Skip to Main Content
  • Hampton: (757) 825-2877 | Historic Triangle: (757) 258-6500
  • Banned Books: What are Banned Books?

    What Are Banned Books?

    What are banned or challenged books, and why are some books identified as too controversial or obscene to read?

    According to the American Library Association, a banned book is a book that has been removed from the shelf of a library or school. A challenged books is a book that some people think should be removed, but hasn't been removed from the shelves of a library or school.

    The banning and challenging of books has, unfortunately, a long history throughout the world. It may surprise you that hundreds of books are challenged and banned each year in the United States alone. The American Library Association keeps statistics on those incidents which are forwarded to the ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom.

    Who challenges books the most in our country?

    Parents are by far the largest group to request a book removed from a school library or reading list, or from the shelves of a public library. For a breakdown of groups that challenge the rights of individuals to read books, see this chart from the American Library Association:

    Challenges by Initiator, Institution, Year, etc.

    Books can be challenged or banned for many reasons. Most reasons in this country include obscene language or sexual descriptions, offensive language, unsuitable for age level, homosexuality, racism, and religion. Reasons for other countries to ban books may include charges that the ideas of the book speak against the interests of the state (i.e. political).

    In the United States, your right to read what you want is protected by the First Amendment. In a free society, the author and reader are protected. Read more about this at:

    American Library Association Library Bill of Rights

    Below is a list of notable First Amendment Cases:

    Notable First Amendment Court Cases

    Here are other resources of interest on this topic:

    First Amendment Resources Compiled by the American Library Association

    Bill of Rights

    Southern Illinois University School of Law Library about Banned Books.

    First Amendment Center Banned Books.

    Banned Books Online


    Tweets by @BannedBooksWeek