40 Banned Books to Read at Your Own Risk

Banned Books Awareness Week is a time to celebrate our intellectual freedom by reading books that others have deemed unacceptable for certain people to read.  Reasons books get banned or challenged (which means someone wants the book banned from a school or library, but the request was denied) vary from “unacceptable sexual content “and “excessive violence” to “animals don’t talk” and “the book is a real downer.”

Now, if you are anything like me, you will want to stick it to Big Brother and read as many banned & challenged books as you can, but what if you don’t know what books have been banned?  Don’t worry.  We polled our 3,000 Bibliomaniacs to let us know what their favorite banned books are.  So without further ado, here are 40 Banned [or challenged] Books to Read at Your Own Risk.

1) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, 2) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, 3) Slaughterhouse-Five by KurtVonnegut, 4) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, 5) Lord of the Flies by William Golding, 6) Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger 7) 1984 by George Orwell 8) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, 9) The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, 10) My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara, 11) Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, 12) The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, 13) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, 14) The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, 15) The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, 16) Animal Farm by George Orwell, 17) The Color Purple by Alice Walker, 18) Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, 19) Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume, 20) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, 21) The Rabbits’ Wedding by Garth Williams, 22) The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, 23) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 24) Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman, 25) Inventing Witchcraft: A Case Study in the Creation of a New Religion by Aidan A. Kelly, 26) Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, 27) The Trial by Franz Kafka, 28) The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, 29) Where’s Waldo? by Martin Handford, 30) The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, 31) The Devil in the Drain by Daniel Pinkwater, 32) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, 33) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, 34) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, 35) Hey Dollface by Deborah Hautzig, 36) Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden, 37) The Giver by Lois Lowry, 38) Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, 39) James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, 40) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

So, did you discover that you have already read some dangerous books?  If you would like to know more about banned and challenged books and why they cause controversy, check out DeleteCensorship.org or this ALA list.

You can find these and more banned & challenged books at your local HPB because we sell anything ever printed or recorded. Always remember to speak freely, write candidly and read endlessly.

Julie is Production Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.
You may follow her on Twitter at @auntjewey.

56 thoughts on “40 Banned Books to Read at Your Own Risk

  1. I am surprised that "To Kill a Mockingbird" is on the list; I can't remember anything objectionable in the book — but then it's been some time since I read it. I'm not surprised "The Handmaids Tale" is in it. Thanks for the informaiton.

  2. already read 15 of those 40! doing quite well! and i've tried to read others that i either don't like (catcher in the rye) or can't finish because they're simply too painful (the color purple). i think it's time to give alice walker another spin. maybe i can make it this year.

  3. Surprised to see "Diary of a Little Girl" by Anne Frank! That is classic for not only is it history, but tells and explains of the shame, punishment, shock from a child's perspective to another. "The Outsiders" is another book that even when my daughter was 12 years old she too was taken in the book that had given her another perspective. So many that should NOT and I mean NOT be banned from the shelves to the stores that can give so much to our young generation.

    • Diary of Anne Frank has been challenged for being “a real downer” and the unabridged version have been challenged for sexual situations, I believe. Anne wrote about going through puberty while in hiding – which included thoughts and urges that go along with going through puberty and becoming sexually aware.
      For The Outsiders, I think it’s been challenged due to drinking and drug use? Possibly language as well.

  4. Where's Wally, or as its known in the US and Canada, Where's Waldo is one of the funniest books to be banned. All of this commotion was over a tiny topless woman in the "On The Beach" scene!! Too Funny!

    • I loved the topless woman! First off my parents would never see it **he he, secret!** second you were obviously looking CLOSELY as them all so how would you NOT notice her?!

  5. No wonder we have so many issues if we need to sugar coat everything. Most of us survived and are better off having read these books. Maybe that's saying something right there. Just think of all the books that will never get published if these are banned…..

  6. I've got 17.5 of 40 read so far! (I'm still working on Catcher in the Rye. ) And what really makes my head spin is that most of the ones I've read were required reading in school. What's wrong with people these days? (The people banning these books should take a long, hard read of 1984 and Brave New World, and then reevaluate…)Thanks for posting this list!

  7. I'm sorry, I was shocked and feeling ignorant. I have never seen a "banned book" list, heard of them of corse. "Little House on the Praire", " Charllots Web" "My Friend Flicka" I can't even try to guess how these could offend. Others, it must range from pure prejudice all the way to being able to pull sexual innuendo out of anything you don't agree with. I'm an avid reader, but I must start paying attention to what is going on around and about my favorite pastime.. Whats the quote ? "when good men do nothing"….. By the way, LOVE hpb

  8. I read about half of those in high school literature classes in the late 1990s-early 2000s. The whole book banning thing is just truly ridiculous.

  9. okay…. these are all good & great books, but to make it out as some grand thing of "banned books"… come one, most of us adults have read at least 10 or 15 of these while we were in high school & still own some of these. if you want a list of banned books, how about coming to real time, with books that are banned TODAY in parts of our own country. In AZ high schools, many books written by Latino authors, and/or about Latino life in America both present and historically, also books that are simply telling of another side of history that isn't the clean-wash that has been fed to students in public schools over the decades- have been and currently still are banned. This is part of the efforts to erase the real history of America, especially that of Mexican-Americans and further cause disparities among Latinos and cause prejudices and ignorance among all.For everyone interested: http://azethnicstudies.com/banned-books That list includes great books such as "A Peoples History of the United States" by the late, great Howard Zinn, "Like Water for Chocolate" by Laura Esquivel, "House on Mango Street" by Susan Cisneros, and "Civil Disobidience" by Henry ThoreauThanks for reading.

    • While I very much agree with you that the books they’ve picked to represent banned books week don’t reflect modern books being challenged/banned, the yearly report on the “Top Ten” of banned books is done by the ALA (American Library Association), and their lists are only as good as the reports they receive. (And it doesn’t include times where a book’s just pulled from the shelf and magically disappears…)
      They have started to highlight books featuring diversity that have been challenged/banned, which is a good start: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/diverse as well as highlighting the books by authors of color: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/challengedauthors/authorsofcolor
      If you know of books that are being challenged or banned, talk to the ALA. They have their Office of Intellectual Freedom (part of the people behind Banned Books Week), who are there to help get the word out, and to lend support.

  10. You have to understand that these books probably weren't all banned in the same place at the same time in history. Even so, I was surprised by some of the titles on the list.

  11. I think that some of the books on here are wonderful books to read. I have read many just in high school.I think the one that surprises me the most is "The Giving Tree" because I still go to my bookshelf and pick it up and read it all the time and I can't understand why its a banned book.

  12. I agree with many comments written on this site.When I was in Middle School and High School many ofthese 40 banned books were required reading material.When attending College, and taking Literature courses,some of these books were required reading.In high school I had taken four years of Literature. Andwhen in College, I had taken two or three semesters,where I also enrolled in Literature courses.I have read a great deal of books that are now on abanned list from schools. Makes no sense to me.For peers sake people, the books being banned are ajoke. Unfortunately, children today, see, speak. and live livesthat are far more worse, than the content in this list of bannedbooks. I feel teachers today, should speak out to theirdepartment heads, and to parents, and fight to have thesebanned books, reinstated back into our schools. The bannedbooks taught kids lessons, helped open their eyes up to othercultures, life lessons, etc. This is my opinion regarding theBanned Book List.

  13. I'm only 15 and have all ready read 11 of these books. i had no idea that any of them are banned, non of them have made me think that they need to be banned. i am reading lord of the flies for my English class and the others i have read for pleasure.

  14. I dont understand how these books are banned not only did most people read them in school but some of them are for children?? How are these books banned but 50 shades of grey isnt?? Thats what is rediculous just saying

    • This is a selection of titles that seems to have been picked from any book that has been banned/challenged.
      Fifty Shades of Grey made it on the top ten list this year (and maybe last year as well). Nope, not on the list last year. It does seem like the Top Ten really varied a lot between 2014 and 2015, which is interesting.
      For more information, check out the ALA’s Banned Books Week information: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10

  15. Books are banned for a number of reasons. In the 40s, 50s and 60s books may have been banned because of community concerns about the perceived lack of decency of the book. In more recent decades, books have been challenged for other issues such as racism or anti- feminism. The Adventures of Hucklebery Finn has been challenged repeatedly because of questions about racial Predjudice on the author's part, even though Twain actually used satire to reveal the evil of slavery and racial Predjudice. Little House on the Prairie portrays the pioneers' fear and animosity toward Native Americans in a way that is considered insulting now. Simply putting a book on this list tells you very little about the objections raised about the book.

  16. Surprised at some of the books on the list. Rather than ban books that we find objectionable or distasteful, why don't we pay attention to and read the books that our kids are reading. We then have the opportunity to keep them "safe" from things we don't think they are ready for as well as start a discussion about new and different things that they learn. When we take the time to be parents instead of trying to regulate the world we make a bigger difference.

  17. Since when is Harry potter banned? When I was in middle school my teachers did a whole Harry potter day! Read to kill a mockingbird in 10th grade. Read brave new world in 11th. So weird that they're "bad" for you. What happened to free speech?

  18. I'm a college student, in high school, being in the advanced program, I read almost all of these titles, have a few of them sitting on my bookshelf. I don't see anything wrong with any of the books. If America wants to ignorant of its past then I'm sorry. I have collected banned books for a while now and have read all that sit on my shelves. My goal is to have my little boy read them as well. I'm actually surprised that Plath hasn't been banned yet, just from her poem "daddy". Its a sad world that we are raising our children in.

  19. I've read 24 from the list and most were during high school in the late 70s (except Harry Potter), and quite a few were required reading in school. Many of these books have been made into movies for the non-readers. My sons read The Hunger Games in a Catholic high school which had kids reading Harry Potter as well. I guess this makes Canada a more progressive country.

  20. I've only read 27 out of the 40 unfortunately! A lot of them may be banned for obscure reasons. Trust me, when I have kids and they learn to read, they can read whatever they want! I'll buy them all these banned books even.

  21. "The Giving Tree"and "Where the Sidewalk ends" were two of the most offensive books I've ever read. Its about time they showed up on the list. I notice Snooki's book is missing from the list..

  22. Wow I have heard of banned books, never rally knew what ones as I think the idea of banning a book as ridiculous period. Freedom. Free to choose or free to put it down if it offends you then move on. Ray Bradbury was required reading – both of those showing here – in my English classes in Jr. High -. No wonder kids can't think for themselves these days – too many big brothers out there doing it for them………sad sad sad.

  23. I truly don't understand why most of these books are banned. Farenheit 451 is about banned/burning of books. Diary of Anne Frank banned? I will definately make sure my son reads most if not all of these books. The banning of books is a personal choice for you and your family. Don't place your unhealthy unrealisic "VALUES" on me.

  24. I would love to know where these books are banned…I know for a fact that the age appropriate ones are all available at my school. I've seen all of these at the local library too!

  25. Your picture is very misleading. Most of these books have not been banned, most of them have only been "challenged". Many of these books were challenged as =required= reading by teachers. Speaking as a mom who has needed to protect my child from reoccurring nightmares for a very sensitive daughter caused by reading some disturbing book that was required reading, I will not be bullied by a well meaning teacher to require her to read something that will further cause damage her psychological or spiritual well-being. As teachers we tend to be passionate about books, but we also need to be sensitive to those students who can't handle the subject matter or to those parents who are offended by bad language or sexual content and don't want their children exposed to it before they are old enough to handle the subject matter with maturity.

  26. Perhaps the purpose of this list is to remind us of the great literature that has been at one point in time banned or challenged. Some have been challenged by religious institutions (Harry Potter promotes the use of magic); some have been challenged because they realistically explore the realities of an adolescent's changing body (Anne Frank spoke graphically of her anatomy in passages); some have been challenged because they portray historical situations in the way that they truly happened and we are not currently comfortable with how people were treated (Huckleberry Finn and the infamous use of the "n" word)… In each of these situations someone takes one aspect of the book out of the context of the whole and gets outraged. The Outsiders has been challenged because of the portrayal of gangs, drug and alcohol use, strong language, but without those elements the story couldn't be told. And it is an important story for teens to experience, especially those who feel like outsiders! Parents should absolutely be aware of what their children are reading and even step in to regulate if they are reading age-inappropriate material. HOWEVER, be careful that you are not just frightened that your children will learn to think for themselves and perhaps think differently than you do!! I am much more frightened of a generation that reads the ridiculous "Clique" books than the generation who read the serious, and even disturbing, novels on this list!

  27. Totally amazed that most of these books are on the list. Of the 40 books listed, I read 29 of them while in Jr High and High School as class assignments. Its so sad that people's ignorance would decide what's appropriate for someone else's child to read. That decision should rest on the child's parent.

  28. The funny part is that I read about thirty of the forty books in school. Honestly, I understand that some of the subjects are a little darker, but I mean the topics are a part of life. It's not like I read To Kill a Mockingbird, which had heavy subjects of racism and rape, in like first grade, I read it in high school, when I was of age where you know, all this heavy topics started to make sense to me. I benefited a lot from reading these books, because the world started to make more sense to me. Everyday we deal with dark and heavy things. Just look at the news, everyday there is murder, rape, terrorism, hate crimes, etc. I think it is better to read books that deal with those subjects because when we see it in real life, we aren't surprised, we can grasp the reality of the situations. At least that is my opinion.

  29. Many of the commentators seem to think that these books are currently banned, but I just wanted to clear up that most of these were banned a generation or more ago (before they were required reading) and they can rest easy that the books they read for school in the 70s-2000s are still going strong. I think the list is made to bring attention to the fact that these books were ONCE banned/challenged and make us question WHY books that we currently think are completely unobjectionable might once have been so inflammatory. Some objections are just ridiculous, while others point to changing currents in our views about race, sexual orientation, and cultural norms. I like the point that was brought up about focusing on books that are CURRENTLY having a problem (such as the latino books mentioned earlier, although I actually read two of those books as required reading). Also, we must remember that certain areas of the country are more tolerant than others, so not all of these were banned everywhere in the US.Harry Potter (one of my personal favorites even though I was already a college graduate with a degree in Literature when I first read the series ;D….) was challenged by many Christian organizations because of it's overt incorporation of "witchcraft" ie: magic. Rock on, Harry.

  30. I am on my sixteenth book from this list. Granted I didn't really like some of these books but the point is I read them. My school encourages us to read sixteen books in which some I haven't read. Just the point that Where's Waldo is on this list is depressing. Another thing, Why is Shel Silverstein on here? He is specifically a CHILDREN'S author… I gues I just don't get it…

  31. My blanking god, I'm twelve and I've read 9.5 of these (We are reading Fahrenheit 451) I can't believe it. Hunger Games required reading, one of my favorite books, I read the entire series I liked it so much. The Giving Tree, One of my favorite books as a toddler. Why banned cause he died of old age, we'll all die of it sooner or later. I don't get it.

  32. I am especially surprised to see "Little Women" on this list. Another book that I wasn't expecting to see was "Little House on the Prairie" After thinking about it though, I remembered some rather racist things being said about Native Americans in that book. Perhaps that had something to do with it?

  33. IF a book is to be banned, seemed the only one that should be in the Quran, being that it threatens a "painful doom" on Muslims (Quran 9:111, 38 and 39) for not killing and being killed in Allah's cause (killing non-Muslims (the "worst of creation) and spreading Islam.

  34. I have read 8 on the list. I think, currently, parents should be the deciding factor on what their child should read. All these books are appropriate at different stages in their life. My older daughter and I love to read.

  35. i am very surprised to see the giving tree as a challenged/banned book! i cannot think of any reason, logical or illogical, as to why they would feel the need to challenge/ban this book! it is so great!

  36. A book missing from this list of "banned" or "challenged" books is Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. Remember the fatwa issued against Rushdie and he was forced into hiding for many years? Events like that should not be forgotten.

  37. Once again I am very grateful not to have been born and raised in "the land of the free". I have read the majority of titles mentioned and those were not banned where I am from (the Netherlands). Where challenged books are concerned. Trying to have a book banned is bullying. Whining about a challenge is whimping. Both is wrong in equal measure. Just my two cents worth, as well as exercising my freedom of expression

  38. Stick it to big brother? It's not the government. It might be governments at local levels trying to ban books but it's ALWAYS religion that starts it.

  39. Reblogged this on BulgingButtons and commented:
    This is an older post, and honestly I didn’t do any fact checking, but the point is that there are voices out there that want to silence others. The Giving Tree? Little House of the Prairie? Read and judge for yourself.

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