Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (Double Feature)

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the girls over at The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they post a prompt and ask book bloggers to answer that prompt in the form of a top ten list.

This week I'm doing something a little different. In addition to answering their prompt, I'm giving myself a second prompt in honor of Banned Books Week.

The Broke and the Bookish's Prompt: Top 10 "Older" Books You Don't Want People to Forget About

The prompt says that I can interpret this any way I want, so I'm going to talk about children's and YA novels. With the absolute explosion of the YA market in the last decade or so, I worry that some amazing books are being forgotten about.

1) The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin: This is one of those books that I've read so many times I've lost count. I even reread it last year, although it was around the time that I was fading out of the blogging world so I never posted a review. One of the first books I ever read with a female protagonist, The Westing Game has stuck with me for life because of its unique characters, interesting plot, and fun structure. I came across it in elementary school at my public library and hope that children today are still sitting down to follow the adventures of Turtle Wexler.

2) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle: Also featured in my next list, A Wrinkle in Time is one of my all-time favorite books. A fantastic plot, sympathetic characters, and an epic showdown between good and evil drive this well-written novel to a satisfying conclusion.

3) Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key: Another one of those books that I reread for this blog but never reviewed before my hiatus, Escape to Witch Mountain has inspired several movies (some better than others) and is one that I'd want to read to my kids one day. While not the greatest children's book ever written, it's fun, suspenseful, and highly rereadable.

4) Armageddon Summer by Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville: Best known for his wacky stories about aliens, Bruce Coville also cowrote this novel about two teenagers, Marina and Jed, who have been forced to join a cult by their parents in preparation for the end of the world, which the cult leader swears will happen. Living on top of a mountain with people who are preparing for a new world, Marina and Jed find each other and help each other deal with the constraints of their current situation. A haunting look at religious cults and the mob mentality that they inspire, Armageddon Summer is an amazing book.

5) Dogs Don't Tell Jokes by Louis Sachar: Sometime in between his stories about Wayside School and his wildly popular Holes, Sachar wrote a book about a young boy trying to win a school talent show. Gary Boone, a budding young comedian, tells a funny and endearing story about hopes and dreams.

6) The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander: Or, really, anything by him. His books are incredible. I know that there have been movies, so maybe this isn't one of those books that kids and teens have stopped reading, but I have a feeling that it's gotten lost among the shelves of other, more popular fantasy novels.

7) The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes: This is one of those books that I can't adequately express my love for. A sad story of bullying, The Hundred Dresses teaches kids that people are more than just their appearance and that words can hurt. It shows kids that teasing others has consequences and that it is better to stand up and say something than to just join in with the rest of the crowd.

8) I Want to Go Home by Gordan Korman: This is a laugh-out-loud book about a mischievous kid who hates his summer camp and who keeps hatching plans to try and go home. The story is simple, but it's the humor that makes this book so great.

9) The Neverending Story by Michael Ende: It's amazing how many people don't realize that there was a book long before there was a movie and its terrible sequels. I only found out sometime during high school when I was roaming around a book store and it made me wish that I had discovered this book as a child. Bastian's adventures in Fantastica are ones that I would have loved to have accompanied him on when I was his age.

10) Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech: This book made such a huge impact on me in middle school. I love Creech's work and both this and Absolutely Normal Chaos were constantly finding their way into my hands when I was younger.

My Prompt: Top 10 Favorite Banned Books

1) Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: I've talked about how much I love this book before, but I can never reiterate enough how amazing it is. While I have no problem understanding why the book has been banned so often (no matter how much I disagree with it), it's not the subject matter of the book that I love, but the writing. The words themselves are beautiful and expertly crafted by Nabokov. The story is disturbing and the main character's behavior is inexcusable, yet the way the story is told makes you love it.

2) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley: Out of all the dystopian novels I've ever read, this one is still my favorite. A stark and prescient novel, Brave New World made me see the world in a new way and made me rethink some of my own behaviors and beliefs. While some might argue that 1984 is a better novel, I beg to differ.

3) And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson: This children's book tells the true story of two male penguins who raise a baby penguin together at the Central Park Zoo. With its beautiful illustrations and its message of equality, And Tango Makes Three is a wonderful book for people of all ages. I fully intend to have a copy of this book to read to my future children.

4) Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling: We all knew this one was going to make my list. I think this one makes a LOT of people's lists.

5) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle: This has been on my list of favorite books since the fifth grade. The cover caught my eye on my teacher's bookshelf and I spent a few reading periods devouring it. I've since reread it numerous times, each time loving it a little more. While the other books in the Time Quartet aren't as good as this one, all four of them are wonderful reads and are highly recommended.

6) The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood: My first Atwood novel, The Handmaid's Tale has stuck with me since I first read it during college. Its terrifying vision of an oppressive, religious society has made me even more leery of Christian religious extremism (or any type of extremism, really) and has made Atwood one of my favorite authors.

7) Catch-22 by Joseph Heller: Banned because of objectionable language and (inexplicably) dreaded by students all over the country, Catch-22 is a hilarious look at the frustrating nature of military bureaucracy and one man's struggle to break out. Having been told over and over again that it was boring, I read this book with some trepidation the summer after I graduated from college. After reading it, I can honestly say that I don't know what all these crazy people are talking about. This book is absolutely amazing and I would read it again in a heartbeat.

8) Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut: My friend Emily begged me to read this book (and pretty much anything else by Vonnegut) in college. Funny, irreverent, and horrific, it remains one of my favorite Vonnegut novels and one that I recommend to people all the time (although, not as much as Breakfast of Champions, which is my favorite).

9) A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess: Like Lolita, I can understand why this book would be offensive to some people. It's violent, features a horrifying rape scene, and is told by a narrator so repugnant that it isn't funny. But the book is still fantastic. I've read it twice and will probably still be rereading it even when I'm 90.

10) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: This isn't a book that would make my Top 100 list or anything, but I'm including it here because of the absolute irony of it. A book about books being banned/burned gets banned and no one clamoring for it to be removed from schools saw any parallels? It's a great book and I love Bradbury, but I've read other things that he has written that I've liked better. I do, however, think that the message of the book is what makes it so important to read and that trying to censor a book about censorship is just proving Bradbury right.   


  1. Why do people only want to ban the awesome books?! All of the books on that second list (Brave New World and And Tango Makes Three - which I haven't read) are phenomenal books that have had a lasting impact on me.

    1. I think a lot of it is that people are so easily offended in the US. I know that books are banned all over the world but there's a large population here of overbearing Christian mothers who don't realize that they can keep their own child from reading a book without keeping other kids from doing it. It's ridiculous.

    2. That seems to be becoming more and more of a problem here in Australia, not necessarily with books but with *anything*.

      Oh this videogame is violent, therefore no one should be able to play it even though the average age of a gamer is 34. Oh there's sex in this show that's on at 11.30 at night, ban it, ban it! That ad has two men hugging and holding a condom, my kids are going to become gay!

      Parents don't seem to want to do the parenting themselves, they don't want the awkward conversations and they don't want to be the meanie who says no.


    3. I'd seen that there were some censorship issues in Australia, although I had heard that some of it was politicians and not parents (which is a problem here in the States as well).

      I've been having to deal with parental warning debates, campaigns to ban violent video games, and outrage over the normalization of LGBT people in the media since I was born. So many parents, especially those of the religious persuasion, seem to want to raise their kids with a paper bag over their head. And there are politicians who will pander to these people in order to get votes. I know that eventually people in this country will grow up and stop trying to censor or ban everything, I'm just sorry that your country seems to be going through a second adolescence at the moment.

  2. I didn't know Harry Potter was a banned book! That's so crazy.

    1. Oh, yeah. There were a bunch of Harry Potter book burnings in the early 2000s because people were so afraid that their kids would read them and want to do magic. It was insane.