Fahrenheit 451

closePlease note: This post was published over a year ago, so please be aware that its content may not be quite so accurate anymore. Also, the format of the site has changed since it was published, so please excuse any formatting issues.

This is a list of the top 100 most commonly banned/challenged books between 1990 and 2000 according to the American Library Association. Bold means I’ve read it (or had it read to me), italics means that people I went to school with read it (for class or pleasure) and underlined means that I’ve heard of it, but wasn’t exposed to it in the previous two ways.

1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz

2. Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite

3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling

8. Forever by Judy Blume

9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman

12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

14. The Giver by Lois Lowry

15. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris

16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine some of them

17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck

18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

19. Sex by Madonna

20. Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel

21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard

27. The Witches by Roald Dahl

28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein

29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry

30. The Goats by Brock Cole

31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane

32. Blubber by Judy Blume

33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan

34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam

35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier

36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry

37. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

40. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras

41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

42. Beloved by Toni Morrison

43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel

45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard

46. Deenie by Judy Blume

47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden

49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar

50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz

51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)

54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole

55. Cujo by Stephen King

56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell

58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy

59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest

60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

61. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras

62. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly

64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher

65. Fade by Robert Cormier

66. Guess What? by Mem Fox

67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende

68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney

69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

71. Native Son by Richard Wright

72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday

73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen

74. Jack by A.M. Homes

75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya

76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle

77. Carrie by Stephen King

78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer

80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge

81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein

82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole

83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King

84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez

87. Private Parts by Howard Stern

88. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford

89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman

91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher

93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis

94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene

95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy

96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts

98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney

100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Stolen from Leah (who also stole it).

By now you’re probably wondering why some of these books are on here (I mean, come on, Where’s Waldo?). It’s amazing how the smallest, most insignificant thing can stir up such controversy (in the case of Where’s Waldo, it turns out there’s a topless sunbather in one of the scenes). It just goes to show how childish our society really is. How to Eat Fried Worms? I seem to recall that the point of that book had something to do with a kid who would win money if he ate a bunch of worms. Was it too homo-erotic?

What I don’t understand is that people want to get these books banned because of their questionable content. In some cases, I would probably agree (the original version of Little Black Sambo (it has since been rewritten) is =overtly= racist in both its story and, more so, its pictures. If I remember, I’ll scan in a few pages from the copy I have sitting on my desk at home), but most of the time I think people are going about it the wrong way. Don’t ban To Kill a Mocking Bird because it has racist elements, teach the book and explain the evils of racism. If we don’t teach our children what not to do, how will they know not to do it? You can’t just assume that, if we never teach them what racism is, they won’t be racist.

By the same token, you can’t just teach kids what’s wrong. I was watching Dr. Phil (what?) and he pointed out that you can’t only tell kids what’s wrong. If they only know what’s wrong, they won’t know what’s right. At first I thought it was a rather obvious statement, but after thinking about it, I realised that not teaching your kids what’s right could easily become a common oversight. See, I think the assumption is that they will inherently do the right thing as well as the wrong thing, so you need to teach them not to do the wrong thing. Trouble is, life doesn’t work that way. We’re a significantly more complex society than that and most things don’t come as a result of instinct. Just because you say please and thank you, doesn’t mean that your child will naturally pick it up. They may, but isn’t it a stereotype that parents are always reminding their children to say the appropriate phrase? And it wouldn’t be a stereotype if it weren’t grounded in reality.

Of course, all of this is predicated upon the assumption that you actually teach your kids. It seems that a troubling number of parents aren’t really bothering to teach their kids much of anything at all. They come on Dr. Phil and complain that raising their kids is, “hard” (to which he looks around, aghast, and asks, “When was raising children supposed to be easy?”).

Some years ago I became troubled with our society’s obsession with sheltering its children. We can’t allow them to hear swear words, so we’ll put a chip in every TV set that allows parents to block those channels out. God forbid they see violence or nudity, so we’ll prevent children under the age of eighteen from seeing R-rated films unless they’re accompanied by a legal guardian (a local theatre did this, much to our seventeen-year-old chagrin). Woe are we! Our children are being exposed to art and literature and they might be learning about the =real= history of this country! Quick! Ban all the books that tell the truth!

As someone on Leah’s website pointed out, “Why ban the book when you can let your child read it and teach them the lesson YOU want them to learn? Sticking your head in the sand solves nothing.”

So (and this one’s mostly aimed at Phoenix, but anyone can feel free to answer this one), how many of these have you read (or, in the case of Phoenix, perhaps I should ask how many you =haven’t= read)?

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  1. Haha! I was actually going through the list making mental notes on which books I’ve read and which I haven’t, and when I read the bottom, there’s a question (mostly aimed at me) asking just that!

    I’ll try and stick to the non-bolded/italicized/underlined titles.

    You’ve never heard of “Heather Has Two Mommies”? Really? Or “Sex” by Madonna? Both were in the news a lot not so many years ago. “Final Exit” was a book on suicide. When it came out, there were many political cartoons with it leaping to its doom from high shelves (or landing on Dr. Kevorkian). And how is “Private Parts” not underlined? You’ve really never heard of any of these?

    Let’s see…”Blubber” by Judy Blume was about a bunch of kids tormenting an overweight classmate, as told from the perspective of one of the tormentors. Blume, by the way, is an awesome author; it is unfortunate her books appear so many times on this list. 5 out of 100… Anyway, I don’t remember much of this book since I read it in a single sitting, 15 years ago.

    I read “Where Did I Come From” when I was 3, and its sort-of sequel “What’s Happening To Me” when I was 7, so it was hilarious to me when, years later, around 3rd grade, I found a bunch of my classmates crowded around the book peeking at the hand-drawn illustrations of boys and girls during various stages of puberty.

    Many of these books deal directly with puberty or sex. Part of out puritan heritage, no doubt.

    I actually don’t object to puritan-types wanting to protect their children from sex. In fact, I wish them well, and sincerely hope they succeed to the point where their offspring never learn about sex, and never have children of their own, and then we would finally be without puritans ruining everyone else’s fun.

    Sigh. I don’t mean to sound harsh on puritans, but JEEBUS FARKING CHRISTMAS! It’s ONE thing to believe in something and live your life that way. Good for you, jolly good show. It’s Something Else Entirely to decide that YOUR way of life must be the ONLY way of life. How does it affect you if *I* have fun? How are you involved at all?

    I am immediately reminded of the arguments regarding gay marriage (from Ernie’s House of Whoop Ass (ehowa.com)):

    “So let me think for a minute, that if [gay marriages] were legal, how would they effect (sic) my life. Would I have to pay more taxes? No. Would married gay people get a special check out line at the supermarket to get through line faster than me? No. Do they get their own special lane to avoid traffic jams? No. Do they get cheaper car insurance? No. Free car? No. Free socks? No.

    “So my question would be… what the [fark] do I care if gay people want to be married?”

    What do puritans care if children are actually educated and exposed to real-world issues like puberty and sex and violence and controversy? And WHAT BUSINESS DO THEY HAVE CARING ABOUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE’S CHILDREN ARE EXPOSED TO?

    If you don’t want your child to know about such things, keep them home, safely locked up under the stairs.

    Wow did I go off on a rant there. This is long enough to be my blog post for the day. It’s just difficult to be reminded of such idiocy while I’m here in Japan, comparing and contrasting.

    Japan is the most non-homophobic place I’ve ever been to. Nobody thinks anything of boys taking part in a drag contest, or playing the female romantic lead in a school play, or sitting on each other’s laps, or writing “I think Mr. is beautiful” on their homework with hearts around it. It’s not that they accept open homosexuality (“coming out” would be non-traditionalist and confrontational, big no-nos), it’s that they don’t see EVERYTHING as being sexual like we do in the West. For example, nudity does not equal sex here. It’s just nudity.

    Sigh. It’s going to be difficult to go home again. I wonder if Canada is as messed up as America. Maybe I’ll go there instead.

    In the meantime, I’m going to go breath into a paper bag for a while.

  2. Oh! I missed Private Parts, let me just go underline it…


    Good point about puritans keeping their kids in the dark about sex. There should be a website, puritansex.com.

    *checks to see if website exists*

    Okay, while there isn’t a website devoted to the defiling of naïve young republicans, the domain =does= exist. It just forwards you to a site that gives you the option to buy a pass to several different porn sites (sort of a “buy one get eight free” sort of thing). I can’t decide which of the sites is funnier, Bare Foot Maniacs or Pump That Ass.

    Anyway, what =was= I saying?

    Oh yes, books are good, ignorance is bad, gay is not contagious.

  3. Kris Boustedt

    I love you, Phoenix.

    Wait. This isn’t Japan…I can’t get caught saying something like that!

  4. Ignorance BAD! Argh!

    What the world needs now is not “love, sweet love” (although that’s another thing that there’s just to little of), but an intelligence booster shot.

    People whom nature would have culled from the herd in times past are living and breeding now. Blame advances in medicine, or the general plenty of the USA, but America is becoming the hub of stupidity. In countries where medicine is not as advanced, and resources not as plentiful, people in general seem to be more capable of critical thinking (but then lack education, sigh).

    Thank GOD (if there is a god), or Al Gore, or whomever, for the Internet(s), a place without borders, or rules, or arbitrary leaders so out of touch with reality that they are unable to function. Of course, there is also chaos and anarchy and a great number of sites with content I disagree with. But so what? Suffering a little chaos in return for freedom is a bargain.

    “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

    –Benjamin Franklin (maybe)

    This quote is sometimes attributed to Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson, which is just further evidence to fuel my belief that people are either stupid or ignorant. What Jefferson said was: “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Actually, browsing wikiquote.org’s Jefferson page, I found this quote:

    I am really mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, a fact like this can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too, as an offence against religion; that a question about the sale of a book can be carried before the civil magistrate. Is this then our freedom of religion? and are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule for what we are to read, and what we must believe? It is an insult to our citizens to question whether they are rational beings or not, and blasphemy against religion to suppose it cannot stand the test of truth and reason.

    –Letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller (1814) who had been prosecuted for selling the book Sur la Création du Monde, un Systême d’Organisation Primitive by M. de Becourt, which Jefferson himself had purchased.

    How on-the-spot is that, eh? Actually, reading Franklin’s quotes, I agreed with a lot of what he said. There is definitely a commonality of opinion between us. I pondered for a moment that I might have been born in the wrong era, but then I remembered: there were no flush toilets or computers back then; so I snapped out of it.

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