Banned Books

Why was this book book banned or challenged?

Cover image for The handmaid's tale

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Offred, a Handmaid, describes life in what was once the United States, now the Republic of Gilead, a shockingly repressive and intolerant monotheocracy, in a satirical tour de force set in the near future.

Reason: profanity, sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, “vulgarity and sexual overtones”
Cover image for The Da Vinci code :

The Da Vinci Codeby Dan Brown

When an elderly curator of the Louvre turns up murdered, his body surrounded by enigmatic ciphers written in invisible ink, code-breaker Robert Langdon and French cryptologist are called in to unravel the clues to the killing. 

Reason: religious viewpoint
Cover image for The curious incident of the dog in the night-time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time 

by Mark Haddon

Despite his overwhelming fear of interacting with people, Christopher, a mathematically-gifted, autistic fifteen-year-old boy, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor's dog and uncovers secret information about his mother.

Reason: offensive language, profanity, atheism
Cover image for The kite runner

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realizes that one day he must return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.

Reason: offensive language, violence, sexually explicit
Cover image for The satanic verses

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

A hijacked aeroplane blows apart above the English Channel and Gibreel Farishta, India's legendary movie star, and Saladin Chamcha, the man of a thousand voices wash up, alive, on an English beach. But there is a price to pay.

Reason: religious viewpoint, anti-Islam
Cover image for Beloved

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Sethe, an escaped slave living in post-Civil War Ohio with her daughter and mother-in-law, is persistently haunted by the ghost of her dead baby girl.
Reason: sexual material, violence, bestiality, language, and other “inappropriate topics”
Cover image for Habibi

Habibi by Craig Thompson

Follows the relationship between two refugee child slaves, Dodola and Zam, who are thrown together by circumstance and who struggle to make a place for themselves in a world fueled by fear and vice.
Reason: nudity, sexually explicit
Cover image for Fifty shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

When Anastasia Steele, a young literature student, interviews wealthy young entrepreneur Christian Grey for her campus magazine, their initial meeting introduces Anastasia to an exciting new world that will change them both forever.

Reason: sexually explicit, “poorly written”
Cover image for Saga. V. 1

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan

Two soldiers from opposite sides of a galactic war fall in love and risk everything when they decide to start a family.

Reason: anti-family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
Cover image for Naked

Naked by David Sedaris

The author recounts hitchhiking across the country with an odd cast of quadriplegics and deadbeats, working as a migrant worker in North Carolina, and other adventures.
Reason: abortion, cannibalism, homosexuality, drug use
Cover image for Nickel and dimed :

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

Ehrenreich decides to see if she can scratch out a comfortable living in blue-collar America. What she discovers is a culture of desperation, where workers often take multiple low-paying jobs just to keep a roof overhead.
Reason: portrays the poor negatively
Cover image for The complete Persepolis

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

The great-granddaughter of Iran's last emperor and the daughter of ardent Marxists describes growing up in Tehran in a country plagued by political upheaval and vast contradictions between public and private life.

Reason: discusses class structure, racism, gender issues, and questioning authority, gambling, political viewpoint, “politically, racially, and socially offensive”
Cover image for The color purple

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The lives of two sisters--Nettie, a missionary in Africa, and Celie, a southern woman married to a man she hates--are revealed in a series of letters exchanged over thirty years.
Reason: rape, racism, offensive language, sexually explicit
Cover image for Running with scissors :

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

Burroughs describes his bizarre coming-of-age years after his adoption by his mother's psychiatrist, during which he witnessed such misadventures as a fake suicide attempt and front-lawn family/patient sleepovers.
Reason: homosexuality, sexual content, profanity, underage drinking and smoking, child molestation, pedophilia, “extreme moral shortcomings”
Cover image for The Freedom Writers Diary

The Freedom Writers Diary 

by the Freedom Writers with Erin Grunwell

A true account of a teacher who confronted a room of "at-risk" students details their life-changing journey and includes diary excerpts.
Reason: explicit language
Cover image for Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 

by Mark Twain

Huckleberry Finn sets off with Jim, an escaped slave, to find freedom on the Mississippi river. With the law on their tail, they navigate a world of robbers, slave hunters and con men, and Huck must choose between what society says is right and his own burgeoning understanding of Jim's friendship and humanity, in a razor-sharp satire of the antebellum South.
Reason: offensive language
Cover image for All the king's men

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

Louisiana governor Willie Stark's obsession with political power leads to the ultimate corruption of his gubernatorial administration, in the story of the rise and fall of a Southern politician and demagogue in the 1930s.

Reason: “depressing view of life,” “immoral situations”
Cover image for Gender queer :

Gender Queer by Maya Kobabe

Kobabe explores eir nonbinary and asexual identities through personal stories in this graphic novel memoir.
Reason: LGBTQIA+, sexually explicit images

Cover image for Brave new world :

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The ethical controversies of cloning, feel-good drugs, anti-aging programs, and total social control through politics, programming and media are woven together in the year 632 A.F.
Reason: obscenity, vulgarity, drug use
Cover image for The catcher in the rye

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

After leaving prep school Holden Caulfield spends three days on his own in New York City.
Reason: profanity, sex, violence

The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

The diary of a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl in hiding with her family from 1942-1944 in Amsterdam.
Reason: sexual references
Cover image for Fanny Hill, or, Memoirs of a woman of pleasure

Fanny Hill by John Cleland

Fanny Hill, one of the most popular novels of the 18th century, traces the rise of its heroine from prostitution to middle-class respectability.

Reason: sexually explicit
Cover image for Gone with the wind

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

A spoiled young Southern belle vows to rebuild her family plantation home after the Civil War and is swept off her feet by a man who infuriates her.
Reason: depiction of slaves, language, behavior of main character
Cover image for The Grapes of wrath

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Depicts the hardships and suffering endured by the Joads as they journey from Oklahoma to California during the Depression.

Reason: vulgar language, using God’s name in vain, sexual references, promoting political propaganda
Cover image for I know why the caged bird sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings 

by Maya Angelou

The first in Angelou’s seven-volume autobiography, it is a coming-of-age story that illustrates how strength of character and a love of literature can help overcome racism and trauma.

Reason: explicit portrayal of rape and sexual abuse

Cover image for Lolita

Lolita by Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov

A novel that studies the moral disintegration of a man whose obsessive desire to possess his step-daughter destroys the lives of those around him.

Reason: pedophilia, incest, sexual themes, obscenity
Cover image for One flew over the cuckoo's nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

McMurphy, a criminal who feigns insanity, is admitted to a mental hospital where he challenges the autocratic authority of the head nurse.

Reason: "glorifies criminal activity, has a tendency to corrupt juveniles and contains descriptions of bestiality, bizarre violence, and torture, dismemberment, death, and human elimination" and promotes "secular humanism”
Cover image for A prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Owen Meany hits a foul ball while playing baseball in the summer of 1953 that kills his best friend's mother, an accident that Owen is sure is the result of divine intervention.

Reason: objectionable language, sexual content, vulgarity
Cover image for Snow falling on cedars

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

On a small, isolated island north of Puget Sound in 1954, Japanese American Kabuo Miyamoto is charged with the murder of a fisherman.

Reason: sexual content, profanity
Cover image for To kill a mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Six year-old Scout, a white girl living in Alabama in the 1930s, narrates her experience as the daughter of a lawyer defending a Black man accused of raping a white woman.

Reason: racism and racial themes, objectionable language, sexual references, rape
Cover image for Water for elephants :

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Ninety-something-year-old Jacob Jankowski remembers his time in the circus as a young man during the Great Depression, and his friendship with Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, and Rosie, the elephant, who gave them hope.
Reason: sexual content, violence, profanity
Cover image for Beartown :

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

In the tiny forest community of Beartown, the possibility that the amateur hockey team might win a junior championship, bringing the hope of revitalization to the fading town, is shattered by the aftermath of a violent act that leaves a young girl traumatized.

Reason: vulgarity, graphic
Cover image for The glass castle :

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Wells, the child of an alcoholic father and an eccentric artist mother, discusses her family's nomadic upbringing, during which she and her siblings fended for themselves while their parents outmaneuvered bill collectors and the authorities.

Reason: vulgar language, sexually explicit
Cover image for The house of the spirits

The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende

The story of three generations of the Trueba family.

Reason: “pornographic,” “immoral,” “defaming the Catholic faith”
Cover image for Carrie

Carrie by Stephen King

A repressed teenager uses her telekinetic powers to avenge the cruel jokes of her classmates.

Reason: violence, profanity, underage sex, negative view of religion
Cover image for A clockwork orange

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

A satire of the present inhumanity of man to man through a futuristic culture where teenagers rule with violence.

Reason: objectionable language
Cover image for The things they carried :

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

A collection of award-winning and utterly moving stories about the madness of the Vietnam war.

Reason: profanity, sexual content
Cover image for A farewell to arms :

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

An American's love for an English nurse during the First World War ends in tragedy.

Reason: sexual content
Cover image for Fun home :

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Bechdel’s graphic novel exploration of her relationship with her father, who died shortly after Bechdel discovered that like her, he too was gay.

Reason: drug use, sexual content, anti-religion, LGBTQIA+, “pornographic”
Cover image for A stolen life :

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

Dugard chronicles her kidnapping and the 18 years she was kept prisoner, then sexually and mentally abused. Jaycee was taken when she was 11 years old.

Reason: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit
Cover image for Lawn boy :

Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison

Faced by a life of menial prospects in the years after high school, Mike Munoz, a young Mexican-American, attempts over and over to change his life for the better and achieve the American dream, only to be stymied by social-class distinctions and cultural discrimination.

Reason: LGBTQIA+ content, sexually explicit
Cover image for As I lay dying :

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

The members of a Southern family contribute their individual tribulations to this encompassing impression of rural poverty.

Reason: references to abortion, using God’s name in vain, masturbation, questions existence of God, profanity
Cover image for Native son

Native Son by Richard Wright

This is the story of Bigger Thomas, a young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic in 1930s Chicago.

Reason: violence, profanity, sex
Cover image for The bluest eye

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove, an African-American girl in an America whose love for blonde, blue-eyed children can devastate all others, prays for her eyes to turn blue, so that she will be beautiful, people will notice her, and her world will be different.

Reason: Sexually explicit, “contain[s] controversial issues”
Cover image for The 1619 Project :

The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones and The New York Times Magazine

The idea of The 1619 Project is that our national narrative is more accurately told if we begin not on July 4, 1776, but in late August of 1619, when a ship arrived in Jamestown bearing a cargo of twenty to thirty enslaved people from Africa. The 1619 Project tells this new origin story, placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are as a country.
Reason: “a racially divisive and revisionist account,” “attempts to deny or obfuscate the fundamental principles upon which the United States was founded.”

Want to know more about banned books? The books listed above, as well as others, can be found in these resources:

“Banned Adult Books,” compiled by the staff of Brilliant Books, a bookstore in Traverse City, MI

“Banned and Challenged Adult Fiction Books,” from the American Library Association:

“Banned and Challenged Classics” from the American Library Association:

“The 35 Most Frequently Banned Books of the Fast Five Years” (2018), written by Emily Petsko for Metal Floss:

The Banned Books guide from the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library in Alabama:

“Banned Books Week 2021,” a list from Powell’s, a bookstore in Portland, Oregon:

“Lawmakers Push to Ban ‘1619 Project’ From Schools” (2021), an article by Sarah Schwartz for Education Week:

“Banned Books,” a section of the Marshall University Libraries website that considers the banning of each book individually, listing cases and challenges compiled by librarian Ron Titus: