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Off the shelf @ your local library - Banned Books 2012


By Kathy Pillatzki
Assistant Director
Henry County Library System

  Happy Banned Books Week! Now that I have your attention, you’re probably wondering, “Why do libraries, which promote free access to information, celebrate something called Ban-ned Books Week?”

  It’s not the banning we celebrate, but the right of adults in a free society to choose for themselves what to read, and what not to. It’s a chance to highlight important books that have been challenged throughout US history. It’s a celebration of our First Amendment right to express ideas, share opinions, and read and write what we wish (short of libel), without fear of retribution.

  Why are books challenged? The most common reasons cited are sexual or violent content, profanity and slang, and offensive portrayals of religious or ethnic groups. Other grounds include catch-all categories like “content unsuited to age group” or “incompatible with community values.”

  The problem is, what offends one person may be perfectly acceptable to the majority. If we ban every book that has the potential to offend, our literary heritage will be poor indeed. Besides, when groups or individuals try to suppress a book they find offensive, it nearly always backfires: people hear about the controversy and rush out to buy or borrow a copy so they can see what all the fuss is about.

  The American Library Association tracks book challenges and bans and each year compiles a list of the most frequently challenged books in the US. Quite often, these are the same books that are at the top of the bestseller lists and on recommended reading lists for schools.

  The following books have been among the top ten most challenged titles on the ALA list for the 21st century. Some of them might surprise you.  In honor of Banned Books Week, take a look and see how many you’ve read. Ask yourself, “Have I come to any irreparable harm from reading these? Or is my knowledge richer and my worldview broader because of the ideas and stories they hold?”

•  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. Reason: racism.

•  Beloved, by Toni Morrison. Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.

•  Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. Reasons: insensitivity, nudity, racism, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit.

•  Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey. Reasons: offensive language, unsuited to age group.

•  Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.

•  The Color Purple, by Alice Walker. Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.

•  Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling. Reasons: occult/Satan-ism.

•  His Dark Materials (trilogy), by Philip Pullman. Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, violence.

•  The Hunger Games (trilogy), by Suzanne Collins. Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence.

•  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou. Reason: sexually explicit.

In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak. Reasons: nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit.

•  Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George. Reasons: unsuited to age group, violence.

•  To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Reasons: offensive language, racism.

•  The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.

•  Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck. Reasons: offensive language, racism, violence.

  To view the complete list, and for more ways to observe Banned Books Week, visit



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