Thursday, April 14, 2011

Where would we be without books?

The American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom released this week the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2010. There are often books I enjoy on this list, and sometimes even a few of my most cherished books are mentioned. This year, however, three of my absolutely favorite books are on the list: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones. To make matters even worse, two authors I frequently talk about and recommend to others also made the list: Stephenie Meyer and Ellen Hopkins. Just check out my Reading Lists to see how many times these authors and books appear.

This either says something about me or the condition of America. (My brother assures me it speaks to both.)

I almost feel personally attacked by wanna-be do-gooders who do absolutely nothing to promote critical thinking and social acceptance among America's youth. While you might not feel these books are appropriate for you or your children, that doesn't mean someone out there doesn't need the words contained in these books. I can't imagine where I'd be without Mark Twain, Judy Blume, Katherine Paterson, Roald Dahl, Lois Lowry and Madeleine L’Engle--some of the most frequently challenged authors when I was in high school. And how many children would never have discovered reading without J.K. Rowling, Alvin Schwartz, Maurice Sendak, R.L. Stine and Walter Dean Myers--some of the most frequently challenged authors from the past ten years. And what an un-accepting world we'd live in if young people didn't have access to books by Robert Cormier, Maya Angelou, Stephen Chbosky, Toni Morrison and Harper Lee.

Our shelves would be empty of books, and our children would be without the ideals that can change the world. So even if your favorite books aren't on this year's list, make sure you support other people's freedom to read the books they love.


  1. It's funny to me that they monitor books so closely and yet you look at the crap on TV and in movies. Not only do they present a lot of the same ideas, but it's also in a much more visual way and on a medium few people don't use at some point or another. It would be better if we could just learn to think for ourselves, to understand that we can be influenced by ideas but ultimately it's up to us what we incorporate into our thinking. But I know that most people just don't think that way, so it's useless to expect them to do so. But I understand your frustration. I definitely think books like The Hunger Games or the Chocolate War aren't for everyone, but that doesn't mean they can't fit for someone.

  2. Exactly, Tammy! It's so closely related to tolerance in every other aspect of our lives--respecting other's religious beliefs, cultural sensitivities and personal standards of living. We can't make decisions for everyone else, but we can respect people enough to let them make decisions for themselves.

    I also agree with your point about television and movies--that we like to pretend they have no influence on us. But they are also monitored pretty heavily, and voices are heard. After the "wardrobe malfunction" during Super Bowl XXXVIII live television became a thing of the past as every show was put on a 5-second delay.