The Most Challenged Books of 2010: Proof we need our libraries

15 Apr

The Most Dangerous Book In America?

As National Library Week draws to a close, it is important to celebrate one of the most critical roles of the library: to provide all kinds of information to everyone who visits. Intellectual freedom is a cornerstone of the mission of the library.

Sadly, library materials are challenged every year in every part of the country. Regular TSM readers may remember our celebration of Banned Books Week last fall. That week recognizes all of the materials challenged in libraries. As part of this week’s recognition of library service, the American Library Association releases the annual list of the most-challenged books in America’s libraries over the past year. This year’s top 10 were:

  1. And Tango Makes Three –– Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian –– Sherman Alexie.
  3. Brave New World –– Aldous Huxley.
  4. Crank –– Ellen Hopkins.
  5. The Hunger Games –– Suzanne Collins.
  6. Lush –– Natasha Friend.
  7. What My Mother Doesn’t Know –– Sonya Sones.
  8. Nickel and Dimed –– Barbara Ehrenreich.
  9. Revolutionary Voices –– edited by Amy Sonnie.
  10. Twilight –– Stephenie Meyer.

This is a typical list, focusing on blocking free access to reading of children’s and young adult materials. It also includes an old standby (Brave New World) and another less-recent book that is targeted by the Tea Party (Nickel and Dimed) for its supposed leftist bias. Two books on the list are of particular note this year.

Revolutionary Voices is a multicultural anthology of works by radical queer youth designed to empower the young LGBTQ community. The award-winning book was published in 2000 and is out of print, selling for $50.00 or more online. This makes library access all the more critical for people who cannot find or afford a copy for purchase. How did a 10-year-old, relatively unknown book wind up at #9? We can thank Glenn Beck. Members of his 9/12 Project targeted the book in several communities, successfully removing it from at least two communities. (It is rare that challenges result in removal, so this is a notoriously notable achievement.)

The most-challenged book is And Tango Makes Three, which has been in the top two every year since it was published in 2005. This sweet, fact-based story of two male penguins who live as a mated pair and raise a chick together failed to melt the Antarctic hearts of dozens of “family values” organizations which have mounted incessant campaigns against it. Fortunately, the absurd uproar has also kept this book a bestseller. Thanks to the Unshelved guys for this perfect analysis of the absurdity of these challenges:

Books are for reading, and libraries are for everyone. Celebrate National Library Week by reading a challenged book today! If you are interested in this year’s books, here’s a convenient list of the Top 10 with links to local libraries.


One Response to “The Most Challenged Books of 2010: Proof we need our libraries”

  1. webwordwarrior April 15, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    Thank you, Robert. More people need to be aware of the challenges that the narrow- and non-minded impose on our great institutions of freedom. Heather Has Two Mommies had a very famous fight here in Vermont. (Fortunately the library stood firm.) I had no interest in Twilight, but I may have to read it just to spite the ban-happy masses. 🙂

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