“Art is something you choose to make… it’s a bringing together of… of everything around you into something that makes you more human, more khepri, whatever. More of a person.”
Today marks the end of Banned Books Week, in which the public is encouraged to read books which have, for one reason or another, been banned somewhere in the world. And, to mark the occasion, I’m making a List of my top ten books about worlds where books are banned – otherwise known as dystopias.
- Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell. In “The Orison of Sonmi-451”, the fifth of the six narratives which make up this novel, books and other cultural artefacts which criticise capitalism or the foundational assumptions of Nea So Copros, the ultra-capitalist ruling faction of Neo Seoul, are banned, accessible only to the Archivists.
- Perdido Street Station – China Mieville. Again, books and publications which criticise the oppressive government of New Crobuzon are suppressed, often with extreme violence.
- Wool – Hugh Howey. Books aren’t specifically banned in the silo, but they were all burnt, apart from picture books, after the most recent rising, in order to keep the people of the silo from rebellion against their enclosing walls.
- Northern Lights – Philip Pullman. Once again, there’s no specific ban here, but the Magisterium, a particularly militant branch of the Church, has the power to make the lives of “heretical” authors very unpleasant indeed.
- The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini. Ah, a real-life dystopia here. The Taleban moves into protagonist Amir’s hitherto peaceful hometown in Afghanistan and starts banning things left to right, books included.
- Fahrenheit-451 – Ray Bradbury. This is a classic of book-based dystopias, set in a world in which everybody has essentially decided that they don’t want to be made sad or uncomfortable by art any more. Books are therefore off the cards, and “firemen” are appointed to go round burning them whenever they are found.
- The Book Thief – Markus Zusak. Another real-life dystopia. The Book Thief is set in Nazi Germany, and revolves in part around the practice of book-burning during that era.
- The Magicians’ Guild – Trudi Canavan. I don’t remember this book with any great clarity, but I’m sure there was something about books of black magic being banned by the draconian Magicians’ Guild.
- Small Gods – Terry Pratchett. The Exquisition bans heretical books, and kills those who write them, if it can get its hands on them. They’re a lovely bunch, as you can imagine.
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling. Yep. We’re talking about Dolores Umbridge here, guys. She likes banning things. Including books.
What will you be/have you been reading for Banned Books Week? Personally, I fancy some Harry Potter this evening. Happy reading!