Why was this book banned?
Updated March 16, 2015
Q. It's the question most often heard from students during Banned Books Week, "Why was this book banned?" More accurately, the question is who challenged this book being in the school or library and wanted it removed, and why, and when and where did this happen - and how did things turn out?
A. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) maintains information on which books are challenged and why and so compiles annual lists of most frequently challenged books, released during National Library Week, and then regularly publishes this information every few years, most recently in the 2014 Banned Books Resource Guide, Banned Books: Challenging Our Freedom to Read, 2014 Edition, edited by Robert P. Doyle of the Illinois Library Association. The book, released in August of 2014, lists challenged and banned books in alphabetical order by the author's last name, and gives the dates and places and reasons that a book was threatened with removal (challenged) and/or was removed (banned) from a library or school. Read a four-page PDF excerpt from the book.
Doyle also puts together a free yearly brochure (and has since 2003), which can be found as PDF files on the web site of the Illinois Library Association.
You can use the entry for Banned Books: Challenging our Freedom to Read at WorldCat.org - the free online database of library catalogs all over the USA - to search via zip code for the closest public, school, and/or community college library that has an available copy. Previous print editions can be found on the list at WorldCat.org, Why was this book banned or challenged.
The Resource Guide is not entirely duplicated online. However, the reasons for some of the most famous novels ever written being challenged or banned appear on the page, Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century. For more information, see Researching Banned and Challenged Books, which also has some online resources.
The information in the Resource Guide was often initially published in an issue of OIF’s Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom. Check to see if your local library subscribes to this online periodical - or has back issues of the previous print version. In both the print and online versions, challenges to books appear in the section titled, "Targets of the censor." But please be aware that the Newsletter draws on existing news stories, so you may also be able to find information by tracking down the original news reports by searching on the book title in online periodical article databases.
For print resources, please see the Censorship Bibliography.
But now here's a question back to you: Was that book banned? It's come to our attention that some lists online have titles on them that have actually never been challenged or banned. For full details on that, see the entry, Ban Pooh?