Trigger Warning Bookshelf is a database that lists trigger warnings for popular books. (For more information about what a trigger warning is, see here.) We started this list after realizing that, although there are reviews and synopses for many books, there is nowhere on the Internet that provides a simple and straightforward list of triggers found in books. We feel that this needed to be fixed, and so decided to fix it ourselves. We believe that having trigger warnings is vital for many people, and that they should be able to look them up easily.
Trigger Warning Bookshelf does not believe in censorship. We do not support restricting anyone’s access to any book. We also do not believe that teachers or professors should be discouraged from teaching books based on their potentially triggering content. We love books, and we believe people everywhere have a right to read freely. We are also aware that books that unsettle, challenge, and disturb the reader are often times the most valuable. We ourselves are better people for having read books that disturb us.
However, we also believe that people who have been through disturbing things in their real lives have a right to make informed decisions about what they read. For many people, simply being forewarned is enough. There is a big difference between going into a book knowing that it may bring up painful memories and going into a book unprepared, only to find yourself suddenly confronting an emotionally fraught topic you weren’t expecting. Giving people more information about triggers in various books lets them protect their mental health and decide for themselves what they can and cannot handle today.
About The List
This list is not meant to be taken as a judgement on the quality or worthiness of any books we name. Lots of very, very good books portray disturbing things. Lots of very bad books have no triggering content. By listing triggers we are not saying a book is bad, any more than a PG-13 rating tells you anything about a movie’s quality. Nor are we saying that the book endorses any of the disturbing things it portrays. Plenty of books show us terrible things in order to tell us something about why those things were so terrible. This list is not meant to endorse or denounce, but to inform.
Trigger Warning Shelf has only just begun, and so our list isn’t very large yet. We hope that over time it will grow much, much larger, because the more books we list, the more useful it becomes. At the moment, we are focusing most of our efforts on books commonly taught in high schools and colleges, but we hope to branch out soon.
We are currently making an effort to consistently identify the following triggers:
If content within a book strikes us as particularly disturbing for other reasons we try to list that as well.
In the future we also hope to add more triggers that we consistently look for. However, identifying triggers is more work than you might think, and so right now most of our attention is focused on these five triggers (and possible variations or nuances thereon). We will let you know if/when this changes.
If a trigger is marked as “Mild” that could indicate that the trigger in question is indirect (for example a racist assumption on the author’s part that never expanded on) or that it refers to events that are mentioned but not shown, action assumed to take place “off screen,” or things that only arise briefly in a single scene. Using the term “Mild” is not meant to say such aspects of the book are not worthy of attention, but to help people gauge the likelihood they will be triggered.
It should be noted also that even triggers not marked “Mild” usually only occupy a limited part of the book.
We are currently allowing comments on our list entries for people who want to provide more detailed descriptions of potentially troubling content than we can provide at this time. We do not allow harassment, threats, slurs, or personal attacks. This site is a safe space and hurtful comments will not be approved. We do, however, allow spoilers, so if you’re reading the comments, keep that in mind.
Found a Mistake?
If you think we’ve listed a trigger warning incorrectly, let us know. We would hate to have inadvertently steered someone away from a book or made them apprehensive about it for no reason. Tell us, and we’ll re-evaluate.
If you think you’ve found a trigger for a book in our database, let us know, especially if it is one of the triggers we consistently screen for (see above). We want people to be able to trust our list.
You can contact us here: