Skip to Main Content

Banned Books Week Library Guide

September 18 - September 24, 2022

Top Challenged Books

Top 10 Challenged Books of 2021

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2021. Of the 1597 books that were targeted, here are the most challenged, along with the reasons cited for censoring the books:

  1. Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
    Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, and because it was considered to have sexually explicit images
  2. Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
  3. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, profanity, and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
  4. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
    Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted for depictions of abuse and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
  5. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, violence, and because it was thought to promote an anti-police message and indoctrination of a social agenda
  6. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references and use of a derogatory term
  7. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
    Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and degrading to women
  8. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Banned and challenged because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit
  9. This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson
    Reasons: Banned, challenged, relocated, and restricted for providing sexual education and LGBTQIA+ content.
  10. Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit. 

Top 10 Challenged Books of 2020

The them for this year is "Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us."

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 156 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2020. Of the 273 books that were targeted, here are the most challenged, along with the reasons cited for censoring the books:

  1. George by Alex Gino
    Reasons: Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”
  2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
    Reasons: Banned and challenged because of author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people
  3. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”
  4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
    Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author
  6. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
    Reasons: Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience
  8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students
  9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse
  10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
    Reasons: Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message.

Top 10 Challenged Books of 2019

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 377 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2019. Of the 566 books that were targeted, here are the Top 10 Most Challenged, along with the reasons cited.

  1. George by Alex Gino
    Reasons: challenged, banned, restricted, and hidden to avoid controversy; for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and “traditional family structure.”
  2. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, for “its effect on any young people who would read it,” and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased.
  3. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
    Reasons: Challenged and vandalized for LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is “designed to pollute the morals of its readers,” and for not including a content warning.
  4. Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth
    Reasons: Challenged, banned, and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content; for discussing gender identity and sex education; and for concerns that the title and illustrations were “inappropriate.”
  5. Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis
    Reasons: Challenged and restricted for featuring a gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ content; for being “a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children” with the potential to cause confusion, curiosity, and gender dysphoria; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint.
  6. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
    Reasons: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged.”
  7. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones.”
  8. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    Reasons: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against “family values/morals.”
  9. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
    Reasons: Banned and forbidden from discussion for referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals.
  10. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson illustrated by Henry Cole
    Reason: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content.

Top 11 Challenged Books of 2018

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 347 challenges to library, school and university materials and services in 2018. Of the 483 books challenged or banned in 2018, the Top 11 Most Challenged Books were:

  1. George (by Alex Gino)
    Reasons: banned, challenged, and relocated because it was believed to encourage children to clear browser history and change their bodies using hormones, and for mentioning “dirty magazines,” describing male anatomy, “creating confusion,” and including a transgender character.
  2. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo (by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller)
    Reasons: banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ content, and for political and religious viewpoints.
  3. Captain Underpants (series written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey)
    Reasons: series was challenged because it was perceived as encouraging disruptive behavior, while Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot was challenged for including a same-sex couple.
  4. The Hate U Give (by Angie Thomas)
    Reasons: banned and challenged because it was deemed “anti-cop,” and for profanity, drug use, and sexual references.
  5. Drama (written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier)
    Reasons: banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ characters and themes.
  6. Thirteen Reasons Why (by Jay Asher)
    Reasons: banned, challenged, and restricted for addressing teen suicide.
  7. This One Summer (by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki)
    Reasons: banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and certain illustrations.
  8. Skippyjon Jones (series written and illustrated by Judy Schachner)
    Reason: challenged for depicting stereotypes of Mexican culture.
  9. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: banned and challenged for sexual references, profanity, violence, gambling, and underage drinking, and for its religious viewpoint.
  10. This Day in June (by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten)
    Reason: challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content.
  11. Two Boys Kissing (by David Levithan)
    Reason: challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content.

Top 10 Challenged Books of 2017

Of the 416 books challenged or banned in 2017, the Top 10 Most Challenged Books were:

  1. Thirteen Reasons Why (by Jay Asher)
    Originally published in 2007, this New York Times bestseller has resurfaced as a controversial book after Netflix aired a TV series by the same name. This YA novel was challenged and banned in multiple school districts because it discusses suicide.
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (by Sherman Alexie)
    Consistently challenged since its publication in 2007 for acknowledging issues such as poverty, alcoholism, and sexuality, this National Book Award winner was challenged in school curriculums because of profanity and situations that were deemed sexually explicit.
  3. Drama (written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier)
    This Stonewall Honor Award-winning 2012 graphic novel from an acclaimed cartoonist was challenged and banned in school libraries because it includes LGBT characters and was considered "confusing."
  4. The Kite Runner written (by Khaled Hosseini)
    This critically acclaimed, multigenerational novel was challenged and banned because it includes sexual violence and was thought to "lead to terrorism" and "promote Islam."
  5. George (by Alex Gino)
    Written for elementary-age children, this Lambda Literary Award winner was challenged and banned because it includes a transgender child.
  6. Sex is a Funny Word (written by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth)
    This 2015 informational children's book, written by a certified sex educator, was challenged because it addresses sex education and is believed to lead children to "want to have sex or ask questions about sex."
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird (by Harper Lee)
    This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, considered an American classic, was challenged and banned because of violence and its use of the N-word.
  8. The Hate U Give (by Angie Thomas)
    Despite winning multiple awards and being the most searched-for book on Goodreads during its debut year, this YA novel was challenged and banned in school libraries and curriculums because it was considered "pervasively vulgar" and because of drug use, profanity, and offensive language.
  9. And Tango Makes Three (written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole)
    Returning after a brief hiatus from the Top Ten Most Challenged list, this ALA Notable Children's Book, published in 2005, was challenged and labeled because it features a same-sex relationship.
  10. I Am Jazz (written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas)
    This autobiographical picture book, co-written by the 13-year-old protagonist, was challenged because it addresses gender identity.

     

Top 10 Challenged Books of 2016

Out of 323 challenges reported to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2016 were:

  1. This One Summer (written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki)
    This young adult graphic novel, winner of both a Printz and a Caldecott Honor Award, was restricted, relocated, and banned because it includes LGBT characters, drug use, and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes.
  2. Drama (written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier)
    Parents, librarians, and administrators banned this Stonewall Honor Award-winning graphic novel for young adults because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit, and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint.
  3. George (by Alex Gino)
    Despite winning a Stonewall Award and a Lambda Literary Award, administrators removed this children’s novel because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels.”
  4. I Am Jazz (written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas)
    This children’s picture book memoir was challenged and removed because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints.
  5. Two Boys Kissing (by David Levithan)
    Included on the National Book Award longlist and designated a Stonewall Honor Book, this young adult novel was challenged because its cover has an image of two boys kissing, and it was considered to include sexually explicit LGBT content.
  6. Looking for Alaska (by John Green)
    This 2006 Printz Award winner is a young adult novel that was challenged and restricted for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to “sexual experimentation.”
  7. Big Hard Sex Criminals (written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky)
    Considered to be sexually explicit by library staff and administrators, this compilation of adult comic books by two prolific award-winning artists was banned and challenged.
  8. Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread  (by Chuck Palahniuk)
    This collection of adult short stories, which received positive reviews from Newsweek and the New York Times, was challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness, and being “disgusting and all around offensive.”
  9. Little Bill series (written by Bill Cosby and illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood)
    This children’s book series was challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author.
  10. Eleanor & Park (by Rainbow Rowell)
    One of seven New York Times Notable Children’s Books and a Printz Honor recipient, this young adult novel was challenged for offensive language.

Top 10 Challenged Books of 2015

Out of 311 challenges reported to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2015 were:

  1. Looking for Alaska (by John Green)
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group
  2. Fifty Shades of Grey (by E. L. James)
    Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”)
  3. I Am Jazz (by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings)
    Reasons: inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group
  4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out (by Mark Haddon)
    Reasons: anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”)
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (by David Levithan)
    Reasons: offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”)
  6. The Holy Bible
    Reasons: religious viewpoint
  7. Fun Home (by Alison Bechdel)
    Reasons: violence and other (“graphic images”)
  8. Habibi (by Craig Thompson)
    Reasons: nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group
  9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan (by Jeanette Winter)
    Reasons: religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence
  10. Two Boys Kissing (by David Levithan)
    Reasons: homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”)