The American Library Association kicked off National Library Week with the release of its State of America's Libraries 2023 report, which includes its annual list of the top 10 most challenged books. And with book bans and legislative challenges to the freedom to read surging to record levels, even the top 10 most banned books list is bigger: In 2022, there were multiple books that received the same number of challenges, ALA officials said, resulting in the expansion of the list to 13 titles.
“By releasing the list of Top 10 Most Challenged Books each year, ALA recognizes all of the brave authors whose work challenges readers with stories that disrupt the status quo and offer fresh perspectives on tough issues," said ALA president Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada, in a statement. "The list also illustrates how frequently stories by or about LGBTQ+ persons, people of color, and lived experiences are being targeted by censors. Closing our eyes to the reality portrayed in these stories will not make life’s challenges disappear. Books give us courage and help us understand each other. It's time to take action on behalf of authors, library staff, and the communities they serve. ALA calls on readers everywhere to show your commitment to the freedom to read by doing something to protect it.”
The top 10 list comes as ALA hosts the first ever National Right to Read Day on April 24 as part of National Library Week, billed as "a day for readers, advocates, and library lovers to take action to protect, defend, and celebrate the right to read." It also comes amid a worrisome, worsening trajectory for book bans: in March, ALA reported that for a second year in a row the number of books targeted for censorship nearly doubled from the previous year.
In 2022, ALA officials said libraries in every state faced another year of unprecedented attempts to ban books, with the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracking 2,571 unique titles targeted for censorship, a 38% increase from the 1,858 unique titles targeted in 2021.
Once again, the vast majority of works challenged were written by or about members of the LGBTQ community and people of color. By comparison, ALA tracked some 377 challenges in 2019, the year before the pandemic shuttered libraries and schools. And of the challenges tracked, 90% were part of attempts to censor multiple titles. Prior to 2021, most challenges to library resources sought to remove or restrict access to a single book.
ALA’s Top 13 Most Challenged Books of 2022:
1. Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, for LGBTQIA+ content, and claims that it is sexually explicit.
2. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, for LGBTQIA+ content and claims that it sexually explicit.
3. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, for depictions of sexual abuse and EDI content.
4. Flamer by Mike Curato, for LGBTQIA+ content, claims that it is sexually explicit.
4. Looking for Alaska, by John Green, for claims that it is sexually explicit and LGBTQIA+ content.
5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, for claims it is sexually explicit, LGBTQIA+ content, depiction of sexual abuse, drugs, profanity.
7. Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, for LGBTQIA+ content, claims it is sexually explicit.
8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, for claims it is sexually explicit, profanity.
9. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez, for claims it is sexually explicit
10. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas, for claims it is sexually explicit.
10. Crank by Ellen Hopkins, for claims it is sexually explicit, drugs.
10. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, for claims it is sexually explicit, profanity.
10. This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson, for LGBTQIA+ content, sex education, and claims that it is sexually explicit.
National Library Week runs through April 29. In addition to today's National Right to Read Day, other events planned for this week include Tuesday's National Library Workers Day, "a day for library staff, users, administrators, and Friends groups to recognize the valuable contributions made by all library workers." Wednesday, April 26 is National Library Outreach Day (formerly National Bookmobile Day), "a day to celebrate library outreach and the dedicated library professionals who are meeting their patrons where they are." and Thursday, April 27 is Take Action for Libraries Day, "a day to rally advocates to support libraries."