In Ray Bradbury's classic 1953 novel "Fahrenheit 451," the author imagines a bleak future in which books are outlawed and firefighters actually set tomes ablaze. Pretty farfetched, huh? Well, not necessarily. Each year, schools and libraries field hundreds of requests to remove controversial reads from their shelves. Hence, the creation of Banned Books Week, which celebrates everyone's freedom to read.
Sponsored by the American Library Association, Banned Books Week is now in its 30th year. And each year, ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles an annual list of the top 10 most frequently challenged books (a "challenge" defined as "a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness"). And look who just so happens to be on the list for the second year running: Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games"! (Reasons cited include anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence.)
The novel is in good company, with the likes of "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Gossip Girl" and "Brave New World." (It's especially ironic to me that books like "The Hunger Games" and "Brave New World," which speak out against future societies regulating how we think, are included on this list.)
Upon perusing the rankings of the past decade's controversial books, I couldn't help but notice many of them have made the successful leap from page to screen, with some becoming certified blockbusters, to boot. So, in celebration of Banned Books Week, and the impeccable company "The Hunger Games" keeps on and off screen, let's look at the oft-challenged books of the past decade that have lit up the marquee.
"Harry Potter" by J.K. Rowling
What it's about: A boy wizard's quest to conquer evil Lord Voldemort.
Reasons for being challenged: Anti-family, occult/Satanism, religious viewpoint, violence
Box-office performance: The eight-part film franchise has grossed more than $7.7 billion worldwide at the box office. Magical, indeed.
"Bridge to Terabithia" by Katherine Paterson
What it's about: Two childhood friends who create a magical forest kingdom.
Reasons for being challenged: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, violence
Box-office performance: The Disney film (which also, coincidentally, starred "Hunger Games" actor Josh Hutcherson) has grossed $137 million worldwide.
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky
What it's about: A teenage loner who's befriended by a pair of eccentric step-siblings, learning what it means to have and be a good friend.
Reasons for being challenged: Homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit
Box-office performance: Currently open in limited release, the coming-of-age tale has grossed $1.6 million so far.
"The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman
What it's about: A girl searches the far north for her friend and imprisoned father.
Reason for being challenged: Religious viewpoint
Box-office performance: Starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, the film has grossed $372 million worldwide. Though there were talks of sequels, they never materialized.
"My Sister's Keeper" by Jodi Picoult
What it's about: When Anna's parents try to force her to donate a kidney to her sister, the teen takes them to court.
Reasons for being challenged: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
Box-office performance: The drama, starring Abigail Breslin as the troubled teen, earned a very respectable $95.7 million worldwide.
"Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer
What it's about: A mortal teen and the vampire who loves her.
Reasons for being challenged: Religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
Box-office performance: With the final, fifth film headed to theaters in November, the saga has so far grossed more than $2.5 billion worldwide.
Which of these challenged books has become your favorite movie? Sound off in the comments below and tweet me @amymwilk with your thoughts and suggestions for future columns!
Earlier "Hunger Games" columns: