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ALA’s 100 most challenged/banned books

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While the RIAA is waging war against filetraders, another battle continues on in the libraries across America: book challenges and banning.

This week, September 20 – 27 is the American Library Association (ALA) banned books week and it seemed appropriate to do a little research on what books have been challenged and/or banned from libraries across the United States.

Though this list might not be as stimulating as Rolling Stone’s top 100 guitarist list, this list is still worthy of discussion and debate. I heard a debate on a local Seattle KIRO the other night over #5 on the list below: Huckleberry Finn. A senior at a local area school has had the book pulled for the 200+ uses of the N word. I commented recently that the subject of racism is a bit worn at blogcritics by a certain critic, and it is book challenges like this that contribute to my frustration over this topic.

Here is the list of the top 100 challenged books (slow loading) from 1990-2000:

  1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  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
  7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  8. Forever by Judy Blume
  9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  15. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
  17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  19. Sex by Madonna
  20. Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
  21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
  27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
  29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
  30. The Goats by Brock Cole
  31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
  32. Blubber by Judy Blume
  33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
  34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
  35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
  36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
  37. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  40. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
  41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
  46. Deenie by Judy Blume
  47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
  49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
  50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
  51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
  54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
  55. Cujo by Stephen King
  56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
  58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
  60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  61. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
  62. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
  64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
  65. Fade by Robert Cormier
  66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
  67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
  69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  71. Native Son by Richard Wright
  72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
  73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
  74. Jack by A.M. Homes
  75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
  76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
  77. Carrie by Stephen King
  78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
  79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
  80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
  81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
  82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
  83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
  84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
  87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
  88. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
  89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
  90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
  91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
  93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
  94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
  95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
  97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
  98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
  100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

I’ve read several of these books and as a parent I wouldn’t have a problem with my children reading any of them, including Huckleberry Finn and the Stephen King books with the occasional F word and scary monsters. King doesn’t use any words that kids aren’t hearing a dozen times a day at school.

I noticed while about posting this that Solonor has added an entry on Sci-Fi books being challenged so those who interested should check that out as well.

Celebrate your right to read and freedom of speech this week by copying the image and putting on your website or blog and linking to: www.ala.org/bbooks

This week would also be good time to visit the library, the local bookstore or online retailer and read some of these challenged/banned books to see what some people out there feel shouldn’t be explored. Topics like: racism, sexuality, homosexuality, fear, poverty, greed, misery, and horror.

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About TDavid

  • The Theory

    I am always surprised to see Madeline L’Engle on this list… as well as Judy Blume. Roald Dahl… I mean, I grew up with those authors.

    That said, i can see why “The New Joys of Gay Sex” gets complains… but I don’t see school librabries stocking that mofo, either.

  • Roald Dahl wrote some great adult short stories. Were those what you enjoyed reading, Theory? I particularly enjoyed stories like Lamb To The Slaughter (“somehow I think the answer must be right under our nose”, as they devour the murder weapon).

    But he will probably always be best known for his Willy Wonka stuff.

  • The Theory

    No, no Lamb to the Slaughter for me. Wanka, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, and so forth. Good books. I’d still read them.

  • parents should give their kids a little credit for being able to sort this stuff out.

    the language if all over the school so it’s nothing new.

    i remember reading an article about books that were banned from christian schools. one of them was The Diary of Anne Frank….because, at one point in the book, she disobeys her parents.

    talk about missing the point!

  • You can free a banned book, too.

  • Magic the work of satan? Apparently there are a lot of complaints over the Harry Potter books because of the wizardry and magic. I’m not a fan of the Harry Potter books, but its a matter of personal taste, certainly not anything I deem offensive in them.

    Mark – I agree with you on the language bit. The same parents complaining probably use those words around their kids.

  • Theory and TDavid:
    My favorite Dahl books were his autobiographical Boy and its sequel Going Solo. He had a very interesting life, which coincided nicely with his gift of storytelling.

  • Obviously some of these books (like Madonna’s tome, for example) are inappropriate for grade-school libraries. That’s not a question of freedom, it’s a question of common sense and community standards.

    The banning comes from both sides of the aisle, too. While once upon a time Huck Finn might have been banned because of, well, I don’t know, something ignorant racists thought up, recently it’s been banned because of “racist” language that is deemed inappropriate, as documented in this post.

    Still, it’s hard to imagine some of these. Caged Bird? A thing of beauty. How To Eat Fried Worms? Man, I was very young when I read that. To Kill A Mockingbird? Despite the weirdness of having a child express a very adult point of view at the end of the novel, it should be considered a classic must-read for everybody. I just don’t get it.

    Then again, I use a Christian home-school currciulum that includes a few of the books in this list, as well as other books with bad words, positive books about other religions, and so on and so forth, and I plan to supplement that with books even they won’t touch, so I guess I’m atypical.

    A Wrinkle In Time? Man, I loved that book when I was about ten or eleven. It’s in my kids’ curriculum, too.

  • Phil, the major gripe with Caged is that Angelou was molested as a child. A lot of people, apparently, don’t want their kids to be aware of the topic.

    I’ve argued for Huck Finn many a time with African-American writers, who, surprisingly to me, are sometimes opposed to the book being taught. The problem is usually the person can’t get pass the N-word. Once someone does, he or she will ‘get’ the book. Also, many people, including Klan types, assume Twain was a racist. He wasn’t.

    Native Americans sometimes protest Injun Joe in Tom Sawyer. He is a stereotype, I suppose. But, I care a lot more about seeing so many drunk Indians on the streets of Portland and Seattle than I do about seeing one in a novel.

    The anti-scary book movement tickles me. Heck, Grimm’s fairy tales are scary. So, are children’s stories from just about every culture. I think it probably serves a useful psychological purpose.

  • Meleah

    I don’t understand how some of these books can be banned! James and the Giant Peach? I read that when I was like 8. I am doing a report right now for school about book banning and censorship (we just finished reading Farenhiet 451), and I did’nt relize how many great books have been banned. I really hope that this hasn’t stopped kids from reading some wonderful novels.

  • Meleah (#10), the label “Banned Books” is scary, but in some cases the only issue that a little school somewhere out there decided to take the book out of the elementary-level library or something.

    Note also that book-banners come from the left and the right, so the stereotype most of us have of book-burners doesn’t fit.

    In the case of James, I suspect it has something to do with the fact that James runs away from his aunts. We don’t want very young children encouraged to run away from home, do we?

  • Depending on the age, I would argue that young children come up with the concept of running away from home long before reading it in a book. Same with many of the other topics explored in most of these books.

    I wonder if it is a small number of complaints proportionally that cause books to be removed? I sure hope it’s not one or two parents that are over-protective about reading material making issues out of these books. The squeaky wheel thing making changes in the libraries in public school concerns me.

  • Evan

    i used to read Goosebump books but not nomore becuse those are kiddie books