Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Let's Discuss Something: Banned Books Week

From what I've gathered, this week is Banned Books Week. Which according to Wikipedia is:

... an annual awareness campaign that celebrates the freedom to read, draws attention to banned and challenged books, and highlights persecuted individuals. The United States campaign "stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them" and the requirement to keep material publicly available so that people can develop their own conclusions and opinions. The international campaign notes individuals "persecuted because of the writings that they produce, circulate or read." ...
So, basically, this week is a tribute to all those books that have been banned from time to time in different countries for reasons such as: "excessive use of racist vocabulary", "portrayal of certain behaviour as socially acceptable", "left-wing politics" and other very silly ones.

The banning of books is a really ridiculous notion. What better way to bring attention to a certain book other than banning it? And also, aren't we supposed to have freedom of speech? As in, everyone is allowed to freely talk about whatever he/she believes in, in whichever way he/she feels fit? And that we all have a choice in what we want to read or not read, as the case may be? Banning books takes away both our freedom to read whatever we want to read, as well as the author's freedom to talk about whatever he wants to talk about.

In Greece, we have a really great author, Nikos Kazantzakis. You may or may not know of him, but the fact remains that he is one of the best writers to have lived in Greece. (He was actually born in Heraklion, where I live and my house is not far from his grave.) But there was a bit of a problem; he decided to write a book called "The Last Temptation of Christ". And the Orthodox Church did not like that and prohibited his being buried in a cemetery after his death (which is why he is buried on the wall surrounding the city of Heraklion). What is remarkable about this, though, is the fact that even though the Church was not happy about what Kazantzakis had written, I am pretty sure the book was not banned in Greece (though, from what I know, it has been banned by the Roman Catholic Church). In fact, I was urged time and time again by my high school teachers to read the book in question, because it is a real masterpiece.

In my opinion, with the Orthodox Church prohibiting Kazantzakis' burial in a cemetery because of that particular book, they just drew the attention to it and made people want to read it and see for themselves what the whole fuss is about. So, as a general conclusion, banning a book will probably bring about the opposite effects than might have been expected by the people who actually banned it.

That was just an example from my school years. I can, at least, be thankful for the fact that, even though Greeks in general are pretty devout Orthodox Christians, all the teachers I had in school were very open minded and urged us to read books, despite of what the Church may have to say about them. But reading around some other blogs this past week, I have come upon some rather surprising news: apparently, Harry Potter is another book that has been subject to the "to ban or not to ban" question from various Christian groups (because of the fact that it has witchcraft, spells and potions, I suppose). I even read a comment saying that "there was a girl who was envious of everyone else reading the Harry Potter books, when she couldn't, just because her pastor had told her that if she read them she would go to hell". I was absolutely horrified when I read that. What kind of an idiotic and narrow-minded person says that to a child? It is my firm and irrevocable opinion that religion should have NO SAY in what we can or cannot read. Let the parents decide if their child is - at a particular age - ready to read something. Or - God forbid - just let the child choose for itself. Pastors, priests and other religious figures are not gods; they have no right to dictate what a person can read.

And now, I am going to stop that rant, because it is possible I might go a little off topic and start talking about religion. Thanks for taking the time to read it, though, if you did manage to get so far! Feel free to leave any comments on this post. Even if you have a different opinion to mine, I promise I won't bite! This post is here just so that we can discuss something interesting!


There has also been a list going around with the Top 100 Banned Books (just like the Top 100 YA books list that was going around a couple of weeks ago). And again, out of curiosity, I decided to see how many books out of those 100 banned ones I have read.
Which I don't think are very many.

So, let's see, shall we? (The ones I have read are in green)
And the grand total is........ 11!! (Good God, that's bad.... Though I've definitely got another 10 of them on my bookshelves right now, so maybe I should get round to them.)

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  6. Ulysses by James Joyce
  7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding 
  9. 1984 by George Orwell
  10. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  11. Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov
  12. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  13. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  15. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  16. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  17. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  19. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  20. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  22. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
  23. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  24. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  25. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  26. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  27. Native Son by Richard Wright
  28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  29. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  30. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  31. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  32. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  33. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  34. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  35. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  36. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  37. The World According to Garp by John Irving
  38. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
  39. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
  40. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (I've only read the 1st one, so I'm not counting it)
  41. Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally
  42. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  43. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  44. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
  45. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
  46. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  47. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  48. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
  49. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  50. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  51. My Antonia by Willa Cather
  52. Howards End by E.M. Forster
  53. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  54. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
  55. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
  56. Jazz by Toni Morrison
  57. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
  58. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
  59. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  60. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  61. A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
  62. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  63. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  64. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
  65. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
  66. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
  67. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  68. Light in August by William Faulkner
  69. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
  70. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  71. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  72. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  73. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
  74. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  75. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence
  76. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
  77. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
  78. The Autobiography of Alice B. Tokias by Gertrude Stein
  79. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
  80. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
  81. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  82. White Noise by Don DeLillo
  83. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
  84. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
  85. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  86. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
  87. The Bostonians by Henry James
  88. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
  89. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  90. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  91. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  92. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  93. The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
  94. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
  95. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
  96. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  97. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  98. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster
  99. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
  100. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie


  1. This is a great post! I completely agree with you that banning a book only brings attention to it. Also, why should anyone decided for you what you should or should not read? Such behaviour hinders people from thinking and speaking for themselves. It's great you provided an example with your Greek author. Now I want to read his book. See, I want to read a banned book.:)

    I have also read 11 books from the list, and half of the list is on my wishlist - how about that. I would actually ban two books from the list myself - Lord Jim and Ulysses, but simply because they bored me to tears and I'd hate to have people suffer the way I did, haha.

  2. You think 11 is bad? I've read 3 :P Have to ask though... who bands Winnie the Pooh?!

    My friend is a Christian and her Church briefly banned Harry Potter but because it is a more liberal Church and people complained, they let up after only a few months :P

    I think banning books is ridiculous, and as you said, people should be free to read whatever they want. Banning does nothing book publicise a book

  3. @Irena - You should read it! Apparently it is a very good book! I haven't read it yet, but Kazantzakis is one of the few Greek authors I actually don't mind reading, so I am planning on reading it myself quite soon!

    @Katie - I have absolutely no idea! I was a bit baffled by that one... (Maybe because Pooh is a talking bear and he eats to much honey - making him a food obsessed and possibly obese bear?? Or something else along that line that is equally ridiculous.) As for your friend's Church, at least someone realised how ridiculous that particular banning was...

  4. I found a totally different list on the ALA website! What is that about?

  5. I completely agree with you. Parents should have a say in what their children read, but their opinions should not allow a book to banned from an entire group of children. The church and banning is just as crazy. And yes, banning does bring more attention to books. It amazes me that people have yet to really pick up on that.


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