Going through the list of most challenged books, it's fascinating (well, it is to me at least) to see so many books that I love, so many books that are classic works. I usually try to "celebrate" by reading one book that has been on the list of most challenged titles. In 2012, that list included a personal favorite, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and one that I thought was total crap but is a best-selling phenomenon, Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James. The reasons for challenging the latter title were offensive language, and the fact that it is sexually explicit. I challenge it because it is poorly written, and I felt I lost IQ points by reading it. In fact, I will never again trust a recommendation from the person who told me it was "great, and a fascinating character study."
Also on the 2012 list is Looking for Alaska, by John Green (Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group.) Since I read and loved the author's The Fault in Our Stars earlier this year, I decided Looking for Alaska would be one of the banned book I read this week. (I am almost done, and I have a feeling I will be re-reading it. Thumbs up from me.) The other book I chose was The Giver by Lois Lowry - not on the 2012 most challenged list, but it was one of the most challenged books of the 1990s, and I've never read it. Given my weakness for dystopian future young adult novels, I thought I should fix that oversight.
Anyway, thinking about why I would challenge Fifty Shades of Grey started me thinking of other books I've read over the years, some of which I had to read in school, some which were recommended by friends, many of which are considered classic works of literature, and why I would challenge them. Not ban them, but challenge a recommendation. I'm not one to talk about offensive language or unsuitable for age group - I read The Thorn Birds when I was like 12, TOTALLY unsuitable for me at that age - it's more like I am challenging popular opinion. Here are a couple I thought of right away, but I'm sure there are more. If you are among the many that really love any of these, I hope we can agree to disagree. If you're not a fan of them either - please let me know so I don't feel so alone in my disdain. (I feel the need to clarify that although I didn't like these books and wouldn't recommend them, they are at least well written, and won't leave you feeling dumber for having read them, like the aforementioned Shades.)
- Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. I remember having to read this in high school, and being flabbergasted that so many of my classmates thought it was such great romantic story. Catherine and Heathcliff, although friends as children, grow up to be horrible to each other and everyone around them, their jealousy and vengefulness was totally destructive...how is this romantic again? Why is Heathcliff considered a romantic hero? He seemed like a crazy stalker ex to me.
- Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare. While I'm on the topic of classic romances I don't get, tell me again why the story of two horny teenagers who stir up a big brawl, have sex and then wind up dead is such a great love story? I mean, I guess I did really enjoy it retold as the musical West Side Story, but that's mostly because I have a weakness for musicals, not because I thought the story of these two crazy kids was super romantic.
- The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. So many people I know and like list this as one of their favorite books, but I am just not a fan. I read it as a teen, didn't get the hype, revisited a few years later, still hated it. I know Holden is supposed to be an anti hero, but I didn't find him or his story compelling. (Maybe you have to be a guy to love it? Any ladies reading this a fan of it?)
- The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. A man with a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel starts to drop into the life of a young girl, keeps doing so periodically throughout her life, he becomes her dream man, she grows up to become his wife. I'm simplifying here, but it's kinda creepy, right? He time travels throughout his life, but he doesn't start showing up in her life until he's an adult, married to her adult version. But he meets her AS A CHILD. Basically molding her into the woman that becomes his wife. There are other things going on, but I couldn't get over that creepy part. I wasn't swept up in that whole soul-mates interconnected throughout time thing some of my friends really liked, I couldn't get over the fact he was a grown-ass man being all flirty and charming with a child.
- A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. I didn't find it engaging...nor heartbreaking or genius.