Banned Books: What’s the No. 1 banned book in the last 10 years?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Banned Books
The American Library Association Banned Books Week

Want to find out more about the American Library Association’s plans to promote Banned Books Week this year? Click this ALA image to visit the group’s resource page for this year’s campaign.

Librarians nationwide already are getting ready for this year’s Banned Book Week—but are you ready? Can you identify the books that draw the most fire nationwide?

Recently, The Kite Runner and Chinese Handcuffs were on the educational chopping block at the public high school in Waukesha, Wisconsin, put there by a parent who objected to the “extreme violence” they depict. Just a few days ago, the Waukesha school committee rejected the parent’s challenge, keeping the books on the high-school reading list. But this is just the most recent challenge.

Do you know what book holds the top spot for the most frequently challenged and banned book? I’ll give you five choices. All of them made the Top 10 list of most frequently challenged books in the last decade. Can you spot No. 1?

  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green

Data on these and other challenged books are complied by the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association. (See the complete lists here.)

The most frequently challenged book—and the most banned—is the 4th one on my list of five books: Captain Underpants. It topped the list in 2012 and 2013. If you are not familiar with this series (it sold 70 million copies worldwide), here’s a brief synopsis from Wikipedia:

Captain Underpants is a children’s novel series by American author and illustrator Dav Pilkey. The series revolves around two fourth graders, George Beard and Harold Hutchins living in Piqua, Ohio—and Captain Underpants, an aptly named superhero from one of the boys’ homemade comic books, that accidentally becomes real when George and Harold hypnotize their megalomaniacal principal, Mr. Krupp.

The book was challenged (and banned) in many schools and libraries because it was considered insensitive, not appropriate for the age group, and it condoned (and even encourage) kids to disobey people in authority.

What do you think of the recent attempts to ban The Kite Runner and Chinese Handcuffs?

Are you surprised to learn that Captain Underpants is the #1 most banned book?

Are any books challenged or banned in your school district?

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Series Navigation<< Banned Books: Should we burn ‘demonic’ books? Or, ‘obscene’ books?Banned Books: Is U.S. surveillance leading to self censorship? >>


  1. Stephanie says

    I find grave disappointment in the attempts to ban The Kite Runner. The Kite Runner will always be one of my favorite books: the descriptions of time and place, the scenery, the relationships—they all made the war-torn areas of the Middle East come to life.
    How better can we understand and relate to those who seem so different from us, than by feeling their raw emotions and realizing that they are no so different from us, after all? It is certain that a book can deliver this experience on a completely new level,far different from any fact-filled newspaper article.
    True, there is violence in this novel, but how can one depict a war-torn country without including that aspect of the reality? Middle school students might be too young for the exposure to this violence, but high school students are of a different maturity. Most adolescents turn 17 in high school, and if our young people are permitted to enter the military at this age (with parental consent), why are they too young to better understand the reality of war—and the way that it profoundly impacts the innocent bystanders in the midst of it?

  2. Debra Darvick says

    Banning Captain Underpants? Makes the book banners look even more ridiculous than they already do
    for banning The Bluest Eye, The Kite Runner et al.