by Elizabeth Chyn (teen) and Jane Gov (librarian)
So you might have noticed a variety of displays cropping up in your local library, bookstore, or school about BANNED BOOKS. You might wonder what does this mean, what are banned books, where have they been banned, and for what reason?
Celebrate with us! It’s Banned Books Week, an annual national awareness initiative to celebrate your freedom to read!
What is Banned Books Week?
Since 1982, Banned Books Week is observed every year on the last week of September. This year, Banned Books Week is September 22 through 28. This initiative is sponsored by the American Library Association to promote the freedom of thought and expression.
What is the difference between a challenged book and a banned book?
A challenged book is a book that has received a complaint—either oral or written—on the basis that the title should be removed from a library collection or school curriculum. A banned book is a title that has actually been removed, restricted, or excluded from a book collection or curriculum.
Why are books challenged?
Books are often challenged with the intent to protect others, usually children and teens, from difficult or controversial topics. Once action is taken on a challenged book, censorship occurs. Regardless of whether the challenges are made with the best interest of the aforementioned groups in mind, censorship is harmful because it places limits on the freedom of thought and expression.
Why should I read challenged or banned books?
The most frequently challenged books gain negative attention because they also have plenty of praise. They tend to be very well written and therefore selected by many teachers for their curriculum.
How do I celebrate Banned Books Week?
Help get the word out and educate others about Banned Books Week and the importance of intellectual freedom. You can find lots of information on the ALA website including more printable materials and a press kit. And of course, READ a frequently challenged or banned book! Run a banned books discussion or praise your favorite challenged book.
Okay… so what are the books?
The list is not entirely comprehensive because many challenged and banned books are not reported, but these lists compiled by ALA includes the most frequently reported challenged books… and it’s really long!
Below is a sample of some of the most popular banned books. Click on the title to find them at the library.
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Miles Halter, a high school junior fascinated with last words, chooses to attend Culver Creek boarding school to search for a “Great Perhaps.” He meets Alaska Young, a beautiful, intelligent, and witty girl who really throws him into his Great Perhaps.
Looking for Alaska was the seventh most challenged book of 2012, according to the American Library Association. It has been frequently banned because of offensive language.
Located in the library: Young Adult Fiction, YA FIC GREEN,J
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Charlie is a freshman in high school who writes letters to an anonymous friend. He is labeled as a shy, awkward, and unpopular kid, but eventually makes friends with Patrick and Sam. Charlie grows as a person and comes to terms with this past throughout the novel.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower was the sixth most challenged book of 2012, according to the American Library Association. It has been banned because of drug use, offensive language, and mentions of suicide.
Located in the library: Young Adult Fiction, YA FIC CHBOSKY,S
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Clay Jensen receives a shoebox without a return address filled with cassette tapes. Upon listening to them, he realizes that they were recorded by a girl who recently committed suicide, Hannah Baker. Hannah explains the role that thirteen people played in her death.
Thirteen Reasons Why was the third most challenged book of 2012, according to the American Library Association. It has been banned because of its controversial topic of suicide, mentions of drug and alcohol use, and that it is unsuited for the age group it was written for.
Located in the library: Young Adult Fiction, YA FIC ASHER,J
The Hunger Games (series) by Suzanne Collins
Katniss Everdeen participates in the Hunger Games, a tool to control the people of post-apocalyptic Panem. The central government in The Capitol exercises near complete control over the twelve districts of Panem. She and Peeta Mellark fight together in the Games to ensure their survival.
The series was the fifth most challenged of 2010, according to the American Library Association. It has been banned because of violence and offensive language.
Located in the library: Young Adult Science Fiction, YA SF COLLINS,S
Crank by Ellen Hopkins
Kristina is a straight-A student who visits her drug-addict father in Albuquerque. Under the pressure of her friends there, she, too, becomes addicted. The novel is loosely based off of the addiction of Hopkins’ daughter to methamphetamine.
Crank was the fourth most challenged book of 2010, according to the American Library Association. It has been banned because of drug use and language.
Located in the library: Young Adult Fiction, YA FIC HOPKINS,E
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Celie is an uneducated fourteen-year-old black girl living in the South during the 1930’s. She writes letters to God because she is abused by her father, who later forces her into an unhappy marriage. With the help of her husband’s mistress, Shrug Avery, Celie tries to find her runaway sister, Nettie. This book has won the Pulitzer Prize and has been adapted into a film and a musical.
The Color Purple was the ninth most challenged book of 2009, according to the American Library Association. It has been banned because of violence and offensive language.
Located in the library: Fiction, FIC WALKER,A
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Holden Caulfield is expelled from his fourth school for failing the majority of his classes. He leaves his school three days earlier than planned, but doesn’t go back to his apartment quite yet.
The Catcher in the Rye was the sixth most challenged book of 2009, according to the American Library Association. It has been banned for offensive language.
Located in the library: Fiction, FIC SALINGER,J
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
Jerry Renault attends an all-boys Catholic school. He is chosen to join The Vigils, an on-campus secret society run de facto by Archie Costello. Archie designs all of the pranks that the Vigils carry out. Jerry does not completely comply with the task given to him and creates a rift in power in the school.
The Chocolate War was the tenth most challenged book of 2009, according to the American Library Association. It has been banned because of offensive language and nudity.
Located in the library: Young Adult Fiction, YA FIC CORMIER,R
His Dark Materials (trilogy) by Philip Pullman
First Published: 1995
Lyra lives in a world where humans have animal embodiments of their inner selves. She learns about the existence of a dark material called Dust and goes to the Magisterium to learn more about the Dust. The His Dark Materials series consists in three books: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife (1997), and The Amber Spyglass (2000).
The trilogy was the second most challenged series of 2008, according to the American Library Association.
Located in the library: Juvenile, JRHI Fiction, JRHI PULLMAN,P
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The autobiography tells the story of the early years of Maya Angelou, an African-American poet and writer. Three-year-old Maya grows from being a victim of racism to a woman who responds to racial prejudice.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was the eighth most challenged book of 2007, according to the American Library Association. It was banned for sexual references.
Located in the library: Non-fiction, 92 ANGELOU,M
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer have a large sum of money from their previous adventures. Huck needs to keep this money away from his father, the town drunkard, so he fakes his death and runs away. This book is the sequel of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was the fifth most challenged book of 2007, according to the American Library Association. It was banned frequently because it contained the theme of racism.
Located in the library: Fiction, FIC TWAIN,M
and Juvenile JRHI Fiction, JRHI TWAIN,M
Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes
Right before Martha leaves to visit her grandmother, she finds a journal page from Olive’s mother after Olive died. Martha finds much in common between herself and Olive, including the fact that they both wanted to be writers. This book won the 2004 Newberry Honor.
Olive’s Ocean was the third most challenged book of 2007, according to the American Library Association. It was banned frequently because of offensive language.
Located in the library: Juvenile, JRHI Fiction, JRHI HENKES,K
Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily Von Ziegesar
Blair Waldorf and Serena van der Woodson attend an elite private school in the Upper East Side. The series’ main focus is the romantic lives the two best friends, who frequently visit the eponymous Gossip Girl, a gossip blogger who spreads their stories.
The Gossip Girl books were the second most challenged in 2006, according to the American Library Association. It was banned frequently because of mentions of homosexuality, sexual references, and offensive language.
Located in the library: Young Adult Fiction, YA FIC VON ZIEGARSAR,C
Forever by Judy Blume
Katherine Danziger is a senior in high school. She tries to figure out the physical and emotional extent of her relationship with Michael Wagner.
Forever was the second most challenged book of 2005, according to the American Library Association. It was banned frequently because of sexual references and offensive language.
Located in the library: Young Adult Fiction, YA FIC BLUME,J
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
An unnamed fifteen-year-old struggling with her weight, family life, and social acceptance keeps a diary. She and her friend Chris become addicted to drugs and pass into drug dealership, until they found that they were being used to do so and vow to stay away from drugs.
Go Ask Alice was the sixth most challenged book of 2003, according to the American Library Association. It was banned frequently because of drug use.
Located in the library: Young Adult Non-Fiction, YA 616.86 GOA
Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
First Published: 1997
Harry Potter discovers that he is a wizard and the truth about his parents’ death. He enters into the magical world and realizes what he has missed while living with his relatives, the Dursleys. With his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, Harry fights against the Dark Lord Voldemort’s rise to power.
The Harry Potter books were the most challenged in 2002, according to the American Library Association. It was banned frequently because it supposedly was anti-family and encouraged Satanism.
Located in the library: Juvenile JRHI Fiction, JRHI ROWLING,J
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Scout Finch lives with her brother, Jem, and her father, Atticus, in Maycomb, Alabama. She and her brother are fascinated by the mysterious recluse Boo Radley, who makes small connections with the children, though never in person. Meanwhile, Atticus is appointed as a defense lawyer of Tom Robinson, a black man who was charged with the rape of a young white woman. He does his best to prevent Robinson’s conviction.
To Kill a Mockingbird is the 4th most challenge book, according to the American Library Association. It is frequently banned for its discussion of rape, racism, and social injustice.
Located in the library: Fiction, FIC LEE,H
1984 by George Orwell
Winston Smith lives in a world where a totalitarian party led by Big Brother (who is always watching you) knows his every thought and action. The party justifies its seemingly horrific actions by saying that everything it does is for the “greater good.” Winston disobeys the party in a small and personal rebellion against Big Brother.
1984 is the 9th most challenged book, according to the American Library Association. It is frequently and ironically banned for its themes of censorship, privacy, and surveillance.
Located in the library: Fiction, FIC ORWELL,G
For more info about Banned Books Week, visit http://ala.org/bbooks