Read Dangerously

Article by Jeremy

Books get banned every day.

Sometimes the reasons are political. Sometimes the reasons are social. Sometimes books are banned unread simply because of dangerous content they supposedly contain. In our free society, banning books should be unacceptable. But it happens all the time.

To support Banned Books Week (September 21-27), Brazos Bookstore invites you to dig into these challenged texts and decide for yourself about their provocative nature. And mark your calendars for September 27, when we’ll be throwing our banned books party, Read Dangerously: A Day with Banned Books.

In the meantime, enjoy the following banned books, each chosen by a member of our staff.

The Sun Also Rises: The Authorized Edition By Ernest Hemingway Cover Image
ISBN: 9780743297332
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Scribner - October 17th, 2006

This brilliant novel follows journalist and expatriate Jake Barnes during his latest encounter with the twice-divorced Lady Brett Ashley. Book one and part of book two take place in Paris, but the height of the story is the running of the bulls in Spain and the fiesta that surrounds it. Set in the roaring 20s, the Nazis burned all of Hemingway’s writings in 1933 for “being a monument of modern decadence.” The Sun Also Rises was also banned in Boston, MA, in 1930; Ireland in 1953; and Riverside, CA, in 1960 for its language, use of profanity, and central focus on sex.

- Annalia 

Speak By Laurie Halse Anderson Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312674397
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Square Fish - May 10th, 2011

Not only is SPEAK my favorite banned book, it's also one of my absolute favorite book books! It cut straight through my teenage angst to impact me in a profound and empowering way. The book is frequently banned and challenged in high schools because it tells the story of a fourteen-year-old girl's (mostly silent) emotional recovery in the year following her date rape. Despite the premise, it is one of the most hopeful stories I've ever read, and the lessons Melinda learns about herself are universal, beautiful, and necessary.

- Mary-Catherine 

Lady Chatterley's Lover (Modern Library Classics) By D.H. Lawrence, Kathryn Harrison (Introduction by) Cover Image
By D.H. Lawrence, Kathryn Harrison (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9780375758003
Availability: BACKORDERED
Published: Modern Library - September 11th, 2001

First printed privately in Italy in 1928, this novel wasn’t published openly in England until 1960. The book soon became infamous for the physical (and emotional) relationship between a working-class man and an upper-class woman, its explicit descriptions of sex, and its use of then-unprintable words. The novel is said to have originated from events in Lawrence's own unhappy domestic life, and he took inspiration for the settings from where he grew up. Despite its explicit content, many critics argue that the subject of LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER is not sexuality but the search for integrity and wholeness.

- Mark 

Howl and Other Poems (City Lights Pocket Poets) By Allen Ginsberg Cover Image
ISBN: 9780872860179
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: City Lights Books -

Originally published in the fall of 1956, the book was subsequently seized by U.S. customs and was the object of a long obscenity trial where it was finally decided the book was not obscene. Brutal, unflinching, heavily inspired by both Jazz music and Walt Whitman, the genius of Ginsberg’s poems still rings true today. 

- Mark 

The Satanic Verses: A Novel By Salman Rushdie Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812976717
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - March 11th, 2008

A magical and galvanizing novel, THE SATANIC VERSES brought international fame to Rushdie as well as a fatwā issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran. The novel mixes the real with the imagined, replete with magnificent imagery and symbolism. Sadly, there were numerous killings, attempted killings, and bombings resulting from Muslim anger over the novel. 

- Mark 

Little Brother By Cory Doctorow Cover Image
ISBN: 9780765323118
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Tor Teen - April 13th, 2010

When its young hacker protagonists are detained by Homeland Security after a terrorist attack on San Francisco, LITTLE BROTHER brings us 1984 for the modern generation (with a more optimistic ending, thankfully). Winston Smith, 1984’s protagonist, might have done better if he could’ve hacked the government with an Xbox like our heroes in this story. Particularly relevant in our era of government surveillance and terrorism paranoia, LITTLE BROTHER is a breakneck-paced, all-nighter kind of read. This June, LITTLE BROTHER was pulled from One Book/One School program in Florida after the school principal worried the book encouraged hacker culture and would teach children to question authority. In response, author Cory Doctorow and his publisher Tor sent 200 free paperback copies of the book to the school.

- Liz 

The Handmaid's Tale: A Novel By Margaret Atwood Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385490818
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Anchor - March 16th, 1998

When Margaret Atwood published THE HANDMAID'S TALE in 1985, she caused a sensation. The novel imagines a world where the society assigns individuals to their place in the world: men are warriors and lawmakers. Women are domestics and babymakers. When one women dares to oppose this order she unbalances and entire society and exposes the flaws and limitations of tradition. Dangerous stuff, indeed.

- Jeremy

Beloved: Pulitzer Prize Winner (Vintage International) By Toni Morrison Cover Image
ISBN: 9781400033416
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Vintage - June 8th, 2004

A vengeful ghost, infanticide, sexual assault (of men and women), and all the unvarnished sadism of slavery. Nobel Prize alum Morrison’s masterpiece is filled with these horrors. And it is because of them that BELOVED has been challenged and banned on numerous occasions. The most recent instance took place in 2011 at a number of Michigan schools. But what are these children supposedly being protected from? Despite its supernatural elements, BELOVED’s power stems from it’s historically accurate portrayal of the dehumanization and brutality inherent in slavery--a system so horrendous a mother would rather kill her daughter than see her reduced to chattel. It is imperative for younger and future generations to understand just how awful this dark chapter of American history was. That is what BELOVED does for its readers. That is the core of its literary value. That is why the freedom to read it is so important. And worth fighting for.

- Keaton 

The Giver: A Newbery Award Winner (Giver Quartet #1) By Lois Lowry Cover Image
ISBN: 9780544336261
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Clarion Books - July 1st, 2014

Banning a young adult novel like THE GIVER reminds us that the books deemed “dangerous” are, in fact, often the exact pieces of literature that just might make young people want to read more. Upon first encountering THE GIVER, I didn’t know books were like that--dark, knotty things that told great stories, yes, but also made you think after the reading was done. I was hooked after that and moved onto more and more interesting and fulfilling works of fiction; that was my path. The thing that scares me about banning books like THE GIVER is: What happens to young people not challenged? How else will they move into maturity without that first taste of the unknown?

- Ben 

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