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What started out as a pastime soon turned into a hobby that turned into a passion until it eventually became a necessity. Reading is a need so beautiful that I feel I must write about it every day.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Every banned book is worth reading

Here is my list of books that have caused massive controversy since their release and are a must read. Most have been subjected to censorship, which has prompted me and many other readers to hunt them down and read to see what the hullabaloo is about. Let me tell you; these are books that require you to think and in the words of Wilde ''...show the world its own shame'' which is precisely the reason they are banned. However, it is interesting to note how all these books are considered to be some of the greatest in literature and are widely read despite being frequently challenged. Read on to see why these masterpieces deserve your time. 
1) Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

Banned for: Profanity, sexual references and immorality. This is one of the most banned, censored and challenged books of all times.

Why you must read it? How often is it that you come across a morally fallible, world-hating, teenage character? Not often. Searingly honest and brilliant in its disillusionment, this is one book that every person must read if they want to experience a classic, coming-of-age story unlike any other.

Note: In 1980, a young man named Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon and later gave the book to police as an explanation for why he did it, making this book stand out as an icon for teenage rebellion.
 Just don't interpret the book the way this retard did.

Key quote: "In my mind, I'm probably the biggest sex maniac you ever saw."
2) The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

Banned for:  Being "a real downer''.
As if a real life account of the biggest genocide in the history of mankind is supposed to be a joy fest!

Why you must read it? One of the most prominent accounts documenting the experiences of Jews by the Nazis. One that shows us a victim's unwavering faith in humanity even in the worst of conditions. I was deeply upset after reading the book but reflecting on the writing of this young legend made me realise the true message of inspiration and hope it contains for the world. It reaffirmed my faith in the goodness of humanity.

Key quote: ''How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.''
 ''I don't think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.'' 

3) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

Banned for: Offensive language and racism due to the use of a racially charged word. One administrator branded it as the "most grotesque example of racism I’ve ever seen in my life."

Why you must read it? It's Twain. Need more convincing? Well, after reading this book in grade 5 and being forever fascinated with 'Huck Finn', I reread the novel recently. Not only is this book Twain's finest work, it is also the cleverest anti-slavery and anti racist work ever written. The used of the word 'nigger' in the novel is used to depict the disgusting connotations of the word and actually attempts to challenge the racism Twain saw around him. A must read.

Key quote: "It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a n*****; but I done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it afterwards, neither. 

4) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Banned for: Charges of racism and the accusation that it "represents institutionalized racism under the guise of good literature'' and "promotes white supremacy".

Why you must read it? It paints a true picture of the struggles of it's time and is one of the greatest anti-racism books of all time. With memorable characters, great plot and a thought-provoking storyline, this book has secured it's place as the most loved classic.

Key quotes: ''You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.''
''She was white, and she tempted a Negro. She did something that in our society is unspeakable: she kissed a black man. Not an old Uncle, but a strong young Negro man."

5) The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

Banned for: Anti-Christian sentiments

Why you must read it? Read it as fiction and it will exhilarate your senses. Take it a bit too seriously and things will get disturbing. It sold millions of copies, caused widespread outrage, its a page turner and gets you interested in Art History. Enough reasons to read it if you haven't already.

Key quote: "Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false."
6)The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Banned for: Sexual references and profanity.

Why you must read it? This book is not only featured in every 'Must read' list, it is also Fitzgerald's best work. His words are simply beautiful. This tragic love story truly captures the fascinating lifestyle of the Jazz age. Jay Gatsby is quite an interesting character himself, the utter loneliness and emptiness that he exudes is bound to strike a cord with most readers.

Key quote: "Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known."
7) Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov.

Banned for: Obscenity, indecency and sexual explicitness.

Why you must read it? This book is about the life of a highly intelligent murderer and pedophile who seduces a 12-year old girl! However, this is no How-to manual for perverts. Read it simply because it is the most beautiful love story you will ever read (in a very demented way). A tale of forbidden obsession; Lolita is sure to leave you heart-wrenched, mesmerized and a tad bit disturbed- just what a good work of literature should do.

Note: This bone-chilling story is not for the faint of heart.

Key quote: "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.

8) The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

Banned for:  Violence, profanity, racism, and sexuality, including a rape scene.

Why you must read it? This book is a personal favorite. It evoked in me infinite respect for the black women who survived a miserable time living in South America in the 1930's and their struggle for independence and equality. Written as a series of diary entries and letters by the protagonist to God, the novel chronicles the life of black woman's poignant journey towards a better life. This is one of the most gripping novels I have ever read and one that everybody must read once. 

Key quote: "I see Sofia and I don’t know why she still alive. They crack her skull, they crack her ribs. They tear her nose loose on one side. They blind her in one eye. She swole from head to foot."

9) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

Banned for: Profanity, portrayal of smoking and drinking and questionable themes such as anti-religious and anti-establishment sentiments.

Why you should read it? Talk about irony! This books deals with the issue of censorship itself. It is a novel about book-banning in a futuristic society. The descriptions of modern society made in this book written more than 50 years ago are eerily obvious now. This is one of the most important novels in American literature and rightfully so. For those who find Bradbury's lengthy prose burdensome, here's what he has to say: "If teachers and grammar school editors find my jawbreaker sentences shatter their mushmilk teeth, let them eat stale cake dunked in weak tea of their own ungodly manufacture." Touché!

Key quote: "We know all the damn silly things we've done for a thousand years and as long as we know that and always have it around where we can see it, someday we'll stop making the goddamn funeral pyres and jumping in the middle of them."

10) The picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Banned for: Themes of homosexuality.

Why you must read it? This masterpiece will indulge you in a world of opulence and corruption, immerse you in shameless pleasure and in the end, make you gasp in horror. Undoubtedly, one of the greatest books ever written.

FYI, I am the proud owner of the original version published for the very first time after the book's release 120 years ago- 'The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition' edited by Nicholas Frankel.

Key Quotes: "Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world's original sin. If the cave-man had known how to laugh, History would have been different."
"My dear boy, no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.

How many of these forbidden masterpieces have you read?


  1. I really want to read lolita, the great Gatsby and The colour purple!!

    1. Im reading the great gatsby right now, almost at the end. It's a thin book. The color purple, I read last year at college. (they didnt allow issuing of books so lets just say i had to sneak it out for a couple of weeks) rest assured, it is in it's rightful place now. and Lolita is... well, not an easy read but its brilliant. Remind me to lend you gatsby.

  2. I've read 4/10.
    Many of these I have or have yet to read.
    Although I tried reading The diary of Anne frank .failed.
    I like and hated the picture of dorian cray because it pissed me off some times.
    I love Dan Brown Books!

    1. You should definitely give Anne frank another try. It's a depressing read but in the end you'll take away a lot from the book.

      I know exactly what you mean by getting pissed at Dorian gray. Some of the view points are just so crude, they take you aback for a moment, but then I guess that is what makes this novel stand out for me. I haven't come across a more self obsessed and opinionated character than Lord Henry.The style of writing is brilliant too and for me, its one of the best books I've read.

      And yes, Brown is great :)

  3. yeah. I think I will give Anne Frank another try. but this time in english. I only read 25 pages into it then got bored with the normalcy and annoyed at the Jewish restrictions. Although there were some parts that stood out even in the beginning. "paper is a patient friend".

  4. As you read on you'd be surprised by the clarity of thought and descriptions of her time in hiding. For a 14 year old girl to have such strong beliefs about the world and in herself is just amazing to read. Do let me know your views after finishing it.


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