September 25 through October 1st is Banned Books Week according to the American Library Association. One of the things I’ve often found most ridiculous about those people who try to ban or challenge books is that they never realize that this only makes the material in question more enticing. After all, who doesn’t wanna taste the forbidden fruit? Furthermore, would-be censors have a knack for attacking the books that are often those most worth reading.
Consider the following.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) By Mark Twain
Why It’s Been Banned: Coarse language, racial stereotypes and frequent use of the n-word.
Why It’s A Must Read: It’s universally considered one of the Great American Novels and one of the first works in American literature to use “colloquial style.” Aka written in vernacular English, with regional color thrown in. It is lso a scathing satire of certain entrenched attitudes, particularly racism. Is essentially the first, original, American “buddy-buddy” road trip story.
Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) By Zora Neale Hurston
Why It’s Been Banned: For coarse language and explicit sexuality.
Why It’s a Must Read: This gorgeously written novel is now widely recognized as being a seminal moment for African American literature AND Women’s Literature. Zora began what Toni Morrison would continue.
The Grapes of Wrath (1939) By John Steinbeck
Why It’s Been Banned: Contains profanity and sexual references. Moreover, people were shocked by its depiction of the poor. Steinbeck later admitted his descriptions were sanitized versions of what really went on within such communities.
Why It’s a Must Read: Besides winning the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and being a key reason Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize, its widely considered one of the best English Language novels of all time. It has incredible historical context and one of the most discussed books in college classrooms and critical essays ever.
The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) By Margaret Atwood
Why It’s Been Banned: It has occasional profanity, a lot of sexuality, and for purportedly being offensive to Christians.
Why It’s a Must Read: Atwood’s vision of a United States being taken over by a totalitarian, theocracy remains as terrifying and vital as ever.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1997) by J.K. Rowling
Why It’s Been Banned: For promoting witchcraft
Why It’s a Must Read: The entire Harry Potter series has become a worldwide cultural phenomenon and anyone who can read this book and not fall in love with Hogwarts is a hopeless Muggle.
Top photo from Bigstock