It’s banned books week, a time when we tend to pay a little more attention to the books people don’t want us to read. Maybe you are someone who is wary about these books for one reason or another.
People sometimes want to take specific books out of schools because of worries over the content, and while I understand that people may have good intentions, some books become taboo and associated with evil when they don’t deserve it. Some books are downright good and have characters living in difficult circumstances trying to do their best. And I think there are some very nice things in some of these books.
I’m not one who feels every banned book is created equally. There are some books I keep and others I get rid of. But I recognize there can be good even in the books I choose not to read or keep as a part of my personal library.
So whether you have read, loved, and learned from these books, or are someone who tends to hold them at arm’s length, enjoy this selection of quotes. May they remind you of when you read them or help show you that these books aren’t all that bad after all. In either case, perhaps these books deserve another look.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Alexie’s first YA novel is about a Native American youth living on a reservation who decides to go to school off the reservation. He draws cartoons throughout the book and talks about his life on the reservation, alcoholism, poverty, and his experience as a Native American.
“I grabbed my book and opened it up. I wanted to smell it. Heck, I wanted to kiss it. Yes, kiss it. That’s right, I am a book kisser. Maybe that’s kind of perverted or maybe it’s just romantic and highly intelligent.”
“Do you understand how amazing it is to hear that from an adult? Do you know how amazing it is to hear that from anybody? It’s one of the simplest sentences in the world, just four words, but they’re the four hugest words in the world when they’re put together. You can do it.”
“Poverty doesn’t give you strength or teach you lessons about perseverance. No, poverty only teaches you how to be poor.”
“There are all kinds of addicts, I guess. We all have pain. And we all look for ways to make the pain go away.”
“I was studying the sky like I was an astronomer, except it was daytime and I didn’t have a telescope, so I was just an idiot.”
“‘Drinking would shut down my seeing and my hearing and my feeling,’ she used to say. ‘Why would I want to be in the world if I couldn’t touch the world with all of my senses intact?’”
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
This novel shows readers young Holden Caulfield’s time spent in New York City after being kicked out of yet another school. The title of the book is Holden’s misquoting a verse of rhyme, but reflects his desire to help protect the innocence of children.
“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”
“Make sure you marry someone who laughs at the same things you do.”
“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.”
“If you do something too good, then, after a while, if you don’t watch it, you start showing off. And then you’re not as good any more.”
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Beloved is a novel set in post-Civil War America. It shows the lives of former slaves who have been freed, one in particular who is haunted by the ghost of her infant daughter.
“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”
“Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.”
“In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. and all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver–love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.”
“Risky, thought Paul D, very risky. For a used-to-be-slave woman to love anything that much was dangerous, especially if it was her children she had settled on to love. The best thing, he knew, was to love just a little bit, so when they broke its back, or shoved it in a croaker sack, well, maybe you’d have a little love left over for the next one.”
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Huck Finn famously floats down the Mississippi on a raft with a runaway slave and has to deal with the idea that not turning in his companion is considered a sin in his society.
“That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don’t know nothing about it.”
“Human beings can be awful cruel to one another.”
“Jim said that bees won’t sting idiots, but I didn’t believe that, because I tried them lots of times myself and they wouldn’t sting me.”
“Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and a body ain’t got no business doing wrong when he ain’t ignorant and knows better.”
“Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? And hain’t that a big enough majority in any town?”
“If you tell the truth you do not need a good memory!”
“We have a criminal jury system which is superior to any in the world and it’s efficiency is only marred by the difficulty of finding twelve men every day who don’t know anything and can’t read-”
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
A group of English schoolboys are stranded on an island, and the rules and civility of their society begin to chip away during their stay there, turning some of them violent.
“Maybe there is a beast. … maybe it’s only us.”
“The mask was a thing on it’s own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-conciousness.”
“There have been so many interpretations of the story that I’m not going to choose between them. Make your own choice. They contradict each other, the various choices. The only choice that really matters, the only interpretation of the story, if you want one, is your own. Not your teacher’s, not your professor’s, not mine, not a critic’s, not some authority’s. The only thing that matters is, first, the experience of being in the story, moving through it. Then any interpretation you like. If it’s yours, then that’s the right one, because what’s in a book is not what an author thought he put into it, it’s what the reader gets out of it.”
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Told from the perspective of a lawyer’s young daughter as her father defends an innocent black man accused of rape and caught in a bias judicial system.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”
“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.”
“Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts.”
“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions… but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
“Atticus, he was real nice.”
“Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”
“It’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you.”
“Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win.”
1984 by George Orwell
Winston lives under an authoritarian government that is always monitoring its citizens, editing historical documents, and even deleting words from the culture’s vocabulary.
“Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.”
“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”
“Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one.”
“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”
“If you loved someone, you loved him, and when you had nothing else to give, you still gave him love.”
“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”
“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”
“Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”
“Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”
“The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.”