Radcliffe put out a Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century list. According to the American Library Association, at least 42 of those books have been targets of ban attempts. There’s a heavy concentration of titles in the top 30 – those targeted for banning are in bold.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
Ulysses, James Joyce
Beloved, Toni Morrison
The Lord of the Flies, William Golding
1984, George Orwell
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
Lolita, Vladmir Nabokov
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
Charlotte’s Web, EB White
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Animal Farm, George Orwell
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
Winnie-the-Pooh, AA Milne
Their Eyes were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
Native Son, Richard Wright
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey
Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
I’ve read 28 of the books in the top 30. Most of them are books that changed my life and shaped me as a person and an author. A few, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, were ones I had to read in high school and still loathe today, LOL. But still – literature is the cornerstone of culture!
Going back to The Grapes of Wrath for a moment because it’s a perfect example of a “truly important book.” You can read a history book to find out the facts about the dustbowl and the depression. You can interview those people who lived it (who are still alive). But Steinbeck brought their struggle alive, gave it a face, a voice in Grapes of Wrath. How can that be something we should ban?
Great literature should enlighten. Should elevate and make you think. (Not every book is great literature and that’s okay too, I don’t write great literature but I hope I entertain and occasionally give you something to think about.) But great literature is important to culture. To understanding.
I’m a Steinbeck fan, I see Of Mice and Men is on the list too. Another amazing book!
Slaughterhouse Five – Vonnegut is on the list a lot. The man is brilliant with subtlety. Slaughterhouse Five is one of the best books about war I’ve ever read. It’s tongue and cheek, witty, sharp. The kind of book I wish like hell I could write.
And Conrad’s Heart of Darkness! Man. I read this book in college. It’s rife with metaphor, layered metphor. So on the page there are the words, and then three layers of metaphor about people, war, human nature – it’s truly brilliant.
Anyway, I suppose this whole week is more about my love of great books than anything else but damn it, I look at these books and I can’t imagine my life, or heck, the library, without them.
Knowledge isn’t the enemy. You can’t make decisions about anything if you know nothing. Poverty of knowlege leads to poverty of the spirit.