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September 28, 2005

Most-challenged books meme

How many of the American Library Association's top 100 most frequently challenged books have you read?

Kevin Drum has logged 14.

Let's see how I do...

3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
27. The Witches by Roald Dahl

28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
32. Blubber by Judy Blume

36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
37. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

46. Deenie by Judy Blume
47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell

67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

88. Where's Waldo by Martin Hanford
96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

Twenty-nine. Frankly, I'm disappointed in myself.

Three people I nominate to perpetuate the meme: Scott Lemieux of Lawyers Guns and Money, Ezra Klein, and Revere of Effect Measure.

Update: Appropriately enough, it turns out that a blog called Ahistoricality independently originated the ALA meme before I did.

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Comments

What does it say about my high school that they gave us at least two of these books to read for class? (Ordinary People, Huck Finn, Pillars of the Earth, To Kill a Mockingbird....) And this was a Catholic school, mind you

Well Lindsay, I bow to you....(thud)....you are a goddess among the literate and I will declaim that on my blog!

It doesn't say that much about your high school. The books that are the most challenged are not particularly the most "offensive", because many of the books that people would want to censor the most are terrible books that would never be assigned to a class and therefore would never get challenged in that setting. The list almost by definition must include popular books that are read all the time in classrooms.

A large percentage of these books are "problem" books for teens. Books by Judy Blume, Robert Cormier, Paul Zindel, and Lois Lowry always show up on these lists.

Another set of the books are sex manuals, both explanatory ones for teens and guides for adults.

And there's another set of more adult books that get challenged for political content/racial conflict content.

I've never thought too much of these lists other than doing what Kevin and Lindsay did - count how many of them I've read.

I've read 38 of them (counting all the books in a listed series as 1). I've read parts of another 5-10. Of course, this may just be a matter of me admitting that I've read some of the books that others won't cop to. It's not like I'm proud of reading Clan of the Cave Bear or the first three Harry Potters.

For anyone who cares, here are my favorite books on this list, in no particular order:

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Fade by Robert Cormier

The Giver and Bridge to Terabithia are both Newbery winners. So are Julie of the Wolves and A Wrinkle in Time.

- Itea


I'm not exactly sure why Where's Waldo is so offensive. I have read 19 of these, and I am particularly proud of reading the Harry Potter series because they were excellent books. Much better writing than the Narnia series, which surprised me when I reread that a few years ago.
I remember intensely disliking The Chocolate War, Lord of the Flies, and Bridge to Terabithia, mostly because I hated the thought of children my age dying violent deaths. Although I suppose before I have children of an age to read those, I should reread them again myself with adult eyes and not middle-schooler eyes.

Only 10 or 20 of those are adult literature, unless you count Jean Auel as adult.

Funny in a way that Judy Blume is the most named author. (If some of the series were counted individually I'm sure they'd beat her, but individual books of hers are the most named). I can understand why, I guess, but whatever other faults she has, she's a very humane writer.

Don't feel bad. There are soooooo many books, and as the cliché goes, so little time. I'm 42 years old, I've been reading constantly for most of those years, and yet I've only read 22 of these. Five or ten more are on my perpetual "to read" list, and someday I will get to them, but frankly, many of these books don't interest me, either because I'm too old for them now (kinda over Judy Blume, you know?) and don't have children or because it's just not something I want to spend time on (e.g., Private Parts) or put in my brain (e.g., Cujo). Something can be challenged by idiots and still not be something I personally want to read. It's not an either/or situation.

I still think it should all be in the library, of course. Every bit of it. And I'm always surprised by some of the things that make it onto the list. What on earth is wrong with How to Eat Fried Worms? It's perfectly delightful, and I'll never forget how supportive the main character's family were, especially his mother. Shoot, I read that book thirty years ago and I still remember how nice the family in it was.

Yeah, why is Flowers for Algernon on the list? I've read it, and while I found the ending rather tragic, I'm not sure why it might be offensive to someone. Though it certainly isn't as innocuous as How to Eat Fried Worms...

I was a bit curious about the Where's Waldo entry too, so I googled it. Apparently there's a topless sunbather in there somewhere. The site I looked at listed two challenges, one in Michigan in '89 and one in East Hampton, New York in '93 (comment withheld). Makes one wonder how challenged some of these books actually are.

Syfr,
You'd be surprised at what gets done at some Catholic schools. My dad took a history course at LaSalle taught by a Jesuit priest back in the 50s. He assigned a few chapters out of "Decline and Fall.." by Gibbon. One of the students brought up that it was on the proscribed list. The priest made a quick, dismissive, blessing and said, "You all have dipsensation. No go read it."

I read 11 of them, 6 assigned by my high school. Evidently, I only read what people don't want me to when people force me to.

The Flowers for Algernon that's on the list is probably the novelized version, not the earlier and better short story of the same name. There's sex in the novel.

It isn't surprising that Go Ask Alice is on the list, but it is nevertheless funny: for those who haven't read that fine example of literature, it's heavy-handed anti-sex and anti-drug propaganda. I'm sure that the people who are trying to have it banned just haven't looked at it carefully enough to notice that they agree with its message.

My count is 30.

It helps that I read both Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy's Roommate way back when. (Daddy's Roommate is by far the better book.)

I am deeply embarrassed by all the terrible porn from that list that I've read.


The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Forever by Judy Blume

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck

Sex by Madonna
Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

Blubber by Judy Blume
Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Pigman by Paul Zindel

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

Cujo by Stephen King
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell

What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Native Son by Richard Wright
Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday

Carrie by Stephen King
Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

The Dead Zone by Stephen King
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman

I get 35.

Lowly nine. But I grew up on kiddie lit in a different language - some of it much more 'dangerous' (i.e., commie) to the fundies.

I did a quick count, and I've read about 25 of the books on the list, plus parts of several others (e.g. skimmed one of the Jean Auel books). The only one I can imagine reading again is To Kill a Mockingbird. (I read Catcher in the Rye in high school and hated it; read it again a few years ago to see if there was something I'd missed, and hated it even more.)

The list only makes sense in context: as Itea points out, it primarily reflects what books are popular and widely availalbe.

I've read 29 of the books. I try to add at least one every year during banned book week. My aunt-in-law is Lois Lowry and she has both a book (The Givers which is really quite good) and a series (which I haven't read yet). I love the list because it gives me a list of books to choose from that I never would have thought of reading before. Last year I read My Brother Sam is Dead and the Drowning of Stephen Jones. They were both excellent books that I will be reading to my son or encouraging him to read in a few years time (he's only 6 now so I'm reading the Harry Potter books to celebrate this years banned book week).

Ah, Matt Austern has a point. I've read the novella version of Flowers for Algernon much more recently than the novel, though, believe it or not, I'm pretty sure I read the novel in the sixth grade! They had a copy in my classroom, though I think it had been retitled "Charly" to capitalize on a movie that had been made from it.

Raol Dahl, Judy Blume, JK Rowling, Shel Silverstein... heck, my 10yo daughter has read nearly all of these! I better keep a close watch on her... 8-)

I'm wondering why you have not read Slaughterhouse Five. It's the only one on the list that I've read and you haven't.

LG, you've got to read the Anastasia series. I have no idea why any of the books in that series were challenged by anyone. But please don't hold that against the Anastasia books.

Lois Lowry is the best young adult author of her generation. My favorite novel of hers is "A Summer to Die." I think that's one of her earlier works. It's about a girl whose older sister gets leukemia. That book still haunts me from time to time, at least 15 years after I read it for the first time. But in a good way.

35. I love lists like this, it's like a naughty summer reading list.

Loving the Anastasia series helps explain the fascination with lists.

To this day, I still think of Anastasia everytime I see a house with a tower-like room or a young boy pretending to dribble a basketball.

Maybe I have to take a closer look at the whole list, but I've read almost half of them, and it just now struck me that there are a lot of books aimed at women - especially young women. Am I imagining this? A couple of people have noted that there is a "'problem' book for teens" theme running through the list, but it seems that there are a few more of them (I guess on account of the preponderance of J. Blume) that are specifically about girls'-coming of-age-type problems.

Maybe it's just because those are the books I've read & all the others are about boys. But I don't see, for example, 'Portnoy's Complaint,' which I recall checking out of the library well before high school.

Now I'm going to have to at least pick up and look at all the rest of the damn books on the list and determine whether I'm right.

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