In honor of Banned Books Week, I’m going to give you all a list of some of my favorite banned/challenged books. All of these books have been pulled off the shelves of schools or libraries at one time or another for various reasons (language, promiscuity, anarchy, violence, rape, supernatural elements, etc). I’m very much against the censorship of books. Knowledge is power.
“There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.”
― Ray Bradbury
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960
Set in the Depression-era, To Kill a Mockingbird is focused on racial injustice in the South. The main character was a little girl by the name of Scout. Her father was a lawyer who attempted to defend a black man on trial for a rape he did not commit. This was Harper Lee’s only book and has won the Pulitzer Prize among many other awards. It stood out to me due to its dealing with racism.
Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak, 1963
A mischievous little boy was sent to bed without supper one evening and soon he was sailing to an island inhabited by “Wild Things.” This is a story that warms my heart even to this day. I saw the most recent movie adaption and it’s stunning. (Supernatural elements and bad behavior were the cause of it being pulled at one time.)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling, 2001
This was one of the books that introduced me to the Sci-Fi/Supernatural/Fantasy realm (I was 11 when the first one came out). It’s about a boy who is not what he seems and how his choices could change the course of history. Personally, this is such a well-known book in our society I’m going to forgo a deeper description. It’s a great story that still, to this day, attracts new readers.
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, 1932
Set in 2540 London, Brave New World is about a world unified under “The World State.” Everything is peaceful because everyone is pretty much brainwashed and on drugs. From the moment you are born, you are placed in a caste with a huge limitation on the population. Those who are in the higher caste are smarter and better built while those in the lower caste are dumber and they all pretty much look the same. Those who do not follow society are sent to reservations where marriage, religion, and natural birth is still practiced. The ending is the thing that I remember most vividly. It’s a horrifying look at what society could be.
Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes, 1959
This was a depressingly beautiful novel about a man named Charlie and a mouse named Algernon, who were test subjects for a surgery to make them smarter. Over the course of the novel, you see Charlie’s IQ improve while his relationship with other humans deteriorate. It is composed completely of Charlie’s reports. In the end, I cried. I cried like a baby over the fate of Algernon and Charlie. It’s such a brilliantly beautiful novel.
Holes, Louis Sachar, 1998
I’ve always loved this book. It’s about a boy who is “cursed” and gets sent to a juvenile detention center in the middle of the desert. There he befriends a boy named Zero. Unbeknownst to both of them, their fates are intertwined. It’s such a creative story and the movie adaptation was just as good. Both made me cry at the end.
The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein, 1964
I’m not sure why this book was on the list, but I’ve always loved Shel Silverstein’s work. The Giving Tree is no different. It’s a story about a boy and this tree that gives him unconditional love. She provides for him throughout the course of his life and asks for nothing in return. It’s sad, but beautiful.
The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, 2003
The Da Vinci Code is a mystery novel focused around teacher and symbologist, Robert Langdon. Throughout the story, he uses his knowledge of the past to figure out who murdered the curator of the Louvre and what that meant for the future of the world. This was such a powerful book that it spawned hundreds of other books and questions about the true relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene as well as questioning his divinity. The Catholic church even got involved.
Lord of the Flies, William Golding, 1954
This was a book that stuck with me over the years. I wouldn’t say that it’s the best story, but I thought it was an interesting commentary on society. A group of boys are blown from the sky and trapped on an island in the middle of nowhere. It begins off well enough with the boys electing a leader, but due to fear, it descends into chaos and savagery. It’s a brutal, allegorical story about the lost of innocence and the beast within all of us.
The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison, 1970
This was the one book I was contemplating putting on the list. It’s a hard read with a lot of uncomfortable scenes. It’s main focus is on an abused child who is obsessed with being white with blue eyes. It is narrated by a girl named Claudia whose family took in the girl. Honestly, this was one of the tougher books that I read during high school.
I hope this list I put together has piqued your interest. Hopefully, you too will take the leap and pick up a “banned” book. Let me know if you have a favorite banned book as well!
Thanks so much for reading,