Top 10 Challenged Books of 2017The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 354 challenges to library, school and university materials in 2017. Of the 416 books challenged or banned in 2017, the Top 10 Most Challenged Books are -
- Thirteen Reasons Why written by Jay Asher
Originally published in 2007, this New York Times bestseller has resurfaced as a controversial book after Netflix aired a TV series by the same name. This YA novel was challenged and banned in multiple school districts because it discusses suicide.
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian written by Sherman Alexie
Consistently challenged since its publication in 2007 for acknowledging issues such as poverty, alcoholism, and sexuality, this National Book Award winner was challenged in school curriculums because of profanity and situations that were deemed sexually explicit.
- Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
This Stonewall Honor Award-winning, 2012 graphic novel from an acclaimed cartoonist was challenged and banned in school libraries because it includes LGBT characters and was considered “confusing.”
- The Kite Runner written by Khaled Hosseini
This critically acclaimed, multigenerational novel was challenged and banned because it includes sexual violence and was thought to “lead to terrorism” and “promote Islam.”
- George written by Alex Gino
Written for elementary-age children, this Lambda Literary Award winner was challenged and banned because it includes a transgender child.
- Sex is a Funny Word written by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth
This 2015 informational children’s book written by a certified sex educator was challenged because it addresses sex education and is believed to lead children to “want to have sex or ask questions about sex.”
- To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, considered an American classic, was challenged and banned because of violence and its use of the N-word.
- The Hate U Give written by Angie Thomas
Despite winning multiple awards and being the most searched-for book on Goodreads during its debut year, this YA novel was challenged and banned in school libraries and curriculums because it was considered “pervasively vulgar” and because of drug use, profanity, and offensive language.
- And Tango Makes Three written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole
Returning after a brief hiatus from the Top Ten Most Challenged list, this ALA Notable Children’s Book, published in 2005, was challenged and labeled because it features a same-sex relationship.
- I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
This autobiographical picture book co-written by the 13-year-old protagonist was challenged because it addresses gender identity.
Believe it or not ---
Beloved books are challenged too
The freedom to write and the freedom to read are cornerstones of a democracy, which relies on a well-informed citizenry to make intelligent, fair, and responsible decisions together. When we allow people to tell the public what is an isn’t appropriate to read, then we give up a measure of that freedom. For example, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is widely considered one of the finest American novels. Intellectually, it challenged racism in ways that were decades ahead of its time, and its expressions of those ideas have affected the thinking of millions of Americans. But it’s often challenged because it’s supposedly racist, presumably by people who didn’t read or read and didn’t understand the book.
Why Banned Books Week Does It Matter?
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, is another book that is frequently challenged, especially by school districts, because it contains multiple uses of the words “hell” and “damn.” The novel takes place in a dystopian future where books are banned and burned as being dangerous–you would think that the people and groups who like to ban and/or challenge books would find something less ironic to challenge.
The Great Gatsby, another candidate for the “great American novel,” is also frequently challenged because of occasional references to sexual activity. It shares this distinction with another great work of American literature, The Scarlet Letter, which has been challenged because it’s too sympathetic toward the character of Hester Prynne.
Banned Books Week matters because you don’t want to be told what to think or what to think about. By limiting your exposure to books and the ideas contained in those books, book banners want to control your thinking. That’s the antithesis of a free society.