Banned Books Week

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret AtwoodThe Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Genre: Dystopia
Release Date: March 16, 1998
Publisher: Anchor Books
Source: Bought
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: four-stars

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...

My third, and final, book for Banned Books Week on the blog.

Why was it banned?

Unsurprisingly, due to the content and nature of this novel, The Handmaid’s Tale is a frequent presence on banned books lists the world over due to its allegedly anti-Christian themes. Another popular reason, usually cited right along with the criticism of religion, is that the book is considered to be pornographic.

Why did you choose it?

Goodreads browsing, yo. I kept seeing it on must read lists for feminist and dystopian fiction so you know, I had to read it. Because of reasons.

The Handmaid’s Tale tells the story of Offred, one of many women living the lives of ‘handmaids’ in the not so distant future. Because of incidents in the past, such as abortion versus pro-life movements and high divorce rates, coupled with a rising fear that the human race would wipe itself out of existence by allowing women the choice to not continue with a pregnancy, religious fervour took over and gradually built up a new system of life in one country. In this ‘new world order’, the word of God is considered to be the highest law there is.

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Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

Northern Lights by Philip PullmanNorthern Lights by Philip Pullman
Series: His Dark Materials #1
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: October23, 1998
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Bought
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: three-stars

When Lyra's friend Roger disappears, she and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, determine to find him.

The ensuing quest leads them to the bleak splendour of the North, where armoured bears rule the ice and witch-queens fly through the frozen skies - and where a team of scientists is conducting experiments too horrible to be spoken about.

Lyra overcomes these strange terrors, only to find something yet more perilous waiting for her - something with consequences which may even reach beyond the Northern Lights...

Why was it banned?

Apparent attack on religion and the church. The main character also goes through a ~sexual awakening later on in the series. How very risqué.

Why did you choose it?

Because I’ve been wanting to reread this series for ages. Simples.

 Lyra and her dæmon moved through the darkening Hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.

I first read this about seven years ago, when I was a young teenager and just picking up whatever I could find in my library. I remember adoring this book back then. I absolutely devoured it. I think this time around I was expecting too much from this book, and I ended up being a little disappointed that I wasn’t sucked in like I was before.

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Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Genre: Dystopia
Release Date: March 1969
Publisher: Dial
Source: Bought
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: four-stars

Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut's) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

Don't let the ease of reading fool you - Vonnegut's isn't a conventional, or simple, novel. He writes, "There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters."

Slaughterhouse-Five is not only Vonnegut's most powerful book, it is also as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch- 22, it fashions the author's experiences in the Second World War into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority.Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut's other works, but the book's basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it a unique poignancy - and humor.

Why was it banned?

Slaughterhouse Five, since it was written, has always been subject to controversy and censorship due to its language, sexual and irreligious themes, use of outdated but nevertheless offensive terms, and for its portrayal of US soldiers in WWII. Over the years it has been a regular presence on the Banned Books list and will probably continue to be so.

Why did you choose it?

Haha. Ha. *shifty eyes*

Okay, so a couple of months ago I came across a pretty famous Dean/Castiel fanfiction. In it, Dean is a late night radio show presenter who talks about a variety of subjects, mostly music but sometimes books. And one of his favourite authors is Kurt Vonnegut. He talks about two of his books specifically – Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five. The way the author of the fic wrote about these books really got me interested, even more so because Vonnegut’s been referenced on Supernatural a few times.

The moral of the story here is that I can basically find book recommendations just about anywhere.

I’ve never actually read anything quite like Slaughterhouse Five; it’s pretty much a unique book in as far as it’s written, I think. The novel gives you two points of view but only one narrator – our main character, Billy Pilgrim, is a fictional character who was a soldier in WWII and found himself captured as a POW by the Germans. As well as thousands of other POWs, Billy is taken to Dresden for the duration of his capture and is present during the Dresden air raids which decimated the city.

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Genre: Classic
Release Date: July 11, 1960
Publisher: Arrow Books Ltd.
Source: Bought
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: five-stars

'Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.'

A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel - a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man's struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming-of-age story, an anti-racist novel, a historical drama of the Great Depression and a sublime example of the Southern writing tradition.

Why was it banned?

Racial content, profanity (“damn” and “nigger” are often used), and references to rape.

Why did you choose it?

I chose to read To Kill a Mockingbird for Banned Books Week because I was feeling left out. Most of the Americans I know had to read this for school, but I was stuck with Jane Austen and Shakespeare. So I decided it was time to pick this one up and see what all the fuss was about.
When he was thirteen my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.
With To Kill a Mockingbird, I did what I usually do when I want to read a novel: I did no research at all. I find that going into books without knowing anything about them beforehand is the best way for me to do things. I am able to keep my expectations fairly low, and it also means that I am able to be surprised. I didn’t know what the plot was, and I had only ever heard of one character – Atticus Finch, who I thought was the main protagonist before I started reading, because everyone spoke about him so much.

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A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony BurgessA Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Genre: Classic
Release Date: December 1962
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Source: Bought
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: four-stars

A vicious fifteen-year-old "droog" is the central character of this 1963 classic, whose stark terror was captured in Stanley Kubrick's magnificent film of the same title.

In Anthony Burgess's nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends' social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex—to "redeem" him—the novel asks, "At what cost?"

Why was it banned?

A Clockwork Orange was banned in some US schools upon its release on grounds of immorality – it was thought to contain too much sexual violence. Some of you might know that there is a movie adaptation of this book which caused even more uproar – upon the movie release, violent teenage gangs took to the streets of London, spurred on by what they had witnessed on the movie screen. Words are important, yo.

Why did you choose it?

So I picked A Clockwork Orange to read because it’s such a famous novel and has always been on my to-read list. I just needed a reason to get around to reading it, I suppose. Continue reading