The Most Challenged and Banned Books in America


Millions of novels are published around the nation every year. Some are controversial, overtly religious, political, and everything else in between. All authors are protected under the right to freedom of expression, regardless of dissenting viewpoints or topics. However, this has not stopped other people from trying to ban certain books from public libraries, schools, and even book stores. Below is a list of the most challenged classics provided by the American Library Association's (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom.


The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger


(Courtesy of Literary Hub)


Published in 1951, the novel centers around the themes of innocence, adulthood, and mental illness as told through the perspective of 16 year old Holden Caulfield. The novel is subsequently targeted for its obscene content, vulgarity, “anti-white” sentiments, and violence from 1960-2009.


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


(Courtesy of The Guardian)


Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this widely read and acclaimed novel is told through the point of view of Jean Louise Finch, a six year old girl whose father is hired to defend a black man accused of rape in Alabama. From 1977 to 2009, this book has been banned and challenged in various schools due to profanity, racial slurs, and inappropriate adult content.


The Color Purple by Alice Walker

(Courtesy of IMDb)


This heartbreaking novel follows the life of an African American woman named Celie who survives incredible abuse and bigotry. Originally published in 1982, this classic has been targeted for sexual content, explicitness, and “troubling ideas about about race, man’s relationship to god, and African history,” according to a report filed in Oakland, CA.


Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

(Courtesy of Amazon)


George Milton and Lennie Small are two displaced migrant ranch workers who move from place to place in California, searching for job opportunities during the Great Depression. Published in 1937, this novella is one of the highest targeted pieces of literature. The reports filed against it were predominately based on the grounds of profanity and using God’s name in vain.


Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vognet


(Courtesy of Dial Press)


Billy Pilgrim travels back and forth in time visiting his birth, death, and moments in between repeatedly and out of order. This science-fiction and anti-war novel was originally published in 1969, and since then has been repeatedly challenged. It was even burned due to explicit sexual scenes, violence, offensive content, and vulgarity.


For a more in depth list of other banned and challenged classics, visit ALA’s official website.


These classic novels were groundbreaking. In some way or the other, they called attention to many injustices, and overall altered society's perceptions on various topics. Due to this, the authors received a lot of backlash. People who objected to these books being read in schools and in general public spaces believed that it infringed on their individual freedoms, especially for those who felt particularly targeted by the books content. However, banning these books is consequently infringing on the author’s rights. If it were up to you, who would you side with?