According to BannedBooksWeek.org, the special week launched in 1982 as "a response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries." More than 11,300 books have been challenged since then, the website reports.
American Library Association President Barbara Stripling said the week serves as an opportunity to remind people "the freedom to choose books for ourselves and our family is a right, not a privilege."
“The ability to read, speak, think and express ourselves freely is a fundamental freedom that sustains and upholds our democratic society,” Stripling said in a statement issued by the ALA.
The organization differentiates between challenged books and banned books by calling books about which individuals or groups have lodged an objection and have attempted to remove a book. Banned books, on the other hand, have actually been removed.
Would-be banners most commonly object to materials containing offensive language, explicit sex, homosexuality, violence, drugs, nudity and/or a religious viewpoint different from their own.
Many banned works are included in what modern society has deemed "the classics" and/or the Western Canon and include both The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.
Per the ALA, the top 10 most frequently challenged books last year were as follows:
- Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey. Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
- Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
- Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James. Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
- And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson. Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
- Looking for Alaska by John Green. Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
- Scary Stories (series) by Alvin Schwartz. Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
- The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
- Beloved by Toni Morrison. Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence
The Agoura Hills Library is featuring a display of frequently challenged books this week.
For something more interactive, Google has scheduled a series of Google Hangouts in which acclaimed and challenged authors will speak. Find the Google Hangouts Banned Books Week schedule here.
What's your favorite banned book? Is there a time when it's appropriate to ban books and if so, when would that be? Let us know in the comments section!