The freedom to read


grapes of wrath burningThis photo shows The Grapes of Wrath burning burned in a crop-picking town in California in the early 1940s.

As you may or may not already know, this week is the American Library Association's Annual Banned Books Week. Every year during the last week of September, the ALA does events and outreach to fight book bannings and promote freedom of information. What WINOW reader can't get behind that? As a little banned books week exercise, I thought I'd take a look at the list of 2007's most challenged books and see how many of them I've read (the ones I've read are in bold):

  1. "And Tango Makes Three," by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
    Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

  2. "The Chocolate War," by Robert Cormier
    Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

  3. "Olive's Ocean," by Kevin Henkes
    Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language

  4. "The Golden Compass," by Philip Pullman
    Reasons: Religious Viewpoint

  5. "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," by Mark Twain
    Reasons: Racism

  6. "The Color Purple," by Alice Walker
    Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language

  7. "TTYL," by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

  8. "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," by Maya Angelou
    Reasons: Sexually Explicit

  9. "It's Perfectly Normal," by Robie Harris
    Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

  10. "The Perks of Being A Wallflower," by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

Guess I'm going to have to try harder. I do slightly better on most challenged books of the 21st century list, though:

  1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  2. "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier
  3. Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  4. "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck
  5. "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou
  6. "Fallen Angels" by Walter Dean Myers
  7. "It's Perfectly Normal" by Robie Harris
  8. Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz
  9. Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey
  10. "Forever" by Judy Blume

How about you? Have you read a banned book lately? This week would be an excellent time to pick one up!


I often wear a swastika armband.. those are banned in Germany. Does that count, or is fashion not literature?

I've been reading the Earth's Children (Clan of the Cave Bear) series; currently on book 5. They are #20 on the top 100 most frequently banned books of 1990-2000, mostly because of sex.

I've gotten a variety of reactions from people when they see what I'm reading, which was unexpected at first and continues to amuse me. I think what's offensive about the books to people (and part of the reason why I like them) is that humans are portrayed as one extreme along an animal continuum. Sex is treated frankly and is considered to be as much a part of human/animal nature as hunting or gathering. I guess that just makes sense to the biologist in me, but obviously not everyone is used to thinking that way.

Anyhow, no one believes me when I tell them that I read the books because I like the protagonist, and I love the attention to Upper Paleolithic geology, botany, and ecology. The author did a ton of research for these books, and it shows.

I am a grown woman and I still read the Scary Stories book. I remember finding it at a book fair as a child. I still love it, the illustrations are amazing.


long time lurker here. I typed your URL one day awhile ago at work when, guess what, no one was watching and.....was happy to read the interesting items from a fellow Austinite.

Have you in my Google Reader, but there might be a snafu with your .rss feed which is giving the error:

There has been an error of some kind. Ack!
FeedBurner could not deliver this feed to you because of the specific problem listed below:

HTTP Error (Code) and Message: (404) Feed not found error: FeedBurner cannot locate this feed URI.

You might contact the URL admin.

Just an fyi, and feel free to delete this comment since it is not relevant to post.

Regards, Mitch

Define "irony":

Guess what book is #72 on the ALA's list of Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books in 2000-2007?

Fahrenheit 451

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