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What were the most challenged books of 2019? (report and infographic)

Where did 2019 book challenges take place?

Last year, the Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 377 challenges to library, school, and university materials. Here are the top 10 most challenged books.

On April 20, 2020, a list of most challenged books of 2019 was published in the State of America’s Libraries report.

The detailed list is compiled every year since 2001 by the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), a special section of the American Library Association dedicated to educate the general public about the nature and importance of intellectual freedom in libraries.

OIF reports that in total 566 books were targeted in 2019, and the office tracked 377 challenges regarding library, school, and university materials.

The most challenged book of 2019 is Alex Gino’s George. For the second time the in a row this book tops the list. It tells the story of a young transgender girl Melissa who is “unable to be herself to the rest of the world.”

Alex Gino - George - the most challenged book of 2019
George by Alex Gino is the most challenged book of 2019

Alex Gino’s book was challenged for sexual references, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion.”

Below, you will find detailed visuals that put together the most important facts about book challenges in 2019. Click or tap the visuals to see them in full resolution.

The Harry Potter series was challenged four times since 2001, and the reasons to ban were: referring to magic and witchcraft, containing actual curses and spells, characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals.

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel originally published in 1985, appeared on the list of challenged books for the first time, and takes the 7th place. The reasons to ban or challenge were profanity and “vulgarity and sexual overtones.”

Most challenges in 2019 took place in libraries – 66% in public and 19% in school libraries, followed by schools (12%) and academia (2%).

Who initiated book challenges in 2019

Who initiated the challenges in 2019? The largest group are library patrons – they account for 45% of cases. Parents initiated 18% of challenges, while 12% were started by political or religious groups.

Books were the most challenged material (56%), but not the only one. 22% of the challenged content were programs and meeting rooms, 9% displays, and 8% movies.

Make sure to visit the Top 10 Most Challenged Books list on ALA’s website for more information and shareable visuals.

Top 10 most challenged books of 2019 – infographic

Top 10 most challenged books of 2019 - full infographic

⇢ Download pdf

Top 10 most challenged books of 2019 – list

Alex Gino - George - the most challenged book of 2019

1. George by Alex Gino
Reasons: challenged, banned, restricted, and hidden 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: challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, for “its effect on any young people who would read it,” and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased.

3. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
Reasons: Challenged and vandalized for 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: Challenged, banned, and relocated for 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: Challenged and restricted for 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: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged.”

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

7. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones.”

8. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against “family values/morals.”

9. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
Reasons: Banned and forbidden from discussion for 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: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content.

Book censorship 2019 by the numbers – infographic

Book censorship by the numbers 2019 - full infographic

⇢ Download pdf

All visuals via American Library Association.

Make sure to check out other posts and infographics about libraries: