ALA Lists the Top 10 Most Challenged Books in 2019

During National Library Week, April 19 – 25, the American Library Association (ALA) released its 2020 State of America’s Libraries report.

The report found that the popularity of libraries in 2019 continues to soar. According to a recent Gallup poll, visiting the library is the “most common cultural activity Americans engage in by far.” In 2019, US adults reported taking an average of 10.5 trips per year to the library, a frequency that exceeded their participation in other common leisure activities like going to the movies, a museum or the zoo.

Additional report findings illustrate a 17% increase in the number of books targeted for removal or restriction fueling library staff efforts to protect the freedom to read. Hundreds of attempts from the public to remove or restrict materials, cancel programs, and dismantle displays and exhibits took place in public, school and academic libraries. The majority of library materials and services targeted for removal included or addressed LGBTQIA+ content.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 377 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2019. Overall, 566 books were targeted.

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.  Most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.

Here are the “Top 10 Most Challenged Books in 2019,” along with the reasons cited for censoring the books:

1. “George,” by Alex Gino

Reasons: to avoid controversy; for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and “traditional family structure”

2. “Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out,” by Susan Kuklin

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, for “its effect on any young people who would read it,” and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased

3. “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo,” by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is “designed to pollute the morals of its readers,” and for not including a content warning

4. “Sex is a Funny Word,” by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content; for discussing gender identity and sex education; and for concerns that the title and illustrations were “inappropriate”

5. “Prince & Knight,” by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis

Reasons: featuring a gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ content; for being “a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children” with the potential to cause confusion, curiosity, and gender dysphoria; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint.

6. “I Am Jazz,” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged”

7. “The Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood

Reasons: profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones”

8. “Drama,” written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against “family values/morals”

9. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

Reasons: referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals

10. “And Tango Makes Three,” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole

Reason: LGBTQIA+ content

Other library trends are available in the full text of the State of America’s Libraries 2020 report, available at here.

[Based on a press release.]

5 thoughts on “ALA Lists the Top 10 Most Challenged Books in 2019

  1. (9) No actual curses and spells (that I would notice), but there’s a lot of really bad fake Latin.

  2. As a former Wiccan, I noticed only one occult concept in all the Harry Potter novels and that was essentially as above so below. Well, the Bible has that one.

    As for the rest, the critics seem to be obsessed with sex and gender.

  3. ‘because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”’

    That is one of the most egregious sentences I have ever read.

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