What do Dav Pilkey’s playful “Captain Underpants,” Toni Morrison’s poignant “The Bluest Eye,” and E.L. James’ erotic “Fifty Shades of Grey” have in common?
They are among the most vilified books of 2013.
These books, along with Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” and Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games,” all have the distinction of topping the American Library Association’s annual list of most challenged books.
The list provides interesting insight into which titles receive the most complaints from teachers, educators, or members of the public. The ALA defines a complaint, or challenge as a “formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that a book or other material be restricted or removed because of its content or appropriateness.”
"The list shows the wide range of books that can get people rattled and touch upon their deepest fears and antagonisms," Barbara Jones, who directs the library association's Office for Intellectual Freedom, told NBC’s Today.
The good news: Challenges were down in 2013. The ALA counted 307 attempts to remove or restrict books from curricula and libraries, down from 464 in 2012.
What landed some of the top picks on the list?
For “Captain Underpants,” which topped the list for a second year in a row, it was potty humor. The series follows the adventures of a two students who hypnotize their heartless school principal, transforming him into Dr. Diaper, a kid-friendly superhero dressed only in a cape and underpants.
“The Bluest Eye,” tackles such difficult topics as rape and incest, was criticized for language, violence, and sexual content. And the prize-winning “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” a perennial on the ALA’s list, was criticized for drug references, sexual content, and racism.
Other books landed on the list for Satanism, religious viewpoint, nudity, and homosexuality.
"The list shows the wide range of books that can get people rattled and touch upon their deepest fears and antagonisms," said the ALA’s Jones.
Here’s a rundown of the top 10 most challenged books of 2013:
Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James
Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
Bone (series) by Jeff Smith
Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence