| Share
 

Books Under Fire

Banned Books Week calls attention to the most challenged and banned books in the U.S.

by Borgna Brunner
Antique Books

More information on Banned Books Week


Related Topics

"If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable."
—Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, in Texas v. Johnson

Sponsored by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association, and a variety of other groups, Banned Books Week (Sept. 22–28, 2013) celebrates the first amendment right to free speech, which includes the right to read and write books that are considered unorthodox or controversial. A banned book is one that has actually been removed from a library or school system, a "challenged" book is the attempt to ban such material.

As the ALA notes, books "usually are challenged with the best intentions–to protect others, frequently children, from difficult ideas and information." The three major reasons for challenging books are, in descending order, sexual explicitness, offensive language, and "unsuited to age group." Other reasons include occult themes, violence, promotion of homosexuality, promotion of a religious viewpoint, nudity, racism, presentation of sex education, and books considered "anti-family." The challenges come from both the right and left ends of the political spectrum. According to the ALA, most challenges are made by parents, and most are unsuccessful.

Some of the most famous challenges have been to works widely considered classics of American literature, including J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, and Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Probably the most publicized challenges in recent years was to the highly popular Harry Potter and Twilight series for promoting "unchristian" themes such as magic and vampirism.

The 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 20131

  • Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
  • Bone (series) by Jeff Smith

Source: Office for Intellectual Freedom, American Library Association

1. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom received a total of 307 challenges in 2013. A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. The number of challenges reflects only incidents reported, and for each reported, four or five remain unreported.

The 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 20121

  • Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
  • And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green
  • Scary Stories (series) by Alvin Schwartz
  • The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison

Source: Office for Intellectual Freedom, American Library Association

1. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom received a total of 464 challenges in 2012. A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. The number of challenges reflects only incidents reported, and for each reported, four or five remain unreported.

The 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 20111

  • ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series) by Lauren Myracle
  • The Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • My Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy by Dori Hillestad Butler
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • Alice (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
  • Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily Von Ziegesar
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Source: Office for Intellectual Freedom, American Library Association

1. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom received a total of 326 challenges in 2011. A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. The number of challenges reflects only incidents reported, and for each reported, four or five remain unreported.

The 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2000–20052

  1. Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
  2. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  3. Alice (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  4. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  6. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  7. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  8. Scary Stories (series) by Alvin Schwartz
  9. Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey
  10. Forever by Judy Blume

Source: Office for Intellectua Freedom, American Library Association

2. The ALA reports there were more than 3,000 attempts to remove books from schools and public libraries between 2000 and 2005. Challenges are defined as formal, written complaints filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.


The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–20013

  1. Scary Stories (series) by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  7. Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
  8. Forever by Judy Blume
  9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  10. Alice (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  15. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  16. Goosebumps (series) by R.L. Stine
  17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  19. Sex by Madonna
  20. Earth's Children (series) by Jean M. Auel
  21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  26. The Stupids (series) by Harry Allard
  27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
  29. Anastasia Krupnik (series) by Lois Lowry
  30. The Goats by Brock Cole
  31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
  32. Blubber by Judy Blume
  33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
  34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
  35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
  36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
  37. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  40. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
  41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
  46. Deenie by Judy Blume
  47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
  49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
  50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
  51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
  54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
  55. Cujo by Stephen King
  56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
  58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
  60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  61. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
  62. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
  64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
  65. Fade by Robert Cormier
  66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
  67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
  69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  71. Native Son by Richard Wright
  72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
  73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
  74. Jack by A.M. Homes
  75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
  76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
  77. Carrie by Stephen King
  78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
  79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
  80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
  81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
  82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
  83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
  84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
  87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
  88. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
  89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
  90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
  91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
  93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
  94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
  95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
  97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
  98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
  100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Source: Office for Intellectual Freedom, American Library Association

3. Out of 6,364 challenges reported to or recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom, American Library Association. 71% of the challenges were to material in schools or school libraries, 24% were to material in public libraries. 60% of the challenges were brought by parents, 15% by patrons, and 9% by administrators.The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom does not claim comprehensiveness in recording challenges. Research suggests that for each challenge reported there are as many as four or five which go unreported.

Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

Did you know?
Redwoods, descendants of the giant evergreen trees that grew during the age of the dinosaurs, take 400 years to fully mature.

24 X 7

Private Tutor

Click Here for Details
24 x 7 Tutor Availability
Unlimited Online Tutoring
1-on-1 Tutoring