If you’re like me, you enjoy sticking it to The Man, but don’t have a ton of time to devote to it. To that purpose, then, here are seven banned or challenged books that you should be able to fit into your schedule.
Read dangerously, my friends.
1. Fahrenheit 451
Though Fahrenheit 451 doesn’t have as long a history of being challenged, where better to begin than a novel about institutionalized book-burning? The book has been challenged due to some moderate swearing, and some parents’ concerns that the book encouraged the burning of Bibles, because they clearly never read the novel themselves. At 200 pages, this one’s easy enough to finish off in a lazy afternoon.
Next on the “Why was this challenged” list is the graphic novel series Bone. Despite its cartoonish appearance, the book made it onto ALA’s Top 10 List of Frequently Challenged Books for 2013, on the basis of “racism, political viewpoint, and violence”. I don’t know how accusations of racism somehow got in there, but the real issue is probably the growing depth and seriousness of the series. Starting out with the slapstick interactions of three cartoony cousins, the story develops into a full-fledged fantasy epic involving the entire world. There are several volumes to the series, but you can read the first one in an hour or so. Easy peasy.
3. Of Mice and Men
Of Mice And Men follows the banned-book formula to a T: strong language, sexual implications, mental handicaps, and a story moving and powerful enough that teachers regularly assign it during middle and high school lit classes. It’s a wonder the book stays in schools anywhere. It’s also a shame if you haven’t read it yet. Take an hour or two to rectify that this week.
4. A Wrinkle in Time
This book traumatized me in the best possible way. The terrifying sameness of Camazotz, the strange comfort of Aunt Beast, the menacing amiability of IT. I realized too late that this book should have taken a prominent place on my list of books that have had a lasting impact on me. The darkness of the plot is likely what earns it a perennial place on challenged-book lists, but it is also what makes the book so important. The light of redemption can shine only as brightly as the blackness around it is dark.
This one’s a little harder to fit into a day than most of the others, but it’s worth the effort. Vonnegut’s hilarious, tragic, surreal time-travel/WWII/everything-else novel defies explanation or summarization. It also defies the efforts of parents to get the book removed from schools, likely on the grounds of language, violence, sex, or poignant human observation. So it goes.
6. Bridge to Terabithia
Sometimes I think the hidden reason behind so many book challenges is “It made me sad, and I’m not okay with that.” Nevertheless, the public complaints about Bridge to Terabithia are that it promotes Satanism. Because kids play make believe in the woods. Ignore the haters, and devote an afternoon to this one sometime this week.
7. To Kill a Mockingbird
It’s wrong to kill a mockingbird, but it’s okay to try and shoot down literary classics left and right. As is often the case, concerned parents have been unable to differentiate “portraying racist characters” from “promoting racism”. The subject matter is heavy, but it’s necessarily so. Hiding evil from our children doesn’t stop it from existing. The page count is a little heavy on this one too, compared to most of the others on the list. Save it for the weekend, and you should be fine, though.
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If you’re still in the mood for rebelling against authority, check out last year’s Manifesto For The Uncensored.