Banned Books 2023

Books being banned and challenged is on the rise. You'll see titles new and familiar on this list of the top banned books in 2023.

The American Library Association (ALA) documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago. The unparalleled number of reported book challenges in 2022 nearly doubles the 729 book challenges reported in 2021.

In 2022, there were 45 challenges on more than 30 books in Massachusetts, according to The American Library Association. Most of these books centered on LGBT issues and minority groups. For years, book challenges in the Bay State were so rare that the Massachusetts School Library Association relied on national data rather than collecting its own.

Many of the challenges have nothing to do with teen books with explicit sex but may be any book by or about LGBTQ+, Black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native people, or about sex education. Worse, librarians are being harassed and threatened, including a bomb threat made against Boston Public Library during Banned Books Week last year.

When we ban books, we’re closing off readers to people, places, and perspectives. But when we stand up for stories, we unleash the power that lies inside every book. We liberate the array of voices that need to be heard and the scenes that need to be seen. Let freedom read!

Digital book (DB, DBC), braille (BR), and large print (LT) copies of these titles are available from the Perkins Library or the Worcester Talking Book Library. Please contact the library to order any of these books.

Prepared by Vicki Vogt

Registration Services Manager

Perkins Library

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

by Sherman Alexie

DB 65403, BR 21549, Available as BARD Download

Spokane Indian Reservation. Fourteen-year-old Junior–beset with physical problems caused by brain damage–transfers to an all-white town school. Called a traitor by his best friend and Tonto by his new classmates, Junior uses humor and wit to bridge the cultural divide. Some strong language. For junior and senior high readers. 2007.

Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author.

Download The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, DB 65403

Download The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, BR 21549

All Boys Aren’t Blue

by George M. Johnson

DB 99758, DB 107445 (Spanish), BR 24033, Available as BARD Download

In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIAP+ activist George M. Johnson explores his youth, and ties together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys. Violence, strong language, and some explicit descriptions of sex. Commercial audiobook. For senior high and older readers. 2020.

Banned because it includes LGBTQIA+ content and profanity; it is also “considered to be sexually explicit.” In 2021, the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom named it the third most banned and challenged book in the United States of the year.

Download All Boys Aren’t Blue, DB 99758

Download Spanish, All Boys Aren’t Blue, DB 107445

Download Braille, All Boys Aren’t Blue, BR 24033

The Bluest Eye

by Toni Morrison

DB 49914, BR 12618, available as BARD Download

1941. Eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove–poor, ugly, and black–desperately wants blue eyes, which she thinks would solve all her problems. But instead she is subjected to rejection, violence, and an unwanted pregnancy. Slowly, she begins to descend into madness. Strong language and some explicit descriptions of sex. Bestseller. 1970.

Banned and challenged because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit.

Download The Bluest Eye, DB 14892

Download Braille, The Bluest Eye, BR 12618

The Catcher in the Rye

by J.D. Salinger

DB 47480, BR 22463, LT 27410, Available as BARD Download

As Christmas vacation begins, Holden Caulfield recounts his feelings and reactions to flunking out of Pencey, his third prep school. Instead of heading straight home, he wanders around New York City. This account of his adventures conveys his dismay at the adult world. Strong language. For senior high and older readers. 1945.

Since its publication, this title has been a favorite target of censors. Banned for excess vulgar language, sexual scenes, things concerning moral issues, excessive violence and anything dealing with the occult” and “communism,” among other things.

Download The Catcher in the Rye, DB 47480

Download Braille, The Catcher in the Rye, BR 22463

Charlotte’s Web

by E.B. White

DB 97716, DB 61063 (Spanish), BR 17770, JL 90, Available as BARD Download

Fern, a young girl with a unique understanding of animals, shares a special friendship with her uncle’s pig and Charlotte, a wise spider who weaves encouraging words in her web. Read by Meryl Streep and a full cast. With an appreciation written by Melissa Sweet. Commercial audiobook. For grades 3-6. 1952.

Banned due to themes of death and the fact that the main characters are talking animals.

Download Charlotte’s Web, DB 97716

Download Braille, Charlotte’s Web, BR 17770

Download Spanish, Charlotte’s Web, DB 61062


by Ellen Hopkins

DBC 16308, Available as BARD Download

Kristina Snow is the perfect daughter, but she meets a boy who introduces her to drugs and becomes a very different person, struggling to control her life and her mind. Some descriptions of sex, some strong language, and some violence. For high school and adult. 2004.

The book has frequently been banned and challenged in the United States because of drugs, offensive language, and being sexually explicit.

Download Crank, DBC 16308

Diary of A Young Girl

by Anne Frank

DB 40424, DB 57022, DB 68986 (Spanish), DBF 158 (German), DBG 12633 (French), DB 106088 (Mandarin), BR 15076, BR 22588, LT 26169, Available as BARD Download

In a remarkable account begun on her thirteenth birthday in 1942, a Jewish girl in German-occupied Amsterdam records her hopes, fears, and growing pains during two years of close confinement with her family hiding from the Nazis in a secret apartment. Original version edited by her father. For grades 6-9 and older readers. 1947.

Banned, mostly in regard to passages that were considered “sexually offensive,” as well as for the tragic nature of the book, which some felt might be “depressing” for young readers. The passages in question regarded Anne describing her anatomy, sexual feelings, and homosexual descriptions of her friend.

Download Diary of A Young Girl, DB 57022

Download Spanish, Diary of A Young Girl, DB 68986

Download German, Diary of A Young Girl, DBF 158

Download French, Diary of A Young Girl, DBG 12633

Download Mandarin, Diary of A Young Girl, DB 106088

Download Braille, Diary of A Young Girl, BR 22588

The Glass Castle: A Memoir

by Jeannette Walls

DB 61540, Available as BARD Download

Reporter for looks back on her unsettled life. Describes growing up in a dysfunctional family, which was always on the move. She recalls her father’s dream of building a “glass castle,” and relates how she and her siblings escaped to make lives of their own. Strong language. 2005.

Banned due to strong sexual situations, alcoholism, and abuse—both physical and sexual.

Download The Glass Castle: A Memoir, DB 61540

Gone with the Wind

by Margaret Mitchell

DB 33082, DB 113051 (Mandarin), BR 11427, LT 6575, DVD 497, Available as BARD Download

A romantic Civil War epic in which Scarlet O’Hara, a forceful and ruthless heroine, and Rhett Butler, a war profiteer, play out their tempestuous love affair against the background of the war-torn South. Pulitzer Prize. 1937.

Banned for its portrayal of slavery, racism, and the glorification of the antebellum South. The book has been criticized for romanticizing the Civil War and depicting Black characters as subservient to white characters.

Download Gone With the Wind, DB 33082

Download Mandarin, Gone With the Wind, DB 113051

Download Braille, Gone With the Wind, BR 11427

Grapes of Wrath

by John Steinbeck

DB 68308, DB 54967 (Spanish), BR 22585, LT 8772, Available as BARD Download

Steinbeck’s classic tale of the Joads, who, like many other families during the Great Depression, are driven from their homestead by drought, economic hardship, and the encroachment of large agricultural interests. They leave Oklahoma in search of a better life in California but meet with hardship and injustice. Pulitzer Prize. 1939.

Banned as viewed as communist propaganda, and many farmers and agricultural groups were irate that it fomented anger about their labor practices.

Download Grapes of Wrath, DB 68308

Download Spanish, Grapes of Wrath, DB 54967

Download Braille, Grapes of Wrath, BR 22585

The Handmaid’s Tale

by Margaret Atwood

DB 24695, DB 90213 (Spanish), BR 11911, LT 22026, Available as BARD Download

Set in the future, the United States of America is now the Republic of Gilead, a fundamentalist Christian theocracy that arose after fanatics shot the president, machine-gunned the Congress and forced the army to declare a state of emergency. To reverse the declining birthrate, women are forcibly recruited into the ranks of Handmaids and are assigned to the Commanders of the Faithful, whose wives are barren. Some strong language and explicit descriptions of sex. Bestseller. 1986.

Banned and challenged for profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones.

Download The Handmaid’s Tale, DB 24695

Download Spanish, The Handmaid’s Tale, DB 90213

Download Braille, The Handmaid’s Tale, BR 11911

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

by J. K. Rowling

DB 92229, BR 17774, LT 24874, DVD 544, Available as BARD Download

On Harry Potter’s eleventh birthday, he learns that he is more than an unwanted orphan. The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry recruits him because he has inherent magical abilities. As he purchases his school supplies–robes, wand, and messenger owl–Harry looks forward to attending his new boarding school. Commercial audiobook. For grades 4-7. 1997.

Harry Potter books are now the most challenged books of the entire 21 st century. Banned for containing witchcraft, the occult, and anti-family themes.

Download Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, DB 92229

Download Braille, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, BR 17774

The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas

DB 101117, BR 21874, LT 22408, Available as BARD Download

When sixteen-year-old Starr Carter witnesses the fatal shooting by a police officer of her childhood best friend, Khalil, she is afraid to speak out. But remaining quiet and safe is difficult with rising tensions between the police and the community. Violence and strong language. Commercial audiobook. For senior high and older readers. 2017.

Banned for profanity and violence and was accused of promoting an anti-police agenda.

Download The Hate U Give, DB 101117

Download Braille, The Hate U Give, BR 21874

The Hill We Climb

by Amanda Gorman

DB 102763, DB 105083 (Spanish), Available as BARD Download

National Youth Poet Laureate delivers an empowering and hopeful poem for the nation. Originally read on January, 20, 2021 at the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden. Foreword by Oprah Winfrey. For senior high and older readers. 2021.

Banned because the poem, among other works, “included references to critical race theory, ‘indirect hate messages,’ gender ideology and indoctrination,”

Download The Hill We Climb, DB 102763

Download Spanish, The Hill We Climb, DB 105083

How To Be An Antiracist

by Ibram X. Kendi

DB 96351, DB 101422 (Spanish), BR 22897, Available as BARD Download

Award-winning author theorizes what an antiracist society might look like and how individuals can play a role in building it. Discusses the roles of ethics, history, law, and science in racial justice. Bestseller. 2019.

Challenged and banned for vulgar language and discussions of race.

Download How to Be An Antiracist, DB 96351

Download Spanish, How to Be An Antiracist, DB 101422

Download Braille, How to Be An Antiracist, BR 22897

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

DB103271, BR 15665, LT 28515, Available as BARD Download

Memoir by well-known African American poet and college professor Maya Angelou (1928-2014). Describes her childhood and adolescent years in rural Arkansas, St. Louis, and San Francisco, and the racial and gender indignities she endured. Digital restoration of Angelou’s original 1970 analog recording for the American Foundation for the Blind. Some violence, some strong language, and some descriptions of sex. 1969.

Banned for language and being too explicit in the book’s portrayal of rape and other sexual abuse.

Download I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, DB103271

Download Braille, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, BR 15665

The Kite Runner

by Khaled Hosseini

DB 57457, DB 67986 (Spanish), BR 15785, Available as BARD Download

An Afghan in California recalls a fateful 1975 day in Kabul that seared his soul at age twelve–the day he won a kite tournament and abandoned a younger companion to rape. That cowardice keeps haunting him during exile in America until the opportunity for atonement arises–back in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Violence and some strong language. 2003.

Banned for its sexually explicit content, offensive language, and age inappropriateness.

Download The Kite Runner, DB 57457

Download Spanish, The Kite Runner, DB 67986

Download Braille, The Kite Runner, BR 15785

Lawn Boy

by Jonathan Evison

DB 91320, LT 25488, Available as BARD Download

Recently fired from his job as a lawn boy, Mike Munoz enjoys landscaping but can’t seem to get his piece of the American dream. Out of money, with a broken-down truck and family troubles, Mike heads to the library for inspiration. 2018.

Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.

Download Lawn Boy, DB 91320

Leaves of Grass

by Walt Whitman

DB 73834, BR 14662, Available as BARD Download

A classic work of poetry by Whitman, who, born in New York in 1819, was a teacher, editor, war correspondent, and government clerk. The poems included in “Leaves of Grass” present a broad view of Whitman as philosopher, propagandist, humorist, and poet. “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” a tribute to Abraham Lincoln, describes the grief of those watching the passing of the train bearing the president’s body. 1892.

Banned as deemed “obscene,” “too sensual,” and “shocking” because of its frank portrayal of sexuality and its obvious homoerotic overtones.

Download Leaves of Grass, DB 73834

Download Braille, Leaves of Grass, BR 14662

Looking for Alaska

by John Green

DB 61873, LT 18473, Available as BARD Download

Entering boarding school in Alabama, sixteen-year-old Miles “Pudge” Halter encounters new experiences: challenging classes, extreme pranks, and Alaska Young, a moody, sexy girl whose death in a car crash might be a suicide. Some explicit descriptions of sex and some strong language. For senior high readers. Printz Award. 2005.

Banned for offensive language, sexually explicit scenes, homosexuality and unsuitable religious viewpoints.

Download Looking for Alaska, DB 61873

The Lovely Bones

by Alice Sebold

DB 54698, BR 14806, Available as BARD Download

Susie Salmon, a fourteen-year-old girl murdered by a neighbor, watches over her family and friends from heaven. While adjusting to a new habitat, she reaches out to them as she observes their struggle to survive their grief. Some descriptions of sex, some violence, and some strong language. Bestseller. 2002.

Banned due to sexual content and language.

Download The Lovely Bones, DB 54698

Download Braille, The Lovely Bones, BR 14806

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

by Jesse Andrews

DBC 8134, Available as BARD Download

Seventeen-year-old Greg is fascinated with film-making. During his senior year at a Pittsburgh high school, he reunites with Rachel who has leukemia. Greg and his friend Earl work on cheering her up through film and, in the process, learn what it’s like to be a true friend. Bestseller. Contains some explicit descriptions of sex and some strong language. 2012.

This book was banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and degrading to women.

Download Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, DBC 8134

Nickel and Dimed

by Barbara Ehrenreich

DB 52291, Available as BARD Download

Inspired by welfare reforms, Barbara Ehrenreich was an undercover journalist working as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk (in succession) and trying to make ends meet. She explores surviving on less than $8 per hour as an “unskilled” worker. Concludes that low-paying jobs without supportive public services are a disgrace to the United States. Some strong language. Bestseller. 2001.

Banned and challenged for drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint.

Download Nickel and Dimed, DB 52291

Of Mice and Men

by John Steinbeck

DB 48515, BR 8851, Available as BARD Download

A tale of the far-reaching bonds of friendship between two itinerant ranch workers: George, the more levelheaded, and Lennie, more dependent. Their dream of owning a small farm is doomed by Lennie’s unintentional overuse of his physical strength and George’s honorable attempt to resolve the problem it causes. Some strong language. 1937.

Amongst the most banned and challenged books of the last few decades. Banned for “profanity,” “morbid and depressing themes,” and the author’s alleged “anti-business attitude.” Others have called it “derogatory towards African Americans, women, and the developmentally disabled.”

Download of Mice and Men, DB 48515

Download Braille, Of Mice and Men, BR 8851

Out of Darkness

by Ashley Hope Pérez

DB 84432, BR 24728, Available as BARD Download

New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them. They know the people who enforce them. But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive. Some violence, some strong language and some descriptions of sex. For senior high and older readers. 2015.

Banned as viewed as patently offensive in the description or depiction of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, sadomasochistic abuse, or excretion”

Download Out of Darkness, DB 84432

Download Braille, Out of Darkness, BR 24728

The Poet X

by Elizabeth Acevedo

DB 92221, BR 22420, LT 26405, Available as BARD Download

A novel in verse. Frustrated by her Mami’s religious aspirations for her, Xiomara copes by writing poetry. When her school starts a poetry club, Xiomara looks for a way to participate in this forbidden activity. Strong language and descriptions of sex. Commercial audiobook. For senior high and older readers. 2018.

Banned because of its themes of sexuality and struggling in a religious household.

Download The Poet X, DB 92221

Download Braille, The Poet X, BR 22420

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

DB 77672, DB 72989 (Spanish), BR 12850, LT 7229, DVD 149, Available as BARD Download

Six-year-old Scout and her brother Jem are intrigued by their reclusive neighbor. Meanwhile, their father Atticus, an attorney, defends a black man charged with raping a white woman in their small Alabama town. Some violence and some strong language. Pulitzer Prize. For junior and senior high and older readers. 1960.

Banned for language and racial depictions.

Download To Kill a Mockingbird, DB 77672

Download Spanish, To Kill a Mockingbird, DB 72989

Download Braille, To Kill a Mockingbird, BR 9237

Water for Elephants

by Sara Gruen

DB 62718, DB 65994 (Spanish), BR 21404, Available as BARD Download

1931. Veterinary student Jacob Jankowski’s world comes crashing down when his parents die in a car accident. Broke, Jacob joins the circus, falls for Marlena, a married circus star, and cares for animals like Rosie the elephant. Strong language, some descriptions of sex, and some violence. Bestseller. 2006.

Banned for its sexual content, violence, extensive use of swear words.

Download Water for Elephants, DB 62718

Download Spanish, Water for Elephants, DB 65994

Download Braille, Water for Elephants, BR 21404

A Wrinkle in Time

by Madeleine L’Engle

DB 48972, DB 87984 (Spanish), BR 9407, JL 125, DVD 1675, Available as BARD Download

Meg Murry, her younger brother Charles Wallace, and her neighbor Calvin are transported to the planet Camazotz as they search for Meg’s lost father, a scientist studying time travel. Prequel to A Wind in the Door (RC 41596, BR 7884). Newbery Medal. For grades 5-8. 1962.

Banned for various reasons such as for being too Christian and then also, for not being Christian enough. The book’s “New Age” content was constantly critiqued.

Download A Wrinkle in Time, DB 48972

Download Spanish, A Wrinkle in Time, DB 87984

Download Braille, A Wrinkle in Time, BR09403

Collage of the first 5 book covers from the list

BookTok: A Collection of Recommended Books 

Read more

Journalists and Journalism: A Collection of Recommended Books 

Read more

Black Love

Read more