Banned Books Week: The 10 Most Challenged Books of 2012

featured-bannedbookweek-smIt’s Banned Books Week, a time to celebrate the freedom to read. As readers, we are thankful to have access to lots of books. (Our warehouses in Indiana and Scotland have around 5 million between them!) The American Library Association keeps an eye on books that are challenged in the U.S. for removal from a school curricula or a library, or even banned. Here are their top 10 books that have been challenged or banned in the US in 2012—you might be surprised at what titles made the list!


1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.

cpt_underpantsReasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group

2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.

The-Absolutely-True-Diary-of-a-Part-Time-Indian-9780316013697Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.

Thirteen-Reasons-Why-Asher-Jay-9780141328294Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group


4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.

Fifty-Shades-of-Grey-James-E-L-9780345803481Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit


5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.

And-Tango-Makes-Three-9780689878459Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group


6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.

The-Kite-Runner-Hosseini-Khaled-9781594480003Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit


7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.

Looking-for-Alaska-Green-John-9780525475064Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group


8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz.

Scary-Stories-to-Tell-in-the-Dark-Rpkg-9780060835200Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence


9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls

The-Glass-Castle-9780743247535Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit


10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison

Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence


Have you read any of these banned & challenged books? Let us know in the comments.


  1. I’ve read a few of these books. It surprises me that some of them are on this list. I think they tackle issues that should be discussed openly within the mentioned age groups. They are a means of creating discussion and providing much needed information. Education is key to prevention and hiding issues is not going to help. The books that I have read on this list are books that I’ve rated four or five stars.

  2. Depends on the age-group and whether they were curriculum or not, neither of which this article states. I would not want my students being forced to read some of these. Freedom to read should also include freedom not to read.

  3. Ross Mitchell says:

    The Pilkey books are quirky but fine. My boys read them, though I don’t think they were big fans. The Alexie book is very good, and I don’t agree that it is something to keep away from its target audience. I was happy to let my sons read it, if they wished (not sure if either got around to reading it, but then recommendations from Dad aren’t always seen as ringing endorsements).

  4. I love Toni Morrison. I read Song of Soloman in high school with much difficulty. I read Beloved three times trying to understand it well enough to write about it in an upper-division college literature course as an English major. I don’t think it’s inappropriate material — high school students need to tackle the grief and violence associated with slavery — but I suspect it would be very difficult for even advanced high school students. My hat is off to the literature teachers that tackle it with that age group.

  5. Have read several of them. my first reaction to “13 Reasons Why” was that middle schoolers and High schoolers should read it and understand the effect their actions have on others.

  6. 50 Shades I agree with – just because it’s the worst piece of ‘writing’ I have ever had the misfortune to read in my life! Apart from that, I’m not a huge believer in censorship 🙂

  7. i wrote a psychics party, banned by the baptist church, very popular in south africa. a must have,
    and gift product, soon to be a motion picture. great subject, biographical.

  8. “Beloved” is one of the great novels of the 20th century. The beautiful language and story express the tremendous suffering and dehumanization brought about by slavery. In addition, the novel broke new ground in literature by focusing on the language of the body. Depriving high school students of the opportunity to read and understand this great book hurts them.

  9. I have only read 50 Shades of Grey. I got to the 2nd book and gave up, as there was not enough content to the story for me personally. I must admit that I was drawn to them purely out of curiosity, due to the seeming onslaught of hysteria from certain people around me who had read them at the time!! Definitely not my kind of reading material, as I prefer a good crime thriller! Saying that, it is one of our most fundamental rights of freedom to read exactly what we want, so everyone to their own and happy reading!!

  10. Two of the books listed: Kite Runner & Glass Castle are on my list of favorites.
    I am shocked to learn about books being banned. in this century. The only acceptable banning of a book would be don’t read ,purchase, or allow your children to read a book you find offensive. Reading has educated me just as much as any school.

  11. The ALA just hypes “Banned Book Week” for its own purposes, as if a book today could be “banned.” If I object to my tax dollars going to pay for the public library’s copy of “50 Shades,” is that banning it? If an English teacher decides to teach Hamlet and Macbeth, has she banned King Lear and the Tempest?

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