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Reading & Literacy

These Were the Most Banned Books in 2022

By Eesha Pendharkar — April 24, 2023 2 min read
A pile of challenged books appear at the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City on Dec. 16, 2021. Attempted book bannings and restrictions at school and public libraries continue to surge, according to a new report from the American Library Association.
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All the most banned books of 2022, the year with the most book bans in two decades, were challenged for allegedly containing “sexually explicit” material, according to the American Library Association.

The library association, which tracks book challenges annually, recorded challenges to 2,571 unique titles, up from 1,858 that were challenged in 2021. These books ranged in genre from young adult fiction to memoirs, and from graphic novels to books about teen health.

Meanwhile, PEN America, a free speech advocacy organization that also tracks book bans, releases its data every six months.

The two organizations each release their own lists of the top banned books. PEN’s recently released list includes the most frequently banned books from July to December 2022, whereas ALA’s list is the most banned books for the entirety of 2022.

Based on recently released data tracking book bans and challenges from July to December 2022, PEN found book challenges increased by 28 percent in the last six months of 2022 compared to the first part of that year. ALA found a much bigger percentage change, from 729 challenges in 2021 to 1,269 in 2022, which is an increase in challenges of 74 percent from 2021 to 2022.

In 2022, a short list of books accounted for a large number of bans, similar to last year. For the second year in a row, Gender Queer: A Memoir, by Maia Kobabe remained the most banned book of the year, with 15 bans just in the last six months of 2022, according to PEN America. The graphic novel details the author’s experience of being nonbinary and asexual. It has been banned for LGBTQ+ content and claims that it’s sexually explicit, according to the ALA.

Some new books featuring LGBTQ+ stories and experiences also appear on the most banned books lists last year. Flamer, a semi-autobiographical graphic novel by Mike Curato, tied with Kobabe’s Gender Queer for the most banned book from July to December 2022, according to PEN America’s list. It tells the story of a boy who is bullied at camp for his appearance and for acting in a manner considered stereotypical of gay men. This Book is Gay, a book with firsthand accounts of growing up LGBTQ+, also made both lists.

A comparison of ALA and PEN’s most banned books reveals some frequently banned books in common, but several books that were banned often last school year aren’t on PEN America’s list for fall 2022, such as All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, which documents the author’s experiences growing up a queer Black man, and Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez, a novel about a teenage love affair between a Mexican-American girl and a Black boy in New London, Texas, leading up to the 1937 New London School explosion.

That’s because these books may have already been removed from school libraries, or librarians stopped ordering them based on the challenges last year or earlier this year, according to PEN America.

All Boys Aren’t Blue, for example, was banned in 29 districts in 2021, and last year the book was been banned in nine. Out of Darkness was banned in 24 districts in 2021, and in the fall of 2022, it was only challenged or banned seven times.

Here are the lists of banned books, according to each organization:

  • American Library Association's List (January to December 2022)

    1. Gender Queer: A Memoir, by Maia Kobabe
    2. All Boys Aren’t Blue, by George M Johnson
    3. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    4. Flamer, by Mike Curato
    5. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    5. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    7. Lawn Boy, by Jonathan Evison
    8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    9. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez
    10. A Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah J. Maas
    10. Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
    10. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews
    10. This Book is Gay, by Juno Dawson

    PEN America's List (July to December 2022)

    1. Gender Queer: A Memoir, by Maia Kobabe
    2. Flamer, by Mike Curato
    3. Tricks, by Ellen Hopkins
    4. The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel, by Margaret Atwood and Renee Nault
    5. Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
    6. Sold, by Patricia McCormick
    6. Push, by Sapphire
    6. A Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah J. Maas
    9. This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson
    10. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    10. Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur

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