Books You Can't Read

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Books You Can't Read

ALA's Top-Challenged Books Since 2001

Banned Books Week, held every year typically during the final week of September, celebrates the freedom to read. Librarians, readers, publishers, teachers and others join together to support the freedom to seek information, express ideas and educate oneself. The American Library Association (ALA) has been compiling lists of the top ten most frequently challenged books annually since 2001, and while these lists are not a complete picture due to under-reporting, these are ten of the most frequently reported challenged books in the United States since 2001.

For more information about Banned Books Week and related library events, please visit

Children’s Books
And Tango Makes Three written by Parnell and Richardson has landed on ALA’s list eight times, most recently in 2017, for depicting a same-sex relationship. The book features two male penguins who fall in love and start a family by taking turns sitting on an abandoned egg until it hatches.

It’s Perfectly Normal by Harris is a non-fiction book that informs readers about puberty, sexual abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy. The book has made ALA’s list four times, most recently in 2014. Reasons for its challenges are cited as being sexually explicit and promoting sexual education.

Captain Underpants by Pilkey is a series that has been well-loved by children since its publication and has made ALA’s list five times, most recently in 2013. In the first book, George and Harold hypnotize their principal and have to defeat Dr. Diaper. Most who challenge this series claim that it’s anti-family, violent and encourages children to challenge authority.

Naylor’s Alice books have been a top-challenged series five times between the years 2001-2011 because of sexual content and offensive language. The series follows Alice, a young teen who is dealing with the complexities of growing up and navigating relationships, school cliques, and self-esteem, without having a mother to go to for advice.

Young Adult Books
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Alexie has been consistently challenged since it was published in 2007, and most recently in 2017. The novel features a young man, Junior, leaving his school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. The book has made ALA’s list six times due to profanity, alcoholism, and poverty.

Looking for Alaska by Green has been a top-challenged book four times, most recently in 2016. The main character, Miles, is enjoying his first year at a preparatory school in Alabama, when a fatal accident probes him to seek answers about life and death. The book has been challenged for a sexually explicit scene.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Chbosky is a coming of age novel that has been on ALA’s list seven times, most recently in 2014. Charlie is a high school freshman who is dealing with the “usual teen problems” and the suicide of his best friend. The book has been challenged for offensive language, drug use, homosexuality and for being sexually explicit. 

In What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sones, Sophie is looking for her Mr. Right and describes the relationships throughout her search. The book has been challenged four times, most recently in 2011, for offensive language and for being sexually explicit.  

The Chocolate War by Cormier has been a top-challenged book seven times, between 2001-2009, due to offensive language, violence and being sexually explicit. In this novel, a high school freshman refuses to join his school’s fund raising drive and suffers the consequences at the hands of the school bullies. 

Adult Books
The Kite Runner by Hosseini
has been on ALA’s list four times, most recently in 2017. This critically acclaimed novel follows the friendship of a wealthy young man from Afghanistan and a servant’s son, and has been challenged because some believe that it "promotes Islam" and “leads to terrorism" and also includes scenes of sexual violence.