Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Banned Books on my To Read List

September 26, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the theme is Top Ten Books with ____ Characters. However, since it is Banned Book Week, I chose to deviate and develop my own list. So MY theme for this week is: Top Ten Banned Books on my TBR.

Banned Books Week is an annual celebration in America hosted by a national alliance of diverse organizations called the Banned Books Week Coalition. They seek to “engage various communities and inspire participation in Banned Books Week through education, advocacy, and the creation of programming about book censorship.”

I always try to host some banned book awareness posts each year during banned books week. So, I did a takeover of the Top Ten Tuesday list. I’m sure The Broke and the Bookish don’t mind. 😉

 

All titles below are links to the book’s Goodreads page.


 

Top 10 Banned Books on my To Read List

 

I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel

This book is at the top of my list because, in 2015, Jazz Jennings was slated to come to a nearby community and read her book to the students of the Mount Horeb, Wisconsin school district. I was psyched to go! However, the Liberty Counsel, a Flordia based group, threatened to sue. The school district couldn’t afford court fees, so they just canceled the event. I am STILL furious! Don’t bully my school district! You don’t even KNOW this community! Ugh. Anyway — this book is the semi-autobiography of the transgender identity realization of Jazz Jennings.

 

Deenie by Judy Blume

I almost hate to admit that I’m not a huge Judy Blume fan. I love the subjects she writes about, but I always struggle to get invested in her writing. That said, Deenie is on my TBR because it’s one of the many books Rory Gilmore reads/possesses at some point during The Gilmore Girls. I’m making a loose attempt to read most of these books. Sadly, it was challenged by parents in the Spring Hill Elementary School District in Hernando County, Florida back in 2004 due to passages which directly address masturbation. The school district decided to retain the title, but students were required to acquire written parental permission before they could read it. *Sigh*

 

 

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

I read Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth back in 2015 and I really enjoyed it. But, I have to be in the right mood for a short story collection. The Namesake is a literary fiction novel by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, but that didn’t stop the literature committee of the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho school district from banning this book in 2015 because it contains “descriptions of sexual content that are too explicit for high school seniors”. Trust me, they’ve already read/seen worse.

 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

This classic novel was removed from a required Freshmen English curriculum in Annapolis, Maryland in 2006 because of mature content, such as the book’s rape scenes. This book has been on my TBR for years, but I am even more motivated to read it after Evalina’s review a few weeks ago. I have a feeling I might adore this book, even if she didn’t! After all, I did adore Mom & Me and Mom

 

 

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

I have never read Murakami but so many of my friends recommend his works! I have most of his novels on my TBR, but Norwegian Wood is fairly high up due to the banning. In 2011 the parents of Monroe Township Schools in Williamstown New Jersey complained about a gay sex scene resulting in this classic being pulled from the required summer reading list. 

 

 

 

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

I adore Neil Gaiman’s writing. This book has been on my TBR since I discovered him. In 2013 Neverwhere was removed from the Alamogordo, New Mexico high school library and curriculum because of “inappropriate content”. I fell in love with Gaiman, the man, even more, when I read his rebuttal published in The Guardian:

Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’ love of reading. Stop them reading what they enjoy or give them the worthy-but-dull books that you like — the twenty-first-century equivalent of Victorian “improving” literature– you’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and, worse, unpleasant.”

Love you, Neil.

 

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Since its publication in 2006, Looking for Alaska has been challenged or banned almost every year in one city or another. In both 2008 and 2009 in Depew, New York. In 2012 Knox County, Tennessee. In 2013 in Verona, New Jersey. In 2014 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. In 2016 in Lumberton Township, New Jersey. Despite the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature bestowed upon this book, parents all over America feel this book is “too racy to read”.

 

Bone by Jeff Smith

This is a bit of a cheat, I will admit. Bone has been on my TBR since I was in high school. I picked up the first edition of Bone in our high school library because the author had also attended my school! I was so excited to find a published comic from someone connected to me in some fashion. However, I was never able to finish the series and time got away from me. I definitely want to finish it some day. Why was it challenged? Parents in Rosemount, Minnesota found the content (smoking, drinking, and gambling) inappropriate for elementary school kids. Too bad it’s rated suitable for 4th grade and above and has received positive reviews and praise from the likes as Time, saying “best all-ages graphic novel ever published”. Take that, concerned parents.

 

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

You might be surprised at the repeated nature of book challenges, but The Pillars of the Earth was pulled from a senior English Honors class in Troy, Pennsylvania after parents expressed concerns with the sexual content of the book. This book is about the building of a cathedral, people. It’s not that risque. And it’s THICK.

 

The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers

This book is one of my sister’s all-time favorite novels, and I am remiss in not having read it yet. Also a major motion picture, The Freedom Writer’s Diary is a powerful story about overcoming society’s expectations of you. And yet, it was challenged in 2007 (along with a number of other books) in Howell, Michigan due to strong sexual content. Specifically, this was a challenge to see if these books had broken laws again the distribution of sexually explicit materials to minors. Upon review, the court disagreed, saying:

After reading the books in question, it is clear that the explicit passages illustrated a larger literary, artistic, or political message and were not included solely to appeal to the prurient interests of minors.

 

While I might have repurposed this Top Ten Tuesday, I think it was the right thing to do. It’s important that we challenge the challengers– step up and ensure freedom of speech is protected by the freedom to read what you want. Expect more from me throughout the week as I post reviews of banned books I’ve read this year, as well as some commentary on the challenging and banning of books worldwide. I look forward to sharing all this with you!


What do you think?

  • Did you participate in Top Ten Tuesday? Share your links below!
  • Have you read any of these books? Where do you recommend I start?
  • Are you participating in Banned Books Week? If so, share your posts below!
  • What banned and challenged books have you read recently?

42 Comments

  • Lost In A Good Book September 26, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    Happy Banned Books Week! 😀

    • Jackie B September 26, 2017 at 7:14 pm

      Thank you, Crystal!! I am super excited to be participating. 🙂

  • Dani @ Perspective of a Writer September 26, 2017 at 6:33 pm

    Very cool list Jackie… amazing how many books are kept out of schools for sexual material! I personally would have been happy to have The Pillars of the Earth banned in my school since it’s so thick. Funny though I read all sorts of classics with “questionable” material in high school, lol.

    • Jackie B September 29, 2017 at 9:35 am

      There are TONS of classics which have been challenged and banned! Fahrenheit 451, The Scarlet Letter, The Hobbit, Lord of the Flies even A Farewell to Arms. Basically, if it’s a classic, it’s been challenged at some point. I’ve read all of those, however. 😉

      It’s so silly how upset parent groups get at what their kids (or other people’s kids) are reading. What people decide is questionable baffles me. I just want to make certain people, Americans in particular, realize this is happening and they take a stand for it!

  • Grab the Lapels September 26, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    Maya Angelou’s book is an autobiography, actually. She was assaulted and also worked as a prostitute for a time to care for her family.

    • Grab the Lapels September 26, 2017 at 7:13 pm

      I just remembered that my 10th grade lit teacher didn’t like Angelou because she was a “lady of the night” (how my teacher said it). So, I didn’t like Angelou for a long time because I was a nerd who listened to adults.

      • Jackie B September 26, 2017 at 7:55 pm

        Hahaha! That line, “…because I was a nerd who listened to adults.” So true. I also felt that way a about a lot of things. Or I completely distrusted them and I hated everything they told me to love. Ah, adolescence….

        • Grab the Lapels September 27, 2017 at 6:02 am

          I’m currently teaching a rhetorical analysis paper, and my mantra is “trust nothing until it’s verified!”

          • Jackie B September 29, 2017 at 9:45 am

            I feel like I need to write that on a banner and carry it around with me. I’m so used to reading fiction that when it comes to non-fiction, I just blindly accept far too much. Or, well, history in general.

    • Jackie B September 26, 2017 at 7:51 pm

      That poor woman. She had such a rough life! I guess I did know that, now that I stop to think about it. The first of many, right?

  • Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity September 26, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    I find the whole concept of banned books incredibly fascinating because, as far as I’m aware, there is no such thing in Australia. I mean, during the early to late 1900s there were, but nothing like the scale of the US! I don’t understand why banning books is a thing. It seems so utterly ridiculous to me, especially ones that are so important, like I Am Jazz. I guess I just hope that people come to their senses one day and realise that banning things usually makes people want to consume whatever is banned more than they did BEFORE it was banned.

    Anyway. I haven’t read any of the books on this list! But I just added I Am Jazz to the TBR because LGBTQIA+ kid lit is so important!

    I hope you like all of these books when you get around to them, Jackie 😀

    • Jackie B September 27, 2017 at 8:37 am

      I totally agree with you; banning books is such a strange thing. I don’t understand why religious or political groups (which lead the majority of challenges in the US) feel the need to “protect” the youth of the world by limiting their access to these books. It makes me quite sad, actually. This is the complexity of our 1st Amendment to the US Constitution– the one granting freedom to religion, speech, press, and assembly. Where does the line get drawn between protection and limitation? When do parents/teachers stop having the right to control curriculum? It’s so complicated.

      I’m glad that you added I Am Jazz to your TBR! George is also a commonly banned LGBTQIA+ book, but I read it this year (I hope to post my review this week to celebrate banned book week!); have you read George yet?

  • Greg Hill September 26, 2017 at 11:52 pm

    I don’t think I’ve read very many banned books. I’m sorry to hear about I Am Jazz. That is a shame. And Bone was challenged? Wow I had no idea. I haven’t read the entire series but I have read most of it, and I think it’s fabulous for kids. That one’s pretty silly.

    http://gregsbookhaven.blogspot.com/

    • Jackie B September 29, 2017 at 9:41 am

      You might be surprised to see what books have been banned and challenged over the years, honestly. Just like Bone is a weird one, The Hobbit was challenged due to the fact that the dwarves are smokers! Seriously. So weird.

  • Ashley @ Caught Reading Redheaaded September 27, 2017 at 1:25 am

    I’m always amazed as to way people want to ban a book. Unwinding by Neal Shusterman is one of thought provoking books I have ever read, and I’ve read where several schools shut it out, because of the theme. THeir loss to actually think.
    Ashley @ Caught Reading Redheaded
    My Post

    • Jackie B September 29, 2017 at 9:43 am

      Right?! It’s so silly how many books have been banned due to silly reasons and then the students are missing out on such amazing critical learning opportunities. Plus, I feel like the literary dissection students get in school is enough to help them separate out the “bad” stuff and recognize this is being used as a literary tool in most cases.

      Unwinding is on my TBR; I’ve heard great things about it! I’m glad you enjoyed it so much.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Ashley!! You are welcome any time. 🙂

  • Laila@BigReadingLife September 27, 2017 at 11:49 am

    Nice list! I will never, ever, EVER understand the desire to ban certain books from schools. It’s fine if you decide that YOUR child shouldn’t read a book – well, not exactly FINE, but understandable – but to have the nerve to say that EVERYONE ELSE’S child can’t read it either and it should be pulled? That’s just so arrogant and ignorant. This obviously touches a nerve with me!

    • Jackie B September 29, 2017 at 9:49 am

      I completely agree! Personally, I believe that parents have a right to limit what their children are reading, but only in the sense that they are guiding them towards success. For example, when I was a kid I had nightmares regularly after reading Goosebumps books. My parents eventually took them away from me with the understanding that I just wasn’t old enough to understand it yet.

      That said– don’t be that person who fights to “protect” everyone else’s kids. Ugh. It just gets me angry. What, you don’t think these parents are good enough? Attentive enough? Oh, my kids are certainly going to be on the front line of reading banned and challenged books. For sure.

      You’re a librarian, yes? Does your library do anything to celebrate Banned Books Week? Have you ever had to work with book challenges?

      • Laila@BigReadingLife October 9, 2017 at 11:02 am

        I am a branch assistant in a library but do not have a library degree. I personally have not had to deal with book challenges. I’m sure the system has dealt with it though. But I did put up a display of commonly banned books for Banned Books Week! 🙂

        • Jackie B October 12, 2017 at 1:28 pm

          Pft, library science degree or not, you are a librarian in my eyes. Branch assistants help me more often than those with the degrees! Typically I don’t need any fancy research or whatnot, just help locating a book right in front of my eyes… O_o

          I’m glad that your library participated in Banned Books Week! That fills me with joy. Any favorites you put up?

          • Laila@BigReadingLife October 12, 2017 at 2:25 pm

            A degree doesn’t guarantee good customer service skills or a passion for reading, that’s for sure. 🙂 Thanks for the kind words.

            Well, for example, I put up I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and The Color Purple by Alice Walker, those are two amazing books. I would have put up The Handmaid’s Tale but it stays checked out these days!

            • Jackie B October 13, 2017 at 11:58 am

              I haven’t read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings yet, but it’s on my TBR. I *adore* The Color Purple and The Handmaid’s Tale— I haven’t seen the TV show for the latter, but I’m glad it is keeping the book checked out. Very powerful.

  • Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks September 28, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    America is such a land of wonders indeed! It doesn’t cease to baffle me 😀 it is the source of promiscuity in the world, it brought the objectification of the woman, mostly, and the sexual revolution, and keeps making it clear that sex is all that matters through its media. BUT, oh but! They ban books for hints of it 😀 it’s just SO funny I can’t even.
    They don’t really ban books in schools here. Not so much a thing 🙂
    Thanks for mentioning me! Oh, also, Neverwhere is one of my favorites 🙂

    • Jackie B September 29, 2017 at 11:12 am

      Right?! It also makes sense that America can be so prudish– we are a country born from religious intolerance, right? For example, the Puritans were too conservative for England, so they sought freedom in America. The extreme religious conservatism is at the center of this, in my personal opinion. But, at the end of the day, if Americans are making money off something they aren’t going to stop– hence the focus on sex in the media. It’s making so many dollars!

      The process to challenge a book is quite easy. Freedom of speech and all that. But getting to the point where a book is properly banned takes quite a bit more work. It’s astounding how often it still happens… 🙁

      I’m so glad that schools aren’t banning books in Lithuania! Keep up the great work! 😀 Also– I’ll make certain Neverwhere gets pushed up on my list. Did you read the text or listen to the audiobook? They have a full-cast version of the audiobook I’m considering listening to….

      • Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks October 3, 2017 at 1:11 am

        I read the book 🙂 I think it would be good in both formats. It was just great 🙂

        • Jackie B October 8, 2017 at 7:59 am

          I’m so glad you enjoyed Neverwhere! It’s definitely on my shortlist. High praise from you means a lot to me and my TBR. 😉

  • Annemieke September 29, 2017 at 6:03 am

    Neil is fairly great.
    So sad t hear about the response to I Am Jazz like that. That sounds like such an important book. <3

    • Jackie B October 2, 2017 at 9:30 am

      It is! I was really heartbroken. I think it’s important that we introduce kids to the ideas of transgender identity early on in life. I want them to understand what it means before puberty hits them and they are EVEN MORE confused!

  • Lauren Stoolfire (@SunSoar25) September 29, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    Neverwhere was actually my first Gaiman book- hope you like it!

    Lauren @ Always Me

    • Jackie B October 3, 2017 at 3:45 pm

      Did you enjoy Neverwhere? My first Gaiman book was Good Omens, but I didn’t fall completely in love with him until I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane. His writing is so addicting!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Lauren!

  • theorangutanlibrarian October 7, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    Wait what Deenie was a banned book?!? So bizarre- to be honest I read that when I was in highschool and I can’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be given to teens- heck I’d give it to my future children (same goes for a lot of Blumes work) Don’t get me wrong, I totally get why you didn’t connect with them- they’re not great books- but they’re useful as educational tools (IMO). Especially since Deenie deals with subjects that are often taboo or just plain awkward to talk about (so I guess I answered my own question as to why it’s banned- still silly though) To be honest, I don’t get why any books are banned- it’s ludicrous! I mean the fact that John Green makes it onto the list totally sums up how ridiculous these bans often are! And I love Neverwhere. I still need to read Maya Angelou.

    • Jackie B October 9, 2017 at 5:30 pm

      I know, right?! Deenie has been banned for “themes deemed inappropriate for adolescents”, specifically masturbation and sexuality. O_o So embarrassing. We are totally a country built on sexual oppression. Because you’re right– this is a great book to be used as an educational tool! How else can we get students to break down the societal barriers restricting them from talking about these critical things?! Ugh. Worst.

      I personally think all banning is ridiculous, honestly. But that’s why we celebrate Banned Book Week. Help educate the world!

      • theorangutanlibrarian October 10, 2017 at 8:49 am

        Ridiculous! :/ Blume is such a great author for educating people in my opinion.

        Yes absolutely agree!! Besides I think that even if people don’t agree with something, they should at least have the wherewithal to know the arguments for and against. Most of the time though, people doing the banning seem to have it in for silly things like Harry Potter cos it’s got witches in it *facepalms*

        • Jackie B October 13, 2017 at 10:30 am

          I completely agree. I personally don’t really connect to Blume’s writing style, but I appreciate what she has brought into the conversation for younger readers. This makes her books all great for the classroom too.

          There are soooo many dumb reasons books are banned. The Hobbit was banned because the Dwarves are *smoking* in the book. Seriously? They mention pipes. Ugh. Worst. I just hope we can help educate people to know the for and against arguments. We don’t teach debate in school often enough. We totally need more of that.

          • theorangutanlibrarian October 14, 2017 at 2:42 pm

            That’s totally fair. I don’t think her writing is particularly good tbh, but I had such a curious mind as a younger reader that I read so many of them.

            Seriously?!?! That’s nuts!!!!! It’s not even like people smoke pipes anymore!!! What’s even more ridiculous is there’s so many morals in those books… Actually I don’t know why I’m humouring this- it’s just nonsense. Yes for sure.

            • Jackie B October 16, 2017 at 9:51 pm

              100% nonsense. Welcome to America. 😉

  • Sarah @ Reviews and Readathons October 9, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    I’ve read 2 of these: Pillars of the Earth (which I remember a friend reading for a class at my Catholic high school) and Neverwhere. I honestly have no idea why Neverwhere was considered inappropriate. It’s such a good fantasy novel–and it deals a lot with seeing people who normally go unseen in our society today. There were definitely parts that were creepy & violent, but no worse than anything on TV today (like, say, the news). Pillars of the Earth does have some sexual content–but not a lot of explicit (or possibly any) content. So interesting what the dominant culture chooses to ban, isn’t it?

    • Jackie B October 13, 2017 at 10:00 am

      Neverwhere was banned for this passage. It’s so silly; for basically one paragraph in passing which isn’t key to the text. That’s it. There are probably more violent passages, but our country is build on sexual suppression really… so, this isn’t all that surprising.

      It’s super interesting what people choose to ban. Honestly, I don’t get it. Why is sex worse than violence?

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