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Banned Books (Awareness) Week :: 2018: 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

Top Most Challenged Books in 2017

1.  Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
Reasons: Suicide

2.  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Profanity, Sexually Explicit

3.  Drama, written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: LGBT Content


4.  The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons: Sexual Violence, Religious Themes, “May Lead to Terrorism”

Kite Runner

5.  George, by Alex Gino
Reasons: LGBT Content


6.  Sex is a Funny Word: A Book about Bodies, Feelings, and YOU, by Cory Silverberg
Reasons: Sex Education

Sex is a Funny Word

7.  To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Reasons: Violence, Racial Slurs

To Kill a Mockingbird

8.  The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
Reasons: Drug Use, Profanity, “Pervasively Vulgar”

The Hate U Give

9.  And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: LGBT Content

And Tango Makes Three

10.  I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Reasons: Gender Identity

I am Jazz


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