The Most Targeted Books of 2023

Welcome to Monday! If you’re celebrating the eclipse today, thanks for spending a little time with us here at Today in Books, too. 

The Most Targeted Books of 2023

No real surprises here, and the consistency is part of the point. The ALA has released its report about the 10 most challenged books of 2023, and you’ve probably guessed already that they are books that explore issues related to race and LGBTQ+ identity and experience. Speaking the the New York Times’s Alexandra Alter, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the director of the ALA’s office for intellectual freedom, sums it up: 

More and more, we’re seeing challenges that say, simply, This book has a gay character, or, This book deals with L.G.B.T.Q. themes, even if it has no sexuality in it…We’re seeing those naked attacks on simply the visibility of and knowledge about L.G.B.T.Q. lives and experiences.

Or as my colleague Kelly Jensen regularly reminds us: it’s not about the books. Book challenges are just the thin end of the wedge in the far-right’s effort to whitewash American history and erase queer folks and people of color from public life. Eyes on the prize, friends. Call your reps, go to school board meetings, show up for local elections, and subscribe to Literary Activism to stay plugged in. 

A Rip(ley) Roaring Good Time

Netflix’s Ripley, a limited-series adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley landed last week, and it is something of a magic trick. Shot in black and white, it channels a noir vibe that couldn’t look more different from the shiny glamour of the 1999 film (which holds up, BTW, I rewatched it before diving in). The old-school look and feel, combined with Andrew Scott’s masterful interpretation of Tom Ripley, make for a darker, more sinister tone that captures the original just as well as Anthony Minghella’s glitzy, star-studded spin did. Will I ever recover from Jude Law’s Dickie Greenleaf? Signs point to no. Truly good adaptations are hard to find, and it’s the rare story indeed that lends itself to two, especially when they approach the material in such distinct ways. Don’t just take my word for it: here’s NPR’s Linda Holmes on why black and white was the right choice.

Summer Reading, Here We Come

Spring fever is in full effect where I live, and I’ll be honest, all I really want to do is sit on my stoop with a book and a mason jar of bourbon lemonade. It doesn’t help that Publishers Weekly dropped their ginormous summer reading guide. A new Kevin Kwan! A new Claire Lombardo! A new memoir-meets-cultural-criticism look at American divas on stage and off!

Today in Books, But Make It a Podcast

If this newsletter is your jam, you’d probably like the Book Riot Podcast. Twice a week, Jeff O’Nealand I discuss the most interesting news from the world of books and reading. I spent last week at the PLA conference (librarians are rad, y’all), so Book Riot’s director of content Sharifah Williams sat in for me. She and Jeff had a great conversation about book design as environmental activism, rumors that Spotify will hike prices, and more. Listen up. 

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