Read our favorite banned books.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Charlie is a socially awkward wallflower trying to get through high school. Between mix-tapes, first dates, family drama and new friends, Charlie's looking for that one perfect song on a perfect drive. This story told in letters written by Charlie to an unknown reader has been challenged for content like drug and alcohol use, smoking, homosexuality and sexually explicity content.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Every year in Panem young people from around the nation are pitted against each other in a televised battle to the death called the Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen is the young woman who represents District 12 in the games and surprises everyone with her strength, intelligence nad loyalty. With plenty of action and social commentary it is no surprise this book (and its sequels Catching Fire and Mockingjay) are so popular. What may surprise you is that they have been challenged for being anti-ethnic, anti-family, insensitive, violent and containing offensive language and elements of the occult.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Ellison's award-winning classic addresses many important issues faced by African-Americans in the first half of the twentieth century including black nationalism, marxism, identity and individuality. It has been challenged because of the direct way it deals with these strong themes and controversial ideas as well as for concerns about profanity, violence and sexuality.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis occupying Netherlands in a tiny attic room for two years. During that time she kept a diary of her experience. and it has since become one of the most famous first-person stories of the Holocaust. You might think it's been challenged for violent content or its handling of controversial ideas, but actually the complaints have been about its sexual content and homosexual themes.
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
This heart-breaking realistic romance about two teens who meet at a cancer support group was an instant bestseller and returned to the bestseller list when a movie was made of the book in 2014. But it also was challenged in Riverside in 2014 because some adults "felt the morbid plot, crude language, and sexual content was inappropriate for her children." One parent said “I just didn't think it was appropriate for an 11-, 12-, 13-year-old to read."
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Christopher is an autistic teen who is mathematically gifted but has a crippling inability to interact with people. When the neighbor's dog is killed, Christopher decides to investigate and in the course of his exploration he discovers family secrets. This book has been challenged for foul language and because it could "pollute" young minds.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Hurston's classic tells the story of Janie Crawford, a black woman in 1930s Florida. It is a beautifully written story about one woman's search for her identity and roots that resonates with the dialect of the time. As beautiful as the story is, it has been challenged for its language and sexual explicitness.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
In a future society there is no poverty, crime, sickness or unemployment. But the cost for this evenness is that nobody can feel or remember anything. 12 year old Jonas has been selected as the next Receiver of Memories and bear the burden of holding all of these things for the entire society. This Newbery Medal winning book is a new classic that was made into a movie in 2014. But it has also been challenged repeatedly for violence, sexual scenes, euthanasia, themes of murder, suicide, degradation of motherhood and adolescence, mind control, clairvoyance, occult, lewd, twisted, pill-popping scenes and "practices that the Bible tells us to avoid."
Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore
Alan Moore has written a lot of great comics including this stand-alone that tells the story of the Joker's torture of Jim Gordon and his daughter Barbara. It's a lynchpin in the Batman universe's continuity and fills in some important parts of the story. It has been challenged based on its violence and because at least one reader thought it “advocates rape.”
Watchmen by Alan Moore
This classic award-winning comic has been loved by fans and reviewers alike since it was first published in 1986. It is an alternate history in which a group of retired crimefighters work to stop a plot to murder them. A staple on the graphic novel and comics shelves in bookstores and libraries everywhere, it has bene challenged several times. But appropriate to the story itself, it is never quite clear what the objections are. Read it for yourself and see if you can figure out why people continue to challenge this book.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Twelve-year-old Pecola Breedlove prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be accepted and loved in the rural Ohio town where she lives instead of ignored and abused. Set in a harsh, discriminatory time Pecola is the kind of girl we want to save, but salvation is not possible for all pepole. This heart-breaking story has been challenged as a "bad book" with an underlying socialist-community agenda" and for sex scenes, graphic langugae, age-appropriateness, and explicit sex including rape of a young girl by her father.
Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
It is the summer of 1967 and 17-year-old Richie Perry has just finished high school in Harlem. He enlists in the army and is sent on active duty to the war in Vietnam. The story he tells of his experience thee is harrowing and as you might have predicted this book has been challenged for the gruesome descriptions of combat, violence, foul language from soldiers including expletives and racial epithets, racism, drug use and a belief by at least one person that it "should require parental permission for students to read."
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Orwell's classic satire is something of a modern day fable with animals playing exaggerated roles in a revolt against the farmers and the resulting totalitarian regime. The story-telling style is easy-to-read but the ideas are complicated and big. As with many satires, this one has been challenged as a "problem book" for addressing communism, political theories, indecent images and for "contradicting Islamic and Arab values."
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
The first book in this five book His Dark Materials series introduces Lyra Belacqua, a girl whose life is turned upside down when she learns about a mysterious substance called "Dust." When Lyra's friend goes missing, she launches a rescue mission to the North, a mission that she and her friends continue through many dimensions. This book has mostly been challenged for being anti-Christian and anti-God, including one warning that "representations of the church are not reflective of the real Roman Catholic Church or the Gospel of Jesus Christ" and another that objected because it was written by an atheist. A separate challenge was made because "the main character drinks wine and ingests poppy with her meals."
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Wizards, danger, precocious young people and a struggle between good and evil. These are the things that make Harry Potter great! But they're also what gets it challenged. Specifically that it promotes witchcraft, characterizes authority as 'stupid,' is violent and scary, deals with ghosts and cults, and encourages lying, cheating, and stealing. In one city it was even burned as a "masterpiece of satanic deception!"
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Marjane Satrapi is the great-granddaughter of Iran's last emperor and the daughter of dedicated socialists. In this graphic memoir she tells her story about coming of age in Tehran during a time of great political upheaval and restrictions on public life. It is followed by a sequel, Persepolis 2. Strong black and white drawings help readers realize her true story which has been challenged for graphic language and images that "are not appropriate for general use."
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Junior is a cartoonist living on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Encouraged by one of his teachers, he decides to transfer to an all-white public high school in a nearby farm town. Illustrated with comics that enhance the story, this book about life as a young native american is emotional and funny. The National Book Award winner is also controversial and has been challenged for including content on issues such as alcohol, poverty, bullying, homosexuality, violence, and sexual references as well as for use of profanity and the tragic deaths of some characters.
Bone by Jeff Smith
This whimsical series looks a lot like classic comics. And the story has traditional elements of a fable - like three cousins struggling with greed and friendship as they travel through a mysterious valley. But the odd creatures they encounter, the humor and mystery make it unlike other books. There is a lot to enjoy in this series of a dozen titles that has been challenged on the basis of racism, political viewpoint, violence and the inclusion of some images that one challengers says they believe "promote drinking and smoking."
Blankets by Craig Thompson
This semi-autobiographical graphic novel tells the story of Thompson's childhood in a religious family. It centers on his first love, Raina, a woman he met at a Christian camp for young people. The love story between the story and the struggle to establish a religious identity form the basis for the book which has been challenged for what have been described as "obscene illustrations."
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Book don't get much more classic than Huckleberry Finn which was published in the 1880s. This is one of the great American novels written in dialect and tells the story of Huck Finn and runaway slave Jim adventuring down the Mississippi river. It has wonderful description of the antebellum south and many humorous sketches. But also has a lot of commentary on attitudes of the day. It has been challenged for coarse language, use of racial stereotypes and frequent use of the n-word.
Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar
Prep school drama can be very entertaining and Spenford, an elite school on the Upper East Side of New York, is where Serena van der Woodsen and the rest of the characters in the Gossip Girls play out their rivalries. The first book in a series that has over a dozen titles, these books have been challenged for offensive language, drugs and sexually explicit content.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut is known for complicated stories that don't follow a straight line. In Slaughterhouse Five he uses a non-linear timeline to tell the story of Billy Pilgrim, a World War II soldier who was present at the firebombing of Dresden. It is a vivid book that has been challenged for explicit sexual scenes, obscene language, violence, depictions of tortures, negative portrayals of women, ethnic slurs, bestiality and making "references to religious matters."
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