. The Fighting Ground, by Avi
43. Blubber, by Judy Blume
44. Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
45. Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly
46. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

This is a significant installment in postmodern literature. It goes against the traditional notions of the romantic, glorious wartime tale. Billy Pilgrim is no Sergeant York. He is nearly an innocent, a blank canvas onto which reader can project himself, identifying with him, witnessing the horrors and absurdity of war and attempting to make something of it. This is a good book. I would not necessarily read it for pleasure, but it raises some important notions that bear pondering.

47. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, by George Beard
48. Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez
49. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
50. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
51. Daughters of Eve, by Lois Duncan
52. The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
53. You Hear Me?, by Betsy Franco
54. The Facts Speak for Themselves, by Brock Cole
55. Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green
56. When Dad Killed Mom, by Julius Lester
57. Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
58. Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going
59. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
60. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
61. Draw Me A Star, by Eric Carle
62. The Stupids (series), by Harry Allard
63. The Terrorist, by Caroline B. Cooney
64. Mick Harte Was Here, by Barbara Park
65. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien

This is the partially true, yet still poignant and harrowing series of short stories regarding Vietnam. Yes, it is difficult, but it is also one of the most significant novels to me.

66. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor

Much like To Kill A Mockingbird, this novel depicts a sad time in our nation’s history–one which should never be forgotten.

67. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham

This is a difficult read for many people, but it’s a reminder that race problems are not fully behind us. It’s Grisham’s first and one of his best. It’s a hard look at human nature.

68. Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
69. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

This is the most ironic book on the list–a banned book about book banning. It’s brilliant in its imagery and its message.

70. Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen
71. Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park

Really? Maybe it’s because she called someone a poopy-head. But honestly, who hasn’t?

72. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
73. What’s Happening to My Body Book, by Lynda Madaras

Yes, because if you don’t tell children about what they’re going through, it just won’t happen.

That’ll prevent poor choices…

74. The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold

This book was not my favorite; it’s got some intense scenes dealing with rape, though they aren’t graphic. I mainly didn’t care for it because it was just horribly depressing. However, it may spark good conversations about heaven and dealing with loss.

75. Anastasia (series), by Lois Lowry
76. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving

This is one of the few books I read for High School English class that I really enjoyed. It’s a quirky coming of age story that deals with fate and finding your place in the world.

77. Crazy: A Novel, by Benjamin Lebert
78. The Joy of Gay Sex, by Dr. Charles Silverstein
79. The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss
80. A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
81. Black Boy, by Richard Wright
82. Deal With It!, by Esther Drill
83. Detour for Emmy, by Marilyn Reynolds
84. So Far From the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Watkins
85. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher
86. Cut, by Patricia McCormick
87. Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
88. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
89. Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissenger
90. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
91. Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
92. The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
93. Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
94. Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine
95. Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix
96. Grendel, by John Gardner
97. The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
98. I Saw Esau, by Iona Opte
99. Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
100. America: A Novel, by E.R. Frank

Which have you read? What do you think? Feel free to comment below!

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3 thoughts on “Banned Books Week 2011

  1. I have read so many of these books in high school and in college and many on my own. I have to say I am guilty of wanting to read some of these books because they were challenged. I always thought a banned book list was so ironic because it just gave the book more fame when it was supposed to be lost among “safer” novels.

    Some of these novels have changed the way I look at literature and have really brought me interesting thought. I may not have been a fan of some of them but they made me think regardless.

    I agree with many of your comments but I also really connected with Tim O’brien’s The Things They Carried. As much as it made me hurt, I love it. I have so many annotations written in it. haha

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