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Two Librarians, Too Many Books: Banned Books are the Best Books

Posted 09/27/21 by Allison F and Katie M

AF:    Helloooo fellow book lovers! It’s been far too long!

Katie M and I are back for another installment of Two Librarians, Too Many Books and this time we are talking about one of our favorite topics – (not so) controversial books!

It’s Banned Books Week, which means we librarians, along with teachers and readers everywhere, are celebrating all the books that people try to stop us from reading. To do our part to combat censorship, we’re here to try our darndest to convince you to read our personal top three favorite frequently banned or challenged books.

KM:   A book always goes to the top of my to-read list as soon as someone tells me it’s banned. Don’t want me to read it? I’m going to read it ASAP!

AF:    Reverse psychology is your weakness. Noted. So, how do we want to do this?

KM:   Let’s count backwards starting with the bronze winner for each of us.

AF:    Perfect, I’ve got my pick, you ready?

KM:   Hit me.

AF:    Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

KM:   Coming out swinging with a romance, huh? Something new and different for you…did you tell our readers you host a romance book group now?

AF:    I like what I like, and I won’t apologize. Plus, I have yet to meet anyone who reads this book and doesn’t absolutely fall in love with it, regardless of their typical tastes.

KM:   I’m fully anti-romance forever, (sorry not sorry), but try your best!

AF:    New girl in town meets loner boy and through a series of mix tapes and late-night swing set talks they fall in love.

KM:   Mix tapes? Run in the other direction. What about that innocent plot makes people want to ban the book, though?

AF:    In true Rainbow Rowell style, the characters are dealing with some significant issues (bullying, misogyny, abuse…) and the story comes together around how Park discovers the truth of Eleanor’s circumstances and overcomes his own to save her. It has a truly wonderful ending that is completely mysterious but also completely obvious and drives fans crazy. And the mix tapes are adorable, you grinch!

KM:   Maybe my heart is just two sizes two small.

AF:    If I can’t put up Christmas decorations until after Halloween, then you can’t make bad Christmas jokes until then.

KM:   My bronze medal goes to Persepolis. You KNOW I love a graphic memoir and this one really helped define the genre. Marjane Satrapi both wrote and illustrated the book which discusses life as a young woman growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.

AF:    Love Persepolis. Her family history is amazing, too. The story of her Uncle Anoosh absolutely breaks my heart every time. This was one of the most helpful books to me when trying to understand the history and politics of the Islamic Revolution. I know that sounds like a really boring librarian response, but it’s true. History is always easier to grasp when told from the perspective of a person who experienced it firsthand.

KM:   Too true. I also want to be friends with Marjane; her personal style is unparalleled. She came to speak at TLCPL’s Authors! series and did an amazing job (meaning: she cussed a lot and was really funny).  I also loved her book Embroideries, which is another graphic novel depicting a conversation among all her female relatives about sex. It’s SO funny.

AF:    THE SAUSAGE COMMENT.

KM:   YUP.

AF:    That book makes me wish I had sisters (no offense to my three very loving and protective brothers).

KM:   I’ll be your honorary sister.

AF:    (cry face emoji)

KM:   My silver medal (my McKayla Maroney if you will) goes to The Hate U Give.

AF:    Solid choice, but please do explain.

KM:   This is an excellent Black Lives Matter book for young adults (all adults, really) about one girl’s quest to clear her friend’s name and seek justice after he’s shot and killed by police, and his name gets swiftly dragged through the mud by the media in an attempt to justify it.

AF:    Once again the YA genre comes through with a timely and compelling story that makes real world issues accessible and relatable for younger folks.

KM:   Not only that, it takes a common tactic used in these situations – discrediting the victim – and demonstrates to audiences of all backgrounds how it plays out in real life.

AF:    To say nothing of its depiction of code switching.

KM:   Exactly.

AF:    Ok, ready for my second-place pick?

KM:   Yup.

AF:    Lois Lowry’s masterpiece, The Giver.

KM:   Hey, I actually like this one!

AF:    This was the very first book I read that literally made my jaw drop. Pretty sure I read it all in one evening in a fever dream of plot twists and excellent writing.

KM:   Do you have a particular part that is your favorite?

AF:    THE APPLE. Which, of course, I can’t explain any further without ruining it.

KM:   I think this was the first book I ever read that encouraged me to draw my own conclusions at the end.

AF:    Same! And omg that infuriated me so much at the time. But looking back it was just *chef’s kiss*.

KM:   Then you grew up and your fantasy bff was in the movie!

AF:    T SWIFT 4 LIFE.

KM:   My number one, first place, gold medal, favorite ever banned book is In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. This book sparked my interest in true crime and is the reason I double check my locks like five times before bed every night.

AF:    Didn’t he essentially invent narrative nonfiction AND the true crime genre with this book?

KM:   YES. The book reads like a captivating novel, but horrifically is a true story. I also highly recommend the movie Capote because it chronicles the writing of In Cold Blood and Philip Seymour Hoffman stars (may he rest in peace…).

AF:    This is the perfect segue to my pick of all-time favorite banned book.

KM:   I feel like I know where this is going...

AF:    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper “Queen of American Fiction” Lee.

KM:   Truly the classic of all classics – and a somewhat obvious choice if I’m being honest.

AF:    Oh absolutely, but how can I not include it?! It’s a near flawless story about the flaws of humanity. And what I love the most about this book – and really both these books and both these authors – is the way that everything played out in real life that influenced the process and the people involved.

KM:   So, I know that Lee and Capote were childhood best friends and that she helped him with In Cold Blood, but tell me more…

AF:    Lee was a huge reason why the notoriously mercurial Capote was even able to get people to open up and talk to him about the events of In Cold Blood! Plus, she did all the rigorous work of taking and organizing the notes he used to write the book. In other words, it should probably be In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and Harper Lee.

KM:   Yeah, that stings.

AF:    But the fact that two of the greatest American writers of all time likely wouldn’t have become so without the happenstance of being neighbors as five-year olds who encouraged each other and looked past each other’s eccentricities is just amazing.

KM:   They were total opposites, too.

AF:    This is to say nothing of the legacy of both these books.

KM:   Truth! True crime is one of the most popular genres of all time and has taken over all forms of media. We wouldn’t have Serial without In Cold Blood.

AF:    And Mockingbird is taught in high schools across the country to this day, and with the release of Go Set a Watchman, opened up a whole new dialogue on Atticus Finch that (controversial opinion, I know) I think only adds to the humanity of the story.

KM:   Yeah, I wasn’t too pleased with that plot twist since my dog is named after him.

AF:    People were sooooo angry. But Lee was the greatest at writing people for who they really were. Atticus wasn’t an angel in Mockingbird, and when the sequel was released that laid into that point, it really pushed some uncomfortable truths to the forefront.

KM:   Nothing like taking a beloved fictional character and making him flawed to stir up trouble.

AF:    Too true. OK, KM. That’s our list. Any last parting words for our readers?

KM:   Today’s a good day to read a book.

AF:    Succinct and true. Until next time...

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Eleanor & Park

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