Banned Books Week

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This is Banned Books Week 2015. Since 1982, this annual, international, event has taken place during the last week of September.

The entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, bannedteachers, and readers of all types –- comes together in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

Banned Books Week not only encourages readers to examine challenged literary works, but also promotes intellectual freedom in libraries, schools, and bookstore. Its goal is “to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.”

The tradition of banning books is a long one and seems to date to the reign of Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang, sometime around 230 BC. It seems that the Emperor didn’t like some of the things that philosopher Confucius had to say some two hundred years before him, so he banned his writings along with the then-contemporary commentaries by devotees. The whole story is a little murky (we have had, after all, more than 2,300 years to murk it up), but seems that it was effective at the time.

The tradition continued through European history with book burnings in in Florence in 1497-98 at the behest of the highly opinionated priest Savonarola (those were known forevermore as the original “bonfire of the vanities”) and, in 1559, with the creation of the Catholic Church’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum. New and updated editions of the Index were published at regular intervals until 1948. It wasn’t until nearly 20 years after that it was finally done away with. That’s over four centuries of official religious regulation of Catholics’ reading materials. At various times, influential works by authors such as Immanuel Kant, Simone de Beauvoir, and John Milton were placed on the list.

The Nazis held highly publicized book burnings throughout pre-war Gebooks are weaponsrmany, and those produced a backlash here in the US, with our government responding with “morale” posters and book drives for soldiers.

On our side of the pond, the banning of books started with The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption by William Pynchon in 1650. The work was a rather critical review of Puritanism. Pynchon was kicked out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and his book was publicly burned in downtown Boston.

Here is a list (in alphabetical order by title) of the most banned and challenged books of the past 100 years in the US:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn         Mark Twain
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer                   Mark Twin
Alice (series)                                                     Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
All The King’s Men                                          Robert Penn Warren
Always Running                                              Luis J. Rodriguez
American Psycho                                            Bret Easton Ellis
An American Tragedy                                    Theodore Dreiser
The Anarchist Cookbook                               William Powell
Anastasia Again!                                             Lois Lowry
And Tango Makes Three                                J. Richardson & P. Parnell
Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging Louise Rennison
Annie on My Mind                                         Nancy Garden
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret       Judy Blume
Arming America                                            Michael Bellasiles
Arizona Kid                                                     Ron Koertge
As I Lay Dying                                                William Faulkner
Asking About Sex and Growing Up            Joanna Cox
Athletic Shorts                                               Chris Crucher
Beloved                                                           Toni Morrison
Black Boy                                                        Richard Wright
Bless Me, Ultima                                           Rudolfo A, Anaya
Blood and Chocolate                                    Annette Curtis Klause
Blubber                                                           Judy Blume
The Bluest Eye                                               Toni Morrison
The Boy Who Lost His Face                        Louis Sachar
Boys and Sex                                                  Wardell Pomerey
Brave New World                                         Aldus Huxley
Bridge to Terabithia                                     Katherine Paterson
Bumps in the Night                                      Harry Allard
The Call of the Wild                                      Jack London
Captain Underpants                                     Dov Pilkey
The Catcher in the Rye                                J.D. Salinger
Catch-22                                                         Joseph Heller
Cat’s Cradle                                                   Kurt Vonnegut
The Chocolate War                                      Robert Cormier
Christine                                                        Stephen King
A Clockwork Orange                                  Anthony Burgess
The Color Purple                                         Alice Walker
Crank                                                            Ellen Hopkins
Crazy Lady                                                    Jane Conly
Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat       Alan Schwartz
Cujo                                                                Stephen King
Curses, Hexes and Spells                           Daniel Cohen
Daddy’s Roommate                                     Michael Willoite
A Day No Pigs Would Die                           Robert Newton Peck
The Dead Zone                                             Stephen King
Deenie                                                            Judy Blume
The Drowning of Stephen Jones               Bette Greene
Earth’s Children (series)                             Jean M. Auel
The Exorcist                                                  William Peter Blatty
The Face on the Milk Carton                      Caroline B. Cooney
Fade                                                                Robert Cormier
Fallen Angels                                                Walter Dean Myers
Family Secrets                                              Norma Klein
A Farewell to Arms                                      Ernest Hemingway
Final Exit                                                       Derek Humphry
Flowers for Algernon                                  Daniel Keyes
For Whom The Bell Tolls                           Ernest Hemingway
Forever                                                          Judy Blume
Girls and Sex                                               Wardell Pomeroy
The Giver                                                      Lois Lowry
Go Ask Alice                                                 Anonymous
Go Tell It On The Mountain                       James Baldwin
The Goats                                                      Brook Cole
Gone With The Wind                                  Margaret Mitchell
Goosebumps (series)                                  R.L. Stine
The Grapes of Wrath                                  John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby                                         F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gilly Hopkins                            Katherine Paterson
Guess What?                                                Mem Fox
Halloween ABC                                           Eve Merriam
The Handmaid’s Tale                                 Margaret Atwood
Harry Potter (series)                                   J.K. Rowling
Heart of Darkness                                       Joseph Conrad
Heather Has Two Mommies                     Leslea Newman
The House of Spirits                                   Isabel Allende
How To Eat Fried Worms                          Thomas Rockwell
The Hunger Games                                     Suzanne Collins
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings          Maya Angelou
In Cold Blood                                                Truman Capote
In the Night Kitchen                                   Maurice Sendak
Invisible Man                                               Ralph Ellison
It’s Perfectly Normal                                   Robie Harris
It’s So Amazing                                             Robie Harris
Jack                                                                A.M. Homes
James and the Giant Peach                        Roald Dahl
Jay’s Journal                                                 Anonymous
Julie of the Wolves                                       Jean Craighead George
Jump Ship to Freedom                                L. Collier and C. Collier
Jumper                                                           Stephen Gould
The Jungle                                                     Upton Sinclair
Kaffir Boy                                                      Mark Mathabane
Killing Mr. Griffin                                        Lois Duncan
Lady Chatterley’s Lover                             D.H. Lawrence
A Light in the Attic                                      Shel Silverstein
Little Black Sambo                                      Helen Bannerman
Lolita                                                             Vladimir Nabokov
Lord of the Flies                                          William Golding
Mommy Laid An Egg                                  Babette Cole
My Brother Sam Is Dead                            J.L. Collier and C. Collier
The Naked and the Dead                           Norman Mailer
The Naked Lunch                                        William S. Burroughs
Native Son                                                     Richard Wright
The New Joy of Gay Sex                              C. Silverstein & F. Picano
Nineteen Eighty-four                                  George Orwell
Of Mice and Men                                         John Steinbeck
On My Honor                                               Marion Dane Bauer
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest           Ken Kesey
Ordinary People                                          Judith Guest
The Outsiders                                              S.E. Hinton
The Perks of Being a Wallflower            Stephen Chbosky
The Pillars of the Earth                            Ken Follett
The Pigman                                                Paul Zindel
Private Parts                                               Howard Stern
Rabbit, Run                                                 John Updike
The Rabbit’s Wedding                              Garth Williams
Rainbow Boys                                            Alex Sanchez
Running Loose                                          Chris Crutcher
The Satanic Verses                                    Salman Rushdie
Scary Stories (series)                                Alvin Schwartz
A Separate Peace                                       John Knowles
Sex                                                               Madonna
Sex Education                                           Jenny Davis
Slaughterhouse-Five                                Kurt Vonnegut
The Sledding Hill                                       Chris Crutcher
Sleeping Beauty Trilogy                          Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
Song of Solomon                                       Toni Morrison
Sons and Lovers                                       D.H. Lawrence
The Stupids (series)                                 Harry Allard
Summer of My German Soldier             Bette Greene
The Sun Also Rises                                  Ernest Hemingway
That Was Then, This Is Now                  S.E. Hinton
Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora   Neale Hurston
Tiger Eyes                                                  Judy Blume
To Kill A Mockingbird                             Harper Lee
Tropic of Cancer                                       Henry Miller
View from the Cherry Tree                    Willo Davis Roberts
We All Fall Down                                      Robert Cormier
Whale Talk                                               Chris Crutcher
What My Mother Doesn’t Know            Sonya Sones
What’s Happening to My Body? Book for Boys Lynda Madara
What’s Happening To My Body? Book for Girls Lynda Madara
Where Did I Come From?                      Peter Mayle
The Wish Giver                                        Bill Brittain
The Witches                                             Roald Dahl
Women in Love                                       D.H. Lawrence
Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Sexual         Fantasies                      Nancy Friday
A Wrinkle In Time                                    Madeleine L’Engle

There’s actually some pretty good reading on this list. Not all will fall into this category; some were written for the shock value, but many were not.

I take pride in saying that many, if not all, of these may be found on the shelves of The York Emporium.

So now you have the opportunity to strike a blow for liberty: Resolve right now to sit down this week and read something that someone didn’t want you to see.

It will make you feel better.

Banned Books Week was created and principally sponsored by the American Library Association, and is now co-sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers for Free Expression, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, The Association of American Publishers, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Freedom to Read Foundation, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the National Council of Teachers of English, the National Association of College Stores, the People for the American Way, the PEN American Center and Project Censored.

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