Frequently Challenged Books

The ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) receives reports from libraries, schools, and the media on attempts to ban books in communities across the country. We compile lists of challenged books in order to inform the public about censorship efforts that affect libraries and schools. The top ten most challenged books of 2015 include:

  1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
  3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
    Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
  4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
    Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
  6. The Holy Bible
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
  7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
    Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
  8. Habibi, by Craig Thompson
    Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
  10. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
    Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).

Explore the following pages for listings of banned/challenged books:

The ALA condemns censorship and works to ensure free access to information. For more information on ALA's efforts to raise awareness of censorship and promote the freedom to read, please explore Banned Books Week.

We do not claim comprehensiveness in recording challenges as research suggests that for each challenge reported there are as many as four or five that go unreported. In addition, OIF has only been collecting data about banned banned books since 1990, so we do not have any lists of frequently challenged books or authors before that date.

How is the list of most challenged books tabulated?

The Office for Intellectual Freedom collects information from two sources: newspapers and reports submitted by individuals, some of whom use the Challenge Reporting Form. All challenges are compiled into a database. Reports of challenges culled from newspapers across the country are compiled in the quarterly Journal of Intellectual Freedom and Privacy (published by the ALA, $50 per year for a digital subscription); those reports are then compiled in the Banned Books Week Resource Guide. Challenges reported to the ALA by individuals are kept confidential. 

Where can you find more information on why a particular book was banned?

The Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged books list is compiled with expert analysis by the Office for Intellectual Freedom staff. “Challenges” are documented requests to remove materials from schools or libraries.  Removal would restrict access to this information by other library users. This list is not scientifically compiled.  Rather, it is a snapshot of the reports we receive every day. In some cases we get numerous details about the challenger, the nature of the complaint, the backstory, and the current status of the book.  And in some cases we get very little. Sometimes we receive information during the challenge event, sometimes many years later. These factors affect the total number of challenged books for any given year and how we inform the public.

Our goal is not to focus on the numbers, but to educate the community that censorship is still a very serious problem. Even with all of our efforts to follow up and provide support, surveys indicate that up to 85% of book challenges receive no media attention and remain unreported. If the information you need is not listed in the links to the left, please feel free to contact the Office for Intellectual Freedom at (800) 545-2433, ext. 4220, or