May 06


The most banned books make the best reading

The American Library Association has put out the annual list of most challenged books for the past year.  I always think these lists are excellent for finding books that are unlikely to be dull, so, let’s have a look and see what’s available in City Libraries.

As is often the case, the ALA list indicates what wowsers some Americans are, and how they are shocked (shocked!) that teenagers might have sex. So, if you have a tendency to clutch your pearls and suggest people think of the children, you might want to stop reading now. They are listed from most-challenged downward to least challenged.

Looking for Alaska, by John Green

John Green was a star performer for City Libraries when the movie of The Fault in Our Stars came out, so book coasters has covered his works to varying degrees. We have all of his books in various formats.  He’s a prolific YouTube creator, and has a response video to Alaska reaching the top of the challenge pile. We have heaps of formats.

Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James

We couldn’t keep this on the shelf for a while, and expect it to get another surge when the next movie comes out. Back when it was popular it led to us having Waxed Torso book displays in various branches. I have not read them, but wrote a defence of reading books considered “bad” a while ago. Some of my colleagues have enjoyed them a lot. We have them in a ridiculous number of formats.

I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings

Now, this is a useful one. It’s a children’s picture book by Jazz Jennings, who is an an American  TV star and transgirl.  My go-to book for parents wanting to explain this sort of thing to their kids has previously been Red: a crayon’s story by Michael Hall, but it’s good to have multiple answers to each question.  Jazz has a book trailer on YouTube. We have the book.

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin

Again, a resource I didn’t know about!  Thanks, censorious Americans, for directing me to useful resources.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon

Apparently this made the list because of the religious viewpoint of the main character.  This is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read.  I’m actually tempted to read them all except the E.L. James, which I’ve heard is horrible (but you do you, and if you liked it, you should read Sunstone.)  We have this book in multiple formats.

The Holy Bible

I think I’ve read pretty much all of this, in fits and starts.  Parts are good. Parts are flat. I’m not all that keen on Paul. We have it in heaps of formats, including an audio read by David Suchet.

Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel

We have discussion questions for this. We have the graphic novel and we did have the soundtrack for the musical, but all of our copies must have been loved to death. It was the first musical to have a lesbian main character, apparently.  I suppose that’s because Rent is an ensemble?  Actually, I’d kind of argue Wicked…depending on how you read the deliberately-ambiguous book.

Habibi, by Craig Thompson

A 670 page graphic novel set in an Arabic fairytale landscape?  Sounds like my sort of thing.  If it also sounds like your sort of thing, I recommend Cairo, which is great.

Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter

A picture book about how a little girl’s grandmother risks everything to put her through school.  We don’t have this one yet.  Did you know you can recommend purchases through our website?  I’m off to do that now…

Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan

I’ve not read this.  I read Will Grayson, will grayson, which was co-written by Levithan and John Green, and found Levithan’s will difficult to like. In part, that could be because he was clinically depressed and so his world was flat and monotonous. I had also read a lot of teen fic that year and wanted a break. So, it may be time to go back.

I’m amazed that some of these books have the staying power to get to the top of the challenge list so long after publication.  Alaska has been out for over a decade.  Curious incident has to be seven or eight years. Still, I’d again like to thank the American religious fringe for adding to my TBR pile. This year it’s easier than usual to read the lot because there are so many short format works.  Except EL James.  Sorry gang: you do you, but it’s just not my thing.