With the holiday season meaning a long break from school for me, I like to take advantage of the time to read books for the pure pleasure of it. But a certain category of books stand out as more interesting to me.
The category of books I am talking about is banned books. Yes, I see the irony.
I found this article from Upworthy about what the reasons were for why some of the banned books. What are these reasons for books to be banned? Well, in my own opinion, a great deal of the reasons for why books are banned are pulled out of the context of the book. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird is the 21st most banned book between 2000-2009. One of the reasons listed is “promotion of white supremacy”. Although this is discussed in the book, there is no outright preaching of the benefits of white supremacy. At the time the novel is placed in, white supremacy was the social norm. And none of the main characters are white supremacist, quite the contrary actually. So by banning the novel, it is depriving students from learning about a crucial time in our history, no matter how terrible that history may be. Also, you can’t pick out the parts you don’t like and completely ignore the rest of it.
My observation of the people who try to ban books are the people who don’t read the whole book. And I don’t mean going cover to cover necessarily, although sometimes I think that some of these people haven’t finished the book they are banning. I mean they don’t read between the lines and in the cracks and corners for the true themes and ideas being expressed. Anyone can go through a book and think “wow this has a lot of sex!” or “There is too much profanity!”. But most authors don’t write books to throw in a lots of sex and a million of swears (unless they are EL James).
I feel that books that are banned are even more worth reading. There has to be a reason why they are banned, and usually it’s for ludicrous interpretations of the content. And I’ll admit there are some banned books I did not like (Lord of the Flies ugh) but it wasn’t because of the vulgarity, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. These books are quality stories, because if they weren’t, no one would be reading them, even if they were as pure as snow.
To wrap this whole post up with a pretty bow, I’ll list some of my favorite books that have been banned.
I have to start off with the Harry Potter series. Spoiler alert, but I cried when Hedwig died. And Sirius’ death too. When you emotionally invest in the characters, you can’t put the book down. And, the story is wonderful, with so many details that you may forget, thus encouraging you to read more.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is not your typical high school story. It stepped outside of the box and kept me reading the whole time. The style of the writing is also intriguing, since it is the main character writing letters to “a friend” who even he doesn’t know. It brings you into a unique subculture of high school that isn’t often exposed into the mainstream. I admittedly have not seen the movie version, which is probably why my opinion is still pure.
Like Perks of Being a Wallflower, I have not seen the movie adaption of The Giver. Mainly cause it looks terrible and nothing like the book. I first read this book as a little 5th grader and I was entranced. It was my gateway into dystopian fiction, which is my favorite genre. I have recently read this book again and I still enjoy it. It makes me wish there was more to read. (I know there are sequels but they are definitely not as good as The Giver).
I saw Speak on the list and I remembered reading this book as a young teen. I hate to see that it is banned, because I feel like many people can benefit from this book. It discusses the difficulties of sexual assault as a teenager, and I feel that more people should read this so we can stop the terrible rape culture we have today. It’s heart-wrenching but necessary.
Brave New World is another one of my dystopian favorites. Many of my peers at the time of reading this as a high school junior hated this book, probably because the sex is overt. But I saw past this road block and engulfed the ideas behind the dysfunctional utopia that was created and what comments it made on our society now (if you’re not a a dystopian aficionado, basically most dystopians make a comment on something that is wrong with our society).
And finally, The Things They Carried is a collection of short stories that discusses some of the most difficult and most hopeful aspects of being a soldier at war. It makes you question what you would want with you if you were on the battle front. Some of the stories that O’Brien writes are from his own perspective, being a Vietnam War vet. Sometimes we glorify being in the military so much that we don’t see all of the negatives. This book rectifies that.
If you would like to browse the list of the 100 most challenged book of the 21st century, click here.