Banned Books that Shaped America

atkins-bookshelf-literatureIn the age of the Internet, empowered by intelligent search engines and billions of pages of digital content (including millions of scanned books), we take for granted that we have access to anything that has ever been written. However, that has not always been the case. As Nicholas Karolides, co-author of the Banned Books series, writes: “Twenty-first century society continues to deal with a restraint that has inflamed passions since humanity began to keep a physical record of history — that is, the censorship of important ideas and truths accepted by many, yet offensive to a vocal few… For centuries, books have been banned, suppressed and censored because of political, religious, sexual and social reasons according to the tastes and beliefs of an era or a locale.”

Each year in September, the national book community celebrates Banned Books Week (their tagline is: “Celebrate the freedom to read”) to focus on the problem of censorship in America. Banned Books Week was established in 1982 in direct response to the pronounced increase of challenges to books in schools, libraries, and bookstores that occurred in the late 1970s. Surprisingly, even in our enlightened and sophisticated modern society, more than 11,300 books have been challenged since the organization’s creation.

In honor of the authors and publishers who contribute to humanity’s intellectual life, the editors of highlighted the 29 books out of the 88 books that the Library of Congress selected for its exhibition on “Books that Shaped America. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed, each of these burned books enlightens the world.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884)
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley (1965)
Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987)
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown (1970)
The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951)
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (1940)
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (1936)
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
Howl by Allen Ginsberg (1956)
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1966)
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952)
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (1906)
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (1855)
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville,1851)
Native Son by Richard Wright (1940)
Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women’s Health Book Collective (1971)
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (1895)
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)
Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred C. Kinsey (1948)
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (1947)
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852)
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963)
The Words of Cesar Chavez by Cesar Chavez (2002)

Read related posts: Books that Shaped America
The Best Love Stories
Books that will Change Your Life

For further reading: 120 Banned Books by Nicholas Karolides (et al), Facs on File (2005)

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