Thursday Thirteen: Banned and Challenged Classics

In case you haven’t heard, it’s Banned Books Week. Since I’m a fan of books and I love intellectual freedom, I feel as though it would be a sin to let the week pass without a banned books post. As I mentioned earlier today, Hannah Givens is hosting a week-long banned books blog party at Things Matter. I’m not sure whether or not I’ll get a post out for the blog party, so I’ve borrowed an idea (and a graphic) from Diana. Here’s a Thursday Thirteen from the ALA’s Frequently Challenged Classics list.

All the books here have influenced me as a writer and thinker. I read them all before I turned 21, thanks to a mother and a high school English teacher who share my love of reading and freedom of thought, and thanks to a public library that was way better than any town of 5,000 has a right to expect. They are posted in the approximate order I read them.

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

My mother read this book aloud to me when I was in elementary school. She read The Hobbit to me when I was in first grade, and I begged her to read LOTR for two years until she finally did. I read it on my own for the first time when I was 11. If I write a post for Hannah’s blog party, this is the book I’ll focus on.

2. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Checked out from the library when I was 11 or 12; perhaps for my last year of the Summer Reading Program. It frightened me more than any horror story ever frightened me and forced me to look at the locker room antics and high school hazing with new eyes. I still find it disturbing. The film adaptation doesn’t do it justice.pins

3. A Separate Peace by John Knowles

I barely remember reading this one, but I know I did, because I remember the story and the cover of the battered old paperback. I also remember that it made such an impression I didn’t pick up another book for a while after I finished it.

4. 1984 by George Orwell

Picked up from the library when I was in the tenth grade because I’d read Animal Farm for school and I wanted more Orwell. I’ve since read most of his essays and Homage to Catalonia, his memoir of the Spanish Civil War. He’s my favorite early-20th Century thinker.

5. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

I went through a Hemingway phase when I was 15 or 16, and this is the second or third Hemingway novel I read. It’s on my list of top 15 20th Century novels, and the chapter where one of the characters is reminiscing about bull-baiting in his village before the war stands out to me as one of the best single chapters in all of American literature.

6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Required reading during my senior year  in high school. It’s probably why I’m fascinated with the 1920s to this day, and why I’m such a sucker for tragic romance.

7. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

I checked this one out of the library when I was a senior in high school just to see what all the fuss was about. I didn’t really get it then, but I do now. If I made a list of “novels everyone should read,” this one would be on it.

bbweek8. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

This was an assigned book for my honors freshman composition course. I wrote an essay on Huxley’s use of the “noble savage” trope, and I was still immature enough to be titillated by the way he uses the word “pneumatic.”

9. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

I read this one during my freshman year of college, and if  you’re wondering why anyone would want to ban this book, this quote will give you an idea:

“Fear the time when the bombs stop falling while the bombers live – for every bomb is proof that the spirit has not died…And this you can know – fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe.”

10. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

I find it as disturbing as The Lord of the Flies, but in a different way. I read it during my freshman year of college just for fun and ended up writing an essay about it.

11. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I read the book because I saw the Gregory Peck movie and liked it so much I wanted the reading experience. It’s a real shame that anyone even considered banning this book. That says not-so-nice things about American culture at the time it was published.

12. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

One of a dozen novels I read for Survey of the 20th Century American Novel in college. I also read Gatsby for the third time for that course, and got my first introductions to Nathaniel West, Carson McCullers, and Emile Zola. Slaughterhouse-Five is likely the novel that convinced me genre fiction can be serious, because whatever else it is, it’s also science fiction.

13. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

I picked this one up when I was 19 or 20 on the recommendation of a friend. It’s a strange and rewarding read. I don’t know what else to say about it.

I had  no idea what I was going to come up with when I started this list, but I like it. It tells me quite a bit about myself. It’s no wonder I’m suspicious of authority and believe in universal human rights. No wonder at all.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on My Fall Reading List

Each week, the good folks at The Broke and the Bookish host a meme post they call Top Ten Tuesday. They provide topics well in advance and even have a way to share your links with other Top Ten Tuesday bloggers. I love these posts, and I haven’t written anything substantial here in awhile, so this seems a good week to jump back into the TTT game. Enjoy!

1. The Benevolence Archives vol. 1 by Luther M. Siler

This is a collection of novella-length science fiction stories that I intended to read this summer. The author is the delightfully demented genius behind the blog Infinite Free Time, and everyone I’ve talked to who’s read this book so far has thoroughly enjoyed it, so it’s at the top of my list.

2. Storm Front by Jim Butcherdresden wallpaper

The first novel in the Dresden Files series. While I need to commit to another fantasy series even less than I need to try and follow one more t.v. series, the premise intrigues me. This one’s been on my tbr list for awhile, and I’m thinking I might actually pick it up this fall.

3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I feel as though this one is a matter of cultural literacy at this point. I’m tired of reading Hunger Games posts and having to say “um well, since I haven’t read it I hesitate to say too much about it but . . .”

4. Lamb by Christopher Moore

Diana loaned this one to me over the summer, and I’ve not gotten around to it yet.

5. The Collector by John Fowles

I’ve been wanting to read this one for years, but I always forget about it when I go for library books. I saw a friend of mine reading it for a course a couple of weeks ago and made a mental note to put it on the list.

6. Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore, Ill. By Brian Bolland

the-killing-joke-deluxe-front-cover1This is the most influential Batman story I’ve never read. Judging from the conversations I had over the summer on some of Jeremy’s Batman threads and at CompGeeks, I really need to get on this one. Fortunately, Jeremy loaned me a copy yesterday, and it’s a quick read.

7. One of our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde

I binged on Fforde’s Thursday Next series a couple of summers ago, and this is where I left off. I’m hoping to get caught up on the series this fall.

8. Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves

I discovered this one by googling a list of Gaiman’s books and browsing the titles I’ve not read until I found the one I like most.

9. The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

To my knowledge, this is the only piece of King’s Dark Tower lore I haven’t read. I wasn’t even aware of its existence until yesterday, and the blurb is quite intriguing.

10. To the Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History by Edmund Wilson

Since no reading list of mine can be complete without at least one serious piece of nonfiction, and I’ve been putting this one off for 20 years.

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I own the most books from.

Each week the good folks at The Broke and The Bookish host a meme post called Top Ten Tuesday. This week, we’re listing the top ten authors we own the most books from. Here are mine:

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1. Stephen King tops the list because, when I was a senior in high school, someone I knew was cleaning out her library and sold me first edition hardbacks of most of his early work (Carrie through It) for $0.50 apiece. I’ve added to the collection since then. I also have the illustrated Plume Book Club editions of the first four volumes of the Dark Tower series. He’s the only author who rates two complete bookshelves in my very small apartment library.

2. J.R.R. Tolkien is second because I just have a lot of his work. I have two copies of LOTR: The groovy 1970s boxed set that was read to me as a child, and which no one is allowed to touch; and an indexed hardback version I use for reading. I also have The Silmarillion, The 2-volume Book of Lost Tales, Unfinished Tales, and The Tolkien Reader, a collection of his poems and essays.

3. Ernest Hemingway, surprisingly, is third. I have a ton of his novels. The Hemingway books I go back to are For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Moveable Feast, a series of vignettes about his life in Paris in the 20s. For Whom the Bell Tolls contains perhaps the greatest single chapter of fiction in all of 20th Century American literature, and I consider A Moveable Feast to be Hemingway’s finest work.

4. Neil Gaiman may actually be third. I didn’t really count, but I know some of these books are actually Diana’s, so I just put him in as #4. I have both of his short story collections, Coraline, electronic versions of the entire Sandman Series, both American Gods novels, and Stardust. I’ve read Neverwhere and The Ocean at the End of the Lane (which I recommend), but don’t own them at the moment.

5. Jasper Fforde makes the list because I fell in love with his Thursday Next series a couple of years ago and either bought or downloaded them all. I enjoy his brand of humor and his meta-fictional approach to these novels. They’re quick reads, and they are worth it.

6. Roger Zelazny‘s Chronicles of Amber and Second Chronicles of Amber are important reads if you want to understand the fantasy genre — especially the development of low fantasy. I have both in two hardbound editions, and it adds up to 9 or 10 novels, all told. I’m counting each novel separately, just to get him on the list.

7. Fritz Leiber is just as important as Zelazny, but in a different way. I have all his Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser novels in hardback, as well. If I ever find time to write more about books, I’ll certainly dive into them for some blog posts. They are extremely problematic, and ahead of their time. Popular fantasy would be entirely different if not for these books.

8. C.S. Lewis should probably rank higher. I have his Narnia series and several of his more overt tracts. I’ve read all of his fiction and most of his Christian apologetics. I ended up with copies of many of them, though I haven’t actually turned a page of Lewis’ work in more than a decade.

9. Flannery O’Connor is here because I am sure I have all her short stories and both her novels. She’s the best writer on the list, in my mind. She’d be #1 if her work didn’t fit into so few volumes. I consciously collected every word she ever published when I was in my late 20s.

10. Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman are the co-authors of the first few novels in the Dragonlance series.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the first two Dragonlance Trilogies (Chronicles and Legends), despite the fact that they are some of the most poorly-edited published novels I’ve ever encountered. They’re just what you want in pulp fantasy. TSR turned the franchise into a money pump, and it really went downhill when they did, but Weiss and Hickman have a fantastic command of basic storytelling. The characters in the first six novels have real relationships, and when Dragonlance characters die, it actually makes you sad.

Honorable Mentions:

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Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I’d want with me on a Deserted Island

The good folks at The Broke and the Bookish have a weekly meme post called Top Ten Tuesday.

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This week, we’re listing the 10 characters we’d most want with us if we were stranded on a deserted island. This one was a LOT of fun to write.

1. Arya Stark from Game of Thrones. Because when Chuck Norris has a problem, and no one else can help, he doesn’t hire the A-Team. He hires Arya Stark.

2. Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings. He can cook a meal out of almost anything. He’s honest to a fault. He’s tougher than he looks. And you know it’s good luck to have a hobbit around.

3. R2D2 from Star Wars. Even though we think of him as a movie character, he’s been in plenty of books. He has an electric prod to keep agressive monkeys at bay, reconnaissance capabilities, and tons of valuable knowledge stored in his memory bank. He handled himself very well on Dagobah and doesn’t need food to function. Plus, just think how cool it would be, if you were stranded on a desert island, to have a DROID for a companion.

4. Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next. She’s a brilliant detective who can travel into fictional stories, and she has a fun sense of humor. Like Master Samwise, she is tougher than she looks. I would pray she could manage to rescue a copy of Robinson Crusoe from the shipwreck.

5. Scheherazade from 1,001 Nights. Life on a desert island would just be  more pleasant with a master storyteller who also happens to be a beautiful and crafty genius.

6. DC Comics’ Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow. He’s a helluva lot more amiable than Bruce Wayne and he has experience with desert islands. He’s also a keen-eyed archer and a master bowyer. If I managed to bond with him or save him from dying while we were stranded, I’d be set for life once we were rescued, because he’s also a billionaire.

Oliver Queen from The Dark Knight Returns.

Here’s a one-armed Oliver nocking a kryptonite arrow with his teeth to fire it at Superman in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (long story). Oliver and Green Arrow are © DC Comics. Fair use applies.

7. Gideon from the Bible. The advantage of having a mighty warrior with a humble background who’s good at thinking on his feet and has a direct line to a divine being should be obvious.

8. Orpheus of Greek myth. I just couldn’t do without some music. Since I must have a fictional musician on this list, I’d just as soon have him be a demi-god who can charm the very rocks with his songs.

9. Breehny-hinny-brinny-hoohy-hah, aka Bree, the talking horse from C.S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy, my favorite of the Narnia books. This list wouldn’t be complete without a talking animal and kid’s lit/YA character, so this is a twofer.

10. Iorek Byrnison, the armored talking bear from Pullman’s His Dark Materials. If I’m going to have a Lewis character on this list, I have to add a Pullman character. And you must admit, having an armored bear as a companion is a real asset when you’re in a survivalist mode.