13 Banned Books You Should Read

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There’s something distastefully sour about the idea that books can be restricted and censored from readers by powerful people who think they know best. Banned books feel like such a dystopic concept.

Imagine plucking a book from a stranger’s hand and saying, “You can’t read that. I don’t agree with it.”

The looks you’d get. Eyebrows rising and feathers ruffled. Who are you to say your opinion is all that matters?

Books are knowledge, and knowledge is power.

Banned Books You Should Read

When knowledge is packed into locked boxes if deemed inappropriate or controversial, then we’re effectively

  • Insulting the intelligence of the individual to make their own opinions, and
  • Pushing towards a world where everyone thinks and feels and acts the same.

Hive mind? I’d rather not, thanks.

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People have been banning books for as long as they’ve been writing them. But did you know books still get banned today? Usually in schools, but often by governments as well.

I wouldn’t say every banned book is a literary delicacy that must be read by all (some schools are closing doors to racist classics which is, frankly, understandable. However, not recommending problematic books is different than banning them, and the first is fair, while the latter is dubious.) But there are some banned books you should have on your to-be-read pile.

Banned Books You Have to Read

Make yourself think. Ask questions. See the world from perspectives deemed controversial.

Banned books aren’t perfect. Be critical as you read them. But read them – that’s the important part.

I am intensely passionate about everyone’s right to think freely, read freely, and be kind to others. I think reading copious amounts of literature is a good place to start with that. 

Banned Books You Should Read

Here are a few banned books that I recommend. Sometimes the reason they’ve been banned is shockingly ridiculous and it’s hard to take seriously!

1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

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This children’s classic is infamous for its magical, bizarre and whimsical depiction of a nonsensical dream world. Pretty harmless, wouldn’t you think? It’s actually been banned several times, in several countries.

Once in China (for having talking animals and depicting them as on par with humans) and also in America (for promoting the use of drugs since the caterpillar smokes a hookah). 

2. The Lorax by Doctor Seuss

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Children’s picture books are usually rather harmless, but Doctor Seuss frazzled some nerves in the USA at one stage, ending with the book being banned for a while due to negative messages against logging.

Because a small child who cares for the environment is something to be feared. (Which is actually true! Never underestimate small, passionate children who want to change the world.)

Love Dr. Seuss? Check out this list of the most beloved Dr. Seuss characters of all time!

3. Dear Martin by Nic Stone

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A more recent release is Dear Martin, which follows the story of a black boy named Justyce McAllister who writes letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a way to cope and has a dangerous run-in with a white cop.

It was banned for being “unacceptable” and for its “racial tendencies as a negative attribute of society.”

So when a black author talks about her experiences with racism, it’s…unacceptable? Book banning is still happening today and it’s sobering.

If anything, we should be reading more books by marginalized authors and being quiet as they tell their truths. Just because the truth is distasteful, doesn’t mean we should hide it.

4. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

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L’Engle is famously quoted as saying, “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

This could be a direct response to the fact her novel was accused of being too “complicated” for children. It was then banned for anti-religious sentiments and too much dark magic.

Conservative religious parents were not pleased. I remember devouring this book as a kid and one thing that stood out to me then (and now) is the scene in another world where all the children were identical and bouncing an identical ball.

Children who couldn’t stay in sync were punished. Our heroine, Meg, was horrified… and we should be too. We should embrace oddness and weirdness and diversity of life.

A Wrinkle In Time is on our list of the 100 best books of all time. Do you agree? Check out the full list!

5. The Giver by Lois Lowry

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Since it’s now a major film, it’s hard to believe this book was once banned.

But in the 1990s, it was! Parents protested the book’s themes on suicide and murder.

It never ceases to baffle me when books are penalized for portraying darkness in the world. Are we meant to ignore it? If we don’t talk about darkness, how do we know to fight it?

6. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

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Unsurprisingly, this series hits the list of banned books since it’s set in a world of witchcraft and wizardry. Good sorcerers go up against evil overlords. Magic is used with a swish and flick of a wand.

It’s all very anti-religious, in some people’s opinions, and has had parents and librarians in dozens of countries wiping it off the shelves. Yet it always finds its way back, doesn’t it?

How can we overlook the themes of justice, friendship and the fight against the evil that make up the heart of the Harry Potter series?

Harry Potter lovers will love this list of Harry Potter quotes! Check ’em out!

7. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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I definitely have a soft spot for this novel, especially considering I named my dog Atticus (he’s not living up to his intelligent name, unfortunately… He tries to eat the postman). But it has been notoriously banned on and off for years.

Usually for racism, sexual themes, and vulgar language. Basically, it made people uncomfortable.

The thing with controversial stories is: we, as readers, are quite able to read problematic content and discuss and dissect it ourselves. Plus this novel’s coming-of-age themes are timeless, and it’s always applicable to talk about justice and how the law can be warped by bias.

8. The Complete Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm

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Fairy tales are apparently dangerous things and the Grimm’s collection was banned solidly after World War II.

There were rumors they contained Nazi propaganda, and also gratuitous violence. It would be interesting to know if the former rumors were true.

Nevertheless, these fairy tales have become steadfast classics in the world, which really does prove that if you tell someone not to read a book… they’ll still, read it.

9. Looking For Alaska by John Green

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One of the biggest concerns I have with teen literature being banned is that adults are assuming teens are weak and unsteady and must be protected.

And while, certainly, being a teenager is a vulnerable time where your opinions are malleable and you’re still understanding yourself – but it’s exactly the time to be reading copious amounts of books and thinking hard on them.

Teens can be vulnerable without being fragile. Looking For Alaska was banned for things like characters having sex and swearing. So…basically things a lot of teens do.

Books are fantastic for producing a safe environment to talk about adult themes, so don’t insult teens’ intelligence by banning their books.

10. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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One of the biggest ironies of this book being banned is the fact the story is literally about restricting books.

So we’re banning books about banning books? It’s also been banned for obscene language and negative portrayal of religion. 

11. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

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This was banned in the 1920s for “depicting women in strong leadership roles” and having “no value for children”.

While that’s outdated thinking for today, it proves the fact people will always be offended and threatened by forward-thinking books.

And if we’re scoffing at that reason for banning in the 1920s, then we should be fighting many of today’s reasons for banning too.

Books like the Wizard of Oz are such magical adventurous delights. If girls are going on daring adventures to defeat witches, then that’s exactly the kind of content girls need to read about.

12. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

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Banned for being “satanic”, the famous trilogy has long since been in and out of controversy. It’s riled up the Christians for including wizards and magic, and it has worried parents for including Hobbits smoking their pipes.

It is, however, not banned for the act of taking off without shoes to have an adventure in the mountains and maybe die without ever telling anyone where you’ve gone.

So we have to wonder where everyone’s priorities lie with book banning?! Don’t smoke, kids, but pick up a sword if you want!!

13. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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This is one of my personal favorite books, purely for the fact it’s one of the only stories to make me cry. (Some people cry easily! I do not!)

I have such deep fondness for it, that I was really taken aback to find it on banned books list.

It’s been censored for having themes of sex, gay characters, and drugs and alcohol in it.

The irony is astounding to me since the book is about people in mentally dark places who learn to reach out and ask for help and face their demons. It’s a classic coming-of-age story, full of pain and growing up.

I have never forgotten the quote, “We accept the love we think we deserve,” and I firmly believe it’s a line everyone should think about.

Books about pain shouldn’t be censored. They should be there for people who are also struggling to read and find home and comfort in.

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About the Author

CG Drews is a YA book blogger with the goal to read every book in existence. She’s aiming for immortality for this. When not reading, she writes novels and blogs at paperfury.com.

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