Books

Ban the Bible? The top 10 banned or challenged books of 2015

The Bible

The Bible is among the year’s most-challenged books.

(Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times)

When it comes to banning books, nothing is sacred.

The American Library Assn. has released its list of the top 10 most banned or challenged books of 2015, and among all the usual suspects, there's an unexpected bestseller: the Bible.

The text that is considered holy by hundreds of millions of people worldwide made the list at No. 6, in between Mark Haddon's novel "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" and Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir "Fun Home."

The list:

(Dutton Juvenile)

1. "Looking for Alaska," by John Green

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

From the archives: John Green books come under parental fire again


(Vintage)

2. "Fifty Shades of Grey," by E. L. James

Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”)


(Dial Books for Young Readers)

3. "I Am Jazz," by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings

Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group


(Candlewick Press)

4. "Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out," by Susan Kuklin

Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”)


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

Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”)

From the archives: Parents object, Florida school drops 'Curious Incident' novel  


(Los Angeles Times)

6. The Bible

Reasons: Religious viewpoint


(Houghton Mifflin)

7. "Fun Home," by Alison Bechdel

Reasons: Violence, and other (“graphic images”) 

From the archives: Duke freshmen object to Alison Bechdel's 'pornographic' graphic memoir, 'Fun Home'


8. "Habibi," by Craig Thompson

Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group

From the archives: Q&A with Craig Thompson

 


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

Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence

From the archives: Children's books set in Afghanistan, Iraq challenged in Florida schools


(Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young)

10. "Two Boys Kissing," by David Levithan

Reasons: Homosexuality, and other (“condones public displays of affection”)

L.A. Times review: A chorus of ghosts watches over David Levithan's 'Two Boys Kissing'


The list is dominated by books that are open about sex and gender. Those that are positive reflections of homosexuality and same-sex relationships are very frequently challenged.

This year, James LaRue, director of the assocation's Office for Intellectual Freedom, told the Associated Press that the Bible has drawn complaints for different reasons. "You have people who feel that if a school library buys a copy of the Bible, it's a violation of church and state," he said, noting that the association does not oppose the Bible's presence in public schools or libraries.

"And sometimes there's a retaliatory action, where a religious group has objected to a book and a parent might respond by objecting to the Bible," LaRue added.

The No. 1 spot on the list went to John Green's young adult novel "Looking for Alaska," which drew complaints for profanity and for being "sexually explicit." The book also made the list in 2012 and 2013.

Green's book was followed by another perennial target of would-be book banners: E.L. James' bondage erotica novel "Fifty Shades of Grey," which was challenged for its sexual content and over "concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it."

Books that deal with LGBT subjects frequently make appearances on the association's lists, and this year is no exception.

The No. 3 book on the list was the children's book "I Am Jazz" by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. The story is based on the life story of Jennings, the 15-year-old YouTube star, who is a transgender girl.

Other LGBT-themed books making the list were "Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out" by Susan Kuklin at No. 4 and "Two Boys Kissing" by David Levithan at No. 10.

The association doesn't claim that its lists of challenged books are comprehensive, estimating "that for every reported challenge, four or five remain unreported" by the media.

"[T]he Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books list should be seen as a snapshot of the reports [the Office for Intellectual Freedom] receives and not an exhaustive report," the group's website notes. "[S]urveys indicate up to 85% of book challenges receive no media attention and remain unreported."

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