See which books were most frequently challenged in American libraries in 2013

Published: Sunday, April 20 2014 8:44 p.m. MDT

The American Library Association released its 2014 State of America's Libraries report in April, along with the 2013 list of the top 10 most frequently challenged books.

A "challenge," according to the ALA, "is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness."

According to the ALA, there were 5,099 challenges reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom from 2000 to 2009. Of these, 1,639 took place in school libraries, 1,811 were in classrooms, 1,217 were in public libraries, 114 were in college classes and 30 were in academic libraries, with the rest being made in places like prison or special libraries.

This is a look at the top 10 most frequently challenged books for 2013, along with a brief look at past challenges some of these same titles have faced:
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How about a comment or two as to why certain books were challenged?

Auckland NZ, 00

Do the reporter or any readers know what "religious viewpoint" means as a reason for challenge? Does it mean that the book has an explicitly religious viewpoint that the author of the complaint disagrees with? Or that someone with a religious viewpoint finds something offensive to his/her beliefs somewhere in the book? Given the extreme sectarianism of the Abrahamic religions, i suspect that every book ever written could be classified as religiously suspect by one group or another.

Idaho Falls, ID

I agree with the complaints against several of these books. I liked "Hunger Games" but definitely do not think it should be a book for young adults due to the violence. Requesting a library to remove anything is pretty pointless, in my experience and the experience of other family/friends. I recently submitted a request to remove 3 DVDs that were rated "X" that have recently been added to our library's collection, but a library never removes anything. They go through the motions and then send a formal email or letter indicating they "carefully considered" your request but they're keeping the item.

Third try screen name
Mapleton, UT

I was actually cast as a villain by the ALA because of a Judy Blume book in our school library.
I believed it should not have been in the open stacks of a middle school library.
I was not denying the parental right to have their child read the book; only requesting that my child not be exposed to it.
The hardliners considered me a book-burner.
Well, the district policy was to vote on the removal and leave it off the shelf for two years, after which it would be placed back on the shelf. We won the first round and lost the second.
I have concluded that the ALA is opposed to any book restrictions. There is no negotiating with them.


Catcher in the Rye was a scream... had me laughing harder than any book I've ever read.

I read it when I was a Mormon and more than once I laughed out loud during Sacrament or Fast & Testimony meetings when a passage irreverently entered my mind.

It wasn't the cause of my leaving Mormonism. I even associate it with those highly pleasurable moments in church.

east of utah
Saint Joseph, MO


Why would a book about baseball make you laugh in church?

truth in all its forms
henderson, NV

Censorship is the first step of denying ones freedom. A book should never be banned because it challenges your view point! If you don't agree with it, don't read it, its that simple but don't deny someones point of view just because it differs from your own.

east of utah
Saint Joseph, MO

Governmental censorship is a first step toward loss of freedom. Private censorship occurs all the time and should be encouraged. There are all sorts of things that I censor and don’t allow into my home. And in as much there are things that exist in my community (i.e. library)that I find offensive or I might find offensive if my children were exposed to it, I should be allowed to voice my opinion to limit the availability of that material. I look at that reading list and there is nothing there that I find overtly offensive to me. But I recognize that there might be to some. Great!! Let’s have that debate. But don’t marginalize someone that finds something offensive by telling them to just not look at it or just not read it. Invite them into the public square and have a serious and honest discussion of the merits of the material.

Genola, UT

Which books are in a library and which are not are the result of someone's choice. When a library is publicly funded by a community of individuals it seems reasonable that individuals in the community would want a say on which books are in the library and which are not. Just because someone doesn't want a particular book placed in a public library does not mean that the person wants the book banned and made illegal for anyone to possess or read. Let's give people a say in which books are and which are not included in a limited collection maintained by public funding.

Ontario, OR

Every year, the ALA sponsors "Banned Books Week." The idea is to encourage people (especially high-school and college students) to read some of the books that have been banned over the years. As others have written, just about anything is going to be offensive to somebody, and freedom of expression and thought is vital to an open society. Still, as an educator, I was put off by the campaign to channel students toward celebrating the works that have most often offended. I refused to wear my complimentary button all week. That sure made an impression -- not -- but I felt better in my silly, silent little protest. I think that when kids have begun to realize that some of their classmates have "two mommies" or "two daddies," it might be appropriate for a parent to read a book like "Heather Has Two Mommies" with their children and discuss both the family's belief system and the social realities. Even more important is countering some of the Judy Blume type books with books that reflect the parents' values (assuming they don't agree with Blume's). Demanding removal of the books is futile and can be counterproductive.


The Adventures of Captain Underpants? Seriously?

Salt Lake City, UT

Censorship? Gives it publicity, guarantees the success of a book, arouses curiosity, and those you are trying to protect will seek it out from other sources. I do not know if people remember this, but "Americana" was just collecting dust in Davis County libraries. After a county commissioner condemned it and asked for its removal, it was always checked out. By trying to ban books you find offensive, you are indirectly promoting them.

American Fork, UT

Generally I'm against censorship, though once I asked for a book's removal because it was in an elementary school library, but the carvings on a table in one of the illustrations were of couples engaged in various sex acts. They ended up subltly marking over the offending elements of the illustration and keeping the book. The carvings had nothing to do with the story, they were just there in the illustration.

Jim Cobabe
Provo, UT

Thank you for so many good suggestions for further reading. Always nice to have more books lined up waiting to explore. I have already read many of these, but a few are welcome additions.

To those warriors battling the ALA, I would suggest that the judgement of librarians has never been reliable. You need to make your own choices about what to read, and parents need to control what reading material your children are exposed to. That children have an interest in reading is probably of far greater concern. This is not the library's responsibility, it is yours.

Layton, UT

Why not handle books with questionable content the same way they do at Hogwarts, just create a special section for those books so that the first-years can't go there and read them, and you need special permission to access them?

Then only the sneaky kids like Ron, Hermione, or Harry will read them when they're not supposed to...

B ob
Richmond, CA

If there was a way to rate the books like a movie or video game or CD…that would help. But then again, those ratings are advertisements in themselves. With my kids - if the cover is ugly (even if the content is not) it isn't allowed in the house. As for the content, I can only tell them if the book starts to be dark or makes them feel icky, to use a child-like term, stop reading and shut the book. I can also tell if the new book they've been reading is dark or icky, thy act like brats. Then I follow up by describing their behavior and asking about the book. We've had some books banned from the house…and I think they learn a lesson that increase my chances that even when I'm not around, they will be careful about the books they choose to read.


As I read through this list it reminds me that some people will complain about anything. Goosebumps? Harry Potter? A girls changing body? If you don't want your kids to read it, than tell them no. Yes, some kids will get the book anyway, but I love the comment that we don't want our kids "exposed" to the book. Do you think the book just jumps off the shelf into your kids hands? What one person calls censorship another calls freedom and what one person call great literature is another persons smut. Be careful who you want to be making that judgment for you.

Provo, Utah

Thanks for promising a list and actually giving us a list. I may or may not know why the books were rated the way they were, but if I want to find out more, I can go "Google" it. In the meantime, it only took me a few seconds to view the list and see what books were on it. Thank you again.

Cleveland , OH

Memorial Day weekend, 1972 my family went camping. I was 12 and loved to read - when we got to the campground my mom handed me a paperback she had grabbed at the store. It was for an upcoming movie staring Burt Reynolds... "Deliverence" was my first truly grow up novel. It didn't hurt me, it gave me an appriciation for deep storytelling and true conflict.

Toward the end of the summer I spent a couple of weeks babysitting all day for a family from church. Bored, the second day I started reading "The Godfather," another paperback from a recent movie. I loved the depth of the story, the multiple plots and characters.

I detest censors and those who want to ban books because they are afraid of ideas.

Farr West, Utah

School libraries are constantly deciding (of necessity) what will be on the shelves and what will not. It is very appropriate - not censorship - for parents to get involved in those decisions, since schools have a legal obligation to act "en loco parentis" - in the parents' place. Hooray for the parents who take the time and show interest in what books their children might see in the library when the parents are not around!

Palatka, FL

typically, I don't believe in banning books, except for a how to guide for pedophiles that Amazon briefly carried; but it is important to note many of these challenges were for schools and parental opinion is very important here. Nothing is stopping parents from obtaining the book elsewhere if they really want their child to read it. Going further - since libraries are built and stocked on the taxpayer's dime the material they carry should be consistent with public decency - ie no pornography. I know it's a hard concept but there is a difference between something being banned - ie not allowed to publish or own - and not being able to force taxpayers to buy it for you.

American Fork, UT

I love banned book week. There always some surprises on the list.

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