If you haven’t gotten enough recommendations for banned books this week, we’re here with a few more. Everyone on staff recommended their favorite frequently banned book and is here to tell you why you should read it anyway!
His Dark Materials Trilogy, by Philip Pullman
Banned for “political and religious viewpoint, violence”
Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy was my Harry Potter growing up, like my absolute favorite series, and it always cracked me up later to find out how widely banned it was. Everything those books were banned for went way over my head at age 10. At least now most parents tend to accept them for what they are: stellar, well-crafted, eye-opening fantasy.
The Communist Manifesto, by Marx and Engels
Banned for “being politically incendiary”
One of the most important political texts of all time, it’s not surprising that it has been subject to censorship. Still revolutionary almost 200 years later, and an important read for anyone interested in politics, economics, history…
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Banned for “offensive language and racism”
To Kill a Mockingbird is the one I always think of first. The idea of banning a book which speaks thematically against racism because it is somehow therefore racist or contains racist ideas exemplifies the illogic and the absurdity of attempting to ban books generally.
Go Tell It on The Mountain, by James Baldwin
Banned for “obscene language, rape, violence, and explicit sex”
James Baldwin’s semi-autobiographical debut is a sensitive exploration of race and evangelism, and one of my all time favorite novels. While brimming with religious doubt and blatant homo-eroticism, it is actually not “rife with profanity and explicit sex” as claimed by the Prince William County, VA school board in 1988. More likely, folks in Virginia weren’t thrilled by an openly gay African American man criticizing their religion. Regardless, this book is beautiful and should be required reading everywhere.
Grendel, by John Gardner
Banned for “depictions of torture and mutilation”
Beowulf has always been incredibly important to me from a literary standpoint–there’s something absolutely stunning about reading the oldest extant poetry in the world. And to explore that poem and figure out what was important to the unknown poet who wrote it and realize how much of it is still important to us today…there’s a connection there, something that makes humanity a little more… well, human. Grendel is an absolutely gorgeous exploration of that exact connection, and a beautiful introspection on what makes monsters monsters–and what stops them from being monsters. You do not want to miss out on that just because it’s a little violent.
Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
Banned for “violence; being unsuited to the intended age group”
This was one of my favorite books as a kid, and I was actually quite surprised it had been banned. It is a great survival story and one the first “girl power” type stories I can recall reading. Plus it’s got wolves, and I love wolves. The reason it has been banned is because of violence. It may be a lapse in memory, but I don’t recall it being that violent, at least no more violent than Hatchet (which didn’t even make it onto the Wikipedia page of most commonly challenge books in the US…just sayin’).
The Witches, by Roald Dahl
Banned for “perceived misogyny, encouraging disobedience, and supernatural themes”
Roald Dahl’s books were some of the first I can remember reading that were truly exciting. I never knew what impossible thing would happen next! To this day, anyone I talk to that read The Witches when they were young still remembers the weird peculiarities of witches and the crazy ending.
Jumper, by Steven Gould
Banned for “references to abuse toward children”
I think a banned book probably says more about the people desiring the ban than about the book. My pick this year is Jumper by Steven Gould, which is a sneaky way to spotlight a book I like a lot. The objection is that the main character is an abused child. Like no one will ever be abused if we just all agree not to mention the subject. My advice is ignore them all and enjoy a great read.
Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
Banned for “LGBT+ content”
Banning books due to LGBTQ+ content is, unfortunately, exceedingly common. This stigmatization and erasure is always damaging, but particularly so within the queer adolescent community. Levithan’s work is always brilliant, beautiful, and illuminating, and Two Boys Kissing is no exception. It also chronicles the AIDs epidemic and the different challenges each generation faces while living out and queer in America. I loved this book and wish it was required reading for students and parents alike.
And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Banned for “content regarding homosexuality and same-sex marriage”
This is one of my favorite books–my child and I have read it more times than I can count. What baffles my mind is why would this book be banned? This book is a story of penguins, adoption, family, but above all love. Families are made in many different ways and families all look different; what better way to expose your children to those truths than through an adorable book that explores heavy topics with childlike wonder and pictures. Children are accepting of things they are introduced to pretty easily, hate is something they are taught…maybe as adults we could all learn something from kids in that sense.
We hope this list helps your TBR pile gain a little bit of freadom. (Click on the title of the book to find it online, or call the store to reserve any of these!)
You can find out more about Banned Books Week here.