Monday, September 23, 2013

Banned Books, Goodreads & Other News

I nearly always miss Banned Books Week, but I was lucky enough to be reminded before-hand, which is the only reason this post even exists. Banned Books Week is, actually, a really important event for me every year. Not exactly because I sit down to read a handful of banned books, but rather because the full extent of the phrase banned books finally hits me. I think I first learned about banned books when I was eleven – which is rather late. Although my parents never banned me from books, I always knew that I was not meant to read certain novels or pages before a certain time. For instance, I distinctly remember my mother telling me not to read the “August” section of our “A” Britannica Encyclopedia of the World as it mentioned Virgo, the star sign of the month, and my mother thought I was far too young to know about virgins at the age of nine. Understandable.

However, the actual banning of a book is an entirely different idea altogether. Just the image of burning books, crossing out words, or hiding a novel so it cannot be read and appreciated is downright blasphemous. After all, words have had the power to change my life, countless times, and the thought of others being denied that gift is heart-breaking.

I decided that, to celebrate Banned Books Week, I’d put together a list of some of my favorite banned titles from the American Language Association. After all, these books deserve to be celebrated, no matter what.

pic name pic name pic name
1. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
I knew this was banned, but to be number one on the list was a little shocking, even for me. Quite simply put, this series is transformative. It lent me strength while I grew up and taught me so many valuable life lessons. It’s…magical.
8. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
I know this was my first real fantasy series and it blew me away. It still does. I’ve never re-read it, but my memories of it are so vivid and my emotions are so sharp and clear because this trilogy is just incredible.
23. The Giver by Lois Lowry
I think this was my first true dystopian novel, so I remember being both eerily fascinated by it and ever-so-slightly confused. It’s truly a remarkable piece of fiction, though, only because it makes you think and explores so much gray area. I struggled to believe anyone would want to ban this back when I read it more than half a decade ago and I still struggle to believe that today.

(My Favorite) Banned Classics
pic name pic name pic name
1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
In the four years since I’ve discovered this book, I’ve already read it six times. And each time I’ve read it, I uncover something new about it and see this novel in a whole new light. Is it one of my favorite books ever? Yes.
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
If you’ve read this book, you know just how wonderful it is. I love the book, I love the film, and I love the new anniversary edition covers. ;)
27. Native Son by Richard Wright
I read this just two years ago and it shocked me, confused me, and made me see the world in a whole new light. I don’t think that we, as people, can fully comprehend discrimination until we’ve read Native Son. We know it, on an academic level, and perhaps we’ve even experienced it, but not like this. I think this is one of the most under-read, fallen-under-the-radar classics ever, but I sincerely hope that isn’t the case in the future as it is so good.

On this note of censorship, let's stop to discuss Goodreads for a moment, shall we? Jessie from Ageless Pages Reviews and Nafiza from Bibliophilic Monologues both wrote wonderful posts about exactly what Goodreads has done and why their censorship is wrong (which is why I'm skipping over those subjects). All I really want to say about this is...what now? I joined Goodreads last year and found a community that accepted me for my bookish quirks and appreciated me for my opinion. I have - luckily - not had any of my reviews taken off of Goodreads, but I don't want to sit in the perpetual fear that they will. Does this mean I want to join Book Likes? Not really. Honestly, I appreciate Goodreads more for its ability to let me connect with other readers than anything else. I refer to the reviews of my trusted friends constantly, but even more than that, I love that readers are able to interact so easily with me and I with them. I don't worry over losing books or reviews in moving to a new website, I worry over losing friends. And so, I want to know now, what are you doing about the issue on Goodreads? Are you joining Book Likes, or completely leaving Goodreads? I will probably make myself a Book Likes account sometime soon and I will probably begin using it, but unless I can find all my friends back on it, I doubt it will completely replace Goodreads for me.

And on an entirely unrelated note, I wanted to add that I will be rather…absent…from the blogosphere over the next two months. Why? COLLEGE. I thought last year, with standardized tests every two months, was bad, but college applications are even worse. I’m currently still finalizing my list and I have two out of the twenty essays I need to write finished, but I have a looot of writing and editing in my future. I still have nearly a dozen backlogged posts, not to mention tons of ARCs to read and review in-between now and December, and I will definitely be commenting on blogs – only because I really just LOVE to – but if you notice me posting visibly less or perhaps commenting occasionally (I’m going to try to give shout-outs on Twitter, even if I can’t comment!), then just know it’s because I’m caught up in the college frenzy. I’m hoping to be mostly finished by the time December rolls around, so if I can get through this in one piece, I’ll be relieved. Anyway, just wanted to let you know! :)

And so, back to banned books! What are some of your favorite banned books? Have you experienced censorship (in another form than the current Goodreads Debacle...)? What are your thoughts about banned books? I'd love to hear, so let me know in the comments! :)


  1. Good luck at college applications! The best thing to do, as you probably know, is the write the essays first of the schools you are most interested in and hold the others for Regular Decision. I learned that from riding the application stream last year.

    Love, love Harry Potter and The Giver and I see nothing to ban those books for. A favorite banned book of mine is Slaughterhouse-Five, a beautiful and strange book with so many meaningful messages.

    I really dislike how Goodread's is deleting reviews arbitrarily, especially since its suppose to be a social network where free speech is allowed. I'm probably not going to join Booklikes since Tumber confuses me (I heard BL similar to tumbler) and just communicate by commenting and twitter.

    wonderful post Keertana!

  2. Good luck at college applications! The best thing to do, as you probably know, is the write the essays first of the schools you are most interested in and hold the others for Regular Decision. I learned that from riding the application stream last year.

    Love, love Harry Potter and The Giver and I see nothing to ban those books for. A favorite banned book of mine is Slaughterhouse-Five, a beautiful and strange book with so many meaningful messages.

    I really dislike how Goodread's is deleting reviews arbitrarily, especially since its suppose to be a social network where free speech is allowed. I'm probably not going to join Booklikes since Tumber confuses me (I heard BL similar to tumbler) and just communicate by commenting and twitter.

    wonderful post Keertana!

  3. I was a bit confused by The Giver as well-I should probably reread it as an adult who is very familiar with dystopia novels, just to see how my interpretation of it is different.

    I also usually forget about banned books week-this year I remembered due to the posts I've seen but I don't have anything written for it though I'll be following what others write.

    Haven't read too much about the GR changes-I've never had any problems there but I'm not the most active user.

    Wow-twenty essays? That is a lot-are each of the colleges requiring several?

  4. Honestly the whole banning books thing sounds absurd to me. There is much more things that should be banned in this world (drugs? rape?..). Anyhow HP, The Great Gatsby are both books I enjoyed. Also I wish you all the luck at college. It can be really stressful but I'm sure you'll ace it ;)
    When it comes to Goodreads I'm not sure what to think. It never happened to me either so I hope it won't..

  5. I'm always behind with these things - I hadn't realised it was Banned Books Week :( That said, I'm not sure if you saw some posts recently about the attempt to ban Eleanor & Park from a library? There were some really excellent responses to that, which are quite timely, all things considered.

    As for the Goodreads situation - I'm appalled, but frankly, not all that shocked. I'm sad it's come to this. I used to love spending time reviewing and interacting there, and I'm disappointed to see how reviewers have been treated :(

  6. I'm still not sure what I'm doing about Goodreads. I love the ease of searching a book and then seeing what my friends have already said about it. But I really don't like their new policies.

    Good luck with all the college stuff!

  7. I do like Booklikes' interface but I don't see myself moving over today or any time soon. If I do create a Booklikes account, I'll probably start fresh and not move my massive virtual bookshelves from Goodreads. I like Goodreads and I'm not worried my reviews are going to disappear.

    Good luck with everything, Keertana. I hope you'll get to read something new from the Banned Books list.

  8. College applications are scary, but I've no doubt you'll do amazing, Keertana! You're a very articulate and thoughtful young lady, and I can't imagine you'd do anything less than fantastic!

    However, in terms of banned books, we're pretty much right on par. I was a big fan of The Golden Compass in spite of all its religious undertones. I'm also a big fan of Breathing Underwater, which portrays an abusive relationship in a powerful manner.

  9. I like Goodreads and I don't talk about authors in my reviews or on any threads. I'm reviewing their work not their behavior, so I doubt any of my reviews would be deleted anyhow. But who knows. I try to stay out of all the drama because I personally just don't have time for it. I didn't join the site to argue with other members or authors. I joined to find out about books I want to read and share my enthusiasm, heartbreak, or any other feelings a story ellicits. I love to gossip with people who feel the same or maybe have a different point of view.

    Good luck with colleges apps and essays! I hate writing essays!

  10. I doubt I could/would/will ever leave GoodReads. It's just too convenient, and truth be told, I love it too much. So while I may be annoyed with the things they do, I'll stay until they chase me away. :)

    As for banned books, my favorite book of all time (The Master and Margerita by Mikhail Bulgakov) was banned in the Soviet Union in its time and I think that it still is, somewhere. It's pretty bold, but it's a life-changer.

    Good luck with your applications, Keertana! Fingers crossed!

  11. Hah! My mom wouldn't have banned me from reading anything because she knew it would make me want to research it. LOL So often she would explain why she didn't want me reading it yet. If I still had to try it, she would let me and usually I'd be bored b/c I wouldn't understand fully what I was reading. Smart mom! :D

    As far as Goodreads goes... I'm going to wait. I think it is a good thing that attacking posts are removed. I do believe that is what they are trying to accomplish. It isn't exactly censorship since it wouldn't follow under the legal definition of such. However, if they start deleting things that don't make sense, just bad reviews and NOT bad behavior then I would probably leave. It's stupid to do so anyway since I've actually read books that had bad reviews just to see what kind of reaction I would have myself.

    As for banning books that I've loved... Ann Frank's Diary, Harry Potter and Black Beauty come to mind. I know there are a ton more since anyone can be offended by anything...

  12. @Rachel: I just joined BL today and it IS very similar to Tumblr, so perhaps it may not be best for you in that regard. However, I've been able to find a large portion of the GR Community on there, so that's a plus. Also, thanks for the advice on essays! I may be pestering you in the future! ;)

    @Bookworm1858: Yup, roughly - it's a LOT of writing. And yes, most colleges are requiring two, some three, so it's a loooot.

    @Melissa (i swim for oceans): Aww, thank you! I really hope it goes off well. And yayyy for The Golden Compass! Honestly, the religious undertones both in it and Chronicles of Narnia always go over my head, so I can just enjoy the book. I haven't heard of Breathing Underwater, but I'll have to check it out ASAP.

    @Maja: THANK YOU!(: Also, I'm so glad you'll always be there on GR for me to talk to! I don't think I'm fully leaving, but maybe dipping my toes into BL isn't a bad idea at this point either. I've actually never heard of The Master and Margerita, BTW, but I'll have to look into it for sure.

    @Melissa (Books and Things): Yup, I feel like we;re all playing the waiting game when it comes to GR. *sigh* And Black Beauty is banned? O.O I adore that one! Meh for censorship!

  13. First off Good Luck with all the College Applications :D. I hope you enjoy visiting the schools you'll be applying to!

    Second about Banned books-I had no idea that The Great Gatsby was a banned book. That sounds so ridiculous considering that it's one of the classics that's been taught in schools for so long! I've yet to read To Kill A Mockingbird. My dad really loves the movie though. Have you seen it? I also need to finish the His Dark Materials Trilogy.

    As for what's going on with goodreads. I'm really disappointed about what happened. They have no right to take down a person's intellectual property without notifying people as to why it's being taken down. I already do have a booklikes account and it's very much like tumblr. But I feel like it needs to be more userfriendly. I do worry that I might lose touch with the people I'm friends with on goodreads, but I feel like the site as lost it's way- as in it was started for readers, not authors per say. So it's a confusing situation. I'll stay on goodreads until I could possibly find a suitable alternative.

    Great Post Keertana!

  14. Amazing post, Keertana. I love your list of banned books and I agree, it's such a shame that people would go so far as to ban certain books - I mean, I think 50 Shades is utter tripe but I would not ban it. Also, if you need help editing your essays, let me know. :D

  15. @Savindi: YES, I agree with ALL your points! I'm upset about GR, but I'm not a huge fan of BL. I think BL has the essentials - the shelves, the ability to post reviews and rate books, and even has cool "tumblr"-like features, but I'm upset that I can't comment when a friend starts a book or update my status or just click on a book title and see ALL the reviews of it, by people who are both my friends and not. Meh. Also: TKaM Movie is FANTASTIC. I highly recommend both book and movie versions. :)

    @thebookwurrm: SERIOUSLY? I might actually hold you to that.. ;)

  16. I love Goodreads and I've never based my decisions to read a book on how the author is behaving. The new policies don't affect me.
    I always thought it was a bit silly when you see people with a 'won't read' or 'will never read' shelf.... because isn't every book in existence that's not on your 'want to read' shelf, a book that you don't want to read?

  17. Good luck with all your college applications Keertana, that's so exciting! The blog can definitely wait, and we'll all still be here when things die down for you a little! Sending good college application vibes your way:) *hugs*

  18. The thought of trying to navigate another bookish site is quite stressful. I completely understand your thoughts. plus I looked at booklikes and didn't really understand it. It looked like a blog? BUT Goodreads policies are ridiculous. However, it's hard to ignore the issue much longer. What to do? AH COLLEGE! I don't know how you do it all - continue blogging and commenting while school and applications. But I wish you all the best. PS I love many of those banned books too!

  19. The ALA annoys me with their banned books. I'd also be interested to read your review if you ever re-read The Giver, I have some mixed feelings about that one.

    As for Goodreads, I just blogged about why I'm staying, the short of it: I love the crazy reviews my friends post on their, as off-topic as they sometimes are, they enrich my understanding of books and readers. Throw that away and GR becomes a reader portal for amazon book-buyers. As that one poem from WWII goes, "When they came for the communists I didn't speak up because I was not one of them..." I have not been flagged yet, but once the censorship begins, why not get rid of my gif reviews or my rambling sentences of books I read in 2002?

    If you want to read it, my blog is


I love hearing from my readers and I read, reply, and appreciate every one of the comments I receive!(: If you're a fellow blogger, please leave a link to your blog - I'd love to drop by!

Unfortunately, this is now an award-free blog. I simply do not have the time to respond and forward on the award, but I truly appreciate the nomination regardless.