Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2017

As the attacks on the right to read escalate, a celebration of reading is needed now more than ever. Banned Books Week Coalition is here to support the community of readers, including students, educators, libraries, and booksellers, in the United States and abroad. Please join us during Banned Books Week, September 23 – 29, 2018!

What are YOU reading this week?

The book was better.

I’m sure you have seen this illustration before on movie-versus-book discussions. With the sudden influx of movies based on books, I feel that I have to stress again how much richer and more satisfying reading a book is over seeing the movie adaptation.

When you read, you are creating your own movie. Your brain is more engaged and invested in a book. It is a very active process, combining the words you are seeing, processing, and understanding to create a full-color, vivid, on-demand movie in your mind. You are director and producer. You are in charge of makeup and costumes. You choose the locations and scenes. All of this in a split second.

That’s why reading makes you smarter. Not only are you able to learn new words, but you are also engaging so much of your brain in sequential, systematic, and parallel ways – many times all at once!

There will never be a better movie-maker than your own imagination.

Some books to try instead of the movie:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
One of my top 10 books, the story presents a challenge to the screen because it is primarily internal monologue. While the film and television series are true to the dystopian nature of the story, it is impossible to capture the parallel thoughts and feelings of the protagonist and the other handmaids as told in the double narrative-style of the book.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
Another one of my faves, this is the first book in a quartet. While the film adaptation, again, presents the general idea of the book, the fact that one character was given a much bigger part in the film (Streep’s characterization of the Chief Elder) in order cash in on her star power doesn’t sit well with me. The book is about exploring feelings, making decisions, and actions bringing consequences.

The Lost Weekend by Charles R. Jackson
The film version was highly acclaimed, nominated for seven Academy Awards and winning four. What is missing here, however, is the raw and visceral pull of alcohol on the main character. It consumes him, drives his behavior, and pulls the reader in opposing directions of disgust and sympathy for him. Thought of as the seminal American novel on addiction, this desperation cannot be captured on film. That, coupled with homosexual overtones, makes this 1944 novel a must-read.

These are just three of my pics for you. Let me know of other books-into-films you have experienced, and what your impression on the comparison was.

Banned Books Week: Entirely New List

I just realized that the top challenged books in 2015 contains no duplicates from the list last year. That amazes me! I have read only two of the 2014 list. I need to get busy!!
Top Ten Challenged Books Lists by Year: 2014
1)      The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”
2)      Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”
3)      And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”
4)      The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”
5)      It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”
6)      Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group. Additional reasons:
7)      The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence
8)      The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”
9)      A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group
10)  Drama, by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: sexually explicit

Banned Books Week, Y’all!!

Well, Captain Underpants didn’t make the list this year, but there are quite a few LGBT on this time. I don’t know if that’s good because it means that there is more diversity in today’s books, or if it’s bad because they are being challenged. I am going to stick with it’s a good thing!

I have read three of the following. Let me know how many you have read!

The top ten most frequently challenged books of 2015 are:

  1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
  3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
    Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
  4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
    Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
  6. The Holy Bible
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
  7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
    Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
  8. Habibi, by Craig Thompson
    Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
  10. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
    Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).

Banned Books Week: Yes, it’s still happening

Ruth Graham wrote a column in Slate magazine titled “Banned Books Week is a Crock”, with the subtitle, “That’s good news! No one bans books anymore. We won!”

Unfortunately, this kind of ignorant statement can be expected from a columnist who intimated in 2014 that adults should feel embarrassed if they read books written for young adults or children. I can only come to the conclusion that Slate keeps her on their list of writers to troll readers. After all, controversy many times increases readership.

And therein lies the sweet irony. When a book is challenged, even if it is not ultimately pulled from the shelves, a firestorm of activity ensues, with the publisher and author usually coming out victorious.

Author Ted Dawe with a copy of his banned book Into the River.

Case in point: New Zealand’s Office of Film and Literature Classification (where the head is called the Chief Censor) placed an “interim restriction” on Ted Dawe’s YA book “Into the River“.

Interim Restriction = BANNED. You can get details on it here and here,

Dawe himself supports the “Streisand effect” in this statement: The censorship of my award-winning young adult novel, Into The River, made me a minor literary celebrity. All I wanted was to get working-class boys to read.

You see, while books may only be challenged in the United States, they are, indeed, still banned around the world, and in places that may be surprising (like New Zealand). Banned Books Week is not about bringing life to a dead topic. It is about maintaining a spotlight on what Americans hold dear, and people everywhere should be able to enjoy: FREEDOM.

I am going now to get my copy of Dawe’s book!

Banned Books Week: Why does it matter?

Why should you be interested it keeping ALL books on the shelves?

A Book Challenge: Why Banned Books Week MattersBecause we need to protect the freedom to read whatever we want; and, that includes explicit, suggestive, disgusting, violent, and everything else under the sun of which writing consists. You are not endorsing the books. You are endorsing the freedom of choice.

For example, I will more than likely never read 50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James. Not because it’s erotica; not because it’s subject matter is S&M. I will probably never read it because I have read so many reviews that state it is just plain bad writing. I don’t have time for that. Otherwise, I probably would have read the first one, just to see what all the hype was about. That’s the same reason I read Twilight by Stephenie Meyers and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. However, they didn’t interest me, and I didn’t read any further in their respective series.

Here are a few others that I remember, off the top of my head:

  • Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs – It took weeks for disturbing images to leave me.
  • Guts by Chuck Palahniuk – I am still disgusted whenever I think of it.
  • Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris – One objectionable story left me crossing this author off any further reading.
  • The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan – How many ways can you describe anal sex, anyway?
The author on the movie set of Naked Lunch.

Here’s the thing: My list may make you go out and explore some of these titles. And you should! To read is to think. To think is to consider. To consider is to grow. I am not a bad person because I read those books. I am not damaged emotionally, and my intellect grew a bit with each one. Would I undo reading them? Not for a moment.

I kept my son from reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote in 8th grade. I didn’t think he was ready for the violence, and nuanced relationships discussed in the pages. However, now that he is older, I would encourage him wholeheartedly to read it, and would love to discuss it with him.

Additionally, I didn’t request that it be removed from the 8th grade suggested reading list. That was not up to me. That is a line that does not and cannot be allowed to be crossed in this country.

Individual freedom of choice. If you want to read what someone else would consider objectionable, that should be up to you.

Remember, it’s ultimately NOT about books, but about FREEDOM.