Frequently Challenged Books, Book Censorship Update

Book Censorship - Photo of Book in Chains
Book Censorship and Book Banning. Guido Cavallini/Cultura/Gettty Images

Frequently Challenged Books of the 21st Century: From 2000 to 2015

What's the state of book censorship, challenged and banned children's books and books for teens in the twenty-first century? There have been some changes in the last few years. For example, for several years in the early 2000s, the Harry Potter series was vigorously challenged, but by the 2005 Banned Books Week report, the American Library Association (ALA) announced, that it was the first time in five years that the series was not on the list.

(For more, see The Harry Potter Controversy).

The titles of the most frequently challenged books in 2015 are completely different from those on the most frequently challenged books of 200-2009, but the reasons for the challenges tend to be similar: Concerns about sexual content, offensive language, religious viewpoint and/or not being appropriate for the age group are issues often cited in book censorship efforts.

According to Article 3 of the Library Bill of Rights, It's important for libraries to challenge book censorship and allow people the freedom to choose what they read. (Source: ALA Library Bill of Rights)As far as numbers of challenges, according to the American Library Association, while there are several hundred challenges to books in schools and libraries in the United States every year, the ALA estimates that 75 to 80 percent are never reported. (Source: ALA: Frequently challenged books of the 21st century)

The 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2015

According to the American Library Association (ALA), the following books are among the 10 Most Challenged Books of 2015. After the title and author of each book are the reasons cited for the challenges:

  1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    This very popular young adult novel was challenge for offensive language, being sexually explicit, and not being appropriate for teens.
  1. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
    This novel for adults was challenged for being sexually explicit and because it might be read by teens.
  2. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
    This is one of two picture books on the list. It is based on the actual experiences of Jazz Jennings as a transgender child. Challengers cited a number of objections to the book, including inaccuracy, sex education, religious viewpoint, homosexuality and not suitable for children.
  3. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
    There were a number of reasons this book was challenged, ranging from it was anti-family, contained offensive language, homosexuality and sex education to its political and religious viewpoints to its unsuitability for teens.
  4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
    This excellent novel has been promoted for both the young adult (teen) audience and the adult audience. Challengers objections included profanity, religious viewpoint, its unsuitability for the age group and more.
  5. The Holy Bible
    This is, I believe, the first time the Bible has appeared on the list. It was challenged because of its religious viewpoint.
  6. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
    This graphic memoir was challenged for violence in words and images
  1. Habibi, by Craig Thompson
    This highly regarded graphic novel for adults was challenged for nudity, for being sexually explicit, as well as not being suited for the age group.
  2. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
    I was extremely surprised to find this nonfiction picture book on the list, challenged because of its religious viewpoint, violence and being inappropriate for the age group. I think that just as she did with The Librarian of Basra: A True Story of Iraq, Jeanette Winter presented this true story with sensitivity in an age appropriate manner.
  3. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
    This young adult book, which the publisher recommends for ages 14 and older, was challenged due to its presentation of homosexuality and PDAs (public displays of affection).

    (Source: ALA: Frequently Challenged Books)

    One of the best ways to see how things have and have not changed over time is to compare and contrast the latest list with the most recent Books by Decade list.

    The 100 Most Challenged Books of the Decade (2000-2009)

    1. (series), by J.K. Rowling
    2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
    3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
    4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
    5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
    6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
    7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
    9. ttyl, ttfn, l8r, g8r (series), by Myracle, Lauren
    10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky (See the ALA Web site for the entire list.)

    See All About Book Banning and Children's Books for more of my articles about the subject.

    In addition to the excellent resources on the detailed ALA Banned Books Week site, check out the following:

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    Your Citation
    Kennedy, Elizabeth. "Frequently Challenged Books, Book Censorship Update." ThoughtCo, Apr. 17, 2016, Kennedy, Elizabeth. (2016, April 17). Frequently Challenged Books, Book Censorship Update. Retrieved from Kennedy, Elizabeth. "Frequently Challenged Books, Book Censorship Update." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 20, 2017).