Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Banned book project

via Sarah J, coupla months later, mostly because this is exactly the sort of thing that I can focus on right about not.

How it works: these are the 110 top banned books. Bold what you’ve read, italicize what you’ve read part of. Read more.

#1 The Bible
#2 Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
#3 Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
#4 The Koran
#5 Arabian Nights
#6 Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
#7 Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
#8 Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
#9 Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
#10 Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
#11 Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
#12 Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
#13 Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
#14 Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
#15 Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
#16 Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
#17 Dracula by Bram Stoker
#18 Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin
#19 Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
#20 Essays by Michel de Montaigne
#21 Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
#22 History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
#23 Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
#24 Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
#25 Ulysses by James Joyce
#26 Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
#27 Animal Farm by George Orwell
#28 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
#29 Candide by Voltaire
#30 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
#31 Analects by Confucius
#32 Dubliners by James Joyce
#33 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
#34 Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
#35 Red and the Black by Stendhal
#36 Capital by Karl Marx
#37 Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
#38 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
#39 Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence
#40 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
#41 Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
#42 Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
#43 Jungle by Upton Sinclair
#44 All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
#45 Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
#46 Lord of the Flies by William Golding
#47 Diary by Samuel Pepys
#48 Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
#49 Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
#50 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
#51 Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
#52 Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
#53 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
#54 Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus
#55 Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
#56 Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
#57 Color Purple by Alice Walker
#58 Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
#59 Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke
#60 Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison
#61 Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
#62 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
#63 East of Eden by John Steinbeck
#64 Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
#65 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
#66 Confessions by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#67 Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais
#68 Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
#69 The Talmud
#70 Social Contract by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#71 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
#72 Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
#73 American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
#74 Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
#75 A Separate Peace by John Knowles
#76 Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
#77 Red Pony by John Steinbeck
#78 Popol Vuh
#79 Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith
#80 Satyricon by Petronius
#81 James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
#82 Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
#83 Black Boy by Richard Wright
#84 Spirit of the Laws by Charles de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu
#85 Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
#86 Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
#87 Metaphysics by Aristotle
#88 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
#89 Institutes of the Christian Religion by Jean Calvin
#90 Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
#91 Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
#92 Sanctuary by William Faulkner
#93 As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
#94 Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
#95 Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
#96 Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
#97 General Introduction to Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud
#98 Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
#99 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Alexander Brown
#100 Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
#101 Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines
#102 Émile by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#103 Nana by Émile Zola
#104 Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
#105 Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
#106 Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
#107 Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
#108 Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
#109 Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
#110 Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Mind you, how many of these I can -remember- more than vaguely would be a different question.

I'm still boggling over "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble." WTF? Someone has a problem with donkeys? Pebbles? Picnics?


Kristen said...


Origin of the Species is banned likely because of its religious subversiveness.

But Dostoevsky, who persuasively argues that Christianity was created to control humankind and is at it heart an unethical movement, is not listed.

If I were being unkind I might note that those deciding what books to ban...may not have read those books or understood what they were reading. Oh wait I AM that unkind. Dumbasses.

thene said...

I'm still boggling over "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble." WTF? Someone has a problem with donkeys? Pebbles? Picnics?

That's the problem with this list - it doesn't say who banned the book, how or when. Which makes the whole process look a bit suspect to me.

belledame222 said...

eh, it's still a nice reading list, if a bit foursquare.


[Points above.]

Yeah, what thene said. I, too, started reading the list and I thought, "Wait a minute; why would anyone ban that book? Or ... that one?" Then I remembered, "Oh, silly me! We're talking about people who believe in banning books. Rationality doesn't necessarily apply." ;)

Tom Nolan said...

But Dostoevsky, who persuasively argues that Christianity was created to control humankind and is at it heart an unethical movement, is not listed

One of his characters might. D himself was a Christian apologist.

Falyne said...

Actually, The Grand Inquisitor from The Brothers Karamazov was a major turning point in my evolving from "devout Christian whose social life came primarily from church youth activities" to "godless commie liberal atheist". I read it in high school, when I was on a dystopia kick. I mean, the vast majority of humanity would be happier, not to mention better off, in a modified (read: less on the racism, please) Brave New World.

The Grand Inquisitor piece, which is meant to illustrate why God gave free will and chose to allow human evil, kinda brought this into focus for me. Why, if there is a loving omnipotent God, haven't they brought about a divine utopia instead of making us suffer? And after that starting point of questioning my faith, the rest is history.

I agree that the list should add the backstory to the banning. As far as the Magic Pebble is concerned, I'm guessing it has to do with the sorcery and witchcraft being of teh Debbel. If the donkey talks, that's also a flouting of God's Rules of Nature. (NB: I'm talking out of my ass here, as I haven't read the book, or even heard of it prior to this, but that would be my guess).

Laurel said...

Isn't the title of the Toni Morrison novel The Bluest Eye?

Uppity said...

Little House on the Fucking Prairie?? Jesus H. I read that - no, memorised that - before I was 10. No wonder I'm a godless hoor, just like Half Pint.

Anonymous said...

Capital and Communist Manifesto.... don't want the proles revolting, eh...

Oh, and Rousseau's The Social Contract (""Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they.")

I just find banning bks utterly stupid, totally beyond comprehension.

Kristen said...


Eh...I'm not sure where D came out on the whole issue. He was a bit mentally unstable. But it's hard to read Brothers K without coming to the conclusion that to the extent he was a Christian, he choose religion because he didn't have faith in humanity.


I complete agree. Although for me "Rebellion" was far more moving. The abuse of children and forgiveness of said abuse is God's requirement for entrance into heaven?

But clearly Mark Twain is FAR more controversial than that...

Tom Nolan said...

Eh...I'm not sure where D came out on the whole issue. He was a bit mentally unstable. But it's hard to read Brothers K without coming to the conclusion that to the extent he was a Christian, he choose religion because he didn't have faith in humanity

Spot on! His Christianity was unworldly whereas the "Christianity "of the Grand Inquisitor is, in its twisted way, secular and eutopic and actually has no place for Christ.

Father Zossima is one of the most sympathetic characters in the book, not to mention Alyosha.

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

The American Library Association typically offers an update of banned books (or challenged--not the same thing, exactly) each year for Banned Books Week. My assumption is this list is theirs or from a similar group, and reflects the number of challenges brought to a title in public and school libraries or in school curricula nationwide. It may reflect aggregated data from a number of years, of course.

The point is that the books that are most often encountered in schools will be most often challenged. Books taught in classrooms will be challenged more often than books that sit on library shelves--because, of course, they are more likely to be assigned to someone who is offended by them (or whose parents or guardians are) than a book that isn't part of the curriculum.

Hence the preponderance of "great books" on the list.

Books found in school libraries are challenged more than ones in public libraries serving adults--again, with the idea that kids must be protected from offensive ideas.

Not all those who object to books are crackpots. As someone who teaches Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men to 9th graders, I can say that the use of the word "nigger" is really problematic in my classroom. Some students, who are in fact racist, take a trouble-making glee in using the word and citing Steinbeck's use as justification. Other students are made deeply uneasy by it, and inevitably, when the mostly-white classes at my small town school contain one or two black students, all heads turn toward the black kid in the classroom in a way that surely goes beyond uncomfortable.

While Steinbeck's use of the word is intended, beyond doubt, as a reflection of the dehumanization racism subjects people to, I'm teaching kids from an age that is still, in many cases, very literal in how they read. Many students initially believe that Steinbeck approved the racism of the characters in his novel, or believe that the word must not be as offensive as they'd thought, sometimes citing modern rap music and other uses by black writers and artists as justification for that. Some students believe the word should be removed from the book, or at least not read aloud when we read from the book.

I know all this, obviously, because I incorporate a discussion of the word in my classes when I teach it. But the discussions, valuable and rich though I believe they are, are also a mine field that even an experienced teacher might tremble to cross. It's all too easy to stumble and leave one of a thousand misimpressions. Any one of which could lead to a challenge to the book--and perhaps the end of my career as a teacher.

I have read opinions of black English teachers who would like to see books like Huckleberry Finn and Of Mice and Men removed from the curriculum, though not the library shelves. I disagree, feeling, as I do, that confronting our history of racism is part of what needs to happen in American classrooms (and especially in mostly-white classrooms like mine, where most students truly believe that there is no such thing as racism any more, even as they continue to hold stereotypes and use language that supports it). But I am uneasy as I teach. I see their point; it is so easy for discussions over these hot-button topics to spiral out of control... or for the few black kids in the classroom to be singled out in the course of having the conversation in a way that is unhelpful to anyone.

So, while I support awareness of Banned Books Week, I also support thinking deeply about the issues raised by the books we choose to teach and the books we choose to challenge. It's a lot less cut and dried--even if it's sometimes more black and white--than at first meets the eye.

Kristen said...


I hear where you're coming from. But I'm still going to have to disagree to some extent.

Every book speaks from a particular frame. A frame that implies values on everything from race and gender to socioeconomic status and nationality.

Books like Steinbeck's may make you uncomfortable for obvious reasons, but the issue is what book can you teach without dealing with these framing issues?

Should you teach Hemingway without talking about hyper-masculinization?

Should you teach Fitzgerald with out talking about white and wealth privilege?

Should you teach Homer without talking about sexism?

The problems in those books are no less real and no less troubling if introduced to a young mind without comment on the frame.

So why is it that Steinbeck is more troubling?

The reality is that every book has a perspective that should not go unexamined. Whether your average 14 year old can grasp that concept is highly debatable.

But by saying these particular books are "bad" because children aren't sophisticated enough to understand framing, we imply that its okay for children to read the "good" books because those books are appropriately framed.

So we inadvertently impart sexism, classism and racism without even considering where it is coming from.

Nella said...

Wow, at least half the texts i've taught to first year students in the past year are on that list. Plus at least half a dozen others that I read as a student. Although with the crap going down right now I wouldn't be surprised if stuff like that got investigated.

FeministGal said...

Wait, The Bible is a "banned book"? We can maintain the separation of church and state in our schools but not in our politics... interesting...

Rebecca said...

I'm just amused that James and the Giant Peach is not only on the list, but higher than, of all things, Lolita...

Cynthia said...

Hi, wanted to pipe up with something at least remotely helpful.

Here is the stupid reason "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble" was banned: because it uses pigs to represent policemen. Tada! *headdesk*

Quinn said...

re: Sylvester. Because it's teh witchcraft, of course!

Lady S said...

Yeah, seconding James and The Giant Peach - wtf?

belledame222 said...

Quinn: yeah, that's what I would've guessed eventually, but; Cynthia: you're serious?! Aiyieeeee...

James and the Giant Peach: too violent and anti-authoritah, maybe, with the peach running over the evil aunties? I don't suppose it was the Freudian symbolism of James crawling up the sticky delicious peach juice tunnel...

belledame222 said...

Kristen & Cat: yeah, agreeing more with Kristen here. also: there's a difference between "not assigning this particular book in the classroom" and BANNING it, which (I understood it to mean) would be removing it even from the library.

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