Calliope Writing

Banned or “Challenged” Books That Will Change Your Life – Part 1

I’ve never understood the so-called reasons for banning or burning books. Maybe it’s because books are holy to me. They provide me with a sacred space – a way to participate in a true exploration of the mind.

Stupid book-banners and -burners. (If you’re a book-banner, I apologize for offending you. You should probably leave this blog and find another one that’s more appreciative of your kind.)

banned books

Following are five of the top ten books that I do and will always love, and that have a history of being banned and/or burned. Let’s begin, counting down from ten:

10. Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

Yes. A children’s book has been viewed as controversial. And it’s one of my favorites. I’ll always have a soft spot in my book-loving soul for Max and the Wild Things…even if some view them as “dark.” (What? Kids don’t have “dark” sides? I’m not even a parent, and I can tell you they absolutely do.)

PEN American Center states:

Child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim…wrote in Ladies’ Home Journal, “What [Sendak] failed to understand is the incredible fear it evokes in the child to be sent to bed without supper, and this by the first and foremost giver of food and security—his mother.”  Luckily for history, there were a lot more reasoned opinions, like this early review from a Cleveland newspaper : “Boys and girls may have to shield their parents from this book. Parents are very easily scared.”

Sounds to me like Bettelheim needs to grow a pair.

9. The Jungle, Upton Sinclair

I wasn’t required to read this one in school, like many of my peers. In fact, I only read The Jungle about five years ago. It’s definitely not the novel you’d want to read if you’re going through a depressive episode…but it’s shocking and real.

Sinclair’s novel focuses on the meatpacking industry, and its true-to-life descriptions and revelations made more than a few people put down their ground beef in disgust. In fact, it led to the creation of the Food & Drug Administration (thanks, Sinclair!).

The bannings and burnings took place mainly overseas, and mainly because of Sinclair’s political beliefs. Silly Nazis.

8. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

This was the first Hemingway novel I ever read. And I loved it. I fell in love with Jake and wanted to be Brett. But not everyone loved it – or can see its literary merit.

Sure, there’s cursing. Yeah, there’s sex and libations. And lounging around, with the protagonist an expatriate with nothing but adventure on the brain. Oh, and I can’t neglect to mention Jake’s implied “condition.”

banned books hemingway

The novel was banned in many countries and (like The Jungle) was one of many books the Nazis deemed fit to be become ash. Even Hemingway’s mom wasn’t a fan: she’s reported to have said it was “one of the filthiest books of the year.” (I have an image of her eating crumpets and sipping tea while saying this.) There’s even a very propaganda-looking website devoted to the many reasons The Sun Also Rises should be banned (visit if you’d like a laugh).

But all of these book-banners forget the impact this novel had on the literary world – and what Hemingway contributed to 20th-century literature as a whole.

7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey

I won’t lie: I read this book because of the film. While watching the film, even as a pre-teen (do they call them “tweens” now – who the hell knows), I had a strong, almost physical response to Nurse Ratched. And when I read the novel as a twentysomething, I found that my hatred for her could and did run deeper. This novel invoked a number of other emotions in me because the characters are three-dimensional and Kesey doesn’t sugarcoat a damned thing, which may be part of the reason this book has been challenged so frequently.

Banned Books Awareness elaborates:

In 1974, five residents of Strongsville, Ohio, sued the board of education to get the novel removed from classrooms. Labeling it “pornographic,” they charged the novel “glorifies criminal activity, has a tendency to corrupt juveniles, and contains descriptions of bestiality, bizarre violence, and torture, dismemberment, death, and human elimination.”…

…The 21st century saw it challenged at the Placentia-Yorba Linda, California Unified School District in 2000 after complaints by parents stated that teachers “can choose the best books, but they keep choosing this garbage over and over again.”

If this piece of art is garbage, then I am a garbage hoarder.

6. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

You know what would be hilarious? If this list of banned books – books that were censored – contained one that included censorship as a theme. Or, more appropriately, anti-censorship.

Laugh your hiney off, because this is the case. Fahrenheit 451, the first thing I ever read by the genius Ray Bradbury, is a story largely focused on the evils of censorship. Yet folks keep wanting to censor the hell out of it – even in the 21st century!

banned books ray bradbury

Purchase College Library’s blog Beyond the Stacks explains:

“I don’t think he saw the irony at all,” Librarian Lois Buckman said of the Texas man who tried to ban the novel from his daughter’s high school.  The father claimed it was a “filthy book” that “insulted our firemen.”  Buckman added: “I don’t believe he read the book at all, and if he did read it, I don’t think he understood it.”

Father – 0, Lois Buckman – 1

That’s one good-looking list of banned books I have going on. What’s your favorite banned book? And what banned book(s) do you hope are listed in Part 2? Sound off below.

7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I loved the banning of Lady Chatterly’s Lover. Women in Love was a far more subversive book but it sailed through with impunity because the sex wasn’t as explicit. LCL was banned as much because it showed that women could enjoy sex as because it was explicit. You can argue the merits of D. H. Lawrence’s writing skills, but he certainly picked interesting topics to write about.

Liked by 1 person

Comment by bhalsop

I’m ashamed to say that’s one I have on the shelf that I just haven’t gotten around to yet.


Comment by Katrina Robinson

Lord of the Flies by Golding. Loved it! Oh, K, just a little typo in your ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ title 😊


Comment by Poet Rummager

Love your blog, btw!


Comment by Poet Rummager

And thank you so much! I love yours a lot!!!

Liked by 1 person

Comment by Katrina Robinson

Thank you! Looooove yours!!

Liked by 1 person

Comment by Poet Rummager

ACK! Thanks for the heads up and for not shaming me too badly. 🙂


Comment by Katrina Robinson

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