Friday, October 5, 2012

Book Blogger Hop #11 (10/5 - 10/11): Banned Books Week

Welcome to
the Book Blogger Hop!

This is where bloggers and readers
connect every week!

This wonderful blog hop is
hosted by
Jennifer @ Crazy for Books!

Starting this week,
a different blog will be hosting
the hop for Jennifer each week,
until she returns from hiatus.

This week, the host is
Erica @

What To Do:

1. Post on your blog answering this question:

Banned Books Week ends on Oct. 6th.
How do you feel about books
being challenged to be
banned from libraries and schools?
Have you read any banned books?

2. Enter the link to your post in the
Linky list at this week's blog,
with your blog's name, genre you review,
and a direct link to your post.

3. Visit other blogs on the list.
This blog hop isn't about the number of
people you can visit,
but the quality of each visit.
Find new blogs to read by clicking
through the links on the list!

My Answer:

In principle, I am totally against books being banned.  I do believe that people have every right to read any book they want.  This is the principle of intellectual freedom.  After all, books have always been carriers of wisdom and knowledge, as well as adventure, romance, tales of fantasy and wonder.  Banning any book at all is, at first sight, a huge disservice to humanity.  However, important life issues such as this one are very rarely black-and-white, all-or-nothing situations.  While I think that a
mature adult should be able to read anything they please, I am very much concerned that younger age groups may be getting exposed to material they simply can't evaluate without being adversely affected by it, just because they aren't sufficiently prepared to do so, from an intellectual and ethical standpoint.

Certain authors and their books can have a very negative effect on people, especially those whose minds and personalities are still changing and growing.  A case in point: I still remember the very unpleasant, and strong feeling of malaise that came over me when I first read "The Tell-tale Heart", by Edgar Allan Poe.  The same thing happened to me when I read "The Cask of Amontillado", by the same author.  These horrifying stories were required reading in my high school English classes.  I must have been around 15 when I read them, although I don't quite remember my exact age.  I don't think I was really and truly aware of the depths of insanity and evil a human being was capable of, until I read those stories.  They sickened me.  I have never forgotten them, either.  To this day, I cannot think of Poe without shuddering in fear and loathing.  Yes, loathing.  I totally loathe this author!  I wish I had never been required to read any of his works!

In fact, I will never understand why people read the horror genre, but I digress...

I do think that there are certain books that should indeed be banned -- for everyone.  These are books that contain detailed instructions on how to carry out such heinous acts as killing someone without being detected, blowing up government buildings, etc.  Not too long ago, for example, there was a huge public protest against Amazon for having The Pedophile's Guide available for sale.  This book justifies and glorifies pedophilia.  It teaches pedophiles how to go about perpetrating their crimes without getting caught, as well as how to manage their lives in the process.  Pedophilia is a sickness, but it's also a crime.  Amazon finally did the right thing (under pressure), and discontinued the book.

Now, have I ever read any banned books?  Well, when I looked over the ALA (American Library Association) list of frequently challenged classics, I was surprised to find some books I would never have considered problematic, such as To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Lord of the Rings.  There were other books on the list that didn't surprise me at all -- such as A Clockwork Orange, and Lady Chatterley's Lover.  Although I haven't read these, I am familiar with the plot of each one.  These two are definitely not good reading material for younger people.

Amazingly, I did not see Wuthering Heights on the list.  In spite of being a masterpiece, this novel, which I was also required to read in high school, presents a very demonic character -- Heathcliff.  There was undoubtedly something very disturbing in Emily Bronte's mind, for her to have created such a monster.  Furthermore, he received no punishment in the end, dying in a rather unremarkable manner -- in his own bed. 

Summing up, I would have to say that I firmly believe there's such a thing as 'literary poison', no matter what genre it belongs to (but I think that the horror genre is most prone to this ailment).  If a mature adult wishes to expose him/herself to such disgusting material (with the exceptions noted above), they should certainly be free to do so.  It's another matter entirely when it comes to children, young teens, and even young adults.

Here are some of the banned books I've read:

1.   The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
2.   The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain
3.   As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner
4.   The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
5.   Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
6.   The Exorcist - William Peter Blatty 
7.   Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
8.   Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell 
9.  The Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling
10. To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee 
11.  Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
12. The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien     

What are your thoughts
regarding this issue?
Do you agree or disagree
with the view I've
expressed here?
I'd sure love to know!


  1. I completely agree with your viewpoint on this.

    Freedom > Censorship

  2. Hey Maria - great post. I have been so busy and have not been able to get anything up for banned book week.

    You really have approached this issue with complexity and subtly! You story about reading Poe at an early age really does illustrate an interesting question. While banning authors os clearly wrong (I agree with you on instruction manuals for killing people, making bombs, etc) just assigning certain works to children that might truly disturb is an issue with no easy answers. Of course what might disturb person might not be an issue for another.

    You know this is really making me think, someone recently told me that the attack scene in "To Kill a Mocking Bird" terrified her and gave her nightmares as a child.

  3. Hi, Lizzy!

    I'm glad you agree! Thanks for commenting!! : )

  4. Hi, Brian!

    Oh, thank you!! You always post such supportive comments!! : )

    You know, I wasn't even aware that this was Banned Books Week, myself. I found out through this book meme -- Book Blogger Hop! So don't feel bad.

    This is definitely a complex issue; glad we agree about that! On the surface, it sounds like an infuriating, archaic concept. The whole idea of banning books brings up images of the Inquisition, after all. However, when one delves deeper into this issue, one can see that it's not as simple as it appears to be.

    You know, I really must go back and re-read TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I don't remember the attack scene very well, although I'm not doubting what your friend told you. Heck, I had nightmares after reading THE EXORCIST, and I was in my twenties at the time! I don't even know why I read that book...I don't like the horror genre AT ALL. Thank God I didn't see the movie!! I think they would have had to take me to the hospital!

    Thank you so much for your insightful comment!! : )

  5. Two interesting questions here--both the issues of preventing people from reading a book, and forcing people/teens to read certain books. I don't think either is good! I also had some assigned reading in high school that I don't think I was old enough for...and I certainly could have lived without it.

  6. I knew that now that anybody can publish anything there would be strage "guides" somewhere but I never thought decent shops would sell that kind of books.

    You have interesting points but a good question is How can anybody really decide what's acceptable for each age? That's an impossible question because there isn't a right answer. There are as many answers as people. While I think that some books like erotica might not belong in a school library, I've read "The Tell-Tale Heart" several times (the first time when I was around 12) and until I read your post I had always thought it would be a great short story to give to young teens to show them that literature doesn't have to be boring. There are worse things on the news, so I never thought this short story was specially disturbing.

    My Blog Hop

  7. Hi, Cheryl!

    I agree, both are undesirable situations, except in the case of the types of books I menttioned in my post -- those that teach people how to commit crimes and depraved acts.

    I think that parents should have more of a say as to what their children are sssigned to read in school. However, it would also be good if schools were to take care of this themselves. Perhaps the ideal situation would be a board, composed of parents and teachers, whose sole purpose would be to monitor what children (and teens) are able to read in school.

    Thanks for the comment!! : )

  8. Hi, Hellen!

    Yeah, you'd think that it would be obvious that something like THE PEDOPHILE'S GUIDE is totally unacceptable. Yet, this did happen, and Amazon did not immediately remove the book. Only after the pressure from the public mounted to a degree that it could no longer be ignored, did they remove it.

    Now, as for your question on what's acceptable for each age, I can say this: any book that portrays immoral actions that ultimately go unpunished, should not be read by younger readers. Even though, in real life, evil sometimes DOES go unpunished, children and young teens should not be allowed to read this type of material. Also, I don't think that terrifying, gory books would be appropriate.

    Of course erotica should not be in a school library! I don't think even older teens should have access to it. This genre frequently involves such unnatural practices as bondage and sadomasochsim. Reading such things will give younger readers a totally twisted, perverted view of sex.

    As for Poe's "The Tell-tale Heart", I am totally appalled that you read it at such a young age!!! OMG. That story is WAY too macabre for a child of 12 to read!! The whole idea of a body under the floorboards, and the heart beating...even though the murderer was obviously insane, and it was his guilty conscience that made him 'hear' the beating's just too frightening, too horrible... I have to repeat the word: macabre. Yes, I do think this story is a very disturbing one. I personally don't like to read about the workings of a twisted mind. I can't help feeling almost nauseous if I ever do. It's an overwhelming feeling, nausea' of malaise. I can't find any other words but these -'malaise', 'macabre', 'nausea'...I am reminded of one of Sartre's book, titled NAUSEA. He spoke of existential nausea, but the emotional nausea I felt when reading these Poe stories was somehow related to the one mentioned by Sartre. That human beings can be capable of such evil...that such twisted minds actually exist...I think it's just too much for a young reader to take in. I'm wondering how it is that you were apparently unaffected.

    Anyway, I'd better get off my soapbox, because I'm starting to write another post

    Thank you so much for commenting!! : )

  9. I was unaffected because while this story is horror/crime, it was not the first I had read. I had already read some Agatha Christie and other similar novels and watched a few episodes of CSI, 24, X-Files... Other than the Goosebumps series, I got bored of children/teen books very quickly so I started reading mystery/detective/thrillers and adventure books.

  10. Hi again, Hellen!

    Well, you were obviously a very precocious child, but still, I think you were much too young to be reading Poe. And as for "Goosebumps", I can't believe Stine actually wrote those books for CHILDREN. If I had a child, no way would I let them read that stuff! But I guess you have a stronger stomach than I ever well as stronger control of your emotions. Me, I'm VERY emotional!! (Yup, you can call me 'an EMO girl', lol.) I can't watch news on TV, because, if they show a tragedy, I'll start crying. And I can't watch horror movies, because I get very scared and have nightmares!! I HATE the horror genre!

    So I'm amazed that you can read all this kine of stuff...

    Thanks for commenting again!! : )

  11. I'm hopping through and so glad I found your post.

    When I think of banned books, I think of the great novels that are being banned, not how-to's for illegal things, such as pedophilia. Yes, those shouldn't even have been written! But otherwise, I'm against banning books. I'm an adult, I can read what I want to...and as a stubborn teenager, I felt the same way.

    Regarding Poe, we read it at some point in middle-school and I totally loved it, so it's a crap shoot as to what people will like or not. I hate hate hate Lord Of the Flies. I had to read it once in high school and twice in college and it disturbed me each time, but I know it is a fascinating study of psychology and government, so it has redeeming qualities. Poe must have some as well for you to have to read him.

  12. Hey, Sus!

    I totally agree with you. Adults should be able to read anything they darn well please, even if it's pure garbage. I myself wouldn't read such books as A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, THE LORD OF THE FLIES, or FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, but I defend the right of any adult who wants to read these novels, to do so freely.

    As for THE PEDOPHILE'S GUIDE, there were people online, specifically at Askville, a question and answer website supported by Amazon, who were ranting and raving about this book. They affirmed that no one has the right to censor such things! Hello. Pedophilia is a CRIME. But those people kept insisting that whoever wanted to buy it and read it should be able to do so. i had an argument with one of those people myself, in which I firmly pointed out that it's one thing to DESCRIBE something immoral or illegal (which I wouldn't read anyway, but that's beside the point), and quite another to GIVE INSTRUCTIONS on how to carry out such acts, and even ENCOURAGE people to do so. That's exactly what this nefarious guidebook did. That shut this person up!

    As for Poe, I will never like him. I totally dislike reading any book in which the main character, or one of the main characters, is (are) evil. I'm not interested in all the particulars regarding their thoughts, motivations, or personal lives. I detest the horror genre (my vampires and werewolves are always conflicted and romantic) with a PASSION. I detest H.P. Lovecraft, Steven King, Dean Koontz, and anyone else who writes books that instill fear, and in which the evil guys are not usually brought to justice. I see no literary merit in reading such things. However, I will indeed defend to the death the right of any mature adult to read these things. Children? Of course not. Pre-adolescents? Absolutely not. Older teens? Even they might suffer emotional damage from reading such books. My personal label for them is "literary poison".

    Thanks for your intereesting comment, and for reading this long response!! : )

  13. Maria - I responded to your comment on my blog. I wasn't sure if you get an alert when I responded or not.

    Either way - thanks for commenting!

  14. Hi Maria,

    I found your post through your comment on Sus's Book Review Blog, so I'm popping by to offer my two cents!

    I must admit, I didn't consider things like a guide to pedophilia when I originally thought about the topic of banned books. And I fully agree that instruction manuals teaching and encouraging people to commit crimes are absolutely intolerable and need to be banned.

    But, in terms of literature and novels, I really think that most children and teens can handle and process much more than we give them credit for. And when it's being taught in a classroom where the teacher is guiding and explaining the significance of these works, we need to stop objecting based on the fact that a novel uses some bad language or has a sex scene or explores difficult themes such as racism. Books are valuable teaching tools and should be treated as such.

    Also, I haven't read Fifty Shades of Grey, but the very fact that it has exploded as a best-seller goes to show that the US as a country might be just a tad bit repressed. If we didn't make sex into such a forbidden or "shameful" subject, an erotic romance novel such as this one wouldn't be such a big deal!


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