20 banned books I find myself recommending all the time

It's Banned Books Week.

Hey readers, it’s Banned Books Week! This yearly celebration brings together librarians, teachers, booksellers, and readers who face the impact of recent book bans and challenges across the country.

I’ve been constantly surprised of late by which books are being challenged, and for what reasons. Books I know and love, books we have on our shelves at home, books I’ve put in my children’s hands with confidence because I think they’ll enjoy and benefit from the reading experience. Books that are now being challenged because their perspectives and viewpoints are unwelcome to some. (Often, these books are by people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and those from other marginalized communities. That’s no accident.)

My work is predicated on the belief that books open hearts and minds—and on the understanding that open access to books is essential for this to happen: books from all kinds of writers, all kinds of perspectives. After all, this is why we read!

Of course parents can consider whether their own children have the emotional maturity to read something. This is just one way in which curation is essential; I’ve often said timing is everything in the reading life, and our work exists to match the right books with the right readers. But making a unilateral decision to disallow a book for all readers in an entire school or library system—or demanding that this happen—is too far.

On today’s list, you’ll find books from my own adolescence, books my kids have adored and seen themselves in, books our guests have loved and recommended on What Should I Read Next, and Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club selections. All of these well-loved books have been banned or challenged.

Book banning affects us all. It may feel like it’s happening “out there,” but it matters to every reader. It impacts your reading life, along with the reading lives of countless readers.

If you’re asking yourself, “what do we do about it?” look to the library. The American Library Association shares many free resources and support for reporting and fighting book challenges in your community.

20 banned or challenged books for your To Be Read list

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A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time

L'Engle begins her groundbreaking work with the famous opening line, “It was a dark and stormy night,” and plunges young readers headlong into the world of the Murray family, who must travel through time to save the universe. When I read this as a kid, I wanted to be Meg, of course. Wrinkle is the first—and most famous—of the Time Quintet, but I read them all, over and over, and then read them aloud with my kids. This Newbery winner bridges science fiction and fantasy, darkness and light; L'Engle herself hated when readers tried to shoehorn it into a specific genre. Because it mixes science, religion, and fantasy, its frequent challenges often stem from religious concerns. More info →
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The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

In an early What Should I Read Next episode, Meg Tietz recommends Gatsby as a book that glitters, sparkles, and pops; I always think of it as the perfect autumnal read, with a great blend of plot and prose. This classic American novel captures the Jazz Age in all its decadence and excess, while weaving a wistful story of love and loss as fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby attempts to woo his lost love Daisy Buchanan through elaborate parties and social climbing. It’s hard to believe Fitzgerald's classic has ever been banned—it’s such a staple of high school reading lists—yet, it’s been challenged for language, violence, and sexual references. More info →
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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Author:
This modern classic appears on nine (!!!) Modern Mrs Darcy book lists, and with good reason. In the first of six autobiographies, Angelou tells the haunting story of her childhood in the American South in the 1930s. Her poetic prose is incredible, and the story is by turns heartwarming ("I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare") and utterly heartbreaking. This beloved book has been repeatedly banned since its 1969 publication, primarily for sexual content. If this is a classic you've been meaning to read, give the audio version a try: Angelou's lilting voice brings her powerful, touching story to life. More info →
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Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451

Author:
This book has been repeatedly banned over the years, which is ironic, given that the book itself is about book-banning. Bradbury's slim sci-fi/fantasy novel revolves around a fireman who hates his job set in the saddest of dystopian settings: a future with no books. Firemen start the fires in Bradbury's future, to burn any and all books as they are found. One of these books is the Bible, which is often triggers the censorship. When the book was published, Bradbury was outspoken about the fact that instead of literature he had the growing influence of television over Americans in mind when he wrote it. More info →
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The House of Spirits

The House of Spirits

Author:
Gorgeous writing, forbidden love, and political drama: this Latin-American classic has it all. Readers of sweeping historical fiction will be wrapped up in the Trueba family’s drama, from secretive and passionate patriarch Esteban, to the revolutionary granddaughter Alba. Powerful female characters shine in this absorbing multigenerational saga. Real historical events—and a dose of magic—impact each family member as they navigate tragedy and hope. Allende's bestselling historical fiction novel has been banned for sexual content. More info →
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The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give

Author:
Titled after Tupac’s famous tattoo, Thomas’ debut novel won multiple awards, went from page to screen, and remains popular among both teen and adult readers. 16-year-old Starr Carter is in the passenger seat when her friend Khalil is fatally shot by a police officer. As the sole witness, Starr bears the heavy weight of testifying to both her experience and her friend’s character as the media and law enforcement craft their own stories. The Carter family rallies around her as she grapples with trauma, grief, and finding her voice. Despite being showered with critical and readerly praise, this 2017 Summer Reading Guide selection was banned in some schools and libraries because it was considered "vulgar" and because of drug use, profanity, and offensive language. More info →
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Invisible Man

Invisible Man

Author:
I'm often struck by how many of the books I read in my public high school English classes appear on "frequently challenged" lists, including this title, which pulled me in from the first line, even then. "I am an invisible man," Ellison's protagonist tells us—not because he's not made out of flesh and blood, but because no one has much interest in seeing him, an African-American man in 1950s Harlem, for who he actually is. The "invisible" narrator begins his story in the late 1920s, when he lived in the South as a young man, and chronicles the jaw-dropping events leading up to his fleeing underground. Published in 1952, this book has been challenged due to concerns about language, violence, and sex. More info →
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The Bluest Eye

The Bluest Eye

Author:
Our community members frequently cite Morrison's debut novel as a must-read classic. Her dark-skinned protagonist Pecola wishes every day for white skin and blue eyes, the standard of beauty to which she’s constantly compared. Morrison was clear on her intentions for the book: she wanted to explore how racism directly harms one’s self-worth and does so with stunning narrative skill; her skillful use of flashbacks serves the story well, her prose is remarkable on the sentence level, even the thoughtful chapter titles advance the story and further ground the reader in it. Highly discussable and devastatingly impactful—this modern classic has been banned because it depicts racism, child abuse, and incest. More info →
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Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague

Many readers expressed disinterest in reading a novel set during the Bubonic Plague, even before experiencing a pandemic firsthand, but this richly detailed account of one woman's mission to save lives and hold her village together has changed many a mind. Anna Frith works as a housemaid, but when an infected piece of cloth arrives in her remote English village and quickly infects her neighbors, what ultimately follows are heroic acts of healing, survival, and love. Inspired by a true story, this novel holds plenty for readers to discuss, right down to the shocking ending. This novel made the American Library Association’s list of 100 Most Banned Books, for reasons of "witchcraft, madness, and sexuality." More info →
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Educated: A Memoir

Educated: A Memoir

Author:
In her bestselling memoir, Tara Westover chronicles how she overcame an oppressive childhood: her survivalist family lived in the mountains of rural Idaho and practiced extreme fundamentalist Mormonism, while her father's manic depression was undiagnosed and untreated. From her family's perspective, there was no question that Tara would marry and settle near her family to raise a family of her own; this is the story of how she found a way out. This grim family story and coming of age journey has been banned for depictions of child abuse. More info →
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Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Author:
I first encountered this graphic memoir thanks to What Should I Read Next, when Laura Summerhill named it a favorite in WSIRN Episode 148: Rebuilding your life (and your library). (It's been cited as a favorite several times since.) In black and white illustrations, Satrapi shares her bittersweet coming of age story against the backdrop of Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. Because Satrapi's family had political ties to the old regime, her home life clashes with her public life: how she privately behaves and speaks is completely different from how she must behave at school or on the street. For her protection, her parents send her to school in Vienna, where she encounters new challenges as well as a longing for home. This memoir remains on many high school reading lists but has faced bans for its political content as well as "offensive" language and depictions of gambling. More info →
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Montana 1948

Montana 1948

Author:
This short book packs a punch. I discovered it thanks to my husband Will; we read it as adults, but I think we would have appreciated it had we encountered it in high school (when it would have been new, because we're old). I named it one of my favorite books of the year and have frequently recommended it on What Should I Read Next. In this quiet and timely page-turner, a man recounts the tumultuous events of his 12th year, back in his small hometown of Bentrock, Montana. The story begins with the death of his beloved Sioux housekeeper, Marie Little Soldier; even as a 12-year-old he can see her death is suspicious, and he fears the blame lies at his family's door. The sensitive nature of his family secrets led to the book’s removal from classrooms and libraries. More info →
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The Poet X

The Poet X

This incredible YA novel-in-verse was one of our all-time favorite Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club selections; I've seen this book get young readers excited about reading time and again. Budding artist Xiomara pours her soul into her notebook: every frustration, every harassment, every triumph and every secret is turned into a poem. When a perceptive teacher invites her to share her work in slam poetry club, Xiomara isn't sure if she can keep her burgeoning passion secret from her strict family—but she is soon to learn that speaking up and living her truth is the only way to be fully herself. This book has been challenged for profanity, sexual references, and criticism of the Catholic church. More info →
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You Should See Me in a Crown

You Should See Me in a Crown

Author:
I adored Johnson’s triumphant debut (you can hear me recommend it on WSIRN 246: Does your reading life need a mid-year check-up?); I actually just handed this to my own teenage daughter earlier this month. (She loved it!) Orchestra geek Liz Lighty stays out of the spotlight in small town Campbell, Indiana, and she's totally okay with her wallflower status. She’s busy working towards acceptance to her elite dream school, Pennington College. When her financial aid package falls short, Liz is devastated until she remembers that her school offers a large scholarship for the prom king and queen each year. Reluctant to subject herself to extra attention but eager to win the money, Liz enters the competition for prom queen. The smart and funny new girl in school makes events leading up to prom more bearable, but this friend is also vying for the prom queen title. As Liz develops feelings for her, the competition gets complicated. This poignant and joyful book was labeled “obscene” as part of a widespread book challenge in Oklahoma. More info →
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Selected Poems

Selected Poems

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, poet laureate of Illinois, and the first Black woman to serve as a poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, Gwendolyn Brooks is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century. She's known for her insightful and illuminating portraits of Black Americans, brought to vivid life with her spare style and energetic warmth. We chose this as one of our collections for Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club poetry month last April; it's a compelling selection of standout poems from her first three collections, plus some new poems. Did you know even individual poems face bans? In the 1970s, “We Real Cool” was banned for sexual connotations in a particular line, but Brooks declared this interpretation to be misaligned with her intentions. More info →
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Check, Please!

Check, Please!

Author:
Originally published as a webcomic, this delightful graphic novel (another title I just recommended to my own teen) follows Eric Bittle, a freshman on a college hockey team. It’s a coming of age and coming out of the closet story where everything goes right. Eric’s a baker, vlogger, and figure skating champion who played hockey at his Georgia high school. Now Eric is playing on the college level, and finding the hockey team at Samwell University hockey team to be on a whole different level. In these pages Eric struggles to carve out a place for himself on the team, adjust to the demands of college, and figure out what to make of his feelings for the enigmatic team captain. The answer involves baking a whole lot of pie. The illustrations add a lot to the story, with hockey hijinks and pranks adding a comedic factor. It’s been banned in school libraries and curriculums for drug use, profanity, and offensive language. More info →
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Drama: A Graphic Novel

Drama: A Graphic Novel

My girls adored this colorful graphic novel when they were middle grade readers! Our protagonist is middle school theater geek who’s determined to put on a Broadway-worthy stage production. If only she could sing—but, alas, she turns to set design instead and seeks to put her talents to use making the magic happen behindthe curtain. But wrangling the stage crew proves difficult—and when the actors enter the picture, off-stage drama threatens to upstage the whole show. The cast and crew ultimately overcome major crushes, slow ticket sales, and a tight budget to create a production they can be proud of. This Stonewall Honor recipient has faced multiple bans for featuring LGBTQ+ characters. More info →
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Front Desk

Front Desk

Author:
I recommended this effervescent middle grade novel to Gina House in WSIRN Episode 261: Huggable comfort reads for a cozy reading season. Ten-year-old Mia Tang spends most of her after school hours managing the front desk of a motel, where her family lives and works. The Tang family isn’t just cleaning the rooms…they’re also sneaking in other immigrant families and allowing them to stay in empty rooms for free. If Mr. Yao, the owner, finds out about this secret, it spells trouble for everyone. While the characters deal with hardships, Yang grounds her story in love, friendship, and hope. In the past few years, parents challenged Front Desk, objecting to its depictions of race. This resulted in multiple school curriculum and read-aloud bans. More info →
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New Kid

New Kid

Author:
Based on his own experiences as a young Black teen, Craft wrote and illustrated this Newbery winning graphic novel about Jordan Banks, an artistic seventh grader who struggles to fit in at his brand new, prestigious prep school. My kids loved reading about Jordan’s journey to find a place for himself among his nearly all white peer group. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, smart, and insightful. Craft was befuddled upon hearing his book was banned for espousing critical race theory, saying: “I just wanted to have [Black] kids where the biggest dilemma in their life is if they wanted to play PlayStation or Xbox, or what movie they wanted to go see, you know, as opposed to always having the weight of the world.” More info →
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Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five

Author:
Vonnegut’s famously weird war novel made multiple appearances on What Should I Read Next, as early as Episode 4: Reading as escape, hating lots of books, and finding new fiction and as recently as Episode 327: Brilliant books that ask big questions. It’s one of the most frequently banned books in American classrooms due to sexual content, violence, and obscene language. Vonnegut responded to several of the bannings, writing: “If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own.” Vonnegut’s novel follows WWII veteran Billy Pilgrim who gets “unstuck in time,” taking the reader along on a journey of flashbacks, time travel, and life on another planet. The events of the novel, while strange and darkly humorous, are based on Vonnegut’s own war service and present a deeply unsettling picture of combat PTSD. More info →
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Have you been surprised to see a book you enjoyed on a banned books list? What titles here have you enjoyed or do you find yourself often recommending? We’d love to hear about it in comments!

A quick note about the comments section: You know we appreciate a good conversation about books and reading. We believe this is the nicest corner of the internet; our community of readers is characterized by kindness, curiosity, and thoughtfulness. Conversations surrounding reading are often deepened by differing opinions, which we whole-heartedly support. But my team and I will delete comments that are hurtful to members of this community and won’t hesitate to do so, particularly if they are left by first-time commenters. Thanks for keeping this the nicest corner of the internet.

P.S. Check out 20 of the century’s most banned books, along with these frequently challenged book lists from the American Library Association.

20 banned books for your To Be Read list

73 comments

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  1. Adrienne says:

    I’m really surprised to see some of these books listed here, as I wouldn’t have thought they were banned. Specifically, A Wrinkle in Time, Fahrenheit 451, and Montana 1948. I struggle a bit with the issue of banning books. I believe that no book should be banned outright, but I do think that parents should have the final say in what books their children are reading, especially in the elementary and middle school years. As a parent I know I did not want my children reading books I felt were inappropriate for them, and I would have taken issue with such books being available to them without my knowledge through the school library or worse, being assigned as required reading. However, I realize others may feel differently than I do and have no issue with such books. In the end, the responsibility, I believe, lies with the parents to talk to their kids about what they are reading, both assigned books and books they choose on their own.

    • Breon Randon says:

      As a mom of a young child, it’s so easy to lead with my gut reaction, which is “no! My kid can’t read about sex, abuse and all the terrible things in the world!” Thankfully, I also have my own long, rich history of reading books that were “inappropriate for my age” and have the memory of all the gifts it gave me. Yes, it taught me about rape, and horrors, and the LGBTQIA+ community (which was not ideal for my parents) but it also taught me about love, healing, understanding, and the beauty of people that are different than those in the rural community I grew up in. I’m glad that my child will learn to exercise her freedom of choice in the library, and to strengthen her self-determination and develop at a pace that works for her, not me. No books should be removed from libraries. If my kid comes home with a book I don’t think she’s ready for, we talk about it, not remove the choice. Also, if a book is assigned reading, I hope we as parents can look at what a book is offering- the good and the uncomfortable – and find balance there. If not, there is always opting out.

    • Angie says:

      What Adrienne said (and said beautifully).

      Especially for some of the books pictured in the photograph, I’m also befuddled as to why they’ve landed on a frequently banned or challenged list. I realize this is cynical, but can’t help but wonder if positioning as a banned or challenged book hasn’t become a marketing strategy for (some) titles to build buzz through perceived controversy with the hope of goosing sales.

      I’m not a fan of book-banning among adults. Even if it’s ‘well-intentioned,’ I think it’s wildly inappropriate for anyone to decide what others read (or have access to read). On the other hand, I’m also not a fan of prescriptive assigned reading. When I was in school I had teachers who assigned genres or prompts (sort of Book Riot reading challenge style, possibly before BR was a thing) and provided examples of titles under each, which allowed freedom of choice in title to satisfy the prompt (with teacher approval). I loved that approach as a student reader and still do as a parent. It removed some of the “controversy” because it took ‘books’ off the battleground. Encouraging curiosity and expanding books introduced was considered victory enough.

    • JANICE SPENCE says:

      When my kids were growing up, I encouraged them to read anything that looked interesting to them. If they chose a book I wasn’t familiar with, I read it while they were reading it. That way I could discuss any material that might have been confusing or over their heads. This worked well for us.

    • Barbara Franke says:

      Well said. Parents are key helping children understand & key to facilitating discussions. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. As a grandmother I always try to read at least a few of the “assigned” books my grandchildren have to read. It’s enjoyable to be able to discuss with them and provides me access to how they think and process what they read.

  2. Natalie G says:

    I love this list! I do see that the email mentioned something about a Fall Book Preview offer, but I don’t see that here. Any info?
    thanks!

    • Anne Bogel says:

      ACK I’m so sorry, this is an error and it’s totally my fault! Our Fall Book Preview live event was on September 8 and I should not have included that in the subject line. (It’s still possible to view and participate, as the replay to that live event is now available for viewing to members of our What Should I Read Next patreon and Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club communities, but for the sake of simplicity I had meant to leave that in the past as fas as our emails were concerned. Apologies for any confusion I added here.)

  3. Susan says:

    Great list! I’m firmly against banning any books. If my kid is interested in reading something that’s a little “mature” — I view it as a great way to enter into a discussion. She’s going to encounter all kinds of topics and ways of thinking during her middle school and high school years. Let’s talk about them and explore them together, not cut off the discussion. I want to be her go-to for questions.

  4. Haley Wofford says:

    I bought The Poet X as an impulse buy when it first came out and had to read it in one sitting. I’ve been in love with the works of Elizabeth Acevedo ever since. I am a little surprised that it’s being banned though.

    • Penelope Landa says:

      I also love E.Acevedo! “Clap When You Land” is a favorite. Recently read a wonderful way of wording what books do for us: They are both a window and a mirror. A window to see others and a mirror to see ourselves reflected in what we read. I am also surprised a some of the books listed here. It has peaked my curiosity and, as a 70 y.o. has spurred an interest in rereading those I read so long ago, and in introducing myself to new books and ways of writing IE: the graphic novel. THX, Ann Bogel for helping keep me “in the loop”.

  5. Maria says:

    House of Spirits is one of my all time favorite books. I did not realize it was banned. I usually have a “banned book” on my annual reading challenge. Listened to The Things We Carried narrated by Bryan Cranston for this category, and it was really good (though difficult stories were certainly told). As an aside, we stumbled upon our new favorite board book for our granddaughter , Everywhere Babies, because it was banned.

  6. Angie Hoffman says:

    I was inspired by prof in grad school (a seminary) who took up the challenge of reading everything his son was assigned to read in school, from elementary to graduate school, so he could engage with what was being read, and to not fear it.
    Later, the CFO of a large healthcare system in which I worked said each year for Christmas, he asked his children to gift him something to read or listen to that was important to them, so he could engage with them about it.
    I love all this. Reading diversely, even if it is uncomfortable is an important aspect of my life.

  7. Karen says:

    I am a retired librarian who is pretty horrified by the attacks on books, and librarians happening now.

    One of my favorite activities, when I worked in a college, was to discuss free speech and book banning with students. I loved pulling out the list of most banned books and asking their opinions. The more we talked, the more they realized that it’s a very slippery slope when making decisions for others. After discussion, many realized it was best to let people decide for themselves.

    • Carolyn Haun says:

      Banning books in public school is of grave concern to me because it can lead to the same book being banned at the local library (which may be the only library for miles in a rural area) and has even resulted in local libraries being threatened with closure for carrying books banned by a school. The “slippery slope” as another person stated in the comments.

      Also, rural communities still don’t all have easy, free access to the internet, not all small communities have bookstores or public libraries, and not everyone can afford to buy books.

      Having grown up in a rural community, my school library, at that time, was my only library and opened my mind to the world. I’m especially worried about censorship in these communities where access to options for getting books are still limited.

      • Breon Randon says:

        This is so close to my heart. My school library was the only library I could get to for the better part of a decade, and I’m high school I worked with the county to bring it into our county system because there just wasn’t anything else- and my school covered 9 large rural towns and many, many miles. If books weren’t accessible there, we weren’t getting them anywhere. When people say not in my school, it often means that those books disappear.

  8. Suzy says:

    A Wrinkle in Time? Seriously? Well, we each have our objections. There are some books I would not want available to my children, but I agree with Adrienne–ultimately the responsibility rests with parents to know what their children are reading, and discuss it with them. But then I thought, if a school has banned A Wrinkle in Time, is that the only place a child can get it? Heavens no, they can go to the public library, bookstore, or order one online! (Or read their mother’s copy!) So I don’t see it as that big a deal. Good books won’t be snuffed out.

    • Breon says:

      For now. VA is suing Barnes and Noble for carrying “indecent” books in my state. Wrinkle in Time is a low bar- a classic with a cult following that has a Disney movie made from it. Books by minorities and other voices don’t stand a chance. And school libraries are some of the only places non-affluent kiddos can’t get access to books. Not everyone can just go to Amazon. It’s a pretty big deal to a lot of people, though I’m glad it wouldn’t be to all. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone had the same access? (Said completely without snark, just typing is hard).
      But agreed on Wrinkle in Time. I just reread and it was a laughable stretch to ban on religious grounds.

    • Karen says:

      You may not realize that book banning is also going on in public libraries, with librarian jobs being threatened if they attempt to fight a ban.

    • Suzy says:

      Sorry, while I was writing my comment above, several comments came in that I hadn’t seen, the ones stating that rural areas often don’t have access to another library or internet or the money to buy books. I have lived in rural areas, and I live in one now (very poor area, with low broadband coverage) and have not had that problem, but if it IS a thing, then I’m sorry! That is a problem!

  9. Jan says:

    A voracious reader from the age of four, I attended a K-8 public school and had access to the range of books for that entire age range in our school library. I read many, many books that might have been deemed “inappropriate” or “over my head”. (The Diary of Anne Frank when I was 8, for example, after I finished the assigned Little House in the Big Woods in a couple of days) was one of the best parts of my education: exposure to a wide range of ideas and subject matter far beyond what was presented in the classroom, and a tremendous boost in my vocabulary. “Protecting” children from ideas and real-world issues stifles their ability to think critically and problem solve.

    • Melanie says:

      It’s not just children, either. I’m in Canada, and there are books I’d like to read (non-fiction) and our equivalent to Barnes and Noble refuse to carry them in the store. They have one view point at the top, and won’t buy books in that oppose their views. Censorship is a real world issue for adults, too. So many books are “banned” today. Fortunately, I can get most of them from Amazon, but I’ve had to order from England, as well, since I simply cannot buy the book in Canada. I recently received a book from England that I couldn’t even buy in an e-book version. It’s crazy what is happening now! No one needs to protect me from books. I can discern what is good and not good for me. Children do need protection at all costs, I’m afraid, as there are too many predators out there trying to sneak in the back door. A parent must be involved with their child’s education, which includes what happens at home with screen time. Shifting books to a higher shelf, or keeping age-appropriate books available at the right school level, is important. By high school, unless it’s porn, there are no books to keep out as far as I’m concerned. I’m a bit pickier with elementary schools, though. The content of books when I was a child is radically different from what is available now. Sorry.

  10. Michelle says:

    Banning books always makes me angry and bewildered. If you don’t want to read a book for whatever reason, DON’T READ IT. If you feel something is too mature or whatever for your children, that is your prerogative. But to take your views and impose them on school libraries or public ones or bookstores so that I (or my children) can’t read that book??? How does that make sense? It boggles my mind…”you” find it offensive (or whatever) so “I” can’t read it? That’s pure craziness to me.

  11. Brenda Steiner says:

    When you recommend lists of books, can you include somewhere just a simple list of books with authors that can be printed out? I would like to be able to take the list with me to the library. I only look at your site on my desktop.

  12. Melinda says:

    I’ve read most of these and taught many. I especially love Fahrenheit 451.
    I would add Brave New World, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Kite Runner, and the Harry Potter series as must-read banned books.

  13. Amy L says:

    I find it ironic and eye-roll inducing that adults are banning books which, by and large, don’t hold a candle to the content of their kids web search histories, Tik tok accounts and snapchats.

  14. Emily in Milwaukee says:

    David Levithan’s new Middle Grade novel “Answers in the Pages” is about a 5th grader’s assigned book being challenged by his mom. It is So Good! It is a very thoughtful and tactful story about the effect of book banning on students, teachers, and others in the community.

  15. Natalie says:

    I was also surprised by some of the titles on this list. It doesn’t make sense to me to ban books for many of the reasons they are normally banned, which I think boils down to life experiences – topics like drugs, sexuality, LGBTQ characters or issues, racism, religion; these are all subjects we encounter in real life. My issue is when the books become required reading. I believe the parent should be aware of and give the consent for their child to read certain content, because they know their child best.

  16. Peggy Coffey says:

    My parents never banned any book we wanted to read. They allowed it as long as we were emotionally ready to read it. It was the same with my own children. The parents should be the last authority on whether or not their children should read a banned book. And they should not be shamed or bullied if they do not want their child reading a book they’re uncomfortable with. Let them decide and that’s the end of it. Every family is different, their choices are their own.

      • Adrienne says:

        I agree… I think if a parent believes their child should not be reading a particular book, that should be addressed between the parent and child, and we shouldn’t be putting librarians in the position of being the book police. That’s a no-win situation for the librarians as they can never please everyone. Where I think it gets difficult is assigning a book as required reading that a parent believes is not appropriate for their child. In those cases, the parents wishes must be respected with some opt-out mechanism available.

  17. Lisa F. says:

    My all-time favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird, is frequently on lists of challenged books, along with other beloved classics like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Diary of Anne Frank. As a library aide, I was helping my coworker last week, as she is in charge of our library’s banned books display. I was surprised to see works like Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night being challenged at times, but the biggest surprise to me was Winnie-the-Pooh. Pooh has been challenged not only for having talking animals, but because he doesn’t wear pants. Surely these people have noticed that real bears don’t wear pants, either?

  18. Debbie says:

    Great list! I am 100% against banning books, but I admit I was surprised when my children were in school to see Flowers In The Attic on the main display case in the school library. I read that and its sequels in middle school, and I kind of wish I hadn’t (along with some other books — I found a copy of Anais Bin’s Delta of Venus and read that!). I still had no desire to see the school library ban Flowers In The Attic, but I questioned (in my head) the librarian’s choice of putting it on display as a recommended book, and I think about that when I hear about books being banned in school libraries. It feels like some books might be better off on shelves where kids have to look for them rather than on display. I think reasonable parents and librarians might find some middle ground in this issue, but of course it’s become politicized.

    • Breon Randon says:

      I think that’s a very nuanced and thoughtful take. I definitely read that series earlier than I can imagine my child reading it, but in a way, I also think my kiddo is a bit more sheltered than I was. I think it should be an option, but probably not on front street at the school library.

  19. Pennie says:

    I think it is important that the people who want to ban the books actually read the books that they want banned. They may be surprised.

    • Elizabeth says:

      It seems that only parents who have kids at the school should be able to start the paperwork for banning a book. That said, I think most of these(older) kids are seeing stuff on TV at the movies, on tic Tok. Although, it does seem there are younger kids that see stuff on TV at home.

      I did not have any limits on my reading, but had strict limits on my tv and movie viewing. I am not sure my parents were aware what was in the Sidney Sheldon novels..

  20. Wow! I had no idea Geraldine Brooks’ YEAR OF WONDERS had once been banned. That is one of my all-time favorite books; I’ve probably read it three times…

    I loved what you said about timing being everything in the reading life and that curation, not banning, is the way to go.

    • Elaine says:

      Exactly my comment, Susan. I read “Year of Wonders” this year and it has to be one of my favorite books of all time. I was truly surprised to find that anyone would want to ban it; makes no sense.

  21. Jenelle Tollefson says:

    Is the photo above NOT an image of all the banned books? I was looking to see why Friday Night Lights was banned but it was not on your list.

  22. Tara says:

    To me it shows the power of books and reading. How often do you hear about a song or movie getting banned? But books have power. And yes to your children being exposed to EVERYTHING on social media. If book banners think they can control what ideas flow into people’s brains….

  23. Laurie Munn says:

    Feel free to read my friend David Clawson’s book, “My Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen,” a delightful and hilarious retelling of “Cinderella.” Banned in Idaho and I assume elsewhere.

  24. Mary says:

    I am not down with banning books, and I have read many on this list. But I also think that we paint with a broad brush when we say any time a book is challenged that means people are trying to ban it. In many (but not all!) cases, it’s not a question of someone trying to ban a book outright as much as them saying, “not here.”

    And quite frankly, I can understand that. I am reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn right now. It’s a fantastic book, but if I saw it on the shelf in my 4th grader’s classroom, I would probably suggest that it be removed. Not because no 4th grader can handle it, but because there is a lot of heavy stuff in there and 9-year-olds might have trouble processing it. Maybe they pick it up not knowing what it is, it upsets them and they don’t know how to reach out to someone to discuss what they’ve read. I think we forget that books can be traumatizing, and maybe it’s better to save some titles until kids are more mature.

    I think a huge part of this is that there is no longer a consensus about what is inappropriate for kids. At one time, I think almost everyone would have agreed that explicit depictions of sex are not for kids, but that’s not true anymore.

    Some people are being morality police when they challenge books, but I think for many others, there is a genuine concern about kids being exposed to material before they are emotionally ready to handle it.

    • Karen says:

      Did you actually see a Tree Grows in Brooklyn in a 4th grade classroom? I strongly doubt it. One can generally trust teachers and librarians to be aware of age appropriate materials. It is part of their training. Materials are generally chosen with review sources and age appropriateness.

      I am not aware of many removal requests that aren’t actual requests to ban a book from ALL others reading it.

      From my understanding, most schools have a reading list that the child can take home and let parents see. The parent can express a concern about a book for his/her child without deciding that no one can read it.

      • Mary says:

        No, I have not. It was a hypothetical example of how someone might challenge a book without wanting it banned for everyone.

        However, not hypothetical is the fact that our K-8 school created an “upper middle school” section of the library with books on a top shelf that only 7th and 8th graders can check out. I’m not sure what is there, but I know it was created because some parents questioned the appropriateness of certain books for younger students.

        In our school, we don’t have reading lists. Kids just select what they want to read for free reading time from the classroom and library shelves. I trust our teachers’ and librarian’s judgement, but I also know that there is no way they can read all the books on the shelves. As a parent, I appreciate it when another parent flags a book for potentially problematic content.

        We also have some crazy ban-the-books folks in our community. I am not defending that behavior. I am just saying that we talk like all “challenges” are attempts to ban books when it is really more nuanced than that, IMO.

  25. Elaine says:

    I’ve read so many of these and was shocked to see that they are frequently banned (Great Gatsby? Really?). Especially surprising was “Year of Wonders” which I read this year and just yesterday recommended to my book club–so much in it to discuss and a page-turner of a book. Checked all my boxes.

  26. Katherine D says:

    Only 2 of the books in this list are on the 2020-2021 lists at the ALA (“The Hate U Give” & “The Bluest Eye”). While the subject matter is noted, there’s no information on the context of the complaint. Did an elementary school parent want “The Hate U Give” off the children’s shelves because it’s not age appropriate? A complaint like that seems reasonable to me & is not “banning” a book.

    Additionally, the list tracks complaints. What was the result of the complaint? Again, was the book actually removed or was the complaint denied? We don’t know.

    I do my best to analyze information presented to me by checking original sources if I can. We all recognize the media (all media) shapes their news to their own bias. That’s fine, but I try to understand what it is.

  27. Karen B. says:

    This banned book list made me happy that many of the books on the list were required reading not only by me (72 years old), but were required for our sons in their early 40’s. I agree with you on all the points you make about being aware of where your child’s reading maturity is. But to ban all the books that people find are offensive doesn’t make any sense.
    Thanks to you and your team for their demanding work in preparing these posts and podcasts for your readers.
    Karen B.

  28. Sharon says:

    I read The Bluest Eye at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown in March 2020 (after putting it off for years), and it killed me. I have read another couple of Toni Morrison’s books since then, and while she is a wonderful writer, I just can’t read any more of her (admittedly excellent) books, as they are just too intense for me.

    There are several others on this list that I’ve read and enjoyed, as well as a couple I’ve not yet read but want to. My book club read The Hate U Give shortly after it come out, and we all loved it.

  29. Jen says:

    As a school librarian, I wish that I could say that it’s the books that are being attacked. In reality, the real attacks are aimed at the librarians and teachers that keep the books on the shelves and available to young people. Small but vocal groups of parents are targeting school and library professionals and claiming that they are harming children by providing them with these books. I work in a relatively liberal community but my colleagues and I are already preparing ourselves for the possibility that we will be labeled “groomers” for keeping LGBTQ+ books and books about being trans on the shelves.
    If you are reading this list and wondering why anyone would want to ban a book like “The Great Gatsby”, keep in mind that it’s likely not the book itself but young people’s access to “inappropriate” content. Please reach out to your local librarians, especially children’s and youth services librarians, and let them know that you value the work that they are doing and that you support the right to read. When facing censorship it really helps to have a couple of parents on the library’s side advocating for their community.

  30. Melanie says:

    It’s very sad, when on one side education preaches critical thinking and tolerance, and on the other hand censors free speech and bans books. No book should be banned, ever. Saying that, there are books that are clearly age-appropriate, and keeping them in that category is not banning, in my opinion. You have to know your child and be active in his/her life, and be prepared to have hard conversations as the need arises. As a teacher, I feel it is important to pre-read any required reading, and be prepared for teaching and discussing the content. You have to thoroughly understand your purpose for mandating a specific book be read. I remember hearing about the scandalous “A Catcher in the Rye” and it wasn’t a required reading in my high school. I finally got a chance to read it as an adult and could not understand why it was banned, and that was with my teacher brain reading it. I was shocked to see Tara Westover’s book in your list. Abuse happens, and hiding it doesn’t make it go away. I really enjoyed the book. I recommended it to many people and bought my dad a copy (he’s a reader, too). Again, age is important in the consideration of reading materials. Curious George isn’t for high school, and Hamlet isn’t for grade 5. Censorship only encourages people to seek out the book to find out about the mystique, which defeats the original purpose of the ban.

  31. Spet says:

    Thank you for this list. Such good reads being missed. Some of these I really wonder why they are banned. I will be a rebel and read them all!

  32. Mel says:

    This practice of banning books is bizarre! We do have banned books in NZ but they are small in number and mostly are the ones around making your own weapons and drugs. I am in NZ and we teach a fair number of the books above in my school. The books on this list don’t deserve to be there.

  33. Sheila says:

    My daughter is a sophomore in high school and reads whatever she wants. In 8th grade she had a wonderful Honors English teacher that gave them the opportunity to read some really great stuff. Some of the subject matter in those books was hard to read about, but it’s also what is going on in our world today and the internet brings that right to my daughter through Google or Apple news alerts. It seems to me that those who want to protect their kids from difficult themes in books are lucky enough not to have to protect their kids from those same things in real life.

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