Banned Books Week: 21st Century book challenges

Although you could nitpick when the 21st Century actually started, we’re at least through the first decade of the 2000s. That doesn’t mean book challenges and book banning turned out to be a phenomenon limited to earlier centuries. The process continues (including, as I’ll review tomorrow, around here) and the American Library Association can now tell us what were the most challenged books of the decade.

I’m not going to repeat verbatim the ALA’s list of the top 100 banned/challenged books from 2000 through 2009. The top 25 alone indicates that what people consider inappropriate to read can still boggle the mind. And if you think I exaggerate, here’s a few of the books, listed alphabetically, in positions 26-100: Beloved (Toni Morrison); Black Boy (Richard Wright), Brave New World (Aldous Huxley), Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury), The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood), The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Ken Kesey), A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving), Slaughterhouse-Five (Kurt Vonnegut), and The Things They Carried (Tim O’Brien).

Here’s the top 25 for the beginning of the 21st Century:

  1. Harry Potter (series), J.K. Rowling
  2. Alice series, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  3. The Chocolate War, Robert Cormier
  4. And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
  5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
  6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
  7. Scary Stories (series), Alvin Schwartz
  8. His Dark Materials (series), Philip Pullman
  9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), Lauren Myracle
  10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
  11. Fallen Angels, Walter Dean Myers
  12. It’s Perfectly Normal, Robie Harris
  13. Captain Underpants (series), Dav Pilkey
  14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  15. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
  16. Forever, Judy Blume
  17. The Color Purple, Alice Walker
  18. Go Ask Alice, Anonymous
  19. Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
  20. King and King, Linda de Haan
  21. To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  22. Gossip Girl (series), Cecily von Ziegesar
  23. The Giver, Lois Lowry
  24. In the Night Kitchen, Maurice Sendak
  25. Killing Mr. Griffen, Lois Duncan

It amazes and saddens me that in our so-called modern world people would even consider keeping Of Mice and Men, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird out of the hands of those capable of reading them.

…if all Printers were determin’d not to print any thing till they were sure it would offend no body, there would be very little printed.

Benjamin Franklin, “An Apology for Printers”

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