Top 10 Most Banned Books Last Year

Today, I kicked off Banned Books Week in my classroom by unveiling a display of frequently banned classics and telling my students about them. True to the nature of teenage rebellion, they all wanted to read every single one of them. Students who I have to constantly remind to take notes during a lesson were furiously scribbling titles and authors in their notebooks. One student asked if I knew what the most banned books this year were and, not wanting to lose momentum — or an opportunity to inspire my students to read — I grabbed my computer and did a quick search. Luckily, the American Library Association keeps track of all of the reports of banned and challenged books. What follows is a list of the top ten banned and challenged books of 2011 (the information for 2012 won’t be in until the year is over) along with the reasons why they were challenged in the first place.

10. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
Reasons: offensive language; racism

Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is widely accepted as one of the best classic novels of all time. It follows a young girl, Scout, and her childhood friends as they experience life in Alabama in the 1930s. Scout’s father, Atticus, is appointed by the court to defend Tom Robinson, a Black man accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman. Atticus and his family are verbally attacked by the community, but he remains morally upstanding throughout it all, teaching Scout — and whoever reads the book — about compassion, love and the power of the human spirit.

9. “Gossip Girl” (series) by Cecily Von Ziegesar
Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit

The four-novel series “Gossip Girl” by Cecily Von Ziegesar is the inspiration for the popular television show on the WB. The series follows wealthy, high-school aged friends and their dating drama and budding sex lives. The teens regularly visit the “Gossip Girl” blog, which spreads often vicious rumors about them. This series tackles important issues for teenagers, including cyberbullying and relationships.

8. “What My Mother Doesn’t Know” by Sonya Sones
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit

“What My Mother Doesn’t Know” by Sonya Sones is a novel written entirely in free verse poetry. The book is narrated by Sophie, a freshman in high school. In it, she talks about her romantic interests and her family issues. Some might find this book crude because of Sophie’s tendency to fall in and out of relationships rather quickly, but many teenagers find it realistic with important lessons about dating, trust and love.

7. “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit

One of the most banned and challenged books of all time, “Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley was published in 1932 and has continued to delight audiences ever since. Images of test tube babies, daily soma pills to help people sleep, no love for fear of heartbreak, and a government that wants to force everyone to be happy quickly captures the interest of teenagers and adults alike. It’s also ranked as fifth on the Modern Library list of 100 Best English-Language Novels.

6. “Alice” (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint

“Alice,” the series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, made it to number one on the list of most challenged books in 2003 because of its sexually explicit content. Alice, known to her family as Al, is growing up in an all-male household in Maryland after the death of her mother. She finds it incredibly difficult to be the only girl in the house, and, as you can imagine, turns to other women in her life for advice about sex, dating and a host of other issues you might expect a teenage girl to deal with.

5. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

Native American teenager Arnold Spirit, Jr. narrates this novel by Sherman Alexie. Arnold is growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation, and encounters many problems with topics such as bullying, poverty, sex and death. The book is hilariously written by Alexie and beautifully illustrated by Ellen Forney.

4. “My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy” by Dori Hillestad Butler
Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

This children’s book shows Elizabeth, older sister-to-be, and her mom. Elizabeth learns all about babies, where they come from, and how they grow in this illustrated guide to sibling-hood. It is the perfect book to share with kids as you prepare them for a new addition to the family.

3. “The Hunger Games” trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence

“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins is one of the most popular series for teenagers right now. The books follow Katniss through her dystopian society in which a group of teenagers are called to an arena every year to fight to the death. Katniss and her friend, Peeta, must find a way to make it out alive. For some, the violence is too much, but for others, the books contain invaluable lessons about politics, war, life and love.

2. “The Color of Earth” (series) by Kim Dong Hwa
Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

Set in Korea, “The Color of Earth” series by Kim Dong Hwa shows us the story of Ehwa as she grows up helping her single mother operate the local tavern. Ehwa watches as everyone they encounter looks at her mother with distain because she is single. As her mother finds love again, though, Ehwa decides she can, too.

1. “ttyl”; “ttfn”; “l8r, g8r” (series) by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

The number one most banned and challenged book of 2011 was the “ttyl” series by Lauren Myracle. This series is composed entirely of instant messages between three teenage girls, and tackles issues dear to many high-school aged girls themselves such as dating, sex and betrayal. This novel accurately depicts teenage girls in their own language, and is important for us to read for that very reason.

Related Stories:

Katniss vs Bella: Why Must We Compare?

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Banned Book: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Top Image Credit: Monrovia Public Library - Monrovia, California, Other Images:


Dayle G
Dayle Gibson3 months ago

Don't forget Harry Potter was banned in some places due to witchcraft.

Naomi Dreyer
Naomi Dreyerabout a year ago


Clare O
Clare Oabout a year ago

Don't forget Harry Potter was banned in some places due to witchcraft.

Clare O
Clare Oabout a year ago

Nice idea to tell the kids which books are or were banned.

Clare O
Clare Oabout a year ago

Thirteen or so is fine for Mockingbird.

Clare O
Clare Oabout a year ago

I would restrict some of these on grounds of violence or sex until the young reader was mature enough.

Clare O
Clare Oabout a year ago

I don't remember any satanic influence in Hunger Games. The books are everywhere and the films are available to watch. Hard to ban.

Natasha Salgado
Past Member 4 years ago

I got to page 5---just too many pages-thanks

madeleine watt
Madeleine watt4 years ago

We read several of these in high school as required reading back in the 60's. I cannot see how Brave New World or Mockingbird could possibly be offensive or banned? Good Lord.

I was also given a book (not this one) about my female body and how babies grow. It didn't include the sex required, but I understood what happened inside "us" (women). This was in rural Georgia and in Austin, Tx. in the 50's and 60's.

Lionel Burman
Lionel Burman4 years ago

I think teachers as well as librarians can be amongst the first defenders of freedom to read. I say can be because in China it seems teachers will toe the line, & we have an historic example in living memory (I have just bought a copy of Brecht's Sins & Miseriea of the Third Reich - or whatever it is called in English - so it came to mind).
Some teachers are brilliant at this. My son had the run of my library of some 30000 books but he disdained them; when a teacher gave the class a pound each and told them to buy a book and bring it into class to read he turned up with Trainspotting, it caused a mild frisson in class. Sometimes things are different; when I was a teenager I hid my copy of Zola's Nana because it would upset my father to read it.