Banned Books: What Will YOU Be Reading?

Howdy and hello, fellow blog-type peoples! (And a heart-felt “Aloha” to you non-blog types, too. You can pull up a chair and make yourselves comfortable here any time.)

It has come to my attention (which can be rather difficult to grab) that Banned Books Week 2013 will be September 22-28, and until today I hadn’t even given a thought to my reading materials. *GASP!* I try to read at least one new-to-me banned or frequently-challenged book every year during this week. More work their way into my reading list during the rest of the year, but I make them a priority during this week.

Banned Books Week celebrates the fact that we are free to read these books that have been challenged or removed from schools and libraries, and that we are able to make our voices heard, even if our thoughts and ideas aren’t popular. A book isn’t necessarily good or worthwhile just because it’s banned, but there are a lot of great books on the list, and I’m certainly glad I have access to them (yes, even the ones I’ll never read).

This year, I’m going to read James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl to the boys at bedtime (and Captain Underpants if we have time), and I’ll be reading Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak to myself at other times. It’s not a long book, so I might be able to fit something else in there, but what? Hmm… I want to read Looking for Alaska (John Green) and 13 Reasons Why (Jay Asher), but I refuse to pay $10.99 for e-books, so I’ll have to decide whether I want to order paperbacks to live on my shelves.

Just for fun (and in case anyone’s looking for recommendations) here are a few of my favourite banned or challenged books that I’ve read over the years, in no particular order, some with links to outside commentary:

  • Harry Potter (series) by J,K. Rowling
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry (OK, I haven’t read it since 9th grade, but it was great then!)
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Unwind by Neal Shusterman (HOLY CRAP SO GOOD)
  • Carrie by Stephen King
  • The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus trilogy #1) by Jonathan Stroud
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • The Lorax by Dr Seuss


Looking for more? Here’s the ALA’s list of the 100 most-frequently banned or challenged books for 2000-2009, and a list of books that have been banned by governments at some time (it’s Wikipedia, so double-check if you’re concerned about authenticity).

So tell me: Do you care about banned books week? Do you make an effort to give these books some attention? Do you try to avoid books that get this kind of negative attention, or that are challenged for specific reasons (language, sexuality, violence, religious views, etc.)? If you’re planning to celebrate this year, what will you be reading?

And have you read 13 Reasons Why or Looking for Alaska? Are they worthy of shelf space? 


About Kate Sparkes

Kate Sparkes was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but now resides in Newfoundland, where she tries not to talk too much about the dragons she sees in the fog. She lives with five cats, two dogs, and just the right amount of humans. USA Today bestselling author of the Bound Trilogy (mature YA Fantasy), Into Elurien, and Vines and Vices. Writing dark, decadent, and deadly Urban Fantasy as Tanith Frost. View all posts by Kate Sparkes

11 responses to “Banned Books: What Will YOU Be Reading?

  • Alana Terry

    Just finished reading To Kill A Mockingbird again. Liked it even more this time!

  • Emily Witt

    To be honest, I had never heard of it until this post showed up in my email, but I think this is something I can get behind. (Some of the books on that 2000-2009 list are really surprising – and that’s probably the only list you’ll ever see both To Kill A Mockingbird and Gossip Girl on!)

    • Kate Sparkes

      Right? Like I said, not all books I’m interested in reading (50 Shades of Grey is on the list right now, and several others I couldn’t get into), but I’m still glad we’re free to read them if we want to. 🙂

  • Victoria Grefer

    Harry Potter and To Kill a Mockingbird are both brilliant! And both actually promote basic moral principles and the humanity of all people. I love them!

  • Amira K.

    Great post! I hadn’t even thought about banned books and I had certainly never heard of banned book week! I’ll have to think of a good one to read myself, though I’m sure every book ever written (with a reasonable degree of popularity) has been banned or censored for some reason.

  • Jade Reyner

    Ha ha, I have never even heard of banned books week – but it made me smile when I read some of the books that had been banned. It’s a bit like when I was a kid, some pop songs wouldn’t get played on the radio because of their content however now, they would be considered really tame. I shall have to look out for a ‘bad’ book to read! 🙂

  • Ricarda

    What? oO Gossip Girl and the Anastasia series? Is that… is that some kind of joke normal people don’t understand? As in “people who don’t get their rocks off running around trying to stop other people from having fun”…?
    Jesus, some people should learn to prioritise…

    Anyway, you’ve given me some ideas which books I could bring on holiday this year, thanks 😀

  • mysticcooking

    I’ve never really thought about Banned Book Week, but I love the idea of participating, too. Marking my calendar now…

    I didn’t love “13 Reasons Why,” but I know most people thought it was very powerful. It was well-written, and it’s an important subject, but I had a hard time getting behind the protagonist. Still, worth a read. I really liked “Looking for Alaska,” though – always love John Green and that’s one of his best. Not quite as good as “The Fault in Our Stars,” which is a definite must-read, but still really good. 🙂

    • Kate Sparkes

      Can I confess something? I’ve never read John Green, though I know so many people who love his work. I really, REALLY want to read “The Fault in Our Stars,” but I have to wait until it’s out in paperback. It’s killing me.

      Ooh, but I see the library has a copy…

  • L. Marie

    Love this post, Kate. I’ve read all the books you listed and many more of the ones on the list, so I guess my work is done. Um, why was James and the Giant Peach on the list? I love that book.

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