Guest Blogger Austin Vitelli – a review of banned books

I’d like to welcome back my guest blogger, Austin Vitelli. Today, he has submitted a review of banned books.

Reading Banned Books

Last semester, I took a class at Lehigh University titled “Reading Banned Books”. The class was exactly what it sounds like—we spent the entire semester reading books that had either been banned somewhere in the world at some point in history or were still banned now. We were originally supposed to read nine books, but two of them, The Catcher in the Rye and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, were cut from the syllabus because we ran out of time. In this post, I’m going to rank the books I read and give my reasons for liking and/or disliking each one.

  1. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence

I will start out with my least favorite of the bunch: Lady Chatterley’s Lover. This was my first time reading anything by Lawrence, and while I understand this is supposed to be a classic, I found it too long. It seems to be more geared towards female readers (not that guys can’t enjoy it). The storyline itself was okay, but I often found Lawrence trying to inject himself into the story in a way that didn’t add to the story.

  1. Beloved, by Toni Morrison

This is another book I would loosely define as a “girl’s book.” Based on the fact that 80 percent of my class was indeed girls, I can see how they probably enjoyed this whole list more than I did, but this was also not my cup of tea. This was also my first time reading Morrison. The book itself was quite confusing, bouncing between the past and present often and sometimes without saying so. I feel like a second read would do this more justice, but I wouldn’t put it at the top of my to-do list.

  1. The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy

This was similar to Beloved in that it probably deserves a second read to fully enjoy it. A tale of twins in India and the challenge of the caste system made for many very interesting discussions in my class, but it was also quite confusing. It jumped around a lot as well and would’ve been very difficult to understand on my own without talking about it with the class. Still, an interesting read.

  1. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin

I read this my senior year of high school and hated it so much that I declared it the worst book I’d ever read. After reading it a second time though, I appreciated it a whole lot more. Books that deal with feminism and women’s rights are not ones I would purposely read, although clearly still extremely important. The story of Edna Pontellier and her search for freedom was one I cared about much more than the first time reading through.

  1. The War Prayer, by Mark Twain

This was actually a poem, but the copy I read had illustrations that really added to the charged topic of war that this piece discussed. What happens when you think about the people on the “other side” or losing side of war? After writing this, Twain smartly said it shouldn’t be published until after he died for fear of the backlash it would create in the patriotic society of the time. It’s a very powerful poem that, as with many of these, should be read more than once to truly appreciate it.

  1. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair

I was not at all expecting to like this, but I was pleasantly surprised. A piece of investigative journalism in “fiction” form, it uncovered some of the terrible atrocities going on in the food production and meat-packing industries. It’s dense and heavy, so don’t take it to the beach for a pleasure read, but it’s something I think everyone should read. As an aspiring journalist myself, I found extra enjoyment in reading it.

  1. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

There was no question as to my favorite from this list. Vonnegut is my favorite author and this is one of my favorite books of all time. This was my second time reading it, and I think I somehow enjoyed it more the second time. Billy Pilgrim’s time-traveling adventures and Vonnegut’s simple writing style are sure to keep you interested, as long as you don’t mind a pinch of science fiction mixed in.

Bottom line: classics should be read multiple times in order to enjoy and understand them fully. It’s impossible to pick up on every detail in a book on a first read, especially deeply intellectual ones like those on this list. I am sure that if I read them all twice, this list would probably look different, but I can say with certainty that sometimes it’s good to read classics like these even if you know you’re not going to particularly like them. They really make you think, and that’s what’s most important.

Many thanks to Austin for writing this terrific review! Austin loves to read and he is an aspiring sports writer. To find out more about him, be sure to visit Austin’s website at

Austin Vitelli
Austin Vitelli

My name is Austin Vitelli and I am a junior at Lehigh University. I am a Rodale Scholar and plan to major in Journalism with a minor in Economics. I graduated from Downingtown East High School. I am currently a writer and the sports editor for Lehigh’s student-run newspaper, The Brown and White. I also manage the Brown and White Sports Twitter account.

Be sure to check out Austin’s other great guest posts:

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Foer

Paper Towns, by John Green

Things That Matter, by Charles Krauthammer

 Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

make way for ducklings

Make Way for Ducklings
Written and illustrated
Robert McCloskey

Awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1941

I’m not sure when we first started checking this book out at the library, but it quickly became another one of my favorites. It’s a simple story about Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, who settle in Boston to raise a family. Mrs. Mallard causes quite a stir when she leads her eight ducklings through the streets of Boston, across town to meet Mr. Mallard on the pond in the Public Garden!

This is a wonderful picture book for little children and for young elementary school kids. The illustrations are great, and they complement McCloskey’s warm and humorous story. Mr. and Mrs. Mallard aptly name their cute ducklings Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and, of course, Quack and the way they scamper through the pages will make you smile.

Here’s one of my favorite pictures from the book, but they’re all great!

How cute!

Make Way for Ducklings was published in 1941 and received the Caldecott Medal in the same year. Despite the years, I think the appeal of this book is timeless.

Robert McCloskey
Robert McCloskey

Robert McCloskey (1914-2003)

Robert McCloskey was an American writer and illustrator of children’s books. He was the first person to be awarded the Caldecott Medal twice, once in 1941 for Make Way for Ducklings, and also in 1957 for Time of Wonder.

McCloskey was born and raised in Hamilton, Ohio. Before becoming an artist, he had a great many interests. He studied music and played the piano, harmonica, drums and oboe. He loved mechanics and electronics and spent a lot of time as a child inventing different gadgets, including elaborate lightings for the family Christmas tree. He discovered art in high school and won a scholarship at the Vesper George School of Design in Boston. McCloskey also studied art at the National Academy of Design in New York. McCloskey wrote and illustrated eight of his own books, and illustrated twelve additional children’s books.

He married Peggy Durand, daughter of the children’s author, Ruth Sawyer. They settled in upstate New York and spent summers in Maine and raised two daughters.

Books by Robert McCloskey:

Lentil (1940)
Make Way for Ducklings (1941) Caldecott Medal
Homer Price (1943)
Blueberries for Sal (1948) Caldecott Honor
Centerburg Tales (1951)
One Morning in Maine (1952) Caldecott Honor
Time of Wonder (1957) Caldecott Medal
Burt Dow, Deep Water Man (1963)

Thanks to Wikipedia and the The New York Times for this information.

Thanks for visiting – Come back soon!