Thursday, September 27, 2018

Just an Annotated List of Sixty of My Favorite Banned Books

I was inspired by Anne's TTT list of her favorite banned or challenged books, and went through all the links she provided of books banned or challenged most frequently in the past thirty years. Out of all of those, these books are personal favorites. There are plenty of others on those lists that I value (Dav Pilky has done more for literacy in this country than anyone), but today I'm just focusing on books I've loved.

I started out trying to explain why I liked each book, but quickly fell into snarky rebuttal of those who would ban it. I have to be so polite when I talk banned books in class, so I think some of my repressed spite about the topic leaked into this blog post. Sorry/not sorry.

A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck . Such heartbreak.
A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein  Silverstein's poems are always fun.
A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving Just read this in summer 2017--terrific book!
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle Dated, but I loved it so much as a kid.
Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez I've taught some gang kids, and this book was so educational for me.
And Tango Makes Three written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole . This book is adorable and lovely and people who try to ban it are really revealing their inner soullessness. 
Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison So funny, and far less scandalous than that title sounds.
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume Classic. Judy tells it like it is.
Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher This isn't his strongest book, but it's still great.
Beloved, by Toni Morrison Yeah, dummies, it's bleak and awful because f*cking slavery was bleak and awful! (I don't mean YOU are the dummies; I mean people who'd ban this.)
Blubber, by Judy Blume This book disturbed the hell out of me as a kid because a) it made me feel guilty for relational bullying I did and b) it didn't tie everything up with a happy ending. And both of those are GOOD things for kids.
Deenie, by Judy Blume This might be TMI, but I learned that female masturbation was a thing from this book, and, well, yay. 
Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier This book is adorable, and people want to ban it because it doesn't pretend gay people don't exist. Idiots. 
Earth’s Children (series), by Jean M. Auel These books were 80% of my sex ed in middle school, plus I loved the story of plucky cave girl Ayla inventing fire and braids and domesticated animals.
Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell My love for this paean to mid 80s teen misfits in love knows no bounds. 
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury Wouldn't it be funny if a book about the evils of banning books got banned?  Actually no. It's not funny. Stop it.
Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going This has that hilarious/heartbreaking thing going for it. 
Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes Maybe I hate this book. It sure is emotional.
George written by Alex Gino News flash: transgender people exist. Please don't ban this completely non-sexual, inoffensive book just because the protagonist is transgender. We don't need more trans kids killing themselves because society tretas them like garbage. 
Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen Who doesn't love a good "peeing on the electric fence" story? Book banners, I guess.
Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling Oh, come ON! 
His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman I do see why Catholics were kind of offended. But again, it's a fantasy. Don't take it personal.
I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas See what I said about George, and add to that the fact that Jazz is an actual person. 
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou Yes, this book is harrowing. It is also about the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. I feel like that's a good message. 
In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak Cartoon toddler in bedtime story doesn't wear underpants. Um, have you met any toddlers? They are naked a lot. It's ok.
It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris. I think every kid should have access to kid friendly books about puberty. No awkward conversations, no unfortunate Google results, no playground misconceptions.
James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl Nobody has every claimed that Dahl is normal. That's why we love him.
Looking for Alaska written by John Green Green's debut is exquisitely Green-ish. 
Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich She gets minimum wage jobs and writes about trying to survive on them. Spoiler: It's f*cking hard to do so. I guess if you ban this book, nobody will ever realize that?
Ordinary People, by Judith Guest How I longed to see the Donald Sutherland/Mary Tyler Moore movie of this. Probably dated, but an honest look at tragedy, depression, and suicide.
Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi How dare she write of her own experience growing up in Iran during the fall of the Shah? Why, she might make us think of Iranians as actual people with inner lives, family ties, and general humanity!
Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett I gotta be honest; this book is kinda rapey, and it's not ever going in my middle school classroom. But it's also amazing. 
Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples Also never going into my classroom, because it's a full color graphic novel with sex scenes. Otherwise, this (yep) saga of an interspecies space family would be a great fit. It is SO COOL. 
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut My Vonnegut phase was about 25 years ago, so I don't remember this one well, but it's funny and anti-war and kind of wacky.
Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson I view this a bit differently today--it's very much centered around the white experience--but still love this very NW story that highlights anti-Japanese racism during and after WWII. 
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison I really, really, really need to re-read this. Toni Morrison is incredible, and I loved this book.
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson #MeToo, Laurie. Groundbreaking 20 years ago, and unfortunately still relevant.
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher Besides being one of the best titles ever, this is as great as all his work is. 
That Was Then, This is Now, by S.E. Hinton Oh, this book made me so SAD in 8th grade. 
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian written by Sherman Alexie Alexie, it turns out, has some major issues. This book, however, will always be one of the most tragic and humorous books around. 
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain It's a classic for a reason, which is ironic since Twain made fun of classics.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain He attends his own funeral. He has zany adventures with Becky Thatcher and Huck. He is a rapscallion and self absorbed and manipulative and loving. He's a boy. 
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison I read this in college and was blown away.
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker I've voted for about 20 different books in the Great American Read thing PBS is doing, but honestly? This one should win. 
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon It was ground breaking in having an autistic narrator, and while it might feel a bit dated in its rep now, it was still a fun and fascinating read.
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler Given how funny the title is, this is a surprisingly deep little book.
The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline Cooney Such a great premise. She sees herself on a missing persons notice on the milk carton. But she's not missing...or is she?
The Giver, by Lois Lowry A modern classic. I taught it to five classes one year, and ended up liking it better than before I started. THAT is a sign of a good book.
The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls A perfect example of how saying a book is inappropriate is such a slap in the face to people whose lives are portrayed in them.
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood Hipster Wendy loved this book decades before any of y'all had heard of the show. 
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas Let's deny racism and police brutality, because that will definitely solve the problem. I guess that's the thinking behind banning this?
The House of Spirits, by Isabel Allende What? Why? This list is starting to really get to me. I can only take so much magical realism, but this book is the gold standard.
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins Why yes, it IS violent and disturbing. It's about violence, exploitation, commercialization, and repression. That's kind of the point.
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold Once again we have the "if we just don't read books about it, it will stop existing" school of thought. 
The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton Stay gold, Ponyboy. Don't let people take away your right to be a greaser with an inner life and loving connections to others just because it messes with their elitist classist bullsh*t. 
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky  Nineties YA is not my strong point, since I was between teendom and teacherdom, but even I know and love this one.
The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien Yes, soldiers swear. And cry. And shoot people. War sucks, okay? 
Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume Romantic and honest.
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee This book could be retired as The Book About Race for sure (maybe let some POC authors take the forefront?), but I love it for itself. 
Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher My favorite "vintage" Crutcher. He does such a good job with found families. 
What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones Novel in verse! Latina author! A teenager whose first crush doesn't end up being the Love Of Her Life! 


  1. I am shocked by some of the books on this list. James and the Giant Peach? "Green's debut is extremely Green-ish" <-- HA!

  2. So many of my favorites are on this list! I was forced to read Fahrenheit 451 and A Prayer for Owen Meany in high school. The Giver, To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Outsiders were assigned reading for me in middle school. I liked them all. I guess the banned books are some of the better books that I was forced to read. Why do people hate entertaining books?!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  3. It is always interesting going through Banned Book lists! Some of the books on these lists are always my favorites!

  4. Oh boy, you went way beyond what i put together about banned books. You could print this out and post it in your library for students to see and respond to. I usually left my banned books display up for several weeks, not just the one week period of time set aside by the ALA.

    I can't remember if I responded to you about CYBILS. Have you been a judge before? I was a Round 1 judge for nonfiction last year, too, and found it to be a wonderful experience. My only beef was some of the other judges did not keep the chart up to date so I had no idea who was reading what right up until the deadline. Of all the books we were supposed to read, they encourage us to try and spread it out so all of us don't read the same books while ignoring others. Hopefully this year will be a bit better on that score.

  5. I'm reading 451 with my daughter right now (who's reading it for school). And The Hate U Give was on their summer reading list as well. And of course, I taught Tom Sawyer last year. Plus ... yeah, I love a lot of these. :-)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction


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