September 22 started Banned Books Week, an annual event that celebrates the freedom to read. As a reader of all things in many different genres, I am happy to know I can still go to my local public library and get what ever I want.

I was surprised to see some of my favorite classics on the list year after year. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee still top the list.

But how about the most challenged books of last year? Some of them may surprise you:

  1. Tremendously popular with the kids, Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey was challenge for offensive language, and being unsuited for an age group. It won Disney’s Kids’ Choice Award in 2007, and we may be seeing a DreamWorks film of it at some point!
  2. An important book, written about an by often-disregarded minority, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie illustrates life on the Spokane Indian Reservation. It was challenged for offensive language, racism, being sexually explicit, and unsuited for an age group.
  3. Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher, a haunting book about the damaging repercussions of small actions makes the book number three on the list. It has long list of challenges, but really can be summed up as being unsuited for the age group. It will be made into a movie, presumably, in the near future as Universal Studios purchased the rights.
  4. It, however, probably should surprise no one that one of the most controversial books of the year Fifty Shades of Grey by E.O. Wilson, made the list.
  5. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson is a children’s book based off a true story at Central Park Zoo about a penguin couple who are both male raising an egg together. It is challenged on the grounds of being unsuited for an age group, and containing homosexuality.
  6. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, a two-year New York Times bestseller, tells the tale of Amir and his life against the tumultuous backdrop of the fall of Afghanistan. Petitions against it cite homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoints, and explicit sex.
  7. The popular young adult author, John Green, even makes the list with his book Looking for Alaska.
  8. Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz have been terrifying children much to their delight since 1981, and are top on the list for being unsuited for the age group.
  9. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a memoir that describes a turbulent childhood made chaotic by the extremes of poverty. Despite wining the Christopher Award, and the American Library Associations’ Alex Award, it was one of last years most challenged books.
  10. Beloved by Toni Morrison  may have hit bookshelves in 1988, but it’s still hotly contested twenty-five years later despite earning high awards such as the Pulitzer Prize, and being adapted into a highly acclaimed film.

Fun facts about other banned books.

  • The very controversial American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, naturally controversial for its extreme depictions of violence and sex, is being made into a musical and it will make its debut December 2013 in London!
  • A vice-principal in Vineland, New Jersey physically tore pages from the copy of his school’s library’s Paint Me Like I Am after finding a poem objectionable. An uncensored copy has since replaced the defaced book.
  • In Fayetteville, Arkansas, 55 books were petitioned to be banned in 2005.

Want to celebrate Banned Book Week and the freedom to read with Poudre Libraries? Come down and get your mugshot taken with a banned book!

Want to know more? You can read about challenged books from this year and what you can do if someone petitions to ban your favorite book from this informational pdf put out by the American Libraries Association – BBW_2012-2013_Shortlist.