The theme of this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, (hosted by The Broke and Bookish), is books to read if you like ___. Could be an author, a particular book, a genre, etc. Carrying on with our celebration of Banned Books Week here at Strawberry Moon, I’m presenting Ten Books to Read If You Like Banned Books!
Banned books generally consist of themes that could be considered offensive by certain groups of people. They might contain sexual content, violence, racism, or strong political or religious views. Are all of these things touchy subjects? Certainly. Does that mean we shouldn’t read them and be exposed to potentially controversial ideas? Of course not. Books that challenge social mores are the books everyone should read. They teach us that our ideas are not the only ideas, that we can learn even from bad people and bad situations, and that we are not the only ones who have chewed on some dark little thoughts in our lives. They also acknowledge that if books (or any other kind of media) are to accurately depict the world we live in, they cannot then ignore everything that is not perfectly good and wholesome and snickerdoodle-flavored.
- The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe. Deals with opium use and magic. Gasp.
- Into the Forest by Jean Hegland. All the other themes in this post-apocalyptic book are pretty much always overshadowed by a single incestuous scene.
- Lysistrata by Aristophanes. The only classic on my list, Lysistrata is the epitome of classic erotica populated by smart, feisty Greek wives and generally accompanied by raunchy line drawings a la Aubrey Beardsley.
- Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander. The Lady Emily series is usually pretty harmless (despite the rampant murders that seem to follow Emily around Europe), but Tears of Pearl is a significantly heavier volume. Deals with a woman’s rights and decisions regarding pregnancy, contrasted between Western ideals and the reality of 19th century Ottoman harems.
- Cleopatra’s Perfume by Jina Bacarr. Though campier erotic novels don’t tend to raise the hackles of book banners as much, (probably because they’ve got their own secret stash in the nightstand), this one touches on a lot of deeper issues. In addition to the sexual content, this book deals with the rampant drug use of 1920s Berlin and a woman’s series of tenuous and dangerous relationships.
6. The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah. This book takes a pretty frank look at a variety of North African characters: some very favorable and some very not so. Books like this one can alternatively be seen as promoting Islamic culture (oh what a terrible accusation) or as racist against Islamic culture. Figure that one out.
7. The Woman Who Heard Color by Kelly Jones. Books featuring characters associated with the Third Reich tend to be challenged with some frequency. Although the main character in this book is not precisely a Nazi sympathizer, I feel some similarities between it and Summer of My German Soldier (this might be an arbitrary comparison but it’s where my mind went!)
8. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore. Nobody stirs up religion and personal relationships with wilder abandon than Moore. I adore his books, not the least for how little he cares if he offends anyone.
9. Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye. This book deals with the horrific Jack the Ripper murders. So… prostitution, brutal murder, etc.
10. The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad. To be fair, this book has actually been banned so it probably shouldn’t be on this list. But it’s lesser known than many other books about censorship that have ironically been banned, so.