By Jessica Klinner
This week (September 22-28) marked the 31st anniversary of Banned Books Week. Starting in 1982, the week was established to recognize books that have been censored, challenged, and banned in libraries and school throughout the country. The week is also a time to celebrate the freedom to read. Over the years, many books have been banned for their violent and sexual content as well as offensive language. Since the start of Banned Books Week, over 11,300 books have been banned. Some of the most culturally important books have been banned due to their true depictions of the world at the time they were written. Upon reading why some books were banned, I wanted to pull my hair out because of the ignorance in this world. The dictionary has even been banned, for crying out loud! If you’re interested, just research reasons why books are banned and you’ll understand what I’m saying. Here are 10 surprising classic and modern banned books.
1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Growing up in the Harry Potter generation, it’s hard to understand why someone would want to ban these fantastic works of literature. It’s even harder when you find out that these books have been challenged since their creation. Most challenges and bans on the series have arisen because of their “satanic content.” When I read the books as an adolescent, I got nothing of the sort from them. If anything, these books promote leadership, teamwork, and the fight to overcome evil in the world. Anyone who gets anything negative from the series must be reading into them too much.
2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Reminiscent of J.D Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye, Chbosky’s novel tackles the struggle of adolescence through the letters of Charlie to an anonymous recipient. The book has been withdrawn from several libraries in the U.S. and repeatedly appears on lists of challenged books because of its references to homosexuality, drug use, and abuse. If anything, this book only relates to teenagers who are more than likely experiencing the same kinds of troubles as Charlie. I would look at Perks as being more of a book of guidelines than a threat to readers.
3. The Catcher In The Rye by J.D Salinger
Between 1966 and 1975, Salinger’s coming of age novel was the most censored, banned, and challenged book for it’s sexual content and moral issues. During this time, the “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” lifestyle was very prominent. Many people thought this book only provoked morally wrong behavior in young readers. The end of the banning didn’t stop after this era, though. It continues to be challenged and banned across the country to this day for the same reasons.
4. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
As a Southerner, especially in Alabama, it’s easy to see how this work would frequent the banned books list. Banned for sexual and social content, Lee’s only published novel deals with racial issues she encountered while growing up in Monroeville, Alabama. Lee’s ability to portray such accurate depictions of her characters brings the story to life and enables readers to be transported into her scenes. The banning this book only promotes ignorance among readers about the conditions in the South during the time it was written.
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
As popular as this book is today, it’s strange to think that it was not publically acclaimed until after Fitzgerald’s death in 1940. The novel takes place during the Roaring Twenties, a time of decadence and indulgence in the United States. Like many other books appearing on this list, The Great Gatsby has been banned for sexual content and explicit language. Honestly, compared to the content of television shows available for young adults these days, a few curse words here and there is nothing.
6. Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Even a book about the censorship and burning of books cannot escape being censored. The title itself refers to the degree at which paper burns. The book has been challenged due to “questionable themes.” The story tells of a time in the not so distant future when intelligent thoughts and the books that provoke them are banned. Firemen are hired to burn books and the places that contain them. With bans being placed on every other book published these days, this reality doesn’t seem so outlandish.
7. Looking For Alaska by John Green
The critically acclaimed novel by John Green was banned most recently in Sumner County, Tennessee for it’s “pornographic content.” Green even took to his YouTube channel, shared with brother Hank Green, to address the matter in a video entitled “I Am Not A Pornographer.” Honestly, if this book is considered to be pornographic, then the world must be more corrupt than we think. There’s nothing in this novel that a young adult reading it wouldn’t encounter while watching television or surfing the Internet. Seriously challengers, get ahold of yourselves!
8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
First appearing on the banned books list in 2010, The Hunger Games has continued to be a controversial novel. Set in a future world where children are picked to play in a fight-to-the-death arena game, it has been banned for being violent, satanic, anti-family, and anti-ethnic. The book, like Brave New World and Farenheit 451, speak out about future worlds and conditions with the government. So pretty much, if a book challenges the government or provokes thought about the future of the world, it’s going to end up on the banned books list.
9. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
To me, this was the most surprising book to find on the banned books list. The book was banned for sexual content and its overall tragic nature. While the content may be graphic at times, it is the most accurate representation we have of what life was like for a Jewish civilian during World War II. Anne’s diary shows the honest thoughts and opinions of a young girl in hiding. I believe it to be one of the greatest pieces of literature from the WWII era.
10. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The road to publishing for Lord of the Flies was long and disheartening, being turned down by 20 different publishers before finally being picked up in 1954. Despite the fact that it was a bestseller, the book was banned on terms of “excessive language and violence,” but I think we all know it just doesn’t sit well because it focuses on a group of boys who create their own civilization. It seems that only the best books get challenged and that goes double for Lord of the Flies. For his work, Golding was given a Nobel Prize for literature and was also knighted.