The best of banned Dover books

Celebrate Banned Books Week with Dover titles.

Banned Books Week, which celebrates the freedom to read, is being held this year during the week of September 24th to September 30th. The event is sponsored by libraries, publishers, booksellers, teachers, and many other organizations.

Books are banned for all sorts of reasons: depictions of sexuality or violence, too-realistic depictions of negative situations, or controversial or racist language. With our present-day ability to access almost any written text in an electronic format immediately, the notion of removing books from high school libraries, for example, seems quaint if not daft. Banning a book is also like pointing a giant neon sign that flashes READ THIS! at the offending title.

Dover Publications has numerous editions of books that were once censored or banned in the United States or the United Kingdom. One of the heaviest hitters in the world of English-language banned books is D.H. Lawrence.

Sons and Lovers

Sons and Lovers. Lawrence’s highly autobiographical novel presents the story of the young protagonist, Paul Morel, who is attracted to two women, while struggling to escape the bonds of his manipulative and formidable mother. Sons and Lovers was controversial and widely condemned at the time it was published for its depictions of sensual pleasures and its indictment of social blight engendered by exploitive capitol and industry in the English Midlands. The Modern Library has since placed the novel as ninth on its list of the 100 best novels of the 20th century.

Women in Love is the novel that Lawrence considered his masterpiece, Women in Love explores the lives of two sisters, Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen, and their passionate affairs with two men. A Ursula becomes involved with a misanthropic school inspector, while Gudrun is pursued by an overbearing industrialist. The literary world reacted with shock at its publication in 1921; nearly a century later the novel’s psychological penetration continues to captivate readers.

Lady Chatterly’s Lover. Lawrence’s last novel is an erotic celebration of life that was widely banned after it was first published in 1928. The full text of the novel wasn’t published in Great Britain, the author’s s native country, until 1960, when it was the subject of a landmark obscenity trial. The book was banned for many years because of its frank depiction of a sensual relationship between a gardener and an upperclass woman in rural England. The book was controversial as well because of its direct language in describing their affair.

The Awakening

The Awakening by Kate Chopin. When first published, The Awakening shocked many readers with its honest presentation of female infidelity. Literary critic Edmund Wilson later characterized the novel as a work that was “quite uninhibited and beautifully written, which anticipates D.H. Lawrence in its treatment of infidelity.”

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, is a vivid and terrifying depiction of the meat-packing industry. Privately published in 1906, the novel unfolds a shocking story of intolerable working conditions and unsanitary practices in the Chicago stockyards. A powerful presentation of poverty, graft and corruption that will haunt readers long after they finish the last page.

The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild, which is widely considered London’s masterpiece, was based in part on the author’s personal experiences in Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. The novel chronicles the tale of a heroic dog who must choose between living in the human world with its brutalities or returning to nature. The story is a thrilling reading experience for adventure readers, as well as a rewarding text for devotees of American literature.

Ulysses by James Joyce. Originally reviled as obscure and obscene, Joyce’s masterpiece now stands as one of the great literary achievements of the 20th century. Based loosely on Homer’s Odyssey, the novel traces the separate and crossing paths of the protagonist, Leopold Bloom, and a younger man, Stephen Dedalus, who is Joyce’s literary alter ego. Their experiences take place during an ordinary day in Dublin in June 1904, but Joyce’s account draws on a masterful knowledge of Western literature to place their experiences and interactions in a larger cultural and historical context.