33 Must-Read Books To Celebrate Banned Books Week

September 21 to September 27 is Banned Books Week. To celebrate, we found a bunch of books THE MAN doesn’t want you to read. Fight the power! Read the books!

1. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson

What is so offensive about a kids’ picture book about penguin parents? Welllll, those penguin parents happen to be the same sex, which, according to Wikipedia, set off the alarm of many social conservatives in the US. So much so apparently that “the American Library Association reports that And Tango Makes Three was the most challenged book of 2006, 2007, and 2008.” Wowza.

2. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

The graphic novel version of Marjane Satrapi’s childhood in Iran is a must-read for all humans—except seventh graders in Chicago, where the school board “order that it not to be taught in the seventh grade curriculum because of its ‘graphic images.’” (SocialistWorker.org)

3. Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman

When this book came out in 1971, “many regional distributors and bookstores were unwilling to carry the book, citing its subversive nature and the literal encouragement of theft the title provided.” (Wikipedia) Fortunately none of that stopped the book from becoming a cultural phenomenon.

4. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

According to Wikipedia, this book was banned by the Fruitland Park Elementary School in Lake County, Florida because some parents thought it “encourag[ed] messiness and disobedience,” among other things.

5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

The Harry Potter books have a long and storied history of being challenged and banned by schools and parent groups who thought the books contained too much black magic. (Marshall.edu) Strangely, this did nothing to dissuade a million billion kids and adults from becoming obsessed with Harry Potter.

6. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness has enjoyed a very controversial and long life. According to Banned-Books.org “its violent content, and use of the [n-word] have seen it banned from many US schools.”

7. Native Son by Richard Wright

This books has been challenged or banned for everything from “violence, sex, and profanity” to “objectionable language” to charges that it is “vulgar, profane, and sexually explicit.” (American Library Association) So obviously it’s a must-read.

8. The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll

In 1998 Jim Carroll’s autobiographical work about his trouble childhood involving drugs, precarious sexual situations and other unhappy things was banned by a Georgia school board. (CatholicBoy.com)

9. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Henry Miller called Tropic of Cancer: “…a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty…” and the US responded by banning it for 27 years (Flavorewire) making it a good reading choice for literary rebels everywhere.

10. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

According to World.edu, Nickel and Dimed was one of the top 10 most challenged book of 2010 due to things like “drugs, offensive language, pushing political/religious viewpoints, and inaccuracies.”

12. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell’s book is another one that parents have taken issue with. According to NPR, Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota canceled hear appearance to talk about Eleanor & Park because parents thought the book was “inappropriate.”

13. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

So what got On the Road banned? Well, according to The Examiner, basically everything: “The coarse language, the misogynistic attitudes of the male characters and the immoral actions of the women.” Oh, the ’50s…

14. Beloved by Toni Morrison

For many high school students, reading Beloved is a life-changing experience but at least one mom in Virginia didn’t think kids were ready for the “bestiality, gang rape and an infant’s gruesome murder” that the book depicts. (The Washington Post)

15. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

In 1987 a school board superintendent in Florida, who decided he’d been elected to “restore Christian values to the schools” banned this Hemingway classic, among others. (New York Times) While he may have THOUGHT that was his mandate, a lawsuit brought by parents, teachers and students leads one to believe he may have been wrong.

16. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Is this book good enough to get arrested for? Well according to the Clockwork Orange Wiki: “In 1973, in Utah, a book seller was arrested for selling the novel, although later charges were dropped.” So yes, it’s pretty good.

17. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Banning books isn’t something that only happened in the old, old days like the ’50s, just ask Wikipedia: “In 1992, Irvine, California’s Venado Middle School gave copies of Fahrenheit 451 to students with all ‘obscene’ words blacked out.”

18. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

This book is many children’s first introduction to death and loss but World.edu says it is frequently challenged, “coming in at number 8 on the American Library Association’s list of the 100-most-banned/challenged books for 1990-2000 and dropping only to number 28 for 2001-2009.” What’s the issue? Apparently adults don’t think kids should be learning about death…

19. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

For an even more recent example of book banning, you only have to go back to 2013 when, as The Wall Street Journal reports, North Carolina’s Randolph County Board of Education “voted 5-2 at its meeting to get rid of all copies of the book” due to “sexual content.”

20. Deenie by Judy Blume

This book is no read-aloud-family-friendly Superfudge—it’s been banned frequently due to “talk about masturbation and sexuality” which may be the reason kids don’t often get their hands on it until they get older and find out about it on the internet. (Wikipedia)

21. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies is a high school staple so it’s not a surprise that many high schools have challenged this book. The American Library Association lists 6 occasions from 1974 to 2000 that groups have tried to get this book removed from the curriculum for reasons like “excessive violence and bad language” and “profanity, lurid passages about sex, and statements defamatory to minorities, God, women and the disabled.” So, all the reasons kids love this book.

22. Moby-Dick; or The Whale by Herman Melville

In Britain this book was censored in a variety of ways including “sacrilegious passages” and “sexual matters, including the sex life of whales and even Ishmael’s worried anticipation of the nature of Queequeg’s underwear.” (Wikipedia)

23. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

The New Yorker calls this “one of the most frequently banned books,” though it might better be called “one of the most frequently mind-blowing books” because it is a favorite for most people who read it as a kid.

24. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

More than once school boards have voted to remove this book from schools because of “alcohol, poverty, bullying, homosexuality, violence, and sexual references as well as for the tragic deaths of characters and the use of profanity.” (Wikipedia) Luckily the kids have fought back because all that is stuff kids love to read about.

25. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

Why oh why would anyone want to ban the ACTUAL DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL? Well, in 2010, the Culpeper County decided to do it “due to ‘complaints about its sexual content and homosexual themes.’” (Wikipedia)

26. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This might be the most popular book in America but it certainly has gotten its fair share of challenges. Marshall University has a pretty comprehensive list of the challenges just in this century that include “profanity” and “contains adult themes such as sexual intercourse, rape, and incest.”

27. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Legions of high school kids will be surprised to learn that the book they thought of as an above-average syllabus read “was publicly banned and burned by citizens” at the time of its publication. (Wikipedia) Which adds a little excitement to the Dust Bowl.

28. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

This post-apocalyptic novel has changed lives with its awesomeness but according to Time: “A Judson, Tex., school superintendent banned the novel from an advanced placement English curriculum after a parent complained that it was sexually explicit and offensive to Christians.”

29. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

If you’ve read American Psycho you probably won’t be surprised to hear that it’s been banned, um, frequently. For example, Germany, “deemed the book ‘harmful to minors,’ and its sales and marketing were severely restricted from 1995 to 2000.” And “in Australia the book is sold shrink-wrapped and is classified ‘R18’ under national censorship legislation” which means kids under 18 can’t buy it. (Wikipedia)

30. Friday Night Lights by H. G. Bissinger

You might not think a book about football would be that controversial but then you probably don’t live in the town where this book was set. Citizens of THAT town, Odessa, blamed Bissinger for the fact that the publication of Friday Night Lights coincided with an investigation of the team that is the subject of the book for holding illegal off-season practices, which lead to the team not participating in the post season for only the second time since 1980. More, according to Wikipedia: “many residents of Odessa received the book with responses ranging from mild indignation to threats of physical violence aimed at the book’s author.” They even made shirts that said: “Buzz off, Bissinger.”

31. Looking for Alaska by John Green

According to Wikipedia, parents have occasionally had a problem with their kids reading this book in high school, calling it “pornographic and disgusting.” What better way to get kids to read?!

32. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five might be one of Kurt Vonnegut’s most popular works but in 1972 a circuit judge banned it from thepublic schools of Oakland County, Michigan, calling it “depraved, immoral, psychotic, vulgar, and anti-Christian.” (Wikipedia)

33. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

How scary is this children’s classic? Mental Floss says it’s so scary that “many parents and libraries initially protested that Where the Wild Things Are was too scary for children.”

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