Originally, I began composing an article about why I love being an American, but as a heavy reader and obsessive writer, much of my list kept veering towards our rather liberal reading material.
So, I changed my course.
In honor of our nation’s birthday, here are 10 once-banned (or challenged) books that you should sit down and take a look at.
1. Forever…by Judy Blume
This book was banned for its honest glimpse into life of a sexually-active teenager who thinks her love will last, well, forever.
2. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Hopefully you’ve already read this one, but if not, I’m not quite sure what you’re waiting for.
3. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence.
Again, another one that I hope you’ve taken a peek at, but if not, then do (and notice the tendency that our, quite frankly, puritanical society has to ban anything related to blatant sexuality—especially of the female sort).
4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.
This book is definitely slightly disturbing, but it’s a sad glimpse into how we once treated people with mental illness right here on American soil.
5. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
My brother-in-law once told me that he didn’t like this book, and I told him it’s because he’s always been a nice kid. However, for any of us who have struggled through an angsty adolescence and, moreover, have struggled to figure out the strange, sometimes irritating people that make up our world, it’s never too late to read this book. (Personally, I’ve re-read several times and recommend this for a different perspective if it’s been awhile.)
6. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
For the generation who grew up thinking that The Matrix was original, please read this.
7. The Adventure’s of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
Yes, it’s understandable now that certain raw language is offensive, but I’ll also argue that we need to be honest, for the sake of everyone, about how people have been treated throughout our country’s history. For me, this book is the epitome of a storybook adventure, including what it’s like to navigate childhood and live as a dreamer with a big heart. Oh man, I’m getting worked up just thinking about reading this book again for the umpteenth time.
8. The Call of the Wild by Jack London.
This book was challenged and banned in other countries for being “too radical,” as well as for its violence—but what a harrowing tale of our nation’s past and the wilderness (which our country was made up of until pretty darn recently).
9. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
Believe it or not, this beloved American classic had its challenges too, and I don’t know about you, but I’m so glad that basically everyone everywhere knows what a “wild thing” is—because I also think that children all over have experienced temper tantrums and difficulty understand the grown-up world (myself included, even now as an adult).
10. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling.
I’m going to end with a book from my own memory bank. I’ve personally spoken with people who haven’t been allowed to read this book or who didn’t allow their children to. I’m sorry, but I still cannot believe that some kids aren’t able to read what I think are some of the best books of my lifetime, and beyond.
Books aren’t just inanimate objects we love or hate—they’re ideas made into reality.
They are the creations of someone’s elaborately working mind, made tangible for you.
I get goosebumps just thinking of how being a reader has shaped who I am, and definitely for the better.
So happy Fourth of July—and happy uncensored reading.
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Ed: B. Bemel