Banned books: The 10 most commonly challenged books in the US (and where to buy them)

According to the American Library Association, seven of the 10 most-challenged books in US libraries and schools in 2021 featured LGBTQ themes.

Terry Vine/Getty Images


In 2021, per a recently released count by the American Library Association, nearly 1,600 different books were challenged or banned across the country. The association defines a challenge as an “attempt to remove or restrict” a book, while banning is the outfight removal of a book from a library or school. Here’s the ALA’s list of 2021’s 10 most frequently challenged books — and where to buy them today on Amazon to judge for yourself.


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The ALA top 10 list of challenged books below is sourced from media reports and voluntary reports to the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. The non-profit organization notes that the vast majority of book challenges — between 82% and 97% — go unreported and get no media attention.

1. “Gender Queer: A Memoir”

Gender Queer: A Memoir

Oni Press via Amazon


Published in 2019, “Gender Queer: A Memoir” is author Maia Kobabe’s gender-identity journey in graphic-novel form. The American Library Association says it was banned, challenged and restricted in 2021 for its LGBTQ themes and images “considered to be sexually explicit.”

The Kindle version of “Gender Queer” is $13, but you can read it for free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. You can start a subscription with a 30-day free trial; it costs $9.99 a month after that. Prime membership is not required.

“Gender Queer: A Memoir” (paperback), $14

“Gender Queer: A Memoir” (Kindle), $13


2. “Lawn Boy”

lawn boy

Wheeler Publishing via Amazon


This 2018 novel by Jonathan Evison is about a young gay man who works in landscaping as a so-called “lawn boy.” In 2021, “Lawn Boy” and “Gender Queer” were removed from high-school libraries (though later returned) in Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools after complaints about the books’ depictions of sex.

On Amazon, you can get the audiobook of “Lawn Boy” free with a 30-day Audible Premium Plus trial, at savings of $15. The subscription costs $14.95 a month after the trial-period ends.

“Lawn Boy” (library binding), $25

“Lawn Boy” (Kindle), $9


3. “All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto”

All Boys Aren't Blue

Farrar, Straus and Giroux via Amazon


“All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto” is a writer/LGBTQ activist George M. Johnson’s young-adult memoir. It’s a series of essays about Johnson’s growing up Black and queer. Per the American Library Association, it was banned and challenged after complaints about its LGBTQ themes, and content “considered to be sexually explicit.”

On Amazon, its $20 audiobook is free with a 30-day free trial Audible Premium Plus subscription.

“All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto” (hardcover), $16

“All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto” (Kindle), $11


4. “Out of Darkness”

Out of Darkness

Carolrhoda Lab via Amazon


Author Ashley Hope PĂ©rez’s 2015 novel “Out of Darkness” is an interracial teen love story set against the deadly 1937 schoolhouse explosion in New London, Texas. The American Library Association says it was banned, challenged and restricted in 2021 for what critics called “depictions of abuse” and “sexually explicit” content.

On Amazon, its $32 audiobook is free with a 30-day trial Audible Premium Plus subscription.

“Out of Darkness” (Kindle), $9


5. “The Hate U Give”

The Hate U Give

Balzer + Bray via Amazon


Published in 2017 and made into the 2018 movie of the same name, “The Hate U Give” is Angie Thomas’ best-selling debut novel about a Black teen who sees her friend, who’s also Black, shot by a white police officer. The book was banned and challenged in 2021, by the American Library Association, over a number of complaints, including what its critics called “an anti-police message and indoctrination of a social agenda.”

On Amazon, you can get the $34 audiobook free with a 30-day trial Audible Premium Plus subscription.

“The Hate U Give” (paperback), $12

“The Hate U Give” (Kindle), $13


6. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers via Amazon


“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” is author Sherman Alexie’s tale of a teen boy who leaves his school on a Native American reservation to attend an all-white high school. Since its publication in 2007, the novel has been both praised and challenged. According to the American Library Association, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” was, in fact, the most banned and challenged book in the US in the 2010s. In 2021, per the association, it came under fire for “profanity, sexual references and use of a derogatory term.”

On Amazon, its $20 audiobook is free with a 30-day trial Audible Premium Plus subscription.

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” (paperback), $11

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” (Kindle), $10


7. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: A Novel”

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: A Novel

Amulet Books via Amazon


Published in 2012, Jesse Andrews’ “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” is a young-adult novel that was made into a 2015 film. It’s the story of a film-obsessed high-school senior, his “co-worker” Earl (another film-obsessed high-schooler), and Rachel, a childhood friend with leukemia (aka, the “dying girl”). In 2021, the book was banned and challenged, the American Library Association reports, because of complaints that it was “sexually explicit and degrading to women.”

On Amazon, its $30 audiobook is free with a 30-day trial Audible Premium Plus subscription.

“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: A Novel” (paperback), $6

“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: A Novel” (Kindle), $5


8. “The Bluest Eye”

The Bluest Eye

Vintage via Amazon


More than a half-century old, and a onetime Oprah Book Club Selection, “The Bluest Eye” was the debut novel from the late Nobel Prize-winning writer Toni Morrison. The title refers to the young Black girl at the heart of the story: She longs to be blonde and blue-eyed. A top 10 banned-and-challenged book of the 2010s, “The Bluest Eye” courted controversy in 2021 for its depiction of “child sexual abuse,” the American Library Association noted.

On Amazon, its $21 audiobook is free with a 30-day trial Audible Premium Plus subscription.

“The Bluest Eye” (hardcover), $14

“The Bluest Eye” (Kindle), $12


9. “This Book Is Gay”

This Book Is Gay

Sourcebooks Fire via Amazon


Called a “witty, no-holds-barred look at the LGBTQ experience” by School Library Journal, Juno Dawson’s “This Book Is Gay” is a “handy guidebook” (as forward-writer David Levithan put it) to a range of topics from LGBTQ icons to sex ed. The sex-ed section was among those flagged by critics who sought the book’s banning in 2021, per the American Library Association.

On Amazon, its $20 audiobook is free with a 30-day trial Audible Premium Plus subscription.

“This Book Is Gay” (paperback), $8

“This Book Is Gay” (Kindle), $6


10. “Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out”

Beyond Magenta

Candlewick Press via Amazon


Published in 2014, author Susan Kuklin tells the story of six transgender teens through photos and interviews. According to the American Library Association, “Beyond Magenta” was banned and challenged in 2021 for its LGBTQ themes, and material “considered to be sexually explicit.”

On Amazon, you can get the audiobook of “Beyond Magenta,” priced at $15, free with an Audible Premium Plus 30-day trial subscription.

“Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out” (Kindle), $10


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