The list of the Top Ten Challenged Books of 2016 is here. This year’s list explores a range of genres (young adult, fiction, memoir) and formats (novels, graphic novels, picture books), but they have one thing in common: each book was threatened with removal from spaces where diverse ideas and perspectives should be welcomed.
The annual list is compiled by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF); OIF calculates the Top Ten by documenting public media articles of challenges, and censorship reports submitted through the office’s reporting form. For an in-depth look at censorship trends, check out the State of America’s Libraries Report.
Video | Top Ten Challenged Books of 2016 | Infographics | Talking Points | Social Media Hashtags & Art
Author Handles & Reactions | Spotlighting Censorship: Stories on the Top Ten | Banned Books Week Theme & Products
State of America’s Libraries Report | Media Contacts
Top Ten Challenged Books of 2016
Out of 323 challenges reported to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, the Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2016 are
- This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
This young adult graphic novel, winner of both a Printz and a Caldecott Honor Award, was restricted, relocated, and banned because it includes LGBT characters, drug use, and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes.
- Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Parents, librarians, and administrators banned this Stonewall Honor Award-winning graphic novel for young adults because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit, and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint.
- George written by Alex Gino
Despite winning a Stonewall Award and a Lambda Literary Award, administrators removed this children’s novel because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels.”
- I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
This children’s picture book memoir was challenged and removed because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints.
- Two Boys Kissing written by David Levithan
Included on the National Book Award longlist and designated a Stonewall Honor Book, this young adult novel was challenged because its cover has an image of two boys kissing, and it was considered to include sexually explicit LGBT content.
- Looking for Alaska written by John Green
This 2006 Printz Award winner is a young adult novel that was challenged and restricted for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to “sexual experimentation.”
- Big Hard Sex Criminals written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
Considered to be sexually explicit by library staff and administrators, this compilation of adult comic books by two prolific award-winning artists was banned and challenged.
- Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread written by Chuck Palahniuk
This collection of adult short stories, which received positive reviews from Newsweek and the New York Times, was challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness, and being “disgusting and all around offensive.”
- Little Bill (series) written by Bill Cosby and illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood
This children’s book series was challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author.
- Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell
One of seven New York Times Notable Children’s Books and a Printz Honor recipient, this young adult novel was challenged for offensive language.
These infographics are free for anyone to download and share. Suggested photo credit: Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association, ala.org/bbooks/NLW-Top10
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Yes, books are still banned. Five of the 10 titles on the Top Ten list were removed from the location where the challenge took place. On average, OIF finds that 10% of challenges result in the removal of the book.
The First Amendment guarantees all of us the freedom to read. The Library Bill of Rights, a foundational document of the library profession, states libraries should challenge censorship and present all points of view, for the enlightenment of all people.
For the first time in Top Ten history, a book was challenged solely because of its author. Bill Cosby’s Little Bill series was challenged because of sexual allegations against the author.
Challenges continue to target LGBT material, and there is a rise in “sexually explicit” as a challenge category. The rise in sexually explicit challenges suggests that parents are transitioning from “helicopter parents” to “Velcro parents.”
The Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles the Top Ten list by documenting public challenges (challenges that are reported in the media), as well as censorship reports submitted through the office’s reporting form, in our database.
Social Media Hashtags & Art
These cover photos are free for anyone to download and use on social media. Suggested photo credit: Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association, ala.org/bbooks/NLW-Top10
Click image to enlarge to full Facebook cover art size 851 x 480
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Author Handles & Reactions
Tell the authors how much their words mean to you:
|Alex Gino @lxgino||Raina Telgemeier @goraina|
|Mariko Tamaki @marikotamaki||Varnette P. Honeywood @VPHoneywood|
|Rainbow Rowell @rainbowrowell||Jazz Jennings @jazzjennings__|
|Jessica Herthel @jessicaherthel||Bill Cosby @BillCosby|
|Shelagh McNicholas @shelaghmcn||John Green @johngreen|
|Jillian Tamaki @dirtbagg||Chuck Palahniuk @chuckpalahniuk|
|David Levithan @loversdiction||Chip Zdarsky @zdarsky|
Throughout the week, we’ll be posting tweets and blog posts from authors of the Top Ten list.
.@ALALibrary I am very grateful to librarians, who DO read my books closely, and who support & advocate for challenged books, keeping them in kids' hands— Rainbow Rowell (@rainbowrowell) April 10, 2017
I know they make "I Read Banned Books" shirt but but what about "I Write Banned Books"? Niche market, I know. I may have to get one made.— Alex Gino (@lxgino) April 10, 2017
.@ALALibrary In case you're wondering: "profanity, drug use, LGBT characters, and content that is sexually explicit or has mature themes"— Jillian Tamaki (@dirtbagg) April 10, 2017
Spotlighting Censorship: Stories on the Top Ten
The Office for Intellectual Freedom is highlighting two of the Top Ten books on its blog each day during National Library Week. Stay updated on Top Ten highlights and censorship news by subscribing to the Intellectual Freedom Blog.
No. 1 Spotlight on Censorship: Letter from the Authors of 'This One Summer'
No. 2 Spotlight on Censorship: 'Drama'
No. 3 Spotlight on Censorship: 'George'
No. 4 Spotlight on Censorship: 'I Am Jazz'
No. 5 Spotlight on Censorship: 'Two Boys Kissing'
No. 6 Spotlight on Censorship: 'Looking for Alaska'
No. 7 Spotlight on Censorship: 'Big Hard Sex Criminals'
No. 8 Spotlight on Censorship: 'Make Something Up'
No. 9 Spotlight on Censorship: 'Little Bill' series
No. 10 Spotlight on Censorship: 'Eleanor and Park'
Banned Books Week Theme
The theme for this upcoming Banned Books Week (Sept. 24 – Sept. 30) is “Words Have Power. Read a Banned Book.” The words in these banned and challenged books have the power to connect readers to literary communities and offer diverse perspectives. And when these books are threatened with removal from communal shelves, your words have the power to challenge censorship.
State of America’s Libraries Report
The State of America’s Libraries report is packed with issues, trends, resources and studies about U.S. libraries. View the report here. On page 17, learn about current censorship issues such as trigger warnings and the Virginia House Bill 516, and how the Office for Intellectual Freedom revamped its challenge support resources.
Media interested in scheduling interviews with ALA spokespersons may contact Macey Morales, deputy director of ALA's Public Awareness Office, 312-280-4393, email@example.com; Steve Zalusky, manager of communications, 312-280-1546, firstname.lastname@example.org; or Heather Cho, media relations specialist, email@example.com or 312-280-4020.