Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in libraries, bookstores, and schools. The annual event highlights the value of free and open access to information and brings together the entire book community — librarians, educators, authors, publishers, booksellers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas.
Banned Books Week is October 1 – 7, 2023. The theme of this year’s event is “Let Freedom Read!” By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) compiles lists of challenged books as reported in the media and submitted by librarians and teachers across the country. The Top 13 Most Challenged Books of 2022 are listed below, with the reason(s) the title is being challenged.
- Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe - LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson - LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison - depiction of sexual abuse, claimed to be sexually explicit, EDI content
- Flamer by Mike Curato - LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit
- Looking for Alaska by John Green - Claimed to be sexually explicit, LGBTQIA+ content
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky - Claimed to be sexually explicit, LGBTQIA+ content, depiction of sexual abuse, drugs, profanity
- Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison - LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie - Claimed to be sexually explicit, profanity
- Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez - Claimed to be sexually explicit
- A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas - Claimed to be sexually explicit
- Crank by Ellen Hopkins - Claimed to be sexually explicit, drugs
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews - Claimed to be sexually explicit, profanity
- This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson - LGBTQIA+ content, sex education, claimed to be sexually explicit
And what populations are most affected by book bans? Nearly half of filings — 43 percent — targeted titles with LGBTQIA+ characters or themes, while 36 percent targeted titles featuring characters of color or dealing with issues of race and racism. The top reason people challenged books was “sexual” content; 61 percent of challenges referenced this concern.
This year, the American Library Association is introducing Let Freedom Read Day, October 7, 2023. ALA is asking everyone to take at least one action to help defend books from censorship and to stand up for the library staff, educators, writers, publishers, and booksellers who make them available! From writing a letter to your representative to attending a school board meeting, there is something for everyone who wants to support the freedom to read.