You Can’t Read These: Top 10 Banned Books

This week (September 30 to October 6, 2012) is the 30th annual Banned Books Week, an event that celebrates the freedom to read, as well as aiming to raise awareness of how many books are challenged or banned outright every year.

According to the Banned Books Week website, over 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982, in libraries, schools, and bookstores all around the U.S. In 2011 alone, there were 326 challenges officially reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom, in addition to the challenges and complaints that go unreported every year.

Here are the 10 most challenged book titles of 2011. It’s especially interesting that, while some of them were written in the last several years, a few of them are classic novels written decades ago, which still manage to stir up controversy.

Check out this list (from the American Library Association), and then tell us in the comments: what are your favorite banned books?

1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle

The first book in the series, ttyl, was the first novel ever written in the style of an instant messaging conversation. The books deal with three high-school-aged girls who talk to each other about their challenges and decisions, including issues like drinking alcohol and whether to have sex.

Reasons given for the challenges: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

2. The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa

This trilogy is a Korean manwha (comic book/graphic novel) series about a young girl coming of age in pastoral Korea. According to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, it has been described as “richly literate and imaginative” and “a work of great humanity” (by Booklist and Publishers Weekly, respectively).

Reasons given for the challenges: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

Photo Credit: Forever Young Adult

3. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins

This dystopian series is set in a post-apocalyptic North America, in a nation where the government exerts control by forcing 24 children to fight to the death every year, in a televised, reality-TV-esque arena match. The young female protagonist must fight to survive amidst futuristic technology and political rebellion.

Reasons given for the challenges: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

4. My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler

This book is designed for readers in Kindergarten to Grade 4, and aims to teach children about where babies come from, using direct language and clear illustrations (including text descriptions of sex and fertilization).

Reasons given for the challenges: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

Photo Credit: Barnes & Noble

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

This book follows the first-person narrative of a Native American teenager, Junior, who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation and who decides to attend an all-white, off-reservation public high school. The story is accompanied by cartoons by Junior’s character, as he deals with challenging issues like race, bullying, poverty, and death, as well as teenage-boy issues like sexuality and friendship.

Reasons given for the challenges: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

6. Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

This series follows a young woman named Alice, chronicling her life from third grade into young adulthood. It deals with issues like relationships, families, dating, sex, and friendship. On the 2003 version of this list, it made the top spot on the list, for the books’ sexual content.

Reasons given for the challenges: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint

Photo Credit: Reader2

7. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

This 1931 dystopian novel has been assigned reading in many U.S. classrooms for years, but it has received quite a few bans and challenges in its time, even today. It deals with complicated issues like eugenics, mass production, consumption, and technology.

Reasons given for the challenges: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

8. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones

This book, written in verse poetry, follows Sophie, a ninth-grade girl, as she navigates high school and falling in love for the first time. One poem in the book, “Ice Capades,” is the most common reason the book is challenged; in this poem, Sophie describes how she is fascinated by the way her breasts react to a cold windowpane.

Reasons given for the challenges: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

9. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar

The Gossip Girl series focuses on the personal lives of several privileged teenagers attending an elite private school, as told by a gossip blogger.

Reasons given for the challenges: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

10. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

This famous novel, originally published in 1960, deals with racial injustice in the American South, as seen through the eyes of the 6-year-old protagonist Scout. It is still taught in many U.S. schools, but is often challenged for its use of racial epithets.

Reasons given for the challenges: offensive language; racism

Photo Credit: Wikipedia


Do any of these challenged books surprise you? And remember to tell us your favorite banned books, past or present, in the comments!



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Dave C.
Dave C.9 months ago

To Kill a Mockingbird, one of my all-time favorites, waiting for the sequel due out in 2015!

Jess No Fwd Plz K.
Jessica K.2 years ago

To Kill A Mockingbird is still on the list? Soon the only thing left to read is the banned book list. Crazy. Thanks.

Kay Martin
.2 years ago

Informing article, great comments, I am sorry to find out that these Ban List still exist. There will always be books that are right for one age group and not for another, that does not mean they should be put on a Ban List.

Lynn Demsky
Lynn D.2 years ago

Truly sad, guess the freedom to read what you want was never granted in the constitution!

Alexandra S.
Alexandra S.2 years ago

I love the way the US does things
It bans so many things based on sexual content/religious viewpoints and stuff, but allows violence and gore galoreXD (as long as you don't kill people of a different race/religion or the blows of the shotgun somehow rip off the women's clothing)

I guess you could easier get your hands on a book talking about how it's awesome to strangle toddlers than on one talking about lesbian phantasies or something

Darren Woolsey
Darren Woolsey2 years ago

How to make something more popular and increase potential sales: ban it.

Syd H. the literalist version of the Qur'an and Bibles do appear to imply that killing etc. is acceptable, and indeed, required, and that is what the intellect/ego usually latches onto. These spiritual texts have layers, and contain metaphor and allegory, and are about the reader and the human race, and are a complex map for how to live and awaken, within one's self. When one realizes this, these books need to be studied in greater depth to fathom their meaning, and consequently learn and develop within one's self. You don't really think that Eve was talking to a literal snake do you? One aspect of a snake involves its shedding its skin, which is a symbol and metaphor for change, within. If you don't get this, or your intellect/ego dismisses it, better not bother with the rest of those types of books, as they clearly aren't for you. Those who have latched onto these texts and only read literally, are the dangerous fundamentalists within our world.

Interesting also that Hunger Games was banned as a book, but the movie came out. Is there a different emphasis on the word and its effect on the reader's imagination, when contrasted to one's visual memory and capacities, when watching a movie. Most books when compared to their movie versions, contain more detail and depth.

Marie W.
Marie W.2 years ago

“Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it.”

― Mark Twain

Cynthia B.
cynthia B.2 years ago

seriously i didn't know these were "banned"

Kayleigh Harter
Kayleigh Harter2 years ago

I often used banned book lists when I'm looking for advice on what to read next. With some exceptions, the most intriguing, honest, thought-provoking books I've ever read have been banned at one time or another.

Alan Lambert
Alan` Lambert2 years ago

Can someone release "The Banned Books Library" through a "Banned Book of the Month club"?