Ten Frequently Challenged and Banned Books

As a longtime bibliophile, much of the way I see the world today is influenced by the books I have read. I consider reading to be liberating not only because it allows me to escape the confines reality through a work of fiction, but also because it has introduced me to new information and new ideas.

Some of this liberation, however, is stifled by literary censorship. When books are banned, ideas and critical thinking are often banned along with them. Here are just some of the few challenged or banned books:


To Kill A Mockingbird-Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird was one of my favorite assigned readings in high school and I now consider myself privileged to have been allowed the opportunity to read it while many schools have banned it. Now considered to be one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, its language and racial themes still draw challenges today.


The Harry Potter series-J.K.Rowling

The Harry Potter series has had a profound influence on my childhood as well as on the lives of the many others. The fantasy series has been criticized as “promoting witchcraft”, mainly by religious conservatives, but these challenges did not stop the books series from expanding into one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time.


The Catcher in the Rye-J.D.Salinger

Although The Catcher in the Rye is one of the most taught books in high school English classes, it is also among the most censored. The 1951 novel that has become an iconic depiction of teen rebellion and angst is frequently challenged for language, sexual reference and the perceived promotion of rebellion and immorality.


Lady Chatterley’s Lover-D.H. Lawrence

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, written by British author D.H.Lawrence, expresses themes of social class and of the contrast between mind and body as it tells the story of an affair between an upper class woman and a working class man. It is considered by some to be a predecessor of Fifty Shades of Gray and was subject to numerous challenges for its sexual content as well as its use of profane language. Initially published privately in Italy in 1928, the book was not published openly in the U.K. until almost thirty years later, when a publicized obscenity trial finally gave the publishing company the right to release it and, in doing so, helped pave the way for more literary freedom in the future.


Beloved-Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel has been a frequent target of challenges since its publishing in 1987 due to its depictions of slavery and violence. Beloved, which tells the story of a woman haunted by the loss of her child, is dedicated to “sixty million and more” in reference to the Africans and their descendents who perished as a result of the Atlantic Slave Trade.


Lolita-Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita, by Russian author Vladimir Nabokov, is a controversial novel about a middle-aged man who has a sexual obsession with a 12-year-old girl. Though sometimes considered to be an errotic novel, many have found it to have literary value as well. It still, however, remains a subject of controversy due to its content involving pedophilia.


The Color Purple-Alice Walker

A longtime resident on my to-read list, Alice Walker’s epistolary novel depicts the difficult life of a young black woman in the South. Its unflinchingly graphic depictions of violence and sexual abuse as well as its language make it a frequent target for censors.


1984-George Orwell

George Orwell’s 1949 dystopian novel depicts a totalitarian society where even independent thinking is outlawed. Its challengers have frequently criticized it as “pro-communistic.”


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn-Mark Twain

The classic Mark Twain novel was first banned in the US in 1985, just a year after it was first published. Though the book is taught in schools, it has been criticized for its use of coarse language and racial themes. Nonetheless, acclaimed author Ernest Hemingway was among the many that consider it to be an important part of American literature.


Fahrenheit 451-Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 has been one of my favorite books since I first read it a few years ago. The book, which, ironically, is about a society where books are outlawed, has been subject to censorship since 1967, when it was expurgated by its publisher and had some of its content edited out of it. It has since been challenged by many schools and parents for language and for thematic content.


I’m very aware of the power of both written and spoken words. While written words have given me happiness and excitement, they can also be used to inflict both physical and emotional damage onto people. Not only is verbal bullying harmful, but rhetoric has been used throughout history to incite hatred and devastation, perhaps most notably by Adolf Hitler, who orchestrated one of the worst genocides in history through his persuasive writing and speeches. Words can hurt, but they can also encourage intelligent thought and personal growth. I believe some regulation is necessary, but to ban a book simply because it discusses something you don’t like or because it appears harmful when taken at face value would be potentially depriving someone of the opportunity to discover a great piece of literature and to experience intellectual growth.



Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Chatterley%27s_Lover

The Color Purple, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Color_Purple

10 Books Everyone Should Read, Liz Loerke. https://www.realsimple.com/magazine-more/inside-magazine/life-lessons/banned-books

Harry Potter, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Potter

Lolita, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lolita

Book Censorship in the United States, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_censorship_in_the_United_States

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adventures_of_Huckleberry_Finn

Fahrenheit 451, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fahrenheit_451