Most Challenged Books: 2012

The ALA recently released the results of their study on the most challenged books of 2012 and I think it’s safe to conclude that there are a lot of Americans out there who need to get a life. I think about the energy it takes to not only submit a challenge form but also to harbor enough disgust for something to actually be spurred to action.

They’re books people, not land mines. I just don’t get it. You can’t censor art. You just can’t. And trying to is not only a detriment to the individual, it’s a detriment to the global community. Censorship kills culture. And while it is most certainly every person’s right to censor their own reading and that of their children, it is most certainly not that person’s right to try and ruin it for the rest of us.

For this very reason I have no idea why libraries would even provide patrons with the option of requesting that books be banned. If something offends you, you don’t have to read it. But why go through the trouble of trying to keep others from reading it as well? It’s pretentious. It’s disgusting. And it hinders one of the most revelatory side effects of reading—asking questions.

Is that what people are afraid of? That if we read something thought-provoking enough that we’ll start to ask questions. Questions that lead to other questions. Questions that lead to answers. Answers that lead to change. Change. So that’s what all you self-righteous readers are quaking in your boots about.

Fine. You’re right. Change is scary. But guess what? It’s also necessary. So the next time you come across something offensive close the book, set it aside, and realize that just because you weren’t ready to face the questions being asked in those pages splayed across your lap, doesn’t mean someone else won’t read those same pages and yearn for the very answers you didn’t think worth finding.

And if you’re feeling particularly brave, here’s the official list of the top ten most challenged books of 2012:

1.       Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group

2.       The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.
Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

3.       Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group

4.       Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

5.       And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group

6.       The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit

7.       Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

8.       Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence

9.       The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

10.    Beloved, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

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11 thoughts on “Most Challenged Books: 2012

  1. Jennifer K says:

    I can’t believe The Kite Runner is on this list – what an amazing book! It is moving and eye-opening. I think books such as The Kite Runner, which explores the culture of a previously obscured nation, are among the most important books we read!

    • I know! The Kite Runner was such a revelation for me in High School and it’s one of my favorite books of all time! I completely agree books like this should be celebrated not banned!

  2. pishnguyen says:

    “If something offends you, you don’t have to read it.”

    Yes! This — exactly. I have never understood why people take the time to try and ban a book. My response, when someone complains that a book should be banned or that it’s inappropriate or whatever is always: “If you don’t like it, stop reading it.” As you said: It’s a book. If you put it down and walk away, it’s not going to chase after you.

    I’ve always suspected that, when people lobby to ban books, it’s a sign that they enjoyed the reading material more than they think they should have … and they are now embarrassed.

    • Or maybe it’s just the fear that they MIGHT enjoy it. Like I said people are so afraid of things that are different or challenging because they can’t handle the truth–about the world and most importantly about themselves. Great books often act as a mirror and when we don’t like what we see we often blame the writer rather than ourselves. But if we looked at that kind of reflection as a means of becoming better people then we’d have nothing to fear but standing still.

  3. Carrie Rubin says:

    I’ve read #1, 2, and 6 and can’t imagine any of them being banned. My sons devoured the Captain Underpants books. Great literature? No. Stupid? Yes. But it got them reading, and now they read all the time. I read the Sherman Alexie book before letting my oldest teen read it. Once I read through it, I let him. Yeah, there was some iffy material, but it painted reality. How can you ban that?

    Great post. Thanks for stopping by my site. I appreciate it!

    • That was the argument Dav Pilkey gave for his books. Are they revelatory works of art that will change the world? No. But they can be the gateway to reading for thousands of kids who might not otherwise have developed that passion. And that’s a pretty powerful thing in and of itself.

  4. Flora Pan says:

    It always baffles me when I read about stuff like this. Come on this is 2013, and censorship on books?! That’s crazy talk. And some of these books are hardly inappropriate or unsuitable, the reasons are not valid at all. I personally have only read Thirteen Reasons Why and Looking for Alaska, and they were fine. I think those topics are safe to explore for the age group intended and just because they might be sexually explicit does not mean they should be banned. Not to mention the two that I’ve listed are not even all that sexual. They are about relationships and struggles of an adolescent. I seriously hope this isn’t going to be implemented because that would be awful.

    • I doubt most libraries would ever comply with the ridiculous request to ban books but sometimes I do wonder about smaller communities and whether the patrons there are more…like-minded and therefore it’s easier to get rid of books they see as inappropriate. It’s unfortunate but it might happen some places.

  5. Alyssa says:

    This is an absolute disgrace. I grew up on some of those books. Captain Underpants? Come on! I didn’t become a mass murderer because some elementary school (maybe?) kid decided he wanted to fight crime in his underwear. Most of the other books are revolutionary in content, and I think that is what people tend to fear, which you highlight in your post perfectly. Those that aren’t revolutionary or child-like in content are just forms of pure (and in some cases, dirty) entertainment. When did it become a crime to just ENJOY a book? I am mortified and disgusted that they even have a list for books to be banned.

    • Totally agree! But luckily I don’t think this list is a good reflection of the attitudes of younger generations. I used to work in a library and most of the people checking out physical paper books as opposed to e-books are the elderly. That’s who visit libraries on a daily basis so I can only assume that this list is a result of old-fashioned values still trying to cling to the present even though most people agree that censorship of the arts is wrong.

  6. Sarah Walsh says:

    I just conducted a research project on banned books and I find the whole thing simply ridiculous. I had the opportunity to look specifically at Huckleberry Finn and I think it’s atrocious that certain groups are trying to alter history just to make it more palatable.

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