The 13 Most Challenged Library Books of 2022 Point to an Alarming Trend in Censorship

Book challenges are on the rise.
Book challenges are on the rise. / erhui1979/DigitalVision Vectors via Getty Images

Each year, the American Library Association (ALA) releases their list of the book titles that are most frequently under attack by patrons who object to their content. While not all lead to outright book bans, the list is a snapshot of the censorship issues facing libraries.

According to the ALA, 2022 has seen a sharp uptick in the number of requests to ban books: 1249, or virtually double the 729 challenges recorded in 2021. It’s also the highest number of challenges the ALA has seen in two decades.

The titles that had people concerned in 2022:

  1. Gender Queer: A Memoir // Maia Kobabe (2019)
  2. All Boys Aren't Blue // George M. Johnson (2020)
  3. The Bluest Eye // Toni Morrison (1970)
  4. Flamer // Mike Curato (2020)
  5. Looking for Alaska // John Green (2005) (Tie)
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower // Stephen Chbosky (1999) (Tie)
  7. Lawn Boy // Jonathan Evison (2018)
  8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian // Sherman Alexie (2007)
  9. Out of Darkness // Ashley Hope Pérez (2015)
  10. A Court of Mist and Fury // Sarah J. Maas (2016) (Tie)
  11. Crank // Ellen Hopkins (2004) (Tie)
  12. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl // Jesse Andrews (2012) (Tie)
  13. This Book Is Gay // Juno Dawson (2014) (Tie)

Virtually all of the titles were criticized for sexual content; seven had people objecting to their LGBTQIA+ characters. Others, like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, are perennially challenged. (In the case of Chbosky’s coming-of-age novel, “sexual content, and glorification of alcohol use and drugs” are the usual complaints.)

In an overview [PDF] of their data, the organization states that roughly 30 percent of disputes originate with parents, while another third come from other library patrons. Political and religious groups make up 17 percent, and 15 percent come from school boards. Both public and school libraries are affected.

The ALA also found that 90 percent of challenges were directed at more than one title—that is, one complainant usually took issue with two or more books.

Several states, including Arizona, Texas, and Missouri, have considered or passed laws banning books, though surveys by the ALA and others indicate that most respondents aren't actually in favor of restricting access to books.