ALA Releases 2008 List of Most Frequently Challenged Books


The American Library Association (ALA) yesterday released its annual list of the country’s most frequently challenged books. Based on data collected by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, the list ranks titles that have prompted formal, written complaints seeking their restriction or removal from library shelves and school curricula. Challenges typically cite issues of sexual, religious, or political content and appropriateness.

Among the four new titles included on the list is Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling novel The Kite Runner, which weighs in at number nine. The remaining books reflect a range of themes; many are geared toward children and young adults. Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell’s And Tango Makes Three, the story of two male penguins who hatch an orphaned egg, tops the rankings for a third straight year.

"Books, magazines, and other reading materials should reflect the diverse views and the rich multicultural tapestry of our nation," said Caldwell Stone, deputy director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom. "While not every book is right for each reader, every reader has the right to choose reading materials for themselves and their families and should be able to find those materials in libraries, classrooms, and bookstores. Our goal is to protect one of our most precious fundamental rights—our freedom to read."

While the current list reflects data from 513 confirmed challenges—93 more than the total from 2007—only a minority of complaints are successful. Books pulled from shelves in 2008 included Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down (for profanity) and Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (for sexual content).


Mark Twain

I'm sure Huckleberry Finn was at the top of this list. If not, I'm surprised. Conrad's "Nigger of the Narcissus" probably ranks, too. The latter has enough thematic complexity to be debated a round or two, which is good. (And the former has been endlessly debated, already, for the last half-century(?) or so.) There should always be a fight for literature that stands to be censored, and often it results in an alluring benefit to the work. Great example: "Howl"