It’s Banned Books Week! There are quite a few banned and challenged books out there. A surprisingly long list, actually. At Cask & Quill, I support the reading of banned books! You don’t have to agree with everything you read to be able to learn something from or enjoy a work. Below are some banned and/or challenged books that I would highly recommend. You may have read some or all of these, but did you know they are banned books? Now you do! I bet there are many others on your shelves as well… You rebel, you.
Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
Let’s get one of the most obvious ones out of the way, shall we? I like Harry Potter. You should, too. If you don’t, that’s sad and I don’t understand it, but it’s your opinion. 🙂 This will never NOT be a series that I recommend. I think it’s perfect for young people to have read to them, to get kids into reading on their own and for adults to get back into reading or take a nostalgic stroll down Diagon Alley. No matter who you are, I think Harry Potter has something to offer each of us and has the ability to grow with us throughout our lives.
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
Speaking of obvious ones… If you’ve spent a minute or two on this site before you no doubt have figured out that I have something of a passion for the tales of Middle-earth. These books might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but their influence in the fantasy genre cannot be ignored! Like Harry Potter I think The Lord of the Rings has something to offer everyone. Sweeping epic tales of good and evil and all the complexities in between are always so intriguing to me and what they teach us about ourselves never fails to inspire. This book in particular is a wonderful adventure story as well, which is always welcome in my world!
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
Another of my all-time favorites! I can’t say enough about this classic. Upon each reread, I find so much more to love about it. Frankenstein is full of all sorts of questions and commentary on morality, creation, responsibility and more. I always hear people tell me that it is more accessible than they would have thought. The story on the surface is interesting and entertaining, but dig just a little deeper and it is even more rewarding an experience!
Watchmen, Alan Moore
Are all my favorite books banned or challenged? A good many of them, because here is another! Watchmen is my favorite graphic novel, which is saying something because there are quite a few (as you’ll soon see) that I enjoy. The central question of this amazing book is who watches the watchmen? Is essence, who regulates, or even has the ability to regulate, those with power that are claiming to protect us.
Fun Home, Alison Bechdel
Actually all of the graphic novels pictured above are banned! Fun Home is another graphic novel that I just love. It’s full of classic literary references, which is always a selling point for me. But they are talked about in a very accessible and conversational way, which doesn’t bog down the story. It’s a partially autobiographical book about growing up and the ways in which our families affect us.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
A classic! And one of the great American novels. Follow Nick as he gets to know his mysterious neighbor, Gatsby (who knows how to throw a pretty epic party). This is one you’ve probably read before and everybody needs to read at least once in life!
A Separate Peace, John Knowles
This is another American classic book I read at some point in high school and really got attached to. It focuses on two boys attending a boys’ boarding school in New England. It’s set during WWII and revolves around loss of innocence. If you like Dead Poets Society, I think you will like this book.
Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
These books are pure nostalgia for me! I used to love reading these alone or with friends. The creepy stories and sketches were just enough to freak out my young mind without being completely traumatizing. I believe they were foundational in my love of the macabre. The title of the first book says all you need to know: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Remember reading the giver in school as a young person? I do! I loved this book then and when I reread it several years ago I discovered that it held up for me. It’s a dystopian middle grade book about an ordered future with different rules, where your career path is chosen for you.
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
This is another dystopian book for a slightly older crowd. This classic deals with a world where humans are kept medicated to produce desired results and genetically bred for certain purposes, all toward the goal of upholding “order.” This book is disturbing and a creepy look at what a sterile and controlled future might be like.
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
This is perhaps the best book on this list, not necessarily for its literary merit (though it is a great book) but for the fact that it is actually a banned book about books being banned. Whoa. Another dystopian future is before us here, one that seeks to destroy all literature (shudder).
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
Keeping the dystopia coming! One last one, I promise. You’ve probably heard a bit about this book recently, either for its modern relevance or because there has been a Hulu series made based on it. It follows, almost in a diary format, the life of a handmaid in a new republic called Gilead. This is a world in which women do not have money or rights of their own. Handmaids serve a purpose in this new government: carrying the children of the important members of society. The future is bleak for them. I definitely recommend giving this book a try.
This is by no means an exhaustive list! Go out there and scour the web to see what other books you can find. Do any of your favorites make the list?