It’s Banned Book Week.
I did this last year, too, but it’s worth doing it again. Here are ten banned books that I’ve read and/or taught:
1. The Great Gatsby. I finally got around to reading this a few weeks ago. I have NO IDEA how I managed to escape American high school AND two degrees in English without ever being assigned to read this, but I did. I pulled it off my shelf about a month or so ago and read it in an afternoon.
2. To Kill a Mockingbird. I read this book about once a year, whether I’m teaching or not. It truly is a classic.
3. Beloved. It’s a difficult book to read (most of the ones that get banned are), but it’s so worth it. The questions it asks us to consider about choice and regret and expectations and redemption are just glorious.
4. Invisible Man. I’m currently tearing through my classroom storage boxes looking for my well-loved copy of Invisible Man. I haven’t found it yet, but I will!
5. Native Son. See yesterday’s rant.
6. The Lord of the Rings. I have never taught this novel (and, in truth, I’ve only read it once), but it’s become such a part of our popular culture since the Jackson movies that I feel like it informs a lot of my thinking. I know for sure that I use it as a point of common reference when I talk to students about honor, duty, allegiances, and power.
7. In Cold Blood. I read this decades ago, and the experience sticks with me to this day. I don’t think I’ll ever have occasion to teach the novel, but I wouldn’t object to such an occasion were it to present itself.
8. 1984. This is another book I read as an adult (though how I escaped my education without having read it for a class, I’ll never know). I find it interesting that Orwell’s work is back as a topic of popular conversation, given the recent NSA spying scandals.
9. As I Lay Dying. “My mother is a fish.”
10. A Separate Peace. I didn’t love this novel when I read it in high school, so I was very careful to make it relevant to my students when I eventually taught it to seniors. If I were to judge from the final projects the students did on the book, I’d say they were pretty engaged, so I guess I did okay.