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Banned Books Week 2013: Most Challenged Books

Recent Challenge Statistics

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 Recent Years

 Top Ten Challenged Books 2012

1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.

Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group


Check out Captain Underpants from Library

2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.

Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

Check out The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian from Library

3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.

Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group

Check out Thirteen Reasons Why from Library

4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.

Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

Check out 50 Shades of Grey from a USMAI Library

5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.

Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group

Check out And Tango Makes Three from a USMAI Library

6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.

Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit

Check out The Kite Runner from Library

7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.

Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

Check out Looking for Alaska from Library

8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz

Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence

Check out Scary Stories from Library

9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls

Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

Check out The Glass Castle from Library

10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison

Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

Check out Beloved from Library

Top Ten Challenged Books 2011

Top Ten Challenged Books 2010

Top Ten Challenged Books Annually To 2001


Ten Frequently Challenged Classics

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