National Banned Books Week is held annually on the last week of September to celebrate banned or challenged books, falling between Sept. 21 and 27 this year.
According to the American Library Association’s website, a challenged book is a work that has been called to question, often times due to controversial content. A banned book is decidedly removed from libraries and classrooms based on these objections.
The ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom compiles a list each year of challenged books as reported through the media by teachers and librarians.
Based on the official ALA list of banned and challenged books, this is my top five list of books that you should read in celebration of national Banned Books Week.
“The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath (1963)
Repeatedly banned and challenged for its controversial content involving mental illness and suicide, The Bell Jar is a unique coming of age novel. As Sylvia Plath’s only published novel, The Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical work and offers a deep look inside her mind as a young woman with a mental disorder. The novel accurately captures the thoughts of a girl stuck in the darkness of her own human psyche and challenges the typical happy ending in the harsh face of reality.
“Looking for Alaska” by John Green (2005)
Frequently challenged since its publication and one of the top challenged books of 2013, “Looking for Alaska” is a modern day novel by popular young adult novelist John Green. Challenged for its inclusion of drugs and unsuitable content for its intended age group, “Looking for Alaska” is considered controversial for several reasons. As a documentation of a teenager’s experience at boarding school in Alabama, “Looking for Alaska” often leaves readers inspired and ready for adventure.
“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
“The Great Gatsby” has been regarded as one of the most treasured classic novels of all time. Taught in literature classes and high school curriculums, the novel’s cautionary tales of excess, longing and idealism are still praised today. The book was most recently challenged for its language and sexual references, but has had a long history of controversy in its reception.
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky (1999)
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” tends to be a book that young readers can relate to and reference for the rest of their lives. Another coming of age novel, this book follows the mind of an introverted teenager and documents his trials and tribulations of shedding his adolescence and entering adulthood. Challenged for its heavy content involving drugs and homosexuality, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” makes for a good read.
“Captain Underpants” series by Dave Pilkey (1997-present)
One of the most consistently challenged books, according to the ALA, “Captain Underpants” is often banned from classrooms due to its unsuitable content for its young audience. A staple on every kid’s bookshelf, the books are light, funny and will make the reader feel like a kid again.
-“The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger
-“Beloved” by Toni Morrison
-The “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling
-“The Awakening” by Kate Chopin
-“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck
Story: Casey Suglia, Intern A&E Reporter