10 books that were banned or challenged heavily around the US in 2018, according to the American Library Association

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2018 most banned books 4x3Alyssa Powell/Business Insider

  • Banning books can be a means of censorship.
  • The American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles a list of the top books that are most frequently challenged or banned each year.
  • Below, you'll find 10 of the most challenged books of 2018, along with the reasons they've been criticized.

Whether banning books calls to mind historical, homegrown controversies surrounding classics like "The Catcher in the Rye" (Salinger) and "Naked Lunch" (Boroughs) or the infamous Nazi book burnings of the '30s, it's easy to believe that such censorship has been retired by democratic countries.

But, believing it doesn't really make it true.

Every year, the American Library Association tracks the challenges to library, school, and university materials and the books banned or burned as a result. Without collective hindsight, contemporary censorship simply slips into obscurity.

In 2018, the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom documented 483 books challenged or banned in 2018. However, since the ALA's database is built by media coverage and individual reports, it's not exhaustive; there could be many more challenges that go unreported.

The reasons for banning books don't really change. Typically with the best intentions (ie of protecting others), censorship can feel sticky and circumstantial. But the ALA seems to agree with what John Stuart Mill wrote in "On Liberty" that censorship is a means for "...robbing the human race. 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." Regardless, every citizen has their own opinion on intellectual freedom - and these book lists help foster the vital conversation.

From September 22-28, 2019, the ALA also host its annual Banned Books Week in libraries and bookstores across the nation. Founded in the 1980s alongside increased organized protests and momentous Supreme Court cases (Island Trees School District v. Pico), it seeks to bring together the entire book community, from teachers to publishers, to raise awareness of censorship.

Below are 10 of 2018's most challenged and banned books, according to the ALA:

Book descriptions provided by Amazon and edited lightly for length.

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"The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas

"The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas
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What it's about: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: What really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does — or does not — say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Reasons, per ALA: The book was banned and challenged because it was deemed "anti-cop," and for profanity, drug use, and sexual references.

"George" by Alex Gino

"George" by Alex Gino
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What it's about: When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl.

George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be "Charlotte's Web". George really, really, really wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part ... because she's a "boy."

Reasons, per ALA: The book was challenged due to the belief that it would encourage children to change their bodies using hormones, and for mentioning "dirty magazines," describing male anatomy, "creating confusion," and including a transgender character. Also challenged for teaching kids how to clear their browser histories, as when George did so to hide her research on transgender identities.

"A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo" by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller

"A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo" by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
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What it's about: HBO's Emmy-winning Last Week Tonight with John Oliver presents a children's picture book about a Very Special boy bunny who falls in love with another boy bunny.

Meet Marlon Bundo, a lonely bunny who lives with his Grampa, Mike Pence — the Vice President of the United States. On this Very Special Day, Marlon's life is about to change forever ...

This book for kids explores issues of same-sex marriage and democracy. Sweet, funny, and beautifully illustrated, this better Bundo book is dedicated to every bunny who has ever felt different.

Reasons, per ALA: The book was banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ content, and for political and religious viewpoints.

"Captain Underpants" series written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey

"Captain Underpants" series written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey
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What it's about: Meet George and Harold, two fourth graders with big imaginations. The only thing they enjoy more than playing practical jokes is creating their own comic books about a superhero named Captain Underpants. But nothing can prepare them for what happens when their comic-book character comes to life.

Reasons, per ALA: The series was challenged because it was perceived as encouraging disruptive behavior, while "Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot" was challenged for including a same-sex couple.

"Drama" written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

"Drama" written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
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What it's about: Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school's production of Moon over Mississippi, she can't really sing. Instead, she's the set designer for the drama department's stage crew, and this year she's determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn't know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage and offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier.

Reasons, per ALA: The book was banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ characters and themes.

"Thirteen Reasons Why" by Jay Asher

"Thirteen Reasons Why" by Jay Asher
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What it's about:

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker — his classmate and crush — who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah's voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah's pain, and as he follows Hannah's recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

Reasons, per ALA: The book was banned, challenged, and restricted for addressing teen suicide.

If you are having thoughts of suicide and need to talk to someone confidentially, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) free anytime if you are in the United States.

"This One Summer" by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

"This One Summer" by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
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What it's about: Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It's their getaway, their refuge. Rosie's friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose's mom and dad won't stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. One of the local teens — just a couple of years older than Rose and Windy — is caught up in something bad ... Something life-threatening.

It's a summer of secrets, and sorrow, and growing up, and it's a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

Reasons, per ALA: The book was banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and certain illustrations.

"The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie

"The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie
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What it's about: Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school to attend an all-white, farm-town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian", which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

Reasons, per ALA: The book was banned and challenged for sexual references, profanity, violence, gambling, and underage drinking, and for its religious viewpoint.

"This Day in June" by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten

"This Day in June" by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten
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What it's about: In a wildly whimsical, validating, and exuberant reflection of the LGBTQ community, "This Day In June" welcomes readers to experience a pride celebration and share in a day when we are all united. Also included is a Reading Guide full of facts about LGBTQ history and culture, as well as a Note to Parents and Caregivers with information on how to talk to children about sexual orientation and gender identity in age-appropriate ways. This Day In June is an excellent tool for teaching respect, acceptance, and understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Reasons, per ALA: The book was challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content.

"Two Boys Kissing" by David Levithan

"Two Boys Kissing" by David Levithan
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What it's about: Based on true events — and narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS — "Two Boys Kissing" follows Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record. While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teens dealing with universal questions of love, identity, and belonging.

Reasons, per ALA: The book was challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content.

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