I Want My Harper Lee…

Paste Magazine (a great magazine, you should subscribe!) recently posted the 10 Frequently-challenged Books Everyone Should Read on their website. Now, this is an issue that steams me up, for two reasons:

1. Books, like any other media (and I’d definitely consider books media, because what better commentary can you have on an era than by looking at which books are a) chosen to be published and b) popular among…well, this is a topic for later, I think), exist to sell something…a physical product in most cases, but also an idea, moral, experience, etc…but also, I think, to help people grow up. You can look at a certain book (like Catcher in the Rye) and say “Oh, that’s going to cause violence, truancy, gutter-talk…” but to me, why not keep the kids that would normally cut class IN class by giving them a book to read that would interest them? Also, at what point do you introduce certain themes to kids so that they can start forming their own ideas about what they want to be and not to be (thank you, Shakespeare)? I know that the argument is about questionable required readings, but face the facts: do you want your daughter to skip reading a Judy Blume book only to spend that time reading Seventeen or watching E!? What’s the bigger threat? In my life, books have done more to help me organize thoughts, encounter different ways of thinking, and shape my own way of life than they ever caused me to curse, have questionable relationships, etc. (I learned all that stuff from the movies…)

2. Here’s where everything turns: who, exactly, is challenging these books? I mean, I hear about it all the time, but everyone I talk to has had these books on their required reading lists. So why is a list of the 100 Most Frequently-Challenged Books still in existence? I’d love to see these broken down by geographical location worldwide. The only thing that springs to mind is that scene in Field of Dreams…

Amy Madigan in Field of Dreams

Amy Madigan in Field of Dreams

So, here’s the hundred (from 1990 – 2000)…have you read any of these (I’ve bold-ed mine)? It’s an interesting list. Just a note: These aren’t all books that are required by schools; the list was compiled by the American Library Association, so it is more for books that people asked to be removed from the library (which is even more infuriating to me).  I’d love to hear how these books, and others, have shaped you…even if it shaped you by not being allowed to read it…Also, do you have any favorites from your childhood/preteens? I want to know what they are!

  1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  8. Forever by Judy Blume
  9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  15. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
  17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  19. Sex by Madonna
  20. Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
  21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
  27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
  29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
  30. The Goats by Brock Cole
  31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
  32. Blubber by Judy Blume
  33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
  34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
  35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
  36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
  37. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  40. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
  41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
  46. Deenie by Judy Blume
  47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
  49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
  50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
  51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
  54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
  55. Cujo by Stephen King
  56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
  58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
  60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  61. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
  62. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
  64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
  65. Fade by Robert Cormier
  66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
  67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
  69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  71. Native Son by Richard Wright
  72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
  73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
  74. Jack by A.M. Homes
  75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
  76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
  77. Carrie by Stephen King
  78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
  79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
  80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
  81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
  82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
  83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
  84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
  87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
  88. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
  89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
  90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
  91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
  93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
  94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
  95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
  97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
  98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
  100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

As far as my favorite childhood books go, I was infatuated with series, so The Baby Sitters’ Club was up there at the top, along with anything by Roald Dahl. Moving into preteens, I loved anything by S.E. Hinton and Robert Cormier (I Am the Cheese? GENIUS!). I also read all of the historical fiction of Ann Rinaldi. Something that I’m so thankful for is that every time my mom bought me a book like The Babysitters’ Club, or by Christopher Pike or whoever, my mom also had me pick out a Newberry Award winner. Those were some fantastic books…

Now, a different kind of list: Newsweek’s Top 100 Books of All Time. Which of these have you read? Interesting to see how many of the “challengers” are on here, isn’t it?

  1. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
  2. 1984, George Orwell
  3. Ulysses, James Joyce
  4. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  5. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
  6. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
  7. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
  8. The Illiad and The Odyssey, Homer
  9. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  10. Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri
  11. Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer
  12. Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift
  13. Middlemarch, George Eliot
  14. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
  15. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
  16. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  17. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  18. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  19. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
  20. Beloved, Toni Morrison
  21. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  22. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
  23. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
  24. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
  25. Native Son, Richard Wright
  26. Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville
  27. On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin
  28. The Histories, Herodotus
  29. The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  30. Das Kapital, Karl Marx
  31. The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli
  32. Confessions, St. Augustine
  33. Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes
  34. The History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides
  35. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
  36. Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne
  37. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
  38. A Passage to India, E.M. Forster
  39. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
  40. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  41. The Holy Bible
  42. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
  43. Light in August, William Faulkner
  44. The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois
  45. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
  46. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
  47. Paradise Lost, John Milton
  48. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  49. Hamlet, William Shakespeare
  50. King Lear, William Shakespeare
  51. Othello, William Shakespeare
  52. The Sonnets, William Shakespeare
  53. Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman
  54. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  55. Kim, Rudyard Kipling
  56. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  57. Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
  58. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey
  59. For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
  60. Slaughter-house Five, Kurt Vonnegut
  61. Animal Farm, George Orwell
  62. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
  63. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
  64. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
  65. Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust
  66. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
  67. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
  68. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
  69. I, Claudius, Robert Graves
  70. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
  71. Sons and Lovers, D.H. Lawrence
  72. All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
  73. Go Tell It On the Mountain, James Baldwin
  74. Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White
  75. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  76. Night, Elie Wiesel
  77. Rabbit, Run, John Updike
  78. The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
  79. Portnoy’s Complaint, Philip Roth
  80. An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser
  81. The Day of the Locust, Nathanael West
  82. Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
  83. The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett
  84. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
  85. Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather
  86. The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud
  87. The Education of Henry Adams, Henry Adams
  88. Quotations from Chairman Mao, Mao Zedung
  89. The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature, William James
  90. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
  91. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
  92. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, John Maynard Keynes
  93. Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad
  94. Goodbye to All That, Robert Graves
  95. The Affluent Society, John Kenneth Galbraith
  96. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
  97. The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Alex Haley and Malcolm X
  98. Eminent Victorians, Lytton Strachey
  99. The Color Purple, Alice Walker
  100. The Second World War: The Gathering Storm; Their Finest Hour; The Grand Alliance; The Hinge of Fate, Winston Churchill

One thought on “I Want My Harper Lee…

  1. I have read WAY less of these than you have. I’m disappointed; I usually score high on reading books people don’t want me to read 😉

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