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10 Banned Books Worth Reading

10 Banned Books Worth Reading

Vicki Santillano | Divine Caroline

October 07, 2010

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6. The Bluest Eye


Toni Morrison’s first novel about a young girl and her violently dysfunctional family was released in 1970, but continues to stir up controversy because of its detailed descriptions of rape, incest, and racism. In fact, many of Morrison’s other works (Beloved, Song of Solomon) are frequent targets of petitions to be banned from school curriculum.

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7. Of Mice and Men


Though it holds a consistent spot in many high school reading lists, John Steinbeck’s book was still one of the top five challenged books in the U.S. from 2000–2007 because of its use of racist language and obscenities. People have also claimed that it encourages assisted suicide because (spoiler alert) one of its main characters kills someone else before a mob murders him.

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8. Catch-22


In my opinion, this is one of the best novels of all time—few works can match its successful mingling of satire and the heartbreaking realities of war. Unfortunately, some people still can’t look past its colorful language and sexual references, particularly in regards to prostitutes. This book is no longer in the ALA’s top banned books, but the fact that there were even attempts to censor the contents (mostly occurring in the 1970s) of one of my favorite books saddens me to no end.

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9. 1984


This classic Orwell novel is one of the most culturally significant books of all time. Despite this, it sometimes generates controversy because of its explicit content and language. It was even deemed “pro-communist” by petitioners in Jackson County, Florida in 1981 who were uncomfortable with (or more likely confused by) its political messages. It was completely banned in the USSR.

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10. Fahrenheit 451


Ironic that a book exploring the dangerous consequences of censorship is so often challenged within schools and libraries—ALA lists it at number seventy-two. In Ray Bradbury’s world, firemen burn books (the title refers to the degree at which books burn) because they could potentially offend another person. Most recently, it was challenged at a school district in Texas in 2006 for blasphemy and inappropriate behavior, like smoking and drinking.

If a novel might motivate young people to think differently or challenge social norms, it probably made the ban list at some point. The volume of petitions against these books is disheartening, but what’s even sadder is that I could only include a very small amount of challenged books in this article because the list is overwhelmingly long—and the texts left out are just as essential and timeless.

Judgmental people will always label what’s unique as controversial and wrong. They can attempt to keep these novels out of schools, but it’s impossible to censor the ideas behind them or the passion they inspire. Thankfully, naysayers couldn’t keep these books from shaping society and paving the way for new books that dare to be different.

This article was originally published on DivineCaroline.com.



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At DivineCaroline, you’ll be spending time with women who embrace the fact that life isn’t always easy or beautiful or fair. Our dream is to give you a place to come together to express yourselves. What brings you joy. What breaks your heart. Makes you giggle. What pisses you off. Confuses you. Entertains you. What keeps you strong. Check them out here!


More From Divine Caroline:
Seven Scandalous Books We Loved as Kids
Required Reading: A Guide to Book Awards
The Day Was Mixed With Foul and Rye


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    DelroyAllen

    over 3 years ago

    2 comments

    Humbug! As Scrooge would say it! You cannot downgrade the merits of a book by banning it! `The Catcher in the Rye’ (http://www.shmoop.com/catcher-in-the-rye/) is a powerful reflection of the adolescent years. At the beginning of the story, Holden has just been kicked out of his school and he stumbles into the outside world with many ideas and views which just crumble before him. It’s hard coming to terms with life. And this is exactly what Salinger portrays in the novel. We cannot be the catcher in the field of rye because children have to fall and stumble and learn on their own. We cannot protect innocence for long. I always wondered about the significance of the title. Finally, I found a great site that puts all this information together and makes learning it fun. Shmoop is a great place to go to.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    lady_poet

    over 3 years ago

    34 comments

    "1984" is brilliant - highly recommended. "The Bluest Eye" is also quite good, although extremely depressing. "Fahrenheit 451" is one of the best. Also: "White Oleander" and "Paint It Black" - both by Janet Fitch - and "Bastard Out Of Carolina", by Dorothy Allison. "Witches", by Erica Jong

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    ABG

    almost 4 years ago

    36 comments

    Out of these...the only one I've read (it was required reading) was Of Mice and Men...but I have heard about the controversy behind at least four of the others listed here. The thing these people that challenge books don't realize is that the writers are often trying to bring to light and expose the controversial subjects - that are ever-present and hidden in society anyway - usually in an effort to change them.

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    Laur

    almost 4 years ago

    52 comments

    I read all of these in middle and high school!

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    JM1984

    almost 4 years ago

    12 comments

    Grew up in IL, read Of Mice and Men (hated it, bored me to death,) 1984 (same,) and Farenheit 451 (would've liked it more had I not been reading it for a schmuck of an Hon. English teacher.) Frankly, fact of the matter is that whoever pays the schools bills, (taxpayers, members of a religious congregation, whatever,) have every right to say what is and isn't on the shelves, since they're the ones paying for the books. Don't like it? Homeschool.

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    meremom

    almost 4 years ago

    2 comments

    @kdewbee: Cali is one of the most liberal states, especially in regards to schools and such. Catch-22 and Fahrenheit 451 were banned in most of my schools in Michigan and Wisconsin. I'm not sure about Of Mice and Men, but it might have been.

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    conniemarkus

    almost 4 years ago

    4 comments

    These books are definitely worth the read... they are all very insightful and intriguing. I believe I've read nine out of the ten. Great literature!

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    angr0cks

    almost 4 years ago

    4 comments

    Don't forget one of the most controversial and banned books of all time...the Holy Bible. People fear truth.

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    kdewbee

    almost 4 years ago

    2 comments

    I'm not sure where these books have been banned. But I went to school in california and many of them were assigned high school reading for me. Although I did always take honors classes so maybe that made a difference. But the ones I did read never seemed controversial to me.

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    emgaines

    almost 4 years ago

    4 comments

    isn't it the truth! all the good books from when we were kids are now being pulled off reading lists, because they are too serious for today's kids. if I had to read them, then I think kids today should as well. we are sheltering them from too much stuff these days. life is not all fun and games!

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