Five Banned Classics for Your Monday

Fahrenheit 451, The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, A Wrinkle in Time

As a librarian, Banned Books Week is one of my favorite times of the year.  Not because I'm happy to see so many excellent books banned, but because I appreciate the hard work that so many have put into keeping good books in the hands of the people.  And it's an important reminder of the dangers of censorship.

A social experiment (although I don't recommend actually doing it, since it would be a real mess to clean up):  Invite your patrons to go through the shelves and remove anything they feel shouldn't have a place in the library.  Or, if you want to be a bit less extreme, have them remove anything they don't agree with (personally, morally, religiously, politically, etc.).  Now, look at your shelves.  What do you have left?

I would guess not a lot.  I was going to write out a complete list of each section and explain what I think would be missing, but the list was getting pretty long.  Plus, there's not a really good way for me to do that without getting somewhat political (and offending a lot of people).  But, suffice it to say, we'd probably lose most of the 100s, all of the 200s, most of the 300s, some of the 500-700s, and a good portion of the 800s-900s.  As for fiction, I'm sure that would be picked pretty clean.  YA would take a real hit, and a good portion of Children's would go, too.  As the saying goes, a good library has something to offend everyone, so I can only imagine if people were given free-reign to remove "offensive" books, we wouldn't have much left.

Patron: I'm looking for a good book.  Can you recommend anything?

Staff (looking ruefully at the mostly-empty shelves): Well, we currently have some very nice Dictionaries, cookbooks, and auto repair guides.  Or, if you're feeling adventurous, might I suggest Windows 10 for Dummies?

Patron: Dummies?  I find that offensive!

I think you get my point.  So, to celebrate all the wonderful books on our shelves, why not check out a banned book this week?  I have a quick and dirty list of five of my favorite banned classics.  I'll also be including the reason for the banning.  Thanks to our friends at NoveList, we will also include a list of appeals to help you choose what to read next!

Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)

Character-Driven, Atmospheric, Bleak, Thought-Provoking

Bradbury is one of my favorite authors, and my love his writing started with this book.  Guy Montag is a fireman whose job it is to start fires.  In a society that has become deadened and stupid, books are banned and anyone caught reading or hiding them is considered a criminal.  Instead of questioning things, the people instead turn to lives of instant gratification and mindless entertainment.  Montag's worldview is called into question when he meets Clarice McClellan, a young woman who does not subscribe to the hedonistic censorship of their society.  When she goes missing, Montag is forced to make a choice that will change the course of his life forever.  Why was it banned?  Obscene language, religious themes, and references to smoking and drinking.

The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

Atmospheric, Flawed Characters, Unreliable Narrator, Romantic

A tragic but beautiful story of the Jazz Age, and the love of the enigmatic millionaire, Jay Gatsby for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, told through the eyes of Daisy's cousin, Nick.  This tale of love, loss, identity, and secrets is a staple of American literature.  Why was it banned?  Language and sexual references.  

To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)

Complex, Character-Driven, Bittersweet, Moving, Thought-Provoking

Scout Finch, the daughter of the town's lawyer, tells the story of one childhood summer that changed everything.  In this beautiful but tragic tale of morality and humanity, Scout and her friends try to get the town recluse, Boo Radley, to come out of his house (something that hasn't happened in many years).  Meanwhile, her father, Atticus, must confront the biggest challenge of his legal career--defending a black man accused of raping a white woman--knowing full well that he is innocent, and that the town will never accept it.  Why was it banned?  Offensive language and racism.  

Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck)

Descriptive, Dialect-Filled, Bleak, Haunting, Moving

Two travelling ranch hands, George and Lenny, are on the run after Lenny, a childlike brute who doesn't realize his own crushing strength, is accused of attacking a child.  When they arrive at their new assignment, it seems like the two might have found a place to finally settle down and earn the money they need in order to buy a piece of land for themselves.  However, tragedy strikes when Lenny has a fatal encounter with the beautiful wife of their employer's son.  Why was it banned?  Offensive language, racism, and violence.

A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle)

Moving, Suspenseful, Fast-Paced, Attention-Grabbing

Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their new friend Calvin go on an adventure across time and space to find Meg's father, a scientist who disappeared mysteriously during a top-secret experiment.  The trio are aided and guided by three mysterious old women who know the secrets their father was trying to unlock.  Why was it banned?  Supernatural themes and religious topics.