When I was growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana’s attorney general made a really big deal about banning Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. The owner of a downtown scholastic bookstore was arrested and prosecuted for selling it “under the counter.” I also remember seeing paperbacks with a banner across the top proudly proclaiming that particular book was “banned in Boston.” I often wished one of my books would be banned. It’s not only a badge of honor but likely to increase sales. It’s not so much fun for librarians who have to deal with irate citizens who think they have the right to control what other people read. Every year the American Library Association (ALA) sponsors “Banned Book Week,” reminding the public that librarians across the country must still deal with serious attempts at censorship.
Books like Fifty Shades of Gray are expected to stir up some dust. It stirred up so much, in fact, that it sold like i-Phones and spawned sequels and clones. For reasons less obvious such books such as J. K. Rowlings’ Henry Potter series, (books that inspired more children to read than any Dick and Jane book ever written), scare parents because they allow children to think for themselves. Below is a list from the ALA of some of the 20th Century classics medieval library-goers want removed from library shelves. What they’ve actually created is a valuable set of important books to add to our bucket lists.
Crime fiction, the usual subject for this blog, has for the most part, slid under blue-nose radar. However, Thrilling Detective web site editor Kevin Burton Smith notes that Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man as well as James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice were honored with a “banned in Boston” distinction. These four books, of course, are considered by many crime fiction lovers to be among the very best of the genre.
The ALA Most Challenged Book List
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Ulysses, by James Joyce
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
1984, by George Orwell
Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Native Son, by Richard Wright
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
Banned Book Week begins today (September 21). Libraries and bookstores are highlighting the event. For a list of independent bookstores, click here. For a list of mystery bookstores, please click here.