Researching Banned and Challenged Books
Student projects researching the reasons why a particular book has been challenged or banned are common writing assignments in both language arts and social studies classes. This page provides a guide to some of the best sources for these assignments. Many are available print only and may be in the local public library.
The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) explains the difference between a "banned book" and a "challenged book" as:
"A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection."
The premier resources for researching why a particular title was challenged or banned are the publications of ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom. The Office maintains information on which books are challenged and why and regularly publishes this information in the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, where there may also be discussion of the events surrounding a challenge, and in a compilation published about every three years, most recently in Banned Books: Challenging our Freedom to Read, edited by Robert P. Doyle (also referred to as the 2014 BBW Resource Guide). The annual updates, distributed for each Banned Books Week: A Celebration of the Freedom to Read, have been prepared since 1999. Additional resources were used to compile earlier editions of "Banned Books"; these are listed in the publication's bibliography, and included on a list of books on censorship.
''Banned Books: Challenging Our Freedom to Read, 2014 Edition'' may be purchased through the ALA Store. It should also be available at your local library.
The citations for the two most current print editions are:
Doyle, Robert P. Banned Books: Challenging Our Freedom to Read. Chicago, IL: American Library Association, 2014.
Doyle, Robert P. Banned Books: Challenging Our Freedom to Read. Chicago, Ill: American Library Association, 2010.
(Note: a number of libraries treat "Banned Books" as a serial. List of additional print editions.)
Having trouble finding any information on a book? It's been brought to our attention that there are some resources online that mistakenly list titles that have actually never been challenged or banned. Full details can be found at the Ask the ALA Library blog post, Ban Pooh?
Where to find information if you don't have "Banned Books"
General bibliography: As noted above, there are a number of print resources on censored books. Many of the titles included on the list are included in the bibliography in "Banned Books" as resources for historical information for older titles. Updated editions to those have been included, along with similar recent titles. The list also includes a few general books on intellectual freedom in libraries as resources for understanding the importance of defending the freedom to read. Most libraries should have one or more of the titles listed.
Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century - Information on 46 classics
Banned Books Week, an information site maintained by the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression.
Banned Book Week, developed by Marshall University Libraries.
Censored Books, a site that "deals with book censorship attempts which actually resulted in some action, even if it was later reversed."
Mapping Censorship, a map is drawn from cases documented by ALA and the Kids' Right to Read Project, a collaboration of the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression.
National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) reports censorship challenges received by its Support for the Learning and Teaching of English office.
Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom -- check especially the listings under "Targets of the censor."
Online Books Page, from the University of Pennsylvania Library has links to challenged books in the public domain.http://digital.library.upenn.edu/books/banned-books.html
Wikipedia's entry: "List of books banned by governments"
Finally, meet with your local librarian who can help you access databases of periodical literature about book challenges.
For lists of challenged books, without the challenge history, please see
Frequently Challenged Books includes the most frequently challenged lists, along with a limited amount of challenge information on those books most often the target of censorship. Please note: the Office for Intellectual Freedom has only been collecting data about banned banned books since 1990, so there are not any lists of frequently challenged books or authors before that date.
Derived from "Banned Books" are two specialized lists, Banned and Challenged Books from Oprah's Book Club and Banned and Challenged Mysteries.
Some of the more well-known banned and challenged books appear in a joint online project with Google Books, Celebrate Your Freedom to Read - Explore Banned Books.
Last updated September 25, 2014.