Each year in the US, hundreds of books are challenged for a variety of reasons – appropriateness for age group, content, language – and some of the books that do get challenged may seem a little surprising. Particularly in the last year or so, graphic novels have been heavily targeted. However, the most up-to-date list from 2013 states only 307 books were challenged in the US that year, which is the lowest number since at least the year 2000. You can find more information on the top 10 banned books in the US each year along with a breakdown of the most common reasons for censorship here. To bring a close to Banned Books Week, below we have compiled a few books in our collection that have been frequently challenged worldwide:
Bone. Volume one, Out from Boneville / Jeff Smith.
The Bone series is a new addition to the latest list, a result of the more heavily challenged graphic novel selection. According to the American Library Association this challenge was based on the book’s “political viewpoint, racism, violence”.
“After being run out of Boneville, the three Bone cousins – Fone Bone, Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone, are separated and lost in a vast uncharted desert. One by one, they find their way into a deep forested valley filled with wonderful and terrifying creatures.” (Syndetics summary)
Looking for Alaska : a novel / by John Green
Looking For Alaska was challenged in some US schools mainly for its inclusion of “inappropriate language”.
“In a stunning debut novel, Miles “Pudge” Halter befriends some fellow boarding school students whose lives are everything but boring. Pudge falls in love with Alaska, the razor-sharp and self-destructive nucleus. But when tragedy strikes, Pudge discovers the value of loving unconditionally.” (Syndetics summary)
The kite runner / Khaled Hosseini
The Kite Runner is the story of Amir, a wealthy boy, and his best friend Hassan, who is the son of Amir’s father’s servant. It is a story of friendship, bravery and heartbreak and it complexly explores intricacies of Afghan culture. It was challenged for explicit content and religious viewpoints.
The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian / by Sherman Alexie ; art by Ellen Forney.
This book has topped the banned books list several times. Junior is a budding cartoonist living on a Native American reservation. A teacher at his school urges him to do more with his life than stay on the rez, so Junior moves to an all-white school, leaving him an outcast from his old life and a curiosity in his new one. It has been banned for graphic language, racism and explicit scenes.
To kill a mockingbird / Harper Lee
Harper Lee’s novel was instantly successful, despite her publisher’s warnings it probably wouldn’t sell well. To Kill A Mockingbird‘s appropriateness in schools and libraries has been challenged because of racial slurs, profanity and blunt dialogue about rape. Despite this, it has sold over 30 million copies and been translated into over 40 languages.
The Hunger Games / Suzanne Collins
Suzanne Collins’s popular novel has been challenged for being anti-ethnic, anti-family, insensitive, occult/satanic and violent, yet it has been overwhelmingly successful.
“In a future North America, where the rulers of Panem maintain control through an annual televised survival competition pitting young people from each of the twelve districts against one another, sixteen-year-old Katniss’s skills are put to the test when she voluntarily takes her younger sister’s place.” (Syndetics summary)
My sister’s keeper / Jodi Picoult
Jodi Picoult’s popular novel-turned-movie has been challenged for numerous reasons, including explicit and offensive language and unsuitability for the intended age group.
“Kate Fitzgerald has a rare form of leukemia. Her sister, Anna, was conceived to provide a donor match for procedures that become increasingly invasive. At 13, Anna hires a lawyer so that she can sue her parents for the right to make her own decisions about how her body is used when a kidney transplant is planned. Meanwhile, Jesse, the neglected oldest child of the family, is out setting fires, which his firefighter father, Brian, inevitably puts out. ” (Publisher Weekly)
Northern lights / Philip Pullman.
Northern Lights (also titled The Golden Compass) has been challenged for its religious and political viewpoint. Some groups have opposed it for its “atheist undertones”.
“Orphaned ward Lyra Belacqua’s carefree life among the scholars at Oxford’s Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer. All around, children are disappearing—victims of so-called “Gobblers”—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.” (adapted from Goodreads)
Harry Potter and the philosopher’s stone / J.K. Rowling.
According to ALA, the association that organises Banned Books Week, Harry Potter is the most banned book in America. Given the recurring themes of death and resurrection, magic, and occasional violence, some groups have challenged these titles. But the other recurring themes of resilience, love and friendship have solidified Joanne Rowling’s well-known series as household titles in many places.
I know why the caged bird sings / Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou’s work has placed in the top 10 banned items every year in the last decade. Despite her numerous awards, her works have been frequently cited for containing explicit sexual content, as well as offensive language and violent imagery.
“Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local ‘powhitetrash’.” (Goodreads)