- The week of September 22-28 is known as Banned Books Week, an annual campaign used to raise awareness of banned or challenged books and celebrate the freedom to read.
- Every year, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles a list of the top books that are most frequently challenged or banned each year.
- Below, you’ll find 10 of the most challenged books of 2018, along with the reasons they’ve been criticized.
Whether banning books calls to mind historical, homegrown controversies surrounding classics like “The Catcher in the Rye” (Salinger) and “Naked Lunch” (Boroughs) or the infamous Nazi book burnings of the ’30s, it’s easy to believe that such censorship has been retired by democratic countries.
But, believing it doesn’t really make it true.
Every year, the American Library Association tracks the challenges to library, school, and university materials and the books banned or burned as a result. Without collective hindsight, contemporary censorship simply slips into obscurity.
In 2018, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom documented 483 books challenged or banned in 2018. However, since the ALA’s database is built by media coverage and individual reports, it’s not exhaustive; there could be many more challenges that go unreported.
The reasons for banning books don’t really change. Typically with the best intentions (ie of protecting others), censorship can feel sticky and circumstantial. But the ALA seems to agree with what John Stuart Mill wrote in “On Liberty” that censorship is a means for “…robbing the human race. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.“ Regardless, every citizen has their own opinion on intellectual freedom — and these book lists help foster the vital conversation.
From September 22-28, 2019, the ALA also host its annual Banned Books Week in libraries and bookstores across the nation. Founded in the 1980s alongside increased organized protests and momentous Supreme Court cases (Island Trees School District v. Pico), it seeks to bring together the entire book community, from teachers to publishers, to raise awareness of censorship. Below, you can take a walk through a handful of the contemporary books most frequently restricted in the last year.
Below are 10 of 2018’s most challenged and banned books, according to the ALA:
Book descriptions provided by Amazon and edited lightly for length.