Way more books were challenged in 2023

The American Library Association (ALA) issued a press release on Thursday about the rise in attempted book bans last year. The ALA tells us: “The number of titles targeted for censorship surged 65 percent in 2023 compared to 2022, reaching the highest levels ever documented by the ALA. The new numbers released today show efforts to censor 4,240 unique book titles in schools and libraries. This tops the previous high from 2022, when 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship….”

Not surprisingly, about half the books that were targeted for banning are about LGBTQ+ people and/or non-White people.

The ALA is offering a number of resources to fight back against book bans. They have teamed up with the New York Public Library to create the Teen Banned Book Club and other programs to get banned books into the hands of young people. The ALA has also created a website called “Unite Against Book Bans” offering resources to help you if (when) book bans come to your community.

The ALA also maintains lists of the top ten challenged books for the past quarter century. I love the fact that in 2019, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale made the list, ostensibly for profanity, vulgarity, and “sexual overtones.” However, I suspect the real reason The Handmaid’s Tale got banned was because the people calling for the ban didn’t want to admit that’s the society they desire.

Banned books pamphlet

Beacon Press has published a pamphlet about banned books. You can download a PDF here. I picked up a hard copy at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass. — presumably when bookstores buy books from Beacon, they receive some hard copies of the pamphlet.

The best thing about this pamphlet is not the infographics or text — it’s the QR code that links to some Beacon Press ebooks. These ebooks are free for people who have any difficulty obtaining them, which presumably means schoolkids.

If you’re not familiar with Beacon Press, it started as a Unitarian Universalist (UU) publishing house, got spun off as an independent publisher, but still retains its UU connections.