A quick Look at Books that Have been Challenged or Banned

book burning

Unsplash photo by Fred Kearney


Hi SEers, John with you again. Happy Arbor Day. Hug a tree or better yet, plant one.

The last two times I have been exploring the idea of sensibilities in books as it relates to race, religion, gender, gender preference, sexual orientation, age, and nationality. The first post raised the issue. The second asked you what you felt should be done with books that were insensitive. If you missed those posts, you could visit them HERE for the first, and HERE for the second.

Today I would like to wrap the discussion with a little information on book banning and challenging. My purpose is to let you know that across America book bans and challenges are still going on. I fully expect that with the rise of increased attention and criticism of historical America there will be more scrutiny of books dealing with that history. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 156 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2020. Of the 273 books that were targeted, here are the ten most challenged as reported on the ALA website, along with the reasons cited by the ALA for challenging the books.

George by Alex Gino
Reasons: Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
Reasons: Banned and challenged because of the author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author
Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
Reasons: Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Reasons: Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message

If you would like to check out the last five years you can go to the ALA website. Here is the link http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10

Another interesting thing to look at is how many books out of the top 100 classic volumes have been challenged or banned. Here is a list. If you would like to know the reasons, please visit the ALA website HERE.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Ulysses, by James Joyce
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
1984, by George Orwell
Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Native Son, by Richard Wright
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
Go Tell It on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burges
The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron
Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
Naked Lunch, by William S. Burrough
Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
Women in Love, by DH Lawrence
The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
Rabbit, Run, by John Updike

As you can see the quality of the book does not guarantee that it won’t be challenged or even banned.

How would you react to having one of your books challenged or banned? Let me know in the comments section. Have a great day too.

106 thoughts on “A quick Look at Books that Have been Challenged or Banned

  1. Pingback: Canceled and/or Beloved? | Story Empire

  2. I’m blown away by how many books I’ve read on that list of challenged books. We have become such a bunch of sissies. If a book offends you or you don’t like it, put it down. No one is forcing you to read it. You are allowed your opinion but that doesn,t mean your opinion rules. And these big wigs at the top of the judgment table should not exist. I agree with you that it is up to parents to educate their children and determine at what level of maturity their kids are at to reach whichever books – and the parent can use them as tools to teach them.
    No books should be banned. Ever.

    Liked by 2 people

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  4. Hi John, I don’t believe in banning books for adults. I think the controversial content should be explained rather, together with changes in thinking. Children’s books are different. You can’t expect a child to understand a change in thinking and controversial content can be both hurtful and harmful to children. I am surprised how many of these previously banned books I’ve read.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Our daughter, tin her role as the literary consultant at a private middle school/highschool in Georgia, encountered a book-banning incident when a local bookstore had an annual book-sponsoring event at the school and one of the books had a same-sex parent situation. It was definitely the parents who insisted on the banning…

        Liked by 1 person

  5. So interesting, John. It seems like all sides of the political spectrum would like to ban certain books. I guess the good part is that the content generates discussion and raises awareness. I wouldn’t mind having a book banned. Hey publicity is publicity! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear John,
    we became aware of this censorship in the US and in Canada as well. Just a fortnight ago we were confronted with it. We wanted to talk about AI in literature in different media (podcasts and radio). We weren’t allowed to talk about “Frankissstein” by Jeanette Winterson because it isn’t suited for young readers. Well, the book is longlisted for the Booker Prize (2019). In this case it’s prudishness like it was with “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” because the book breaks a tabu telling the readers the AI and robotic was and is very much researched by the sex-industry.
    With our Scandinavian-German background we thought censorship was history.
    Thank for touching this topic.
    Wishing you a great weekend
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂


  7. Thanks for exploring this issue, John. I have to go with the notion that these books should be explored.I grew up with some pretty conservative parents, and I read a lot of those books.

    Looking at the list of banned books, I’d be happy to be included next to those authors.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Pingback: #ReblogAlert – This Week on #StoryEmpire | The Write Stuff

  9. Wow. I can understand the temptation to ban some of these books. But I don’t think that’s the answer to the problems we’re having today. Whatever happened to the individual making up their own mind about what they believe in and stand for? It seems that the powers that be are exercising a dangerous control. What happened to our freedom to read and write what we want? I understand that words can be powerful and hurtful, Authors should be responsible and sensitive when writing, but is banning books the answer? No. I think that’s going too far. And who’s the god-like person choosing the books that get banned? Literary works are being challenged yet no one does anything about the atrocities wriiten online. :/

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Like many have mentioned some of my favourite books are in this list but few of them were banned here in the UK. Only a couple of the titles mentioned. One other that was banned In the US and UK is Micheal Moorcock’s “Behold the Man” which is one of the best short stories ever written in my opinion (though it was released as a novel). I also wished to mention a couple of (the many) great works banned by the Soviet Union. Solzhenitsyn’s “One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich” and Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The master and Margarita” otherwise what a great list.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Like many others, I am shocked by some of the books on the list. I don’t know if it still is, but during the 90s, Of Mice and Men was on the GCSE curriculum in the UK.
    Banning books is never the way to go. For one thing, it suggests that the censors know better. If they read the book and decide it will somehow corrupt people, how come they aren’t corrupted? If they aren’t, then the book isn’t the corrupting influence they think.
    Many of those books serve to point out, in a dramatic way, the wrongs of society.
    And no one has to read any particular book once they leave school. People who find something offensive, close the book and don’t read it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Good points all, V.M., but I especially like your lines “If they read the book and decide it will somehow corrupt people, how come they aren’t corrupted? If they aren’t, then the book isn’t the corrupting influence they think. Well, ain’t that just the truth!! 😉

      Liked by 3 people

  12. A timeless topic, John! Thanks for a timely discussion we all need to keep in mind. Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was still being debated in California schools when I was teaching there in the 1990s. I wrote an essay on it, but can’t find it right now…
    Found this on Google just now: Huckleberry Finn banned immediately after publication
    Immediately after publication, the book was banned on the recommendation of public commissioners in Concord, Massachusetts, who described it as racist, coarse, trashy, inelegant, irreligious, obsolete, inaccurate, and mindless. ###
    Several of my favorite books are on your list.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. This is a great post and subject, John. My feeling about this is if you don’t like it, don’t read it. The reader can say why they don’t like, but they don’t have the right to decide for everyone else they can’t read it because of that. Life and history, can be, and is offensive. We can’t pretend it didn’t happen though, or isn’t happening. I made a point of reading from the banned list in the past, and although doubtful anything I write would make it to the banned point, it would irate me but I’d be in good company.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. I’m shocked at some of the titles on those lists. Shocked and…not surprised. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books of all time. As Don said, I can’t believe someone could read that book and not understand the message that the prejudices and attitudes of the time were wrong. It’s like looking at only half of a picture to say it should be banned.

    I am convinced there will ALWAYS be something to offend SOMEONE. As long as there is a platform for those who want to control the choices others are permitted to make, it’s our future. I still say those who sit in judgement today may find their views and actions deemed offensive decades/centuries from now. We can’t erase history, nor should we try. It’s there to teach us–the good and the bad. And fiction is fiction as Jan said. Sheesh!!

    My books are not at the level of these great classics or popular titles, so I don’t see them ever being banned. It wouldn’t surprise me, however, if someday, SOMEONE found SOMETHING offensive in something I’ve written. It seems you can’t do anything today without having someone take exception. On Twitter, I recently saw someone call out a single line reference in a review I’d written because it offended them. Seriously? I just shook my head and moved on.

    Excellent post, John, and great discussions.

    Liked by 6 people

    • “I still say those who sit in judgement today may find their views and actions deemed offensive decades/centuries from now.” Exactly so, Mae. And then they just may find their words on the top of the burn pile. Ooops.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Mae. Your comments certainly add to the discussion and I appreciate them. I think fooling with history is asking for trouble. I think challenging a book that contains sex or represents the views of folks that we may not agree with is a slippery slope. It is interesting that most of the challenges come at the school board level. You would think these people would know better. Have a great weekend. 😁

      Liked by 2 people

  15. This is a topic that really gets my blood boiling. The main thing I want to point out here is that these are works of FICTION! The definition of Fiction is made-up stories, not truths. It saddens me that we’ve turned into such an overly sensitive nation and that these great literary classics are banned from public libraries. However, on another note, with the increased digital age, It’s just a matter of time before libraries are extinct. I hope it’s not in my lifetime. My opinion about ALL books is that it should be up to the reader whether or not they want to pick up the book, not the library association or any other entity. I’d be crushed if one of my books was banned, but on the other hand, I’d be stoked that it got enough attention to be banned. Great topic, John!

    Liked by 5 people

  16. One of my all-time favorite books is To Kill a Mockingbird. I can’t imagine not ever having had the opportunity to read it…many times over. Our society should be free to learn from our past mistakes, not try and rewrite history.

    Liked by 5 people

  17. Book banning has been around since books began. Still doesn’t make any sense. 9 times out of 10, the ban is due to political or social discomfort. People decide it’s best to ban than allow a conversation to start about whatever is being brought up by the book. It never seems to be about quality.

    Liked by 4 people

  18. I’ve read the vast majority of the books on that list and to say I’m shocked that they’ve been challenged would be an understatement. When I think of some of the things politicians have been saying over the last couple of years, I have to wonder about the rationale behind banning pretty much any book…
    As for mine, it would be an honour to share a place with authors on this list but it’s very unlikely that I’ll be visible enough to warrant it! Thaks for a great set of topics on the subject, John.

    Liked by 5 people

  19. To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book of all time. The reasons it was banned tell me that whoever came to that decision didn’t read it for what it is, a groundbreaking book on race written about a time when the ideas expressed were part of the culture and the message put forth expressed how incorrect the ideas of the time were. I think students could learn a valuable lesson from reading the book with the correct messaging around it.

    Liked by 7 people

  20. I have read and taught many of those books. I am grateful that my school district hasn’t banned any of them because the lessons learned are priceless. If one of my books were to be banned, I think a part of me would feel honored that is was worthy of creating such a response from people who believe they are in power. I also think banned books tend to sell well because there are plenty of people who will buy it BECAUSE it is banned. Lol! Great post, John! 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  21. It angers me to see so many of the classics on the list. I probably shouldn’t say this, but for those who want their “perfect” world by shutting out anything and everything that offends them, they would do good to look back at history and see that Hitler banned books. Of course, many of them don’t believe the Holocaust happened, so I doubt they’d be convinced.

    As far as having one of my books banned? Doubt mine will ever be that popular, but it would anger me. Like Staci said, it would likely increase sales which is a testament to the sad state of our society.

    Liked by 7 people

    • Hemmingway’s early books were burned by the Nazi’s in 1933. So much for intelligent selection of what to read by that crowd. I feel the same as you regarding those who set themselves up as sole judge of what is acceptable. Thank you, Joan.

      Liked by 3 people

  22. I loved some of the books on that list and didn’t care for others, but I feel it’s MY right to determine what I think of them for myself. I don’t need anyone telling me what I can and cannot read, thank you very much! I never thought I’d see the day when the old phrase “Banned in Boston,” would be coming back disguised as other things, all in the name of protecting US, the readers, from thinking for ourselves. It’s still the same ignorant approach: If you decide something’s offensive, make sure you prevent anyone else from reading it and coming to their own conclusions. I hate it. HATE. IT.

    And for any of my books to get banned, it would probably mean a lot more people have actually bought and read them than is currently true. So there’s that. 😀

    Great post on a horrible topic, John. I’m utterly stunned at some of the work on that list. Thanks for pointing it out. 🙂

    Liked by 6 people

  23. A month ago, I watched the movie 1984. It was terrifying. I’m surprised it is listed, but the thought police probably fear it draws attention to the risk we face. Thank you for sharing this much-needed reveal, John. I was not aware the list was so extensive.

    Liked by 6 people

  24. Books with objectionable views or sensitive content should be discussed, not banned. It seems a very odd way of thinking to me, that we can just change what we don’t like about history and the world we live in by not allowing people to read about it.

    Liked by 8 people

  25. I disagree with banning books for no longer fitting in with modern (over)sensibilities.

    Banning books that ‘go against the (current) grain’ runs the risk of culture cancelling as it erases the way things were when the book was penned and published.

    Times change, and part of a book’s role is to preserve and record.

    Only by remembering and being aware can we avoid repeating any mistakes in former times. Though some points are outside of the social norm they happened. On my blog yesterday, Sarah asked a question about ‘would you go back and re-release a book to reflect changing laws and fashion and such?’ For me, personally, nope. I mean, sheesh, I wouldn’t want to forget how horrific I looked in the 80s with crimped hair and RaRa skirts! Lols! 😂 No, keep any pictures and books as a warning to future adolescents if nothing else! 🤣 🙂💕

    Great post, John. Thanks for sharing.

    To answer your question, I haven’t yet had a book banned. Howevever, Amazon have banned me from advertising or promoting my book FALLOUT because it mentions the word ‘virus’. I was incredibly annoyed and upset about that. Now I just feel resigned and disappointed. They killed that book. And it’s not even to do with COVID. It’s set way in the future in 3040 and all about nano bots, lols. Ah well, mini rant over! 🙂

    Reblogged this on: https://harmonykent.co.uk/a-quick-look-at-books-that-have-been-challenged-or-banned-story-empire-cancelculture/

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  26. Pingback: A quick Look at Books that Have been Challenged or Banned | Story Empire #CancelCulture? | Welcome to Harmony Kent Online

  27. I don’t understand why people try to ban something they disagree with. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it doesn’t reflect the culture of its era. And that’s what fiction should do—shine a light on the world as it stands at any given time. That’s the whole point. If everyone got rid of everything anyone found offensive, there would be nothing left.

    I’m sure initially I’d be shocked and hurt and outraged if something I wrote was banned. But once I came to terms with it, I’d realize I did something right. And in the end, it would probably help sales, which is a sad commentary on society in and of itself, but that’s a topic for another time.

    Great post and series, John.

    Liked by 7 people

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Staci. Some of the reasons for banning books are simply infantile. I worry that there are some serious people in high places that have such a low opinion of the ability of people to make up their own mind about issues that they would eliminate a statement of the issue. Your comment about sales is spot on. People will gravitate to intregue. Banning doesn’t work. 😁

      Liked by 5 people

  28. Pingback: Friday JohnKu – AKA – TGIF | Fiction Favorites

  29. Thank you, John, for sharing what books have been challenged or banned across America. I didn’t realize that the classics I have read are included on the list: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Lord of the Flies, and 1984. I remember that Catcher in the Rye was on this list when I was growing up. When I read it, I couldn’t understand the controversy because it had a strong message about the angst and alienation of an adolescent boy.

    Liked by 2 people

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