First they tried to ban books…
Then they tried to ban Rock & Roll…
Then they tried to ban Heavy Metal…
Then they tried to ban Gangster Rap Music…
Then they tried to ban Violent Movies…
Then they tried to ban Dungeons & Dragons…
Then they tried to ban Violent Video Games…
When is this reactionary stupidity going to end?… It always fails and it’s always a distraction.
See also the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th century list. Source: Banned Books: Challenging our Freedom to Read by Robert P. Doyle, ALA 2010.
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Challenged at the Baptist College in Charleston, SC (1987) because of “language and sexual references in the book.”
The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger
Since its publication, this title has been a favorite target of censors.
- In 1960, a teacher in Tulsa, OK was fired for assigning the book to an eleventh grade English class. The teacher appealed and was reinstated by the school board, but the book was removed from use in the school.
- In 1963, a delegation of parents of high school students in Columbus, OH, asked the school board to ban the novel for being “anti-white” and “obscene.” The school board refused the request.
- Removed from the Selinsgrove, PA suggested reading list (1975). Based on parents’ objections to the language and content of the book, the school board voted 5-4 to ban the book. The book was later reinstated in the curriculum when the board learned that the vote was illegal because they needed a two-thirds vote for removal of the text.
- Challenged as an assignment in an American literature class in Pittsgrove, NJ (1977). After months of controversy, the board ruled that the novel could be read in the Advanced Placement class, but they gave parents the right to decide whether or not their children would read it.
- Removed from the Issaquah, WA optional High School reading list (1978).
- Removed from the required reading list in Middleville, MI (1979).
- Removed from the Jackson Milton school libraries in North Jackson, OH (1980).
- Removed from two Anniston, AL High school libraries (1982), but later reinstated on a restrictive basis.
- Removed from the school libraries in Morris, Manitoba (1982) along with two other books because they violate the committee’s guidelines covering “excess vulgar language, sexual scenes, things concerning moral issues, excessive violence, and anything dealing with the occult.”
- Challenged at the Libby, MT High School (1983) due to the “book’s contents.”
- Banned from English classes at the Freeport High School in De Funiak Springs, FL (1985) because it is “unacceptable” and “obscene.”
- Removed from the required reading list of a Medicine Bow, WY Senior High School English class (1986) because of sexual references and profanity in the book.
- Banned from a required sophomore English reading list at the Napoleon, ND High School (1987) after parents and the local Knights of Columbus chapter complained about its profanity and sexual references.
- Challenged at the Linton-Stockton, IN High School (1988) because the book is “blasphemous and undermines morality.”
- Banned from the classrooms in Boron, CA High School (1989) because the book contains profanity. Challenged at the Grayslake, IL Community High School (1991).
- Challenged at the Jamaica High School in Sidell, IL (1992) because the book contains profanities and depicts premarital sex, alcohol abuse, and prostitution.
- Challenged in the Waterloo, IA schools (1992) and Duval County, FL public school libraries (1992) because of profanity, lurid passages about sex, and statements defamatory to minorities, God, women, and the disabled.
- Challenged at the Cumberland Valley High School in Carlisle, PA (1992) because of a parent’s objections that it contains profanity and is immoral.
- Challenged, but retained, at the New Richmond, WI High School (1994) for use in some English classes.
- Challenged as required reading in the Corona Norco, CA Unified School District (1993) because it is “centered around negative activity.” The book was retained and teachers selected alternatives if students object to Salinger’s novel.
- Challenged as mandatory reading in the Goffstown, NH schools (1994) because of the vulgar words used and the sexual exploits experienced in the book.
- Challenged at the St. Johns County Schools in St. Augustine, FL (1995).
- Challenged at the Oxford Hills High School in Paris, ME (1996). A parent objected to the use of the ‘F’ word.
- Challenged, but retained, at the Glynn Academy High School in Brunswick, GA (1997). A student objected to the novel’s profanity and sexual references.
- Removed because of profanity and sexual situations from the required reading curriculum of the Marysville, CA Joint Unified School District (1997). The school superintendent removed it to get it “out of the way so that we didn’t have that polarization over a book.”
- Challenged, but retained on the shelves of Limestone County, AL school district (2000) despite objections about the book’s foul language.
- Banned, but later reinstated after community protests at the Windsor Forest High School in Savannah, GA (2000). The controversy began in early 1999 when a parent complained about sex, violence, and profanity in the book that was part of an Advanced Placement English class.
- Removed by a Dorchester District 2 school board member in Summerville, SC (2001) because it “is a filthy, filthy book.”
- Challenged by a Glynn County, GA (2001) school board member because of profanity. The novel was retained.
- Challenged in the Big Sky High School in Missoula, MT (2009).
A Reddit.com user posed the question to Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Which books should be read by every single intelligent person on the planet?”
Below, you will find the book list offered up by the astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium, and popularizer of science. Where possible, we have included links to free versions of the books, all taken from our Free Audio Books and Free eBooks collections. Or you can always download a professionally-narrated book for free from Audible.com. Details here.
If you’re looking for a more extensive list of essential works, don’t miss The Harvard Classics, a 51 volume series that you can now download online.
1.) The Bible (eBook) - “to learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.”
2.) The System of the World by Isaac Newton (eBook) – “to learn that the universe is a knowable place.”
Tyson concludes by saying: “If you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.”
He has also added some more thoughts in the comments section below, saying:
Thanks for this ongoing interest in my book suggestions. From some of your reflections, it looks like the intent of the list was not as clear as I thought. The one-line comment after each book is not a review but a statement about how the book’s content influenced the behavior of people who shaped the western world. So, for example, it does no good to say what the Bible “really” meant, if its actual influence on human behavior is something else. Again, thanks for your collective interest. -NDTyson