By the Numbers: Banned Books Week

Stats to celebrate the most frequently challenged and banned books

October 1, 2015

11,300 books challenged since 1982

Number of books that have been challenged since 1982, according to the American Library Association. The Banned Books Week campaign launched the same year, in response to the surge in challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries across the country.

Years ago, this September, that Vladimir Nabokov first published Lolita in Paris—after being rejected by five American publishers that were afraid to be brought up on obscenity charges for accepting the manuscript.

Number of times Holden Caulfield says the word “goddam” in The Catcher in the Rye.

Number of Judy Blume books that appear on ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom’s (OIF) list of 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books: 1990–1999. They are, ranked: Forever… (7); Blubber (30); Deenie (42); Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret (60); and Tiger Eyes (89).

Rank of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian on OIF’s list of Top 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2014. The book, Alexie’s first foray into young adult fiction, won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2007.

Degrees Fahrenheit at which paper autoignites in Ray Bradbury’s dystopic novel about a future society where books are outlawed. (Though recent fact-checks seem to put the autoignition point for paper much higher than 451°F.)

Ruling by which the Supreme Court decided in Island Trees School District Board of Education v. Pico (1982) that a school board’s discretionary power is secondary to the First Amendment and the board could not ban books from its libraries simply because its members disagree with the content.

20 million
Number of copies Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has sold worldwide. The book was first published in the US in February 1885, and by the following month, the town library in Concord, Massachusetts, became the first to ban the novel for being “trash of the veriest sort.”

Number of Academy Award nominations that The Color Purple (1985), the film adaptation of Alice Walker’s often-challenged book of the same name, received. The film took home zero Oscars and is tied with another for most nominations without a win.

Number of titles that Joseph Heller considered before settling on Catch-22. The ones that didn’t make the cut? Catch-18 (too similar to the novel Mila 18), Catch-11 (too similar to the 1960 film Ocean’s 11), Catch-17 (too similar to the film Stalag 17), and Catch-14 (“didn’t sound funny enough,” according to Heller’s publisher).

Number of free copies of Slaughterhouse-Five that the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis offered, in 2011, to the 150 students who were supposed to read the book at Republic (Mo.) High School prior to the school board banning the novel.

Days that DePauw University Dean of Libraries Rick Provine will spend in a Banned Books Week “prison” at the Vonnegut Memorial Library. Read his accounts of Day One and Day Two.

Number of years between 2006 and 2010 that And Tango Makes Three, a 2005 children’s book about two male penguins living in Central Park Zoo that hatch and care for a baby penguin, has been the top challenged book, according to OIF.


The Banned Books Week "prison" inside the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. Photo: Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library.

Locked Up with Vonnegut, Day Two

Of banned books and tattoo tributes

Constance Macy (left), an actor with the Indiana Repertory Theater, and Rick Provine. As part of Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library's Banned Books Week festivities, Macy read a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, owner of Ciy Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, who was arrested for publication of Alan Ginsberg's Howl.

Locked Up with Vonnegut, Day Four

Reflections from the window of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library