Welcome to this week's edition of Friday Book Round-Up. This week is Banned Books Week and its theme for this week is:
Banning Books, Silencing Stories. Speak Out!
As a devout reader since the age of three, I've never understood what the big deal is when it comes to controversial books. If you don't like a book and its subject matter, for heaven's sake, don't read it. These stories are written from an author's perspective and their reasoning is their own.
Banning books is becoming popular again. People are running to their school's library or public library and demanding a particular book be banned. Everything from Harry Potter (gasp, it has magic in it) to Little Red Riding Hood (violence) has been banned over the years. Yes, even poor little Red Riding Hood who's trying to bring food to Grandmama is not fit for anyone to read.
I say, let's fight the censorship and silencing stories by reading banned books. Here are my top thirteen banned books to read before you die:
Candide by Voltaire
“Candide” is Voltaire’s most famous work, a satirical masterpiece, which was first published in 1759. It is the story of its central character, the titular Candide, who lives a sheltered comfortable life and has been indoctrinated into the philosophy of Leibnizian optimism, by his mentor, Professor Pangloss. When Candide travels throughout the world he begins to witness the pervasive hardships of life, an experience that leads to his ultimate disillusionment with Leibnizian philosophy. Through this clever narrative Voltaire refutes the philosophy of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, whose central idea was that despite the apparent imperfections of the world, it was the best of all possible worlds because it was created by an all powerful and all knowing God. Voltaire found this philosophy insultingly ridiculous and within the humorous and satirical construct of this work he effectively exposes the idiocy of a philosophy that was so pervasive in his time. “Candide” is a fast-moving and fantastical tale which established Voltaire as not only one of the most important but controversial authors of his time.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Referring to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, H. L. Mencken noted that his discovery of this classic American novel was "the most stupendous event of my whole life"; Ernest Hemingway declared that "all modern American literature stems from this one book," while T. S. Eliot called Huck "one of the permanent symbolic figures of fiction, not unworthy to take a place with Ulysses, Faust, Don Quixote, Don Juan, Hamlet."
The novel's preeminence derives from its wonderfully imaginative re-creation of boyhood adventures along the Mississippi River, its inspired characterization, the author's remarkable ear for dialogue, and the book's understated development of serious underlying themes: "natural" man versus "civilized" society, the evils of slavery, the innate value and dignity of human beings, and other topics. Most of all, Huckleberry Finn is a wonderful story, filled with high adventure and unforgettable characters.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Since it was first published in 1954, William Golding's classic debut novel has remained a stark allegory of civilization, survival, and human nature. As dystopian stories like Hunger Games and Battle Royale surge in popularity, this haunting tale of a group of young boys stranded on a desert island still captivates schoolchildren around the world, raising timeless and profound questions about how easily society can slip into chaos and savagery when rules and order have been abandoned.
When a plane crashes on a remote island, a small group of schoolboys are the sole survivors. From the prophetic Simon and virtuous Ralph to the lovable Piggy and brutish Jack, each of the boys attempts to establish control as the reality- and brutal savagery-of their situation sets in.
A teacher himself, Golding clearly understood how to interest children with a gripping story and strong, sympathetic characters. The novel serves as a catalyst for thought-provoking discussion and analysis of universal issues, not only concerning the capabilities of humans for good and evil and the fragility of moral inhibition, but beyond.
The boys' struggle to find a way of existing in a community with no fixed boundaries invites readers to evaluate the concepts involved in social and political constructs and moral frameworks. Symbolism is strong throughout, revealing both the boys' capacity for empathy and hope, as well as illuminating the darkest corners of the human spirit. Ideas of community, leadership, and the rule of law are called into question as the reader has to consider who has a right to power, why, and what the consequences of the acquisition of power may be.
Often compared to Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies also represents a coming-of-age story of innocence lost.
Harry Potter Series
The Harry Potter series has been hailed as "one for the ages" by Stephen King and "a spellbinding saga" by USA Today.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
A beloved classic since its initial publication in 1947, this vivid, insightful journal is a fitting memorial to the gifted Jewish teenager who died at Bergen-Belsen, Germany, in 1945. Born in 1929, Anne Frank received a blank diary on her 13th birthday, just weeks before she and her family went into hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. Her marvelously detailed, engagingly personal entries chronicle 25 trying months of claustrophobic, quarrelsome intimacy with her parents, sister, a second family, and a middle-aged dentist who has little tolerance for Anne's vivacity. The diary's universal appeal stems from its riveting blend of the grubby particulars of life during wartime (scant, bad food; shabby, outgrown clothes that can't be replaced; constant fear of discovery) and candid discussion of emotions familiar to every adolescent (everyone criticizes me, no one sees my real nature, when will I be loved?). Yet Frank was no ordinary teen: the later entries reveal a sense of compassion and a spiritual depth remarkable in a girl barely 15. Her death epitomizes the madness of the Holocaust, but for the millions who meet Anne through her diary, it is also a very individual loss.
Fahrenheit 451: A Novel by Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury’s internationally acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451 is a masterwork of twentieth-century literature set in a bleak, dystopian future.
Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.
Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.
When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.
Little Red Riding Hood by Brothers Grimm
The story revolves around a girl called Little Red Riding Hood. In Grimms' and Perrault's versions of the tale, she is named after her magical red hooded cape/cloak that she wears. The girl walks through the woods to deliver food to her sickly grandmother (wine and cake depending on the translation). In the Grimms' version, her mother had ordered her to stay strictly on the path.
A Big Bad Wolf wants to eat the girl and the food in the basket. He secretly stalks her behind trees, bushes, shrubs, and patches of little and tall grass. He approaches Little Red Riding Hood, who naively tells him where she is going. He suggests the girl to pick some flowers, which she does. In the meantime, he goes to the grandmother's house and gains entry by pretending to be the girl. He swallows the grandmother wholly (in some stories, he locks her in the closet) and waits for the girl, disguised as the grandma.
Gustave Doré's engraving of the scene: "She was astonished to see how her grandmother looked"
When the girl arrives, she notices that her grandmother looks very strange. Little Red then says, "What a deep voice you have!" ("The better to greet you with", responds the wolf), "Goodness, what big eyes you have!" ("The better to see you with", responds the wolf), "And what big hands you have!" ("The better to hug/grab you with", responds the wolf), and lastly, "What a big mouth you have" ("The better to eat you with!", responds the wolf), at which point the wolf jumps out of bed and eats her up too. Then he falls asleep. In Charles Perrault's version of the story (the first version to be published), the tale ends here.
However, in later versions, the story continues generally as follows:
A woodcutter in the French version, but a hunter in the Brothers Grimm and traditional German versions, comes to the rescue and with an axe, and cuts open the sleeping wolf. Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother emerge unharmed. Then they fill the wolf's body with heavy stones. The wolf awakens and attempts to flee, but the stones cause him to collapse and die. Sanitized versions of the story have the grandmother locked in the closet instead of being eaten and some have Little Red Riding Hood saved by the lumberjack as the wolf advances on her rather than after she gets eaten, where the woodcutter kills the wolf with his axe.
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
When Constance Reid’s new husband, Sir Clifford Chatterley, returns from war paralyzed and in a wheelchair, she sees her future wither. As their marriage grows loveless, she mourns the desires fated to go unfulfilled. But a stirring fascination with Oliver Mellors, the estate’s coarse, taciturn gamekeeper, blooms into feelings she feared had died. Soon the lovers find themselves entangled in scandal, and their taboo affair becomes as pernicious as it is passionate.
Shade's Children by Garth Nix
From renowned fantasy author of the Old Kingdom series, Garth Nix, comes a dystopian fantasy perfect for fans of Hunger Games and Divergent.
Imagine a world where your fourteenth birthday is your last and where even your protector may not be trusted….
In a futuristic urban wasteland, evil Overlords have decreed that no human shall live a day past their fourteenth birthday. On that Sad Birthday, the children of the Dorms are taken to the Meat Factory, where they will be made into creatures whose sole purpose is to kill.
The mysterious Shade—once a man, but now more like the machines he fights—recruits the few teenagers who escape into a secret resistance force. With luck, cunning, and skill, four of Shade's children come closer than any to discovering the source of the Overlords' power—and the key to their downfall. But the closer they get, the more ruthless Shade seems to become.
Essays in Humanism by Albert Einstein
An inspiring collection of the great thinker’s views on a rapidly changing world
Nuclear proliferation, Zionism, and the global economy are just a few of the insightful and surprisingly prescient topics scientist Albert Einstein discusses in this volume of collected essays from between 1931 and 1950. Written with a clear voice and a thoughtful perspective on the effects of science, economics, and politics in daily life, Einstein’s essays provide an intriguing view inside the mind of a genius addressing the philosophical challenges presented during the turbulence of the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the dawn of the Cold War.
This authorized edition features rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
The “magnificent” Pulitzer Prize–winning and #1 New York Times–bestselling novel about the preacher who led America’s bloodiest slave revolt (The New York Times).
The Confessions of Nat Turner is William Styron’s complex and richly drawn imagining of Nat Turner, the leader of the 1831 slave rebellion in Virginia that led to the deaths of almost sixty men, women, and children. Published at the height of the civil rights movement, the novel draws upon the historical Nat Turner’s confession to his attorney, made as he awaited execution in a Virginia jail. This powerful narrative, steeped in the brutal and tragic history of American slavery, reveals a Turner who is neither a hero nor a demon, but rather a man driven to exact vengeance for the centuries of injustice inflicted upon his people.
Nat Turner is a galvanizing portrayal of the crushing institution of slavery, and Styron’s deeply layered characterization is a stunning rendering of one man’s violent struggle against oppression.
365 Days by Ronald J. Glasser
National Book Award Finalist: The Vietnam War as seen through the eyes of an army doctor—“a book of great emotional impact” (The New York Times).
In 1968, as a serviceman in the Vietnam War, Dr. Ronald Glasser was sent to Japan to work at the US Army hospital at Camp Zama. It was the only general army hospital in Japan, and though Glasser was initially charged with tending to the children of officers and government officials, he was soon caught up in the waves of casualties that poured in from every Vietnam front. Thousands of soldiers arrived each month, demanding the help of every physician within reach.
In 365 Days, Glasser reveals a candid and shocking account of that harrowing experience. He gives voice to seventeen of his patients, wounded men counting down the days until they return home. Their stories bring to life a world of incredible bravery and suffering, one where “the young are suddenly left alone to take care of the young.” An instant classic of war literature, 365 Days is a remarkable, ground-level account of Vietnam’s human toll.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
The “fascinating” #1 New York Times bestseller that awakened the world to the destruction of American Indians in the nineteenth-century West (The Wall Street Journal).
First published in 1970, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee generated shockwaves with its frank and heartbreaking depiction of the systematic annihilation of American Indian tribes across the western frontier. In this nonfiction account, Dee Brown focuses on the betrayals, battles, and massacres suffered by American Indians between 1860 and 1890. He tells of the many tribes and their renowned chiefs—from Geronimo to Red Cloud, Sitting Bull to Crazy Horse—who struggled to combat the destruction of their people and culture.
Forcefully written and meticulously researched, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee inspired a generation to take a second look at how the West was won.
Have you a banned book recommendation? Share in the comments below and don’t forget to share using the buttons below. See you next week!
MRS N, Book Addict