On The Books: 2013's Ten Most Challenged Books

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Every year the American Library Association publishes a list of the most challenged books in the country to keep the public informed of encroaching censorship. The ALA defines a challenge as “a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.” The number of challenges reflects only incidents reported. The group estimates that for every reported challenge, four or five remain unreported. This year’s list is topped by the The Adventures of Captain Underpants series, which also held that slot in 2012. The humorous and cartoony book about two 4th grade boys and their imaginary-turned-real superhero Captain Underpants was cited for: offensive language, unsuited for age group, and violence. Fifty Shades of Grey also made the list, as did The Hunger Games. Check out the complete list.

Alice Munro’s short story, “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage” tells the tale of a married couple and the little girl who brought them together. Except it’s not a love story. The narrative is carried by what the reader doesn’t see, in the negative space between plot points that in any other story would be the main show. If that sounds incredibly confusing, imagine making it into a movie. The newly released film Hateship Loveship stars Kristen Wiig and Guy Pearce. Linda Holmes explores Monroe’s use of the negative space and how that technique translates to the movie and check out the interview with Kristen Wiig. [NPR]

With the doomsday warnings everyone hears trumpeting the apocalypse of print, it’s a wonder that any bookstores are still open. But there are quite a few still thriving in New York City. So how do they do it? That’s the question New York Mag set out to answer. They looked at six locations around the city and came up with a list of six tips for staying in the bookseller business. Surprisingly none of the tips involved hiring surly hipsters or pensive beatniks. [NYMag]

Ian McEwan has revealed the plot of his new novel The Children Act. The title refers to the 1989 Children’s Act, “which enshrines the child’s welfare as the ‘paramount consideration’ in any court ruling,” according to the Guardian. The story will center on a High Court judge who is presiding over the trial of two parents who are refusing treatment for their sick son because of their religious beliefs. McEwan has long been vocal about his distaste for organized religion. “I’m not against religion in the sense that I feel I can’t tolerate it,” he said, “but I think written into the rubric of religion is the certainty of its own truth. And since there are 6,000 religions currently on the face of the Earth, they can’t all be right. And only the secular spirit can guarantee those freedoms, and it’s the secular spirit that they contest.” [Guardian]

The Guardian’s poem of the week is John Donne’s The Anniversary. Carol Rumens gives a wonderful in-depth analysis of the poem from a man who had a beautiful sense of cadence, but an even more beautiful sense of humor. [Guardian]


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