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April 15, 2014

American Library Association releases its 10 most challenged books of 2013

BraveAs a fresh controversy arises in Delaware over whether parents should censor school reading lists, Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series tops the list of books which received the most complaints.

By Alison Flood.

As debate rages in Delaware over whether parents should be able to screen school reading lists for “obscene content”, the latest list of the books most frequently challenged in US libraries shows it is not only classics that are being challenged.

Books from Fifty Shades of Grey to The Hunger Games have all drawn protests over the last year, with librarians reporting over 300 requests to remove books from shelves or exclude them from school curriculums.

According to local press, a board meeting in the Cape Henlopen school district in Delaware grew heated when two board members started speaking out against Aldous Huxley’s dystopian classic, Brave New World, and calling for parents to be warned before children begin studying it.

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May 4, 2013

ALA Unveils 2013 Finalists for Andrew Carnegie Medals

The American Library Association today announced six books as finalists for the 2013 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, awarded for the previous year’s best fiction and nonfiction books written for adult readers and published in the U.S.

The 2013 shortlisted titles, (selected from a longlist of impressive books) are:


Canada, by Richard Ford (Ecco).

The Round House, by Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins).

This Is How You Lose Her, by Junot Díaz (Riverhead).


The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death, by Jill Lepore (Knopf).

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis,” by Timothy Egan (Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, by David Quammen (W. W. Norton).

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October 20, 2011

Q&A: National Book Award Un-Nominee, Lauren Myracle, Felt “Gutted and Ashamed”



From Harper Point Photography.

By Brett Berk

Lauren Myracle is a New York Times best-selling young-adult author. She’s also one of our country’s most frequently “challenged” writers, meaning, her books have appeared at the top of the American Library Association’s list of titles most often cited for removal—banning—from our public libraries’ shelves. In the past week, she hit another milestone: she is the first author to be nominated for the prestigious National Book Award before having that nomination revoked.

The novel in question, Shine (Abrams, 2011), concerns a violent hate crime against a small-town gay youth, the ensuing cover-up by local authorities, and a girl who takes it upon herself to find the truth. We called Myracle for her first interview since this occurred—highlights from our chat:

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September 29, 2011

Books that deserve to be banned

Not that we take Banned Books Week lightly. But some classics are painful enough to ruin reading forever.

By Laura Miller

Book banning is a serious matter, and the American Library Association’s annual Banned Books Week is an important consciousness-raising exercise. True, a lot of the titles on the ALA’s list of targeted books have been “challenged” rather than actually banned, and — thanks to the ALA’s ability to mobilize the press and public opinion — most of those challenges end up being disregarded or overturned. Still, every year dozens of citizens, usually parents, try to get books removed from school curricula and libraries.

And so we ask: Where were these censors when we really needed them — that is, when our 10th-grade teachers assigned “Beowulf” or “The Pearl”? As deplorable as real-life book banning may be, there’s some required reading that those of us at Salon would love to see retired from the nation’s syllabuses simply because we were tortured by it as kids.

“What is the educative value of making nerdy kids (or anyone, I suppose) read ‘Lord of the Flies’?” asks film critic Andrew O’Hehir. “Is it pure sadism? To rub their faces in the gravity of their predicament, and the likely fact that they will sooner or later be sacrificed to a nonexistent God by their classmates? Now, I recognize the book’s literary value, no question, and the point that it’s an allegory about human society and not strictly about children or for children. But that’s not how you read it when you’re 11, for the love of sweet suffering Jesus. Really hated that experience.”

For my part, while I was a voracious independent reader of children’s fiction from the second grade on, “Lord of the Flies” — and another novel I was ordered to read at age 10, “Animal Farm” — convinced me that “grown-up” books were unrelentingly bleak and politically didactic; this kept me from venturing beyond the kids’ section of the library for a few years. more


September 25, 2011

Banning & Burning Books in America

By Frederick Clarkson

Every year, there are hundreds of documented efforts to restrict or outright ban books from school and public libraries. Many of those responsible are groups and individuals affiliated with or encouraged by the Religious Right, particularly in recent years as the American Family Association has whipped up-fears about Harry Potter books and films.  That’s why the  American Library Association and the American Booksellers Foundation for Freedom of Expression lead the organization of the annual Banned Books Weekto highlight the importance of the Freedom to Read.

This year, Banned Books Week is September 24−October 1, 2011.

The annual list of banned or challenged books run the gamut from Harry Potter to Huckleberry Finn and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The top ten most challenged books for 2010 were:

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

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September 19, 2011

Library Groups Blast Authors Guild Lawsuit

By Andrew Albanese

The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), a group comprised of three major library associations, has issued a statement expressing “deep disappointment” over the lawsuit filed this week by the Authors Guild against HathiTrust and its research library partners. “The case has no merit, and completely disregards the rights of libraries and their users under the law, especially fair use,” the statement reads. “We are confident the court will not look kindly on this shortsighted and ill-conceived lawsuit.”

The LCA, which consists of the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of College and Research Libraries, represents some 300,000 information professionals and thousands of libraries nationwide. Not surprisingly, the librarians did a little research and included in their statement an acknowledgement by Authors Guild president Scott Turow, written two years earlier.

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August 28, 2011

Boys and Reading: Is There Any Hope?


At an American Library Association conference in 2007, HarperCollins dressed five of its male young adult authors in blue baseball jerseys with our names on the back and sent us up to bat in a panel entitled “In the Clubhouse.” We were meant to demystify to the overwhelmingly female audience the testosterone code that would get teenage boys reading. Whereas boys used to lag behind girls in reading in the early grades, statistics show, they soon caught up. Not anymore.

We guys had mixed feelings about the game plan: boys’ aversion to reading, let alone to novels, has been worsening for years. But while this certainly posed a problem for us male writers, we felt that we were being treated as a sideshow.

And so we turned from men into boys. Though we ranged in age and style from then 30-­something Kenneth Oppel, a writer of fantasies about ancient beasts (“Darkwing”), to Walter Dean Myers, the 70-­something master of street novels (“Monster”), along with Chris Crutcher (“Whale Talk”) and Terry Trueman (“Stuck in Neutral”), we easily slipped into a cohesive pack. We became stereotypes, smart-aleck teammates — and we were very much on the defensive. It was Us vs. Them.

This is exactly what boys do, in the classroom and in the library, as well as in the clubhouse. If we’re to counter this tendency and encourage reading among boys who may collectively resist it, boys need to be approached individually with books about their fears, choices, possibilities and relationships — the kind of reading that will prick their dormant empathy, involve them with fictional characters and lead them into deeper engagement with their own lives. This is what turns boys into readers.

Given the rich variety in young adult fiction available today, this might seem easy. Not so. “We’re in a kind of golden age of books for teenagers — in fact, the best ones are more satisfying reads than most of the best books published for adults,” said Donald Gallo, a Y.A. anthologist and retired English professor at Central Connecticut State University, when I spoke to him by phone. “The important question is why aren’t boys reading the good books being published?”

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August 25, 2011

Don’t kill America’s databook

By Robert J. Samuelson

If you want to know something about America, there are few better places to start than the “Statistical Abstract of the United States.” Published annually by the Census Bureau, the Stat Abstract assembles about 1,400 tables describing our national condition. What share of children are immunized against measles, mumps and rubella? Answer: 92 percent. What state has the highest disposable per capita income? Answer: Connecticut, 33 percent above the national average. How big is the nation’s network of oil pipelines? Answer: 147,000 miles, about triple the length of the Interstate Highway System (46,751 miles).

I am a devoted fan of the Stat Abstract. In four decades of reporting, I have grabbed it thousands of times to find a fact, tutor myself or answer a pressing question. Its figures are usually the start of a story, not the end. They suggest paths of inquiry, including the meaning and reliability of the statistics themselves (otherwise, they can mislead or tell false tales). The Stat Abstract has been a stalwart journalistic ally. With some interruptions, the government has published it since 1878.

No more. The Stat Abstract is headed for the chopping block. The 2012 edition, scheduled for publication later this year, will be the last, unless someone saves it.

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August 24, 2011

Free entertainment, for life

Filed under: Libraries — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 6:06 am

Don't ignore the wealth of books that are open to you at a local library, says Bob Greene

By Bob Greene

Are you a person who loves to read books? If so, you’re set for life.

It’s one of those things most of us seldom pause to think about. After all, much of the news about the book publishing business has been kind of grim lately. The Borders bookstore chain is shutting down, thus erasing from the American scene more than 600 big, often beautiful, book-crammed edifices, perfect for wandering around and browsing. The digital revolution, as exciting as it is, has made the publishing industry exceedingly nervous about the economics of its enterprise, and about what will become of traditional books, the ones printed on paper and bound between covers. Stand-alone book review sections in newspapers have, with a few exceptions, all but disappeared.

So what, exactly, is there to be cheery about if you’re a book lover?

Just this: There are so many wonderful books that have been written over the centuries, books that will thrill you and make you cry and change you and bring laughter to you and keep you up all night. Even if you did nothing else for the rest of your life but read, you would only be able to get to the most infinitesimal percentage of books that you would be destined to adore. They’re just waiting for you — waiting to be found, right now.

And in most cases, even in these rugged and scary economic times, they’re free.

“The serendipity, the discovery inherent in finding books on a public library shelf,” Molly Raphael, president of the American Library Association, was saying to me the other afternoon. “The act of walking alongside a shelf of books with their spines facing out toward you, and reaching for one and starting to look through it….”

The cult and culture of newness in our society has made us too willing to believe that “new” automatically equates to “good.”

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April 13, 2011

Brave New World among top 10 books Americans most want banned

Huxley’s vision of a totalitarian future comes third on American Library Association’s list of 2010’s ‘most challenged’ books.

By Alison Flood

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Banned in Ireland when it first appeared in 1932, and removed from shelves and objected to ever since, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is still making waves today. The novel of a dystopian future was one of the most complained about books in America last year, with readers protesting over its sexually explicit scenes, “offensive” language and “insensitivity”.

The American Library Association (ALA) has just released its list of the 10 books which Americans tried hardest to ban last year. Topped yet again by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell’s And Tango Makes Three, a picture-book telling the true story of a chick adopted by two male Emperor penguins at New York’s Central Park zoo, the list is a compilation of complaints made to libraries and schools requesting a book be banned because of its content.

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