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Banned Books (Awareness) Week :: 2016: Most Challenged Books

100 Most Frequently Challenged Books (by Decade)

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) 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. In addition, OIF has only been collecting data about banned books since 1990, so they do not have any lists of frequently challenged books or authors before that date.

List of 100 most frequently challenged books 1990-99
List of 100 most frequently challenged books 2000-09

ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles a list of the top ten most frequently challenged books each year. ALA "condemns censorship and works to ensure free access to information."

A challenge is defined by ALA 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. ALA estimates that for every reported challenge, four or five remain unreported.

Book Challenge Stats for the First Decade of the 21st Century

From 2000 - 2009, 5,099 challenges were reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom:

  • 1,577 challenges based on "sexually explicit" material
  • 1,291 challenges based on "offensive language"
  • 989 challenges based on materials deemed "unsuited to age group"
  • 619 challenged based on "violence"
  • 361 challenges based on "homosexuality"
  • 291 challenges based on the "religious viewpoint" of the books
  • 274 challenges based on "occult' or "Satanic" themes
  • 119 based on "anti-family" themes

Of these challenges:

  • 1,639 were in school libraries
  • 1,811 were in classrooms
  • 1,217 were in public libraries
  • 114 were in college classes
  • 30 were in academic libraries

The overwhelming majority of challenges (2,535) were initiated by parents, 516 were initiated by patrons, and 489 by administrators.


Most Challenged Books in 2015

 Top Ten Challenged Books of 2015

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 Susan Kuklin
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 Mark Haddon
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”).

Ten Frequently Challenged 'Classic' Books

1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

6. Ulysses, by James Joyce

7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison

8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

9. 1984, by George Orwell

10. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabakov