Hooray for Banned Books!

BannedBooksAs many of you clever writers out there already know, it’s ALA’s Banned Books Week, a yearly celebration in support of reading in general and the First Amendment.

As you also probably know, the four of us here at Upstart Crow are huge readers and have been heavily influenced by a great number of titles on the banned list over the years. And then I discovered, by way of a lovely blog post by my client Josephine Cameron about her struggles with banned books as a child, that young adult writer Jo Knowles has started a fun meme on her blog as a way of celebrating Banned Books Week.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Go find your favorite banned book. 
  2. Take a picture of yourself with said book.
  3. Give that book some love by explaining why you think it is an important book.
  4. Post it to your blog.
  5. Spread the word!

KingGeraldsGame-thumb-330xauto-25123I don’t want to spend too much time boring you with a rehashing of some of the banned books that shaped my life as a reader. I’ve spoken about how Harry Potter changed my perception of children’s books, my love for J.D. Salinger, and how an early introduction to Stephen King in the fourth grade set the tone for years of bookwormery to come.

I will say, however, that I’m grateful for an upbringing in which my love of reading was encouraged. I’m grateful for having the freedom to read whatever I wanted, aside from a few times when my mother said something was “too adult” for me, like with Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game, and asked me not to read it which, of course, made me want to read it more. For the record, I definitely SHOULD NOT have read Gerald’s Game when I was thirteen.

But I digress. My main point is we need books that challenge us, force us to face truths that can be sometimes uncomfortable, and don’t always conform to the accepted norm. Keep writing, keep pushing against the walls, and keep taking risks.

I’m curious to know what some of your favorite banned books are, and how these books worked to shape you as a reader and writer. Let us know in the comments!

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chris Richman, Cool Kids Read, Christin & Louise, Andrea Cremer, Micol Ostow and others. Micol Ostow said: RT @UpstartCrowLit: New on the Upstart Blog: Hooray for Banned Books! http://bit.ly/9wSsov […]


  2. How many hands have you really got, Chris?

    I am proud to live in a community-Portland, Oregon–where the idea of banning books is heretical. The mere fact that such fusses are made about banning or burning books shows the incandescent power of the written word. Viva los libros!


  3. Seriously, your three arms are freaking me out.

    I grew up in Indiana, and while I lived in a progressive college town, we were still a thousand pre-internet miles from either coast, where the edgy stuff happened. But it was happening in books, too. Lucky for me, my parents were both readers and willing to drive me to the public library so I could stock up for two weeks at a time. Looking over the list of banned and challenged books I see some I cut my teeth on, some that got me through adolescence, many my teachers required, and many I’ve read as an adult. I think a wide range of experiences is imperative to our development as people. Sometimes, because of a reader’s location, physical abilities, or lack of fairy dust, he or she will only find those experiences in books.

    Yay, books! (And those who keep them accessible.)


  4. I also grew up in a community (in Northern California) where books were celebrated and banning would be “heretical,” as Michael G wrote. Looking at the list of challenged classics, there are few that -didn’t- make an impression on me, though A Clockwork Orange probably had the deepest impact in shaping my thoughts about politics and society.

    I do have my own parental banning story–when I was 11, my mother told me I absolutely could NOT read Rosemary’s Baby. We were at our cabin in the mountains, and of course, as soon as the everyone was asleep, I smuggled it into my room and read the whole thing. I have never been so terrified in my life reading that book alone in the dark of a mountain cabin.


  5. Hooray for banned books is right! I gave my own props to The Giver over on my blog. I am proud to report that many of the banned books I have read, I did so in school. Kudos to the public school system in my community for their open-minded approach to reading.


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