Hello Book Clubbers!
Our next selection came down to the closest vote in the (relatively short) history of HuffPost Book Club. In the end, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger beat out The Witches by Roald Dahl by less than 1 percent. This was my pick, so I can't wait to explore Holden Caulfield's world with you!
This month's vote was unique in that we only nominated frequently banned or challenged books, according the American Library Association. And although The Catcher in the Rye might be required reading in some high schools, others still don't allow their students to engage with this classic. It was among the top ten most challenged books between 1990 and 1999, and the top twenty between 2000 and 2009. In 2005, it was the third most banned book in the country.
I chose this novel because I'm interested in discussing the books we read in high school, the impact they have on us, and the books that we should be assigning kids today. For me, an anti-book banning stance is a no-brainer. Still, I think careful consideration should be put into required reading lists, and the merit and relevance of classics like Catcher should be reexamined from time to time.
I first read this book when I was fifteen. We'd just finished up a trimester worth of Dickens, during which my classmates and I spent most of our time trading lurid books by authors like Chuck Palahniuk and ripping through them under our desks during class.
Our normally brazen teacher seemed flustered when she announced our upcoming assignment. "This novel is, well, more sensitive," she told us, and she had our attention. The next couple of weeks were reminiscent of a South Park episode that satirizes the hush-hush approach educators have towards Salinger. We sped through our paperbacks searching for something juicy. The less voracious readers felt a little cheated -- where was all of the supposed controversy?; the bookworms enjoyed the change of pace; a fickle classmate of mine swooned, "I'm naming my first son Holden!" (an improvement upon the clunkier Tyler Durden, we could all agree).
Responses may have varied, but the "more sensitive" nature of the book got people reading and thinking differently about literaure, and that's never a bad thing. Still, it's interesting to wonder: Did the controversy surrounding The Catcher in the Rye catapult it into literary classicdom, or is it worthy without context? Does Salinger's coming-of-age story appeal only to those in the throes of puberty, or readers of all ages? Is this a Young Adult novel? And if so, how does it compare to modern books aimed at teens, both in its language usage and themes?
I'm so excited to explore these questions (and many, many more!) with you on our live blog and weekly Google Hangout chats. As always, you can drop us a line if you'd like to blog about your reading experience or topics related to the book, and you can sign up for our weekly newsletter in the top right corner of the book club page.
We'll start reading on October 17th, so get your copy now!
Here are some places where you can pick up a copy of "The Catcher in the Rye":
What do you think about our latest pick? Let us know in the comments!