I’m a little late, since the week is almost over, but I wanted to put my two cents in on Banned Books Week.  The American Library Association describes the event as “an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.  …Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.”  A banned book is defined as one that has been removed from a school’s curriculum or a library, thereby restricting access.  A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials.

Much has been written this week in support of the first amendment and free access to the written word and against censorship.  I’ve provided links to some that I’ve enjoyed later in the post.  In the meantime, I decided it would be interesting to make a list of all the books I’ve read that appear on the most often banned or challenged lists.  This list undoubtedly constitutes a fraction of the total number of banned books I’ve read, since only those that get consistently challenged or are successfully banned appear on the lists.

It is fair to say that I simply would not be the same person without some of these books.  Shel Silverstein?  Roald Dahl?  Judy Blume?  Katherine Paterson?  S.E. Hinton?  Madeleine L’Engle?  Hello???  That’s my whole youth up in flames right there.  On a side note, I chuckled to myself at the omission of one of my most beloved books of all time – Eloise, by Kay Thompson.  I’m wondering how she escaped the would-be banners’ eyes.  In it, the adults drink, smoke, and gamble.  There is an abstentee parent (perhaps even an unwed mother – we’re never quite sure).  Eloise runs unsupervised around the Plaza Hotel in various states of undress, commits acts of vandalism, taunts her tutor endlessly and says, “For Lord’s Sake” a LOT.

But I digress… Here’s my list:

  1. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt
  2. Deenie, Blubber, Tiger Eyes, Are You There God it’s Me Margaret? and Forever, by Judy Blume (Interesting that Then Again Maybe I Won’t isn’t on the list.  Is that because it’s puberty from the male point of view?)
  3. James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
  4. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  5. Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
  6. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
  7. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
  8. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson (the source of recent outrage after an attempted removal from a school curriculum in Missouri – more below)
  9. It’s Not the Stork, by Robie Harris
  10. The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
  11. That Was Then, This is Now, by S.E. Hinton
  12. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  13. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving (My ALL-TIME favorite book!)
  14. Carrie, Christine and Cujo, by Stephen King (I guess the banners got tired after getting through King’s “C” titles.  It sort of seems like if you ban one you’ve gotta ban ’em all, right?)
  15. Animal Dreams and The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver
  16. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
  17. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  18. Twilight (series), by Stephenie Meyer (On the claim it’s sexually explicit.  Really?  Cause I thought we had to read 3000 pages before they had sex, and that was AFTER they were married – at age 18).
  19. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
  20. 1984, by George Orwell
  21. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
  22. Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
  23. Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson (My favorite childhood book)
  24. My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult
  25. Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey (Yes I’ve read it.  Kids live in my house)
  26. How to Eat Fried Worms, by Thomas Rockwell
  27. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
  28. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  29. The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
  30. A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein (All I can say is… SERIOUSLY?)
  31. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
  32. Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
  33. The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan
  34. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  35. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  36. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

Some Links on Banned Books Week

Speak Loudly – posts on the attempt to remove Speak from a high school curriculum in Missouri

  • This Guy Thinks SPEAK is Pornography – Laurie Halse Anderson’s “post that launched 1000+ tweets.”  Also read her subsequent posts about the firestorm of support that’s come from readers, writers and literary folks of all kinds.
  • Speak Loudly – In Defense of Laurie Halse Anderson – MUST READ post by Myra McEntire: a Christian’s perspective
  • Speaking Out – Nine Kinds of Pie
  • SpeakLoudly.org – a blog launched in response to the challenge to Speak in MO
  • Speak Loudly – by Alvina Ling at the Blue Rose Girls, which includes many more links
  • Speak Loudly! Speak Out Against Censorship – by Ingrid Sundberg
  • And many, many more…  Also this ad that ran in the New York Times today:

A Few Quotes

“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” — Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.

“Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.” — Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

“Books won’t stay banned.  They won’t burn.  Ideas won’t go to jail.  In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost.  The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.” — Alfred Whitney Griswold

“What progress we are making.  In the Middle Ages they would have burned me.  Now they are content with burning my books.” — Sigmund Freud

“Whenever I read about someone trying to ban a book in a school or library, it usually seems like they are trying to avoid a conversation with their kids that they ought to be having. Whether it’s reminders of unpleasantness in the world, or just a different point of view, it’s condescending to think that kids can’t handle tough ideas.” — MK Reed

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” — Voltaire

What banned book or books have made a huge difference in your life?

Categories: Authors, Books, Childhood, Children's Books · Tags: , , , ,



  1. Great post! Nice job of getting everything going on around the blogosphere summarized!

    • Thanks Lisa! I’m sure I didn’t even get a fraction of what was out there, but there are many more links inside the links I provided, so you could read to your heart’s content about banned books!

      It’s been very inspiring to watch so many people rally behind Speak…

  2. Amazing how many amazing books have been on the banned books list.

    Thanks, Julie.

  3. Wow, many of my very favorite books are on that list–the ones that really spoke to me when I read them. They made me think about the world in a different way. Or opened my eyes to events that hadn’t before seemed real.

    I have to think it’s the very power of these books to make us feel, to make us think about the world in a new way, that scares people. Thank goodness banning usually has the unintended effect of boosting sales. 🙂

    Thanks for this great overview of what’s going on in the blogosphere, Julie!

  4. OWEN MEANY is one of my favorites, too. 🙂

  5. I’ve read a number of them from your list. Grapes of Wrath, 1984, Animal Farm, Of Mice and Men, Huck Finn were particularly enlightening reads. They are banned? Problem with book banning: where, when, how and who finally draws the line and says, “Ok, we’ve banned enough now?” With true education, you don’t have to worry about banning books. People can make up their own minds about right/wrong, good/bad, etc. Good post.

    Enjoyed the visit. You have a good blog. wb

  6. Okay, I’m back. I have an award for you at my blog. 🙂

  7. You did a great job with #speakingLoudly and Banned Book Week.

  8. Valerie Larson-Howard

    It amazes me how many great books have been on a banned book list. You listed many of my favorites, and the Captain Underpants books are awesome!!

  9. This really solved my problem, thank you!

  10. I am really enjoying the theme/design of your web site. Do you ever run into any web browser compatibility problems? A number of my blog audience have complained about my blog not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Firefox. Do you have any recommendations to help fix this issue?

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