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Saturday, September 25, is the first day of Banned Books Week, a national celebration of our freedom to read; it was launched in 1982 in response to what organizers describe as "a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries." In anticipation of Banned Books Week, GOOD scrolled through the American Library Association's list of the 100 most frequently banned or challenged books from 2000 to 2009 and selected our 10 favorite entries.
Photo (cc) by Flickr user pcorriea
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
You might think that banning a book about the burning of books reflects especially poorly on those who propose doing so. You are correct.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The beloved story of coming of age in the Jim Crow South pits the innocence of youth against the injustice of institutionalized racism. It possesses a clear sense of morality, but its use of racial epithets has made it a target of parental outrage for decades.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Seemingly Utopian futures tend to disappoint. In the case of The Giver, a society purports to have eliminated all pain and memories of it, but one boy is tasked with carrying knowledge of all the world's pain, suffering, and love on his shoulders. A fun fact is that this probably inspired the Weezer song My Name Is Jonas, but even that won't stop parents from calling for its removal from school reading lists.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
More dystopia! Successfully banned in Ireland and the United States, the book imagines a terrifying view of the future where hedonism and passivity are commonplace. Whereas 1984 worried that the people of the future would be denied freedom to think for themselves because of the threat of pain, Brave New World fears that people will willingly surrender freedom through apathy and the pursuit of pleasure.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Profanity. Check. Sex. Check. Aliens. Check. Multiple dimensions. Check. Heartbreaking, inventive critique of war in modern life? Check, check, check. Amusingly, references to religion gave detractors an opportunity to ban it using an interpretation of the Establishment Clause, which, you have to admit, is kind of clever.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
So long as Holden Caulfield has been venturing into the city and besmirching adults as phonies, he has been the subject of book bans.
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Nobel Prize winners are not immune to having a book banned or challenged, even when said book offers one of the most enduring and creative portraits of racial identity in the 20th century.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
That a writer could think so highly of children as to craft a story that prominently features a folding of the fabric of space and time is a beautiful thing. And few stories offer as compelling a response to childhood experiences of isolation as this one. Sadly, a few people find it blasphemous.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
Who is really crazy: the mental patient, or the parents who thought this treasure was unfit for their children to read?
Draw Me a Star by Eric Carle
You probably remember Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar for its top notch artwork and tender story. This time around, Carle's story of an artist as a creator, which includes a somewhat abstractly drawn nude couple in a setting like the Garden of Eden, got parents predictably perturbed.