Image used by permission of the American Library Association
Every year, the American Library Association sets aside one week to celebrate the freedom to read. The celebration is labelled as Banned Book Week, to bring attention to those books that have been banned or removed from libraries or had a public outcry demanding their removal from a library. This year, Banned Book Week is from September 22nd through the 28th. You too can celebrate by picking up a challenged or banned book from your local library branch.
Also each year, the ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom puts together a list of the ten most challenged books of the previous year. The following ten titles are those most challenged books, all of which are freely available in the Milwaukee library system.
1. Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants Series.
Yes, somehow a series about two fourth grade kids who accidentally hypnotize their school principal into thinking he's the titular brief-wearing superhero is the most challenged of 2012. This is as telling about modern society as it is ridiculous.
2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Sherman Alexie's tale of a budding cartoonist Junior leaves his troubled school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white farm town school where the only other Indian is the school mascot has ended up on this list many times, and for good reason: it's a brilliant, honest book about being young and growing up.
3. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.
Asher's story is about a young girl who commits suicide, and the thirteen reasons for her decision to end her life that she records and passes on to those she holds responsible. Praised for its eloquence steeped in tragedy, this is another book challenged for showing dark realities that can afflict young people.
4. E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey
The sexcapades of Anastasia Steele and her new boyfriend Christian Grey sparked the runaway publishing hit of 2012, and the fastest selling paperback of all time! They even tried to pull it off library shelves in Florida, until unsurprisingly the public demanded it be made available again.
5. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
This one is a children's book about the real story of two male penguins raising an egg together in the Central Park zoo, creating a supposed threat to cherubic innocence horrific enough to place the book atop the most challenged list for four separate years.
6. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
This best-selling novel traces the period between the final days of Afghanistan's monarchy through the horrific rule of the Taliban through the unlikely friendship between a wealthy Afghan boy and the son of his father's servant.
7. John Green's Looking for Alaska
John Green's big success may be the more recent The Fault in Our Stars, but it is his first novel that lands on the top 10 most challenged list. The book is about a high school junior, nicknamed 'Pudge' who transfers to a boarding school and his experiences there making new friends and more. One short, awkward teenage sex scene in the book is what attracts most of the controversy to the book.
8. Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories series
This series of gross and ghastly short stories gets challenged and banned on the basis that it is too scary for children. One would think that the content was obvious from the title.
9. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
A deeply personal memoir that unflinchingly details the author's childhood experiences; included are passages of molestation and other tragic matters, which are the source of the controversy surrounding the book.
10. Beloved by Toni Morrison
This is the story of Sethe, an escaped slave living in post-Civil War Ohio with her daughter and mother-in-law, who is haunted persistently by the ghost of the dead baby girl whom she sacrificed. The commonly cited reasons this book has been challenged include violence, sexual content, and oddly enough 'religious viewpoint'.
For more information and lists on frequently challenged books, check out the ALA's website on banned and challenged books.
The above annotations are in part from our catalog or the readers' advisory database NoveList.