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Banned Books: Have you read one?

Banned Books WeekThe books on shelves in school and public libraries are continually under fire by parents, patrons and organizational administrators seeking to remove said “offensive” books and make them unavailable. Render them “censored.”

What gets targeted? Well, the usual and obvious suspects: J.D. Salinger, J.K. Rowling. John Steinbeck. Mark Twain. Robert Cormier. And writers such as Maya Angelou – someone out there wants her “Caged Bird” silenced forever. Even revered children’s authors including Maurice Sendak, Madeleine L’Engle and Judy Blume (whose penned scripted three of the top one hundred books).

“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind…

“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.”

On Liberty, John Stuart Mill

The Office for Intellectual Freedom tracks challenges to this literary aspect of our Civil Liberties, and while it currently updating totals from its 2000-2005 records, it offers some surprising and under-reported statistics for the ten year period that covered the 1990’s.

OIF recorded at least 6,364 challenges to shelved books available in America’s schools and libraries. The number of challenges and the number of reasons for those challenges do not match, because works are often challenged on more than one ground. Here’s a rundown of those objections:

  • 1,607 were challenges to “sexually explicit” material ;
  • 1,427 to material considered to use “offensive language”;
  • 1,256 to material considered “unsuited to age group”;
  • 842 to material with an “occult theme or promoting the occult or Satanism”;
  • 737 to material considered to be “violent”;
  • 515 to material with a homosexual theme or “promoting homosexuality”;
  • 419 to material “promoting a religious viewpoint.”

Other reasons for challenges included “nudity,” “racism,” “sex education” and “anti-family”. Seventy-one percent of the challenges were to material in schools or school libraries. Another twenty-four percent were to material in public libraries . Sixty percent of the challenges were brought by parents, fifteen percent by patrons, and nine percent by administrators.

One hundred titles are listed here (I’ve read 52), the top 100 books challenged in the decade from 1990-2000 as listed by the Office for Intellectual Freedom.

  1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  8. Forever by Judy Blume
  9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  15. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
  17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  19. Sex by Madonna
  20. Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
  21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
  27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
  29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
  30. The Goats by Brock Cole
  31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
  32. Blubber by Judy Blume
  33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
  34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
  35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
  36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
  37. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  40. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
  41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
  46. Deenie by Judy Blume
  47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
  49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
  50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
  51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
  54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
  55. Cujo by Stephen King
  56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
  58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
  60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  61. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
  62. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
  64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
  65. Fade by Robert Cormier
  66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
  67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
  69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  71. Native Son by Richard Wright
  72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
  73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
  74. Jack by A.M. Homes
  75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
  76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
  77. Carrie by Stephen King
  78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
  79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
  80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
  81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
  82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
  83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
  84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
  87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
  88. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
  89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
  90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
  91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
  93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
  94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
  95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
  97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
  98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
  100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Information and statistics courtesy of the Office for Intellectual Freedom

For more on banned books week see our special Banned Books Week Section



  1. Books, Beth and other Bits:
    Thoughts on books I read, TV I watch, and life in general.

    So, it’s fairly obvious from all of my posts thus far that I am a reader, right? Well, I found this article online today. It is the top 100 books challenged from 1990-2000.

    Their numbers on banned books are pretty interesting – at least 6,364 challenges to shelved books available in schools and libraries.

    Here’s the full list. I’m a little disappointed in myself – I’ve only read 26 of the 100! Makes me want to get crackin’ though.

  2. Mi Vida Loca

    Some of my favorite books were banned

    It is banned book week. I was surprised to see how many books I had read that were in the top 100 banned books. I think the freedom to read what we want is so important. It worries me that people don’t read as much as they used to. It worries me that people seem to take their freedoms for granted. I don’t understand the philosophy that I think this book is bad so no one else should read it. After looking through the list I just wonder why we are so uptight about sex.

    So read a banned book. Just read. Share a quick book review of a favorite book that was banned. One of my favorite books when I was in junior high was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. I think I will go back and read it again.

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