Ban the book

CoverThe online magazine Salon has celebrated Banned Books Week by musing about books that should be banned, but not from the shelves and not for the usual reasons.

Books make this list not because they are morally reprehensible but because people are made to read them at school and university and they can put a reader off an author for life.

1984, Lord of the flies and Animal farm are mentioned by Salon, all books I read and liked at school (well maybe appreciated is a better word than liked with regard to 1984). But Cranford in the third form saw me estranged from Mrs Gaskell for years until Judi Dench in the  television series brought us back together. All that wasted time when I could have been wallowing in the work of a consummate prose stylist.

What books at the wrong time, in the wrong place and with the wrong teacher put you off?

15 thoughts on “Ban the book

  1. Kiwilouise 6 October 2011 / 2:28 pm

    It was Tess of the D’Urbervilles for me in 6th form. So depressing! And I just wanted to give the girl a slap for her silliness (and me all of 16 at the time I read it too!).

    • Robyn 6 October 2011 / 3:01 pm

      I never really got over it – the utter injustice of it all! What was the story with Hardy? Our class did Far from the madding crowd in the 6th form and then Tess in the 7th form. Did every school in new zealand have class sets of them? I still haven’t read Jude the Obscure but I did watch The mayor of Casterbridge on TV years ago and that scarred me for life as well.

      • Donna 6 October 2011 / 4:43 pm

        I love ole MopeyTrews Hardy. It really is Rural Goth. But Jude the Obscure takes it too far.

  2. Marion 6 October 2011 / 3:04 pm

    Well lucky youse. We had to read Man Alone in the 5th form which may have put me off New Zealand fiction for some time. My schooling was a desert of fiction – didn’t even get the opportunity to hate Hardy.

    • Robyn 6 October 2011 / 4:29 pm

      Man Alone. Man Alone! Hardy provides pure reading pleasure in comparison.

    • Michael A 10 October 2011 / 12:57 pm

      Man Alone – one of my favourite books of all time. Must be a boy thing.

  3. ValerieL 6 October 2011 / 4:23 pm

    High School English Lit should be renamed How to Put a teenager Off Reading For Life. I had to read The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Son’s and Lovers . I was too young to fully appreciate them and put me of them for ever.

    • Donna 6 October 2011 / 4:45 pm

      Wow that’s quite Racy Lit 101. I would have been up for that syllabus.

  4. Laraine 6 October 2011 / 6:38 pm

    Like Marion, it was a case of I should be so lucky for me. I missed out on so many good books because there was nobody around to tell me there was better stuff on the shelves than Enid Blyton. We had a library right next door to our school (in Auckland). But not once did we get a visit from a librarian. And all the teachers did was tell me what NOT to read. Well, not exactly. But they objected to my bringing “comics” to school. School Friend wasn’t a comic; it was an illustrated magazine for girls.

    My youngest sister at 13 (I was 17 at the time) read an excerpt from The Pickwick Papers and liked it so much she decided to borrow the book from her school library. (She didn’t attend the same school for secondary education as I did.) But that lunch time there was a teacher in charge of the library. “Oh, you wouldn’t like that, dear,” she said, and fobbed Carolyn off with (of all things) Biggles. But next day my sister returned to the library, determined to get The Pickwick Papers. This time a pupil was in charge and she didn’t care what Carolyn took out. Carolyn enthused so much about the book we both landed up borrowing all the Dickens we could lay our hands on, and finally bought our own copies. I don’t know where I got the strange idea from but I left school believing that in order to “appreciate” both Shakespeare and Dickens you needed a university education.

  5. Valerie 7 October 2011 / 11:54 am

    A very wise school librarian told me that there was a lot of literature suitable for teens and Hardy and co, should be left for later. Much later.

  6. Rachael 7 October 2011 / 1:23 pm

    Catcher in the Rye. Gah! I’ve tried re-reading it since Year 11 English but I just can’t. Damn you, Holden Caulfield! Year 13 English was particularly depressing – Lear, Tess, The Handmaid’s Tale…

    • Michael A 10 October 2011 / 12:58 pm

      Another of my favourites – maybe a gender issue here (as for Man Alone)?

      • rachaelccl 10 October 2011 / 4:32 pm

        Not too sure about that – I know heaps of women who are Salinger fans! I haven’t read Man Alone. I might pop it on my To Read shelf on Bibliocommons.

  7. lynneccl 7 October 2011 / 2:31 pm

    What I hated about school English classes is that although I enjoyed most of the books we had to read, that enjoyment was often ruined by the endless analysis of the texts, and stupid questions about the “theme” of the book in question. So “To kill a mockingbird” is about racism, huh? Well, I would never have guessed. Doh.

  8. jane 12 October 2011 / 1:31 pm

    Anything by Jane Austin, (I know, this is very sad) John Buchan, Kate Chopin, Animal Farm. I hated analysing books – still do, takes the enjoyment away for me completely

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