Happy Banned Books Week!!
Not exactly sure what this means? Banned Books Week is, essentially, the annual celebration of our freedom to read, highlighting and giving appreciation to those young adult books that, for racial, social, or other issues, are frequently challenged or banned by public schools and libraries in America. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community - from readers and authors to booksellers, librarians, publishers, and teachers - for the purpose of supporting the freedom to express ideas - even ideas that may be radical or unconventional.
Just because some books are branded with this “banned” tag does not mean they still don’t have merit or aren’t worthy of reading. As long as they are read in their correct “context,” or for their literary value, readers can still learn a lot from the lessons and themes they contain. To celebrate #BannedBooksWeek, here is our roundup of favorite “banned” books, including our Novel Conversations podcast episodes on each book for those who want to learn more about each one!
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding- This dystopian novel centers around a group of British boys whose plane crashes into an uninhabited island, leaving them stranded and forcing them to make their own hard decisions, including figuring out how to govern themselves. Rife with profanity, lewdness, and violence, it is understandable why this book has been challenged since its publication in 1954. And yet, it contains essential lessons about the loss of innocence and warnings about what could happen if we choose to act forcefully, savagely enforcing our will over others, rather than living civilly and peaceably by the rules. It definitely merits some consideration! Listen to our podcast episode on this novel to hear more about the story and the central conflicts.
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley - Similar to Lord of the Flies, Brave New World is another classic dystopian novel with some dark content but important lessons and overall themes. The story takes place in a futuristic world filled with genetic modification and scientific “developments” related to reproductive technology, sleep training, and psychological manipulation. Because the book’s depiction of recreational sex has been taken mistakenly as endorsement, it is one the most notorious “banned” books. And yet...what is Aldous Huxley really saying in this dystopian fiction novel? Listen to our podcast episode on this book to discover more about it.
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - This is not the only book of Steinbeck’s to be banned (in fact, a whole book has been written on why his books are frequently censored and banned!), and it does, in fact, contain a lot of questionable content - offensive language, racism, and violence, to name the big ones. But despite its ban-worthy content, it is also an award-winning book praised for its Depression-era realism with its memorable characters. Steinbeck based this novella on his own experiences working with migrant farm workers in the 1910s. Find out more about this classic novella in our podcast episode!
- For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway - Like many Hemingway novels, this one contains plenty of hard, ugly scenes from war. This book, especially, describes the severity of civil war with surprising graphic violence. However, Hemingway often writes from experience, and this book is no exception, as the experiences and thoughts of Robert Jordan are inspired by Hemingway’s own experiences in the Spanish Civil War. And yet the main reason that this book is commonly challenged and banned is for its supposed pro-Communist views, for it contains several references to Marxism as well as the Communist party slogan. Learn more about the storyline of this classic war-time novel on the podcast and decide if it merits reading for yourself!
- The Giver by Lois Lowry - Although a more contemporary novel, The Giver is quickly establishing itself as a “classic” due to its treatment of universal truths and weighty ideas, such as the importance of freedom, choice, memory, and individuality. As young Jonas discovers that his seemingly perfect world contains many big and dark secrets, he is faced with some hard choices that help the reader reflect on his or her own decisions. It is an important book, despite the fact that it has been banned due to its obscene language, sexuality, and violence. Listen to our episode on Lois Lowry’s soon-to-be-classic story of growth set in a dystopian society before diving into the book yourself.