The well-read woman

The well-read woman

Melanie has picked up another book-related meme going around the blogs, this one the list of the top 110 banned books. You’re supposed to mark off the ones you’ve read or read part of. I did not do this because, despite the many books I’ve read, I have not exactly spent much time on the list of classic books. However, Melanie is (a) the most voracious reader I’ve ever met and (b) an English professor, thus her list looks a lot better than mine would.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • The status of these books as “banned” isn’t all that informative, since they were presumably banned by various institutions for varying reasons. 

    Communists probably banned the Bible, PC liberals banned the Mark Twain books, Mein Kampf cannot be published in post-Nazi Germany, and conservatives probably got A Separate Peace banned somewhere because it’s the same-sex version of Love Story: a sappy tale of two prep school boys in love, one of them sick.  (My freshman English teacher in NH must have been very avant-garde giving us that, but then it was the ‘70s.)

    Lumping these books all together as banned is to blur distinctions: the persecution of Christians is not the same thing as concerned parents objecting to gay-lit for their teens.

  • Who would ban “Little House on the Prairie” or “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”, and why?

  • Little House was “banned” because some idiot felt it was offensive to Indians.

    Funny, the list does not include “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” or the Turner Diaries – all the celebrations of free speech seem to forget these little gems (this is sarcasm for all you ADL members out there).

    Plenty of the listed books are true junk BTW – e.g. anything by Zola, Maya Angelou, D.H. Lawrence, Sylvia Plath.


  • I think you guys are taking much more seriouly than I intended. My inclusion of the list is not meant to be an endorsement of a particular ideology. I was just having fun.

    I would agree that the “banned” label doesn’t mean all that much, but I found this list to be very timely because yesterday I was teaching The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and my class was discussing the various reasons it has been banned—in the 1880s it was banned in Concord, MA because of the slang, much too lowbrow for the intellecutals and it might corrupt the youth—and today we began reading One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich another great book on the list.

    I think it was C.S. Lewis who suggested that for every new book we read we should go back and read an “old” classic book to help balance us out. Not because the old books come out of an error-free golden age, but because their errors were at least different errors so they can help correct some of the errors in our own thinking that we are blind to.

    Every age has its received wisdom which later generations will mock as folly. But I think a better response to the errors in thinking we disagree with is to openly examine those errors rather than sweep them under the carpet and ignore them. Shine the light of truth on them and they wither away, especially when you compare them with the truly good stuff.

    I agree that lots of stuff on the list is junk—how could it help but be when the only criterion is whether someone somewhere took offense to it—but I only know that cause I’ve read both the good stuff and the bad and learned how to tell the difference and to think for myself.

  • No kidding! This prompted some of the most nit-picky remarks I’ve ever seen from a meme over at my place too … which is what prompted me to find: The Forbidden Library ( They have a lot of scoop on why books would be on the banned list.

    And some of my most beloved books would probably be called junk … but I would defend “March Upcountry” to the death anyway if it were banned.

  • When I was a freshman, one English prof. chose Rabbit Run for class reading.  After he spent days expounding on his interpretation of Rabbit (he must have seen himself in the character), he gave the test expecting us to parrot it back to him.  I knew what he wanted.  I also knew what I believed and it wasn’t what he wanted to hear (Catholic doctrine, though I didn’t name it).  His red ink on the back ran to almost half the length of the essay, followed by an “F”.

    That was back in the days when the Chairman of Basic Studies still called parents to apologize for idiot professors.  My Mom was in shock when I got home and explained what I’d been up to and she recounted the unexpected phone call.  I got a “C” in the course, and I still have the paper.  The only one I kept, since it was the one I was most proud of. 

  • Hi, Melanie!  I thought blog comments were *for* nitpicking: it’s part of the genre, y’know?

  • wait…
    RC, you’re right!
    I just checked my dictionary:
    blog comment: response to a blog post in which readers of the blog nitpick the text of the post and each others’ comments to pieces.

    It’s all coming clear to me now. :0)

  • Ohh dear, I have read most of these, just a few I have not. Who had me read them? The Sisters of St. Francis at the late Archbishop Ryan Memorial High in Omaha.

    and Julie, that link is fascinating, for it reveals one thing: In the past many of the bannings were by religious or political conservatives. More recently, the attempts to ban, while there are still some religious conservative driven ones, most seem to be for liberal PC reasons, like Tom Sawyer, or because the book is a “downer” (????!!!!????)