What Was the Most Complained-About Library Book of 2012?

It's not 'Fifty Shades of Grey'

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Image: Captain Underpants
Scholastic Inc.

Which is more objectionable, kinky sex or giant underwear?

By one measure at least, undies are the bigger offender. As Reuters reports, there’s a new leader atop the American Library Association’s (ALA) annual list of the most complained-about books: the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey. A children’s-adventure series with an alarming focus on bathroom humor, Captain Underpants has been on the list before, but in 2012, it  led all other books in requests to be removed from library shelves.

The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, on the other hand, which is about a BDSM relationship, made its first appearance on the list at the No. 4 position. The Association reported an increase of about 142%—to 464—in the number of formal complaints lodged, versus the previous year; the tally includes both public and school libraries.

(MOREThe Great-Great-Grandson of Emily Post Wants To Bring Civility to The Internet)

But the way the numbers are tallied, give the underwear books an unfair advantage.

The most recent Captain Underpants installment—Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers—came out in January, missing the deadline for 2012 complaints, but it joined more than a dozen other related titles. Fifty Shades, on the other hand, is a measly trilogy. People offended by the idea of Bionic Booger Boy have several times more opportunity to complain about it. Plus, there’s the fact that Captain Underpants is (clearly) for kids, who may well love Underpants, but have parents to complain on their behalf. Adults who don’t like erotica can just choose not to read it. (And, as the ALA pointed out in their State of America’s Libraries report, of which the list is just a small part, libraries that chose not to stock Fifty Shades whether due to content or quality often faced the wrath of angry would-be readers.)

As for the rest of the list, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher were second and third on the list. The rest of the top ten included: And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Looking for Alaska by John Green, the Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Beloved by Toni Morrison.

(MORE: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Musical Heading to Off-Broadway)

35 comments
sjeffh
sjeffh

What determines how a book gets stocked by a public (public for the sake of conversation) library? 

- quality of the content?

- popularity/success of the author's other works?

- popularity of the book in other venues?

- requests from the public?

Obviously, a library can't stock every book, unless its a really big library. Understanding that this may not be relevant here in the first place, why would they stock this junk to begin with?  Is it the nifty cover?


LenSimpson
LenSimpson

Oh dear somebody , deliver me from smallminded people.

MichaelGuerrieri
MichaelGuerrieri

when comes to loosing a special book you get uncomfortable

FASDR
FASDR

Remember to Read Banned Books. The classic Banned book, J, D. Salinger's, Catcher's in the Rye. Read it twice for the first time! 

BookBanter
BookBanter

Let the audience decide which books are offensive and which should be read by everyone. While I haven't read Captain Underpants yet, but who are we to object when TV programs and Internet websites are replete with materials not suited for children?

These are works of literature. Tasteless or not, who knows, it might spark an interests for young people to read more.



PatienceJanePriegel
PatienceJanePriegel

Why in the world is "Looking For Alaska" on this list? John Green writes amazing books for the 9-10th graders. They're written as relatable AND intelligent, which not many authors seem to be able to do anymore.

glennra3
glennra3

What kind of moron complains about library books?

When I was a teen (nearly 40 year ago) I asked my dad why he never restricted the books I read.  His response?  There are only two types of books: well written and poorly written.  He figured I could determine the difference myself.




BrandonB
BrandonB

how about "Jay's Journal" by Beatrice Sparks? or pretty much anything Beatrice Sparks has ever written? she approached my family telling them she wanted to write a book about teen suicide because my uncle, Alden Barrett, had just committed suicide in 1972. she took his story and manipulated and twisted it to her own needs and thus, Jay's Journal was born. my father, Scott Barrett, has written a book about the truth behind jays journal. if you dont believe me, look it up.

cajungirlkye
cajungirlkye

You don't want your kid reading Captain Underpants? Then don't allow them to read it.  Libraries are not here to police what children or adults 'should be allowed to' read. That's the job of the parent and/or the mature adult.

AnnieZ
AnnieZ

Once again people complaining about books they absolutely know NOTHING about and haven't even opened, I'm about 99.9% sure.  Because I've bought these books and have read them with my sons-- they're fun and funny and get kids who usually don't like reading not only to read but actually enjoy it.  So to a mom and teacher, they should be at the bottom of that list-- not top.

KristopherLohmuller
KristopherLohmuller

And people wonder why the electorate is a bunch of paranoid, whiny, ignorant people. Too many people complaining about books. You want to point to real brainwashing? Point to parents who won't let their kids be exposed to thoughts other than the ones their parents want them to believe.

Neondancer
Neondancer

I will never understand parents who discourage any kind of reading, whether that's Captain Underpants or the shampoo bottle.  We need to encourage kids to read anything and everything that comes in front of their nose so they can develop a love of it for life.  Even if that means putting up with poop jokes, get your kid to read it!

Seola1
Seola1

I think Captain Underpants is absurdly immature, I don't want my boys reading it to have them grow up to adore toilet humor when they are men.  But that doesn't mean I agree with taking it out of libraries for parents to make that decision on their own.

archibaldchuzzlewit
archibaldchuzzlewit

I object to Fifty Shades of Grey, not because of the content, but because it's terribly written smut. There is MUCH better, and MUCH hotter smut out there.

EMAW2008
EMAW2008

I'm surprised the Bible isn't on this list...

sjml
sjml

Wow - Captain Underpants is on the list?  My kids and I spent hours reading these books.  As grown men they still mention now and then the time we spent laughing together.  Wouldn't have missed the time my family spent with Captain Underpants for all the approved books in the world.

oldwhiteguy
oldwhiteguy

I'm always fascinated by people who complain about library books.  Libraries have thousands of books.  It's like going to the parking lot at a football stadium and complaining that space #147 in row ZZ is taken. And even if you don't like it at the library, anyone can go online and find anything there from blatant sex to bomb making.  So what exactly is the point of stomping up to a librarian and lodging a protest?  Better you should go to the Senate and protest there.  They seem to have cornered the market on tastelessness.

lfores
lfores

Crazy; that was the one book my son couldn't wait to learn how to read because I said I wouldn't read it to him. He had a reading disability. It was a great incentive!

wyrdotter
wyrdotter

@BookBanter Very true, and "tasteless" isn't necessarily the same as "dangerous" or "obscene." Novel concept (pun intended): how's about parents pay attention to what your kids are reading and quit expecting the rest of the world to monitor/censor them? 

wyrdotter
wyrdotter

@glennra3 Thank you! My parents never restricted or censored what I read either. One of them would thumb through every book I brought home, but if they found something they might not have approved of, they took the time to discuss it with me, what they thought and why. Taught me critical thinking skills that came in handy for when they weren't around, instead of reducing me to a perpetual child who needed someone else to tell me what to think. 

Seola1
Seola1

@KristopherLohmuller That's what parents are supposed to do.  Why would you teach your kid something you believe is wrong?  We could debate on whether we think it's right but it's not our choices.  You shouldn't decide what my kids read, just like I shouldn't decide for yours.  I know some parents who are strongly against Harry Potter but I like it and I let my son read it.  But arguing that it's wrong for parents to instill their own values in kids is a little silly.  If you are educated or want your kid to go to college, would you instead teach them about how great not going is?  Or a Christian parent highlight the good things about Satanism?

glennra3
glennra3

@Seola1 


Forget about it.


It is a losing battle if you think you can teach boys not to enjoy toilet humor.  


By the way, toilet humor is unique in that it is one of the few forms of humor that isn't based upon human suffering.  Almost all humor is based upon someone's pain, starting with the oldest ha-ha in the world: guy slips on a banana peel.  Someone is in pain, we laugh.


It is the root of humor (except for toilet humor).

warnat
warnat

Have you seen tv lately?  Captain Underpants is mensa material compared to primetime shows.

Neondancer
Neondancer

@archibaldchuzzlewit One of my favorite things to do when people talk about those books is to say "Oh, have you ever read anything by Marquis De Sade? I bet you'd love his work!" followed by describing any one of the various situations he wrote.  It's just too much fun, they always blanche, lol!

sjeffh
sjeffh

@wyrdotter @BookBanter It looks like the parents in question WERE paying attention to what their kids were reading.  You just think they should shut up about it.

wyrdotter
wyrdotter

@Seola1 @KristopherLohmuller  You don't teach your kid something  you believe is wrong; you tell him about those beliefs and WHY you think they're wrong. When I went to college, the most sheltered, protected, "values-overdosed" kids were the ones who got into the most trouble, because they had no coping, decision-making or critical-thinking skills. Once away from their parents, they had no idea how to make sensible decisions because all their decisions had always been made for them. You don't "highlight the good things about Satanism" but you do let the kid know it's there, explain why your family doesn't believe in it or find it good, and give them the tools to decide against it when you're not there.

clell65619
clell65619

@Seola1 @Neondancer A little nudity never hurt anyone.  The fear of nudity has caused a whole lot of damage to people, but nudity itself, not so much.

glennra3
glennra3

@Seola1 @Neondancer 


I grew up with Playboy on the coffee table, right next to Time, Newsweek, and U.S. New & World Report.  My parents never treated the human body as if it were something that was dirty and consequently there was never the appeal of "forbidden fruit."  


By the way, some of the best interviews and investigative reports conducted in the 1970s  were done by Playboy.  People always joked about reading it "for the articles," but once you're done enjoying the pictorials you realize that the articles were often the best part.

Neondancer
Neondancer

@Seola1 @Neondancer

Sure.  I grew up in a household where Playboy regularly showed up in the mail.  We actually did get it for the articles, no joke.  The human body is not disgusting, nor is it to be feared or abhorred, so what's wrong with some bewbs between interviews with interesting people and some funny jokes?  Speaking of which, the cartoons inspired my long time love of the work of Patrick Nagel.  

JoeSmith
JoeSmith

@Seola1 @Neondancer No. Since I don't read it, I won't be putting it in front of them. But, I really can't think of anything that I read that I wouldn't let my daughter read.

Seola1
Seola1

@warnat Yep, and my kids don't watch most of it.  My toddlers and PreK watch BabyFirst or Caillou on Sprout.  My oldest is always outside playing or at Little League so he doesn't bother.  Just because other junk is out there doesn't mean it's okay for some junk.

wyrdotter
wyrdotter

@sjeffh @wyrdotter @BookBanter Au contraire - I did NOT say anyone should "shut up." I suggested that if you don't want your kid reading something, you either 1. use it as a teachable moment, explaining to him why you don't think that book jibes with your family's values or 2. take it away from him yourself, as opposed to expecting a busy librarian to keep track of what he's checking out. You ban a book from the library and nobody gets to make up their own mind. The beauty of America is everybody gets to hold whatever beliefs and values they fancy, but the sucky part is everybody else does too. You don't have any kind of "right" to inflict your beliefs and values on everybody else.

KenCheng
KenCheng

@Neondancer @Seola1 

The funny thing about PLAYBOY is that most of us men do indeed buy it initially for the cheesecake, but, surprise surprise, those articles really ARE as great as advertised!  Those interviews with John Lennon and Paul Simon (and others) were fantastic.  

warnat
warnat

Right, but just because you prevent your boys from reading this book or watching garbage tv doesn't mean they won't grow up to enjoy toilet humor.  Being a guy I hate to admit this but we never grow up.  Toilet humor is funny...guys laugh at fart jokes...it's just the way we are, no matter how we are raised.  (of course, each person is different and I'm in no way implying that EVERY guy likes this kind of humor, but I have yet to meet one who wouldn't at least snicker...)