Banned Books Week

Opening up the WordPress homepage in my browser, about to write a review I was distracted by a featured post from what looks to be rather a fab book blog The Insatiable Book Sluts. Firstly what a brilliant name and wow, what great combination of entertaining + thoughtful content and a pithy sense of humour.

Anyway, their most recent post What subversives are you reading has made me aware that Banned Books Week, sponsored by the American Library Association, The American Booksellers Association for Free Expression, and The National Coalition Against Censorship is running from 24th September-1st October. I’ve never heard of this – probably because it’s American. Also I never realised just how many associations needed to be set up in the US especially to lobby against censorship!! There is also a UK Banned Books website too by the way.

US banned books banner courtesy of DML East’s Flickr stream


Realistically I’m probably not going to squeeze in any additional reading especially for Banned Books Week. I am not even halfway through Daphne by Justine Picardie in preparation for the Discovering Daphne readalong that Savidge Reads and myself are running in October (starting with her first book The Loving Spirit – which I haven’t read yet and need to by 1st October), and have my book group read for Riverside Readers Dark Matter by Juli Zeh. However I will certainly having a little think about the banned or challenged books that I’ve read in the past.

Curiously some of the banned books I have read such as Lady Chatterly’s Lover, and Lolita I knew had been banned but in my naivete, I never realised that books like The Grapes of Wrath, or Catcher in the Rye, or The Great Gatsby (for goodness sakes!) had been so controversial at the time of publishing.

Did you know, that Jack London’s Call of the Wild was burned by the Nazis for being too socialist, that The Diary of Anne Frank was banned in the Lebanon for being too favourable towards Jews, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland was banned in China’s Hunnan province for portraying animals on the same level as humans?

Quite honestly, censorship makes me feel a little bit queasy. In my view people should be able to choose what they do and do not want to read themselves and with children, it is the responsibility of the parents, not the state. For example, should Mein Kampf be banned? I would think that most people would feel uncomfortable reading it in public (brown paper cover anyone?) but it has it’s place in history . Though people with racist or far-right opinions might find it feeds their own existing views I don’t believe someone who starts out a moderate thinker would really be ‘turned’ to support Hitler’s views unless they are at least in part pre-disposed in the first place. Strongly secular people might wish that The Bible was banned for example as – look at the cult following that one has (Joke) – and that would considered a massive violation of people’s religious freedoms.

Banned Books Decal from Cafe Press


Isn’t it unfeasible to expect governments to try to stop someone reading it or being impressed by a book? This is why we have a national curriculum to help put events from our past in context and broaden not narrow people’s views so that they can come to what we hope is an educated and informed point of view rather than trying to control people’s thoughts (like in Orwell’s Nineteen Eight-Four, another banned book!). I believe that exposing ourselves to a myriad of reading experiences makes us more thoughtful and open minded. Many of the banned books that I have read in the past have been wonderful books, books that have challenged me, opened my eyes to problems in society, racial tensions, bitter struggles.

Anyway, call me contrary, but doesn’t banning a book only make it more intriguing?

What banned books have you read? Will you take part in Banned Books Week? Do you think there is ever a case for censorship?

13 responses to “Banned Books Week

  1. An interesting post and I was intrigued by the list of ‘banned’ books. If someone bans a book it just adds to the intrigue then more people want to read it! If there was not the fuss then I am sure hardly anyone would have read some of these fantastic books.

    I hope you enjoy Daphne by Justine Picardie, it was a very interesting read. Will be joining in Daphne month.

    • I like the idea that banning books has helped to highlight many a great work! That’s irony for you…

      I’m really enjoying Daphne. Am hoping to make time for a good reading session tonight!

  2. Thank you for your kind words about our blog 🙂 (curtsies)

  3. I have to agree with you that when a book is banned, that only heightens the interest in it – esp. among younger people. I don’t have time to squeeze in the banned book week themed reading, but I’m looking forward to the Discovering Daphne month. Have a great week!

  4. Did you know that Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns was banned in Ireland?! Odd. I must confess, though, that my interest isn’t really raised by banned books… I do believe books shouldn’t be banned (although a lot should be ignored!) but quite often I think the reasons they were banned might make them not my cup of tea earlier (if it’s violence, or being unnecessarily antagonistic against something). But that reason for banning Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is hilarious!

    • Interesting that Comyns was banned in Ireland!

      That’s why we bloggers are here isn’t it? To help recommend the books that are worth reading and can be ignored ( in our opinions 😉 )

  5. I felt a little guilty letting out a little laugh when I read that Lebanon banned Anne Frank’s Diary because it was too favourable towards Jews…I guess Anne being a Jew doesn’t help the case!
    There was a bit of controversy a few years ago at University of Melbourne when they decided to ban some islamic texts that advocated terrorism. The material was being used by professors for research.

    I don’t believe in banning anything but there are appropriate times and places for sensitive material. A mother ranted at me at work about Robert Muchamore’s Cherub teen series. She doesn’t like her 12 year old son reading it because of some of the violence but really, it’s rather tamed compared to what’s on tv! I think she should just have been happy that her 12 year old son was actually reading!

    • Hello Mae! Yes some of the reasoning is pretty dubious isn’t it?! Agree with you that some material is sensitive and as in the case of your example of the 12 year old it’s kind of difficult to control what anyone reads in age of the Internet and I think education and inspiring kids to read appropriate and intelligent books is more useful than prohibition which presumably results in them reading it in secret anyway!

  6. I have to say I’m always interested to see why books are banned (and don’t agree with most of the reasons – some are SO stupid) and am always surprised to see certain titles on these lists. I read an article somewhere recently where a schoolgirl’s locker became a library for banned books. How cool is that?

  7. Good for you, Polly. I once compiled a list of banned books for an article and there are indeed some very curious titles, including from memory “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Grapes of Wrath”. I do wish one of my books would get banned somewhere; it must be so exciting.

  8. Well exactly, this is why the BBFC was originally set up as an advisory body, not a legal necessity – they didn’t ever want to ban films outright, just advise on age-appropriateness. And even that I don’t think is necessary in books – if you are able to and want to read it, then great! Expand your mind!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s