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Top Ten Banned Books of 2008

Updated on October 20, 2009

In Honor of Banned Book Week

It never ceases to amaze me the way people are so afraid of books. Of course I'll be the first to admit, books are potent, words have power. They present new ideas, some good, some bad. But do you really want to turn your back on them? Wouldn't it better to face an idea head on, challenge it face to face?

This week, September 26−October 3, 2009, marks Banned Books Week, an annual event supported by the American Library Association,that celebrates the American's First Amendment right to free speech. It's an important right, one that should be protected and USED vigorously. Turning our backs on words we don't like doesn't make them go away. Trying to ban and ignore ideas repugnant to us will not eliminate them. So we confront them, we look at them closely and build our arguments against them, not to banish ideas, but find our way to what's right.

Why are they banned? The most frequent reason is "Sexually explicit", which is no surprise in today's society. We would like to think that sex among teenagers doesn't happen, but in truth it's a part of life for all of us. Another reason cited is "unsuitable for age group." This might be more reasonable, but then I don't believe that The Kite Runner was intended for young audiences. Other reasons for banning books have included occult/satanist themes, inappropriate language and homosexuality. You have to read them for yourself, though, to determine whether theses themes are offensive or if they fit the overall theme of the story.

But to read them you'll need to know what they are. And so here's a list, as reported by the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom, of the most challenged books of 2008. I encourage you to find them, read them and pass them on.

And Tango Makes Three

Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, 2005

This picture book is based on the true story of two male penguins at New York's Central Park Zoo who were given a penguin egg to care for.

Reasons for ban: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group

His Dark Materials trilogy

Philip Pullman, 1995-2000

A fantasy series set in an alternative dimension, the story is about a young woman, Lyra, who grows up amid radical changes in her world. Pullman cites John Milton's Paradise Lost as the primary inspiration of his story. The strong anti-religion theme running through the book has incurred the wrath of many.

Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence

TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series)

Lauren Myracle, 2005-2008

This series is about three friends who experience typical high school drama: boys, drugs, alcohol, parties, driving, and preparing for college.

Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group

Scary Stories (series)

Alvin Schwartz

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1981), More Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark (1984), and Scary Stories 3 : More Tales to Chill Your Bones (1991) are a series of ghost stories and urban legends collected and adapted for younger audiences.

Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence

Bless Me, Ultima

Rudolfo Anaya, 1972

One of the first stories to bring Chicano culture to the mainstream American audience, it focuses on the questions a young boy faces while growing up in a Catholic family. While his mother wants the boy to grow to become a priest, as the boy learns more about his father's family, he finds other religious ideas that conflict with what he has grown up with.

Reasons: occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, and violence

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Stephen Chbosky, 1999

The story explores one teenagers day to day life in the form of letters written to an anonymous person. The topics cover introversion, teenage sexuality, abuse, and the awkward times of adolescence. The book also touches strongly on drug use and Charlies' experiences with this.

Reasons: drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group

Gossip Girl (Series)

Cecily von Ziegesar, 2002

The book that became the basis for the TV series, it follows the lives of Blair Waldorf and her best friend, Serena van der Woodsen through high school, up through their graduation and moving on to college.

Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group

Uncle Bobby's Wedding

Sarah S. Brannen, 2008

A children's picture book that tells of the marriage of two male guinea pigs, and the niece who is afraid her uncle won't have time for her anymore. Focuses less on the gender of the couple and more on the relationship of the little girl . 

Reasons: homosexuality and unsuited to age group

The Kite Runner

Khaled Hosseini, 2003

The story about the life of a man growing up in Kabul, from the time of the Soviet invasion through the rise of the Taliban.

Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group

Flashcards of My Life

Charise Mericle Harper, 2007

Emily is a typical teenager who is having a hard time keeping everything straight in life. When she gets a pack of flashcards for her birthday, they provide her with ideas to start journaling, giving her a way to start making sense of things.

Reasons: sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

What's next for 2009?

And Tango Makes Three has been the most challenged book for three years running. Do you think it'll make four in 2009? What books do you expect to see next year, or thought you would see here? Any thing that you feel should be banned, and if so why? I'd love to hear your comments.


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    • htodd profile image

      htodd 6 years ago from United States

      Thanks for the nice list ..This is really great

    • profile image

      brotheryochanan 7 years ago

      religion isn't supposed to be open-minded. It has set principles to relay in society and this it must do OR God will send a prophet to remind the people that if they do not come back willingly and quickly then a description of gods judgment will be coming upon them. Yes its a narrow way but "narrow is the way and few there be that find it, wide is the gate that leads to destruction".

      When the bible was translated the initial translators had a dilemma, do we use the word 'rape' or 'insinuate' it? Gods word is blatant and not meant to be read by children independent of their parents so we find flowery words in place of stark words to insinuate but not to describe certain acts that ungodly and a few godly have made. I myself prefer the insinuations.

    • Hi-Jinks profile image

      Hi-Jinks 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      An interesting list. It is also intersting to note that there are stories in the Bible that are also "unsuited to age group."

    • Olyenka profile image

      Olyenka 7 years ago from London

      Thanks for the blog! :-)

    • bat115 profile image

      Tim 8 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      the only book I have read on this list is Kite Runner and like many, I disagree that it should be banned. It is an important story.

    • Beata Stasak profile image

      Beata Stasak 8 years ago from Western Australia

      You are right, I love books and reading and I think every sensible human being is responsible enough to decide what he/she finds suitable to read as well as decide for their children. I gave my young son /avid reader/ to read 'Kite runner' because it is important for children to know what is happening and the reality should not be 'sugar coated' for them. I believe people in the West want to protect themeselves and their children from any harm /physical and mental/ to the extent that we start to rob ourselves of many valuable information, ideas and enjoyment in life.

      Thank you for answerting my question on Hub, I learnt a lot from your answer. I have some more questions to answer on my ohter blogs concerning children and mental health in our time:

    • words cocktail profile image

      words cocktail 8 years ago from Australia

      Wish - "As we might like!"- Isn't there so much to it?

      And Hope - "May be some day."- Something that keeps us ALL going!

      :) Talk of any century..I think, these thought clashes and censorships will prevail...TILL the day, UNIVERSE is actually UNIVERSAL in mind, body and soul!

      he he..I don't know what all I can write..I am a 'lil' drunk!! (pardon me!)

    • Dark knight rides profile image

      Dark knight rides 8 years ago from Denver

      The list is indeed for real. Religion in America isn't as open minded as we might like, yet. Maybe someday.

    • Enigmatic Me profile image

      8 years ago from East Coast Canada

      Is this list for real?

      And the reasons for their banning? We are in the 21st century are we not?

      For a country which is based on "Free Speech", isn't censorship a HUGE step backwards??