Top 5 Banned Books to Read in Your Lifetime

Whenever someone tells me I can’t do something, it just makes me want to do it even more. So when I tell you that these books have been banned or challenged across the United States, maybe that will you inspire you to give them a try. All of these are on the American Library Association’s website for Frequently Banned and Challenged Books and in a time of polarized political conversations and views of censorship, you might find some of these books to be incredibly relevant.

  1. 1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

    The main premise of this book is to explore a dystopian American society that bans and burns books. This fact makes the banning of this book incredibly ironic and the reason why this is my #1 for a list of must-read banned books. This book has been banned, censored, or redacted in schools across the U.S., most notably in Florida, Texas, and California. Written during the McCarthy era, the discussion of the effects of censorship and the dangers of an illiterate society are more than relevant to today’s politics. Want to stay woke? This is should be your #1.

  2. 2. Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley

    An autobiography of one of the most famous human rights activists in history? You can bet it’s been the target of censorship. Malcolm X collaborates with Alex Haley to tell his story and share his ideas of black pride, black nationalism, and pan-Africanism. With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the continuing legacy of Malcolm X, this book is more than relevant to us today.

  3. 3. This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson

    Although this book is for younger audiences (ages 14-17), this book presents open and frank discussions for LGBTQ+ youth and is proclaimed to be the ultimate instruction manual for anyone curious about issues related to the LGBTQ+ community including issues such as stereotypes, coming out, and navigating homophobia and transphobia. When I looked for this book in my own hometown library, I found it hidden away literally in the back corner of the library, though its colorful cover is still hard to miss. This book has been the target of criticism for having it on library shelves, though I can’t imagine why…

  4. 4. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

    You’ve heard of the Hulu series, but did you know that it was a novel published in 1985? Atwood’s novel takes place in a dystopian future where America is a totalitarian state with a puritanical Christian form of government. Women are in subjugation in a strict patriarchal society, and the novel explores how women coped in the regime and attempted to gain independence. Taking a satirical view of various social, political, and religious trends of the United States in the 1980s, The Handmaid’s Tale is meant to show that an oppressive, totalitarian, and religious government could happen here in the United States and explores how that might play out. Unsurprisingly, the book makes the American Library Association’s “100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000.”

  5. 5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

    Written in 1982, this story takes place in rural Georgia and focuses on the life of African-American women in the 1930s. This novel explores themes such as the low social status and violence that black women face in American society. Due to its portrayal of violence, this book is on the American Library Association’s list of the “100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2000-2009.” Not only has this book been taken off school reading lists, but it’s also been taken off both the library and bookstore shelves.


American Library Association