Top 10 books known to have been most challenged in schools and libraries (American Library Association)

The Biloxi Public School District in Mississippi just made news by pulling “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee from the eighth-grade curriculum because, a district official told a local newspaper, it made some people uncomfortable because of its racist language (which Mark Twain used to condemn such sentiments). Before it was deemed unacceptable, the district’s curriculum guide called the book a “classic with a focus on developing an appreciation for how ethical principles or laws of life can help people live successfully.”

But it was hardly the first time “Mockingbird” was pulled from classroom and library shelves, and the novel is only one of many great books that are challenged by people who object to material about sex, religion and race, among other reasons.  The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom keeps track of these actions, collecting for more than 20 years reports on formal, written book challenges that come to its attention, though officials there say they believe most go unreported.

Every year the association has a Banned Books Week to celebrate the freedom to read, and the 2017 event took place at the end of September — perhaps ironically, just before Biloxi’s “Mockingbird” decision.

In the State of America’s Libraries report published last year, the association cited a 2015 Harris poll on attitudes about book banning and school libraries that “revealed that out of the 2,244 U.S. adults who participated, the percentage (28%) who felt that certain books should be banned increased by more than half since the previous survey (18%) conducted in 2011.”

The list of books most challenged in 2016 was just released, and it looks somewhat different from the year before. The 2017 State of America’s Libraries report said that while nine of the 10 most-challenged titles in 2015 were by or about members of diverse populations, in 2016 “sexually explicit” was the overarching theme. “Most of the challenges, as usual, continued to focus on youth, either the picture-book audience (children’s books), or young adults,” the report said. “As in previous years, parents made up the largest single category of persons initiating the challenge (42%).”

Here’s the most recent list:

Top Ten for 2016
Out of 323 challenges recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom

1. “This One Summer,” written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes

2. “Drama,” written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint

3. “George,” written by Alex Gino
Reasons: challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels”

4. “I Am Jazz,” written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
Reasons: challenged because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints

5. “Two Boys Kissing,” written by David Levithan
Reasons: challenged because its cover has an image of two boys kissing, and it was considered to include sexually explicit LGBT content

6. “Looking for Alaska,” written by John Green
Reasons: challenged for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to “sexual experimentation”

7. “Big Hard Sex Criminals,” written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
Reason: challenged because it was considered sexually explicit

8. “Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread,” written by Chuck Palahniuk
Reasons: challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness and being “disgusting and all around offensive”

9. “Little Bill” (series), written by Bill Cosby and and illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood
Reason: challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author

10. “Eleanor & Park,” written by Rainbow Rowell
Reason: challenged for offensive language

Here’s the 2015 top 10 list:

(American Library Association)

Here’s a chart with the most common reasons for challenging a book:

From 2000 to 2009, the most-challenged books were:

1. “Harry Potter (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 Lauren Myracle
10. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
11. “Fallen Angels,” by Walter Dean Myers
12. “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
13. “Captain Underpants” (series), by Dav Pilkey
14. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
15. “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison
16. “Forever,” by Judy Blume
17. “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
18. “Go Ask Alice,” by Anonymous
19. “Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger
20. “King and King,” by Linda de Haan
21. “To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee
22. “Gossip Girl” (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
23. “The Giver,” by Lois Lowry
24. “In the Night Kitchen,” by Maurice Sendak
25. “Killing Mr. Griffen,” by Lois Duncan