10 Most Recently Challenged Books

This week we celebrate Banned Books Awareness Week, which pays tribute to the freedom to read and draws attention to books that have been banned or challenged.  Though we’d like to imagine that the censorship of literature is a thing of the past, books get banned and challenged every year for various reasons.  Here is a list of ten of the most frequently challenged books in the last few years and the reasons they have been challenged.

1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green, was challenged because of offensive language and being sexually explicit.

2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James, was challenged for being poorly written and sexually explicit with concerns that “a group of teenagers will want to try it.”

3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings, was challenged for homosexual content and being inaccurate.

4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin, was challenged for being “anti-family,” having offensive language and homosexual themes.

5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon, was challenged for “profanity and atheism.” Continue reading

65 Banned or Challenged Books that Shaped America

Writer and philosopher Voltaire once said, “Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.” Sounds simple but at what point does someone else’s thinking or ideas become subversive? Where does one draw the line? Who gets to decide?

For the past 40 plus years, Half Price Books has strived to uphold co-founder Ken Gjemre’s direction; “We don’t let others, or ourselves, determine what our customers should read.” So every year we celebrate Banned Books Awareness Week to celebrate our First Amendment rights which enable us to write, speak, publish and read freely. We acknowledge authors and their work which have caused controversy. And you might be surprised about which books are stirring things up.

The number one challenged book in 2013 reported by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom is (brace yourself)… Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey.

Yep. Captain Underpants. Sounds silly, but over the years there have been many challenged books that have had a profound influence on American culture. Some of these banned or challenged books have shaped America. Below is the Half Price Books list of 65 Best Banned or Challenged Books Across the Decades, many of which you can find on our shelves.

(1) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (2) The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X & Alex Haley (3) Beloved by Toni Morrison (4) Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown (5) The Call of the Wild by Jack London (6) Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (7) The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (8) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (9) For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (10) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (11) The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (12) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (13) Howl by Allen Ginsberg (14) In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (15) Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (16) The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (17) Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (18) Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (19) Native Son by Richard Wright (20) The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (21) The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (22) The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

(23) Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey (24) Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (25) A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (26) Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (27) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (28) Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (29) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (30) The Words of Cesar Chavez by Cesar Chavez (31) 1984 by George Orwell (32) The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (33) The Color Purple by Alice Walker (34) Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (35) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (36) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (37) And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell (38) Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden (39) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (40) The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (41) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (42) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (43) Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

(44) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (45) The Giver by Lois Lowry (46) The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (47) The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (48) The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (49) Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (50) Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya (51) SlaughterHouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (52) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (53) Lord of the Flies by William Golding (54) The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (55) Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (56) Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (57) My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier (58) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (59) Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (60) Ulysses by James Joyce (61) As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (62) The Awakening by Kate Chopin (63) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (64) Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (65) The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (66) Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich


What book do you think shaped American life and culture? Or perhaps just your own?

Join Half Price Books as we celebrate our First Amendment rights during Banned Books Awareness Week, September 28 – October 5.

Susan is Production Assistant at Half Price Books Corporate.

Banned Book Titles, A Poetry Challenge

Last year we held a Banned Books Title Poetry Contest, and our finalists inspired me to write my own Banned Books Title poem.  Then, I was challenged by the lovely Kristen D. to use as many titles as I could in one poem.  I have answered that challenge, and here it is.  I call it:

“That was Then, This is Now”

It was

1984, just one year,

Though maybe 365 Days

Still only A Wrinkle in Time

In the small Hamlet

Where The House of Spirits stood,

My House,

My Sanctuary,


With A Light in the Attic

Burning across A Thousand Acres

In the Night.

Kitchen full of Strange Fruit

Where One Fat Summer

The Grapes of Wrath

Dried up like a Raisin in the Sun,

I sat with my Beloved James

And the Giant Peach he ate

While I finished The Last of the Wine.

Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon” he said.

But The Art of Love is confusing,

To know Where the Heart Is,

Or worse, Where the Sidewalk Ends,

To Have and Have Not,

A Paradise Lost.

So I exercised The Right to Lie

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down,

Like Fallen Angels,

And Their Eyes Were Watching God

And No Birds Sang.

But That was Then, This is Now,

A Brave New World

Where I’ve found A Separate Peace

Full of Public Smiles, Private Tears

And The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Now As I Lay Dying I say,

It’s Okay if You Don’t Love Me.

Love is One of the Choices,

And The Facts Speak for Themselves.

We are all Outsiders,

And We All Fall Down.

But The Headless Cupid

Offers no Deliverance

In Love and Trouble.

I also wrote a much smaller one titled “The Chocolate War”

One Fat Summer

In Civil Disobedience

Johnny Got His Gun

And started The Chocolate War.

From The Upstairs Room

I heard the question, “Where’s Waldo?

Go ask Alice!” I screamed to Charlie.

And the Chocolate Factory gurgled away,

Like Water for Chocolate,

Always Running,

Blood and Chocolate,

The Red and the Black

Causing The Color of Earth

To turn black like Oil!

So we make The Stand

On The Fighting Ground,

The Last Mission before

A Farewell to Arms

Sees Charlie following Alice in Wonderland,

For there are no Hard Feelings

When Legends Die.

And I Still Rise

Knowing A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ but a Sandwich

And The Long Secret of it all

Was that he was just trying To Kill a Mockingbird.

So, now I challenge you!  Can you write a poem using the titles of Banned Books?  They don’t have to be as long as mine.  Share them in the comments below. 

And Celebrate Banned Books Week by reading a banned or challenged book.  You can find them at your local HPB. — Julie

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

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 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.

Title Poetry Contest Finalists & Winner (!!)

Okay, guys! We have finalists for our Title Poetry Contest! Hope everyone had fun with this.


Finalist #1

On the twelfth night,

Harry Potter (spilled) the goblet of fire

On Dante and caused the inferno of a lifetime,

Which raged on through an eclipse

That happened after twilight

–From Hollie in Fort Wayne




Finalist #2

Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn

Went to Treasure Island

Looking for the Wizard of Oz

And the Merchant of Venice,

Who they found in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

— From Sam in Austin




     Finalist #3



Alice in Wonderland

Went on Gulliver’s Travels

By hitching a ride with the Lord of the Rings

     And teaming up with Harry Potter & his deathly hallows

     To complete the Canterbury Tales on time

   — From Morgan in Dayton, Ohio



Finalist #4

In the Vatican Cellars,

The woman with the Scarlett Letter

Read of Memoirs of a Woman in Pleasure

and imagined the worlds of Grimm’s Fairy Tales

And realized she was not so Wicked, after all.

From Joe in Seattle





And our winner– drumroll, please!


Singing from the well,

The Ginger Man underwent a


From one of the Beautiful Losers

To Lady Chatterly’s Lover

— From Katie in Seattle

Congratulations, Katie! We’ll be in touch about your prize. Thanks so much to everyone who participated!

— Kristen D.

Banned Books Mix + Match Game

Michael Gormon, librarian and former president of the American Library Association, has said that banning books not only hinders tolerance and acceptance, but also limits the information exchange Americans hold dear — so Banned Books Awareness Week is all about upholding that fundamental value. In observance of #BBAW11, we’ve put together a brief (and hopefully fun) literary quiz about banned books. See if you can match the statement about the book with its cover.

1. Published in 1951, this novel, written by a famously reclusive American author, has been repeatedly banned and challenged for reasons such as “profanity,” “sexual references,” and the charge that it “undermines morality.” The novel’s protagonist has become an icon for teenage rebellion. (Hint: the protagonist’s name means “deep valley” and has grown in popularity in recent years.)

2. The movies Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me, and Apt Pupil were all based on short stories from this book, which was removed from the West Lyon Community School library in Larchwood, Iowa in 1987 because it did not meet the standards of the community. (Hint: This best-selling horror author is famous for pinning his many rejection letters to his wall and has published a popular craft book called On Writing.)

 3. The entire Concord Books catalog was declared “obscene” by U.S. Customs in 1944 because it featured this book by a French novelist and playwright. (Hint: the descriptive word in this title means “Curious or unusual in a way that provokes dry amusement.”)

4. This Newbery Award winner has been removed from classrooms and libraries due to “profanity, disrespect of adults, and an elaborate fantasy world that might lead to confusion.” (Hint: this children’s classic was made into a movie in 1985 and then remade in 2007.)

5. Challenged in the Waterloo, Iowa schools because of profanity and statements defamatory to minorities, God, women and the disabled, this book was also downgraded from “required” to “optional” on the summer reading list for 11th graders in the Upper Moreland, Penn. School District in 2000. (Interesting fact: this dystopian novel was inspired by The Canterbury Tales.)

6. Students at the Venado Middle School in Irvine, California received copies of the book with words deemed to be “offensive” crossed out. Students and parents protested, and after being contacted by the media, school officials agreed to stop using the expurgated copies. Ironically, this book is about the fear of certain books creating too much individualism and independent thought. (Interesting fact: the entire novel was written on a pay typewriter in the basement of UCLA’s Powell Library and was serialized in the 1954 March, April and May editions of Playboy.)

7. This book was banned from a Barnes & Noble store in San Diego, California in 1995 for being “too controversial for the bookstore’s conservative clientele.” (Hint: the title alone makes this book a very obvious lightning rod for religious controversy.)

8. A teacher was fired after purchasing this novel for the classroom, with approval by both the superintendent and the principal of Mascenic Regional High School in New Ipswich, New Hampshire. The book, found to be unsuitable, was banned and seized from students while they were reading it in class. (Hint: the book is about a woman who is attacked for her lesbianism after opening a bookstore for women in Boston.)

9. Prohibited in a Jacksonville, Florida Forrest High School advanced placement English class, this book led to the arrest of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the City Lights bookstore manager, Shigeyoshi Murao, on charges of selling obscene material. A judge found them not guilty. (Hint: the title poem is considered one of the principal works of the Beat Generation.)

10. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel was banned in Amarillo, Texas in 1962 because of “political ideas” and because the author was cited by the House Un-American Activities Committee. (Hint: this novel about a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp won the Pulitzer Prize For Fiction in 1956.)

Thanks so much for staying with us all week through our coverage of Banned Books Awareness Week! Let us know in the comments if you’re able to match all ten titles with their trivia blurbs! (We’ll be proud of you if you can!)

Thanks for reading, everyone — Bill

Staff Picks: Top Five Banned Children’s Storytime Books

Kids have no business reading this….at least that’s what some people think. To kick off our Banned Books Awareness Week, the team at our Mansfield, TX store hosted a story time made up entirely of books that have been banned or challenged in libraries across our great land. Wouldn’t you know it…parents actually brought their kids to listen in! According to our Mansfield bibliomaniacs, here were the top five favorite banned or challenged children’s story time books:

#5 Curious George, H.A. Rey

Challenged for several reasons, from George not being drawn anatomically correct, (note: he has no prehensile tail) to the story having racial undertones. Our Half Pint crew just finds him funny– nay, hilarious– and the little readers we know really seem to identify with him constantly getting into mischief!


#4 Tar Beach, Faith Ringgold

Cassie Lightfoot is a young girl who dreams of being free to go wherever she wants, and she is magically whisked away on a journey through history. Illustrated by intricate painted story quilt designs, this picture book has been challenged for containing stereotypical representations of the African American culture.

 #3 The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein

This book is the ultimate lesson in give and take. Which is better? Who are givers and who are takers? Sometimes challenged for being “sexist,” the only challenge our little readers see is that it challenges us all to be better people.  

#2 The Lorax, Dr. Seuss

Challenged in California for “criminalizing the forestry industry,” this tongue-twisting tale of a feisty little figure who “speaks for the trees” has been a favorite of our story-timers for years. Nothing gets kids talking like a Q&A after reading The Lorax. Somehow kids get Dr. Suess’ message: Take your part, don’t be greedy, “…which everyone, everyone EVERYONE needs!”

And number one is . . . . .

Drum Roll . . . . . .


Because we are not in the business of thought-control (at least not this week) we’d like YOU to nominate a favorite kids book off the banned/challenged list. Let us know in the comments below. Take a moment this week to have your own Banned Books Week story time– you never know what kind of controversy you’ll stir up!

Let me know your favorite . . .


 “Libraries are places of inclusion rather than exclusion.”
American Library Association

Banned Books Posters + T-Shirts Round-Up

Censorship is not a thing of the past. You might be surprised to learn that more than 11,000 books have been banned or challenged since 1982 and 348 reported in 2010. Banned Books Awareness Week (BBAW) is an annual event when we, the community of employees and customers at Half Price Books, celebrate our First Amendment rights. Alongside the American Library Association and booklovers everywhere, we celebrate our freedom to read. As part of this, posters and T-shirts are designed each year. Here’s a round-up of some of our favorites.


Support the imaginative and courageous authors of all books, including those that open our eyes to controversial topics. Exercise your First Amendment rights this week by reading a banned or challenged book. And encourage others to build libraries, not bonfires.

Put on your favorite “Banned Books” T-shirt this week and join us! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the virtual rally happening online. Make a comment below telling us how you joined the First Amendment Rights Rally before 3 p.m. CST on Thursday, September 29 and enter to win a free HPB Banned Books tee. Winner will be randomly selected.

— Meredith


UPDATE: Congratulations to our random winner, Jackie Fender. You’ve won your very own HPB Banned Books T-Shirt. Drop us a note at besocial@hpb.com to claim your prize! This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone who participated.

#BBAW11 Title Poetry CONTEST

We LOVED the Title Poetry contests put on the last few weeks by the incomparable Janet Reid and the adorable Tahereh Mafi, so we were inspired to do our own, with a Banned Books twist! 

Here’s how it will work: 

Make a poem with your *banned* books. You may need to add a word here and there, but each line of the poem must include the title of a *banned* book— children’s or adult.  

How to enter: EMAIL the poem and the jpg to besocial@hpb.com. Poem in the body of the email, jpg attached. The contest will close Wednesday 9/28 at noon (12:00 p.m.) and will open . . .  NOW! We will publish the Top 5 and the winner on Thursday 9/29. 

(UPDATE: We’ve heard that some of you would like more time (understandably) so we’re pushing the deadline back to Thursday 9/29 at noon, with the Top 5 & winner posted on Friday 9/30. Now get to it.)

Don’t have a stack of banned books just laying around? Feel free to go to your nearest Half Price Books — there are plenty sold there (since 1972 :))

We can’t wait to see what you guys come up with!

— Kristen D.  

Banned Books Awareness Week 2011

From our Springhurst store in LouisvilleHi guys! Y’know, just when I think my family and I are your average, ordinary citizens, I find out that, actually, we’re way-out radicals!  The folks at Half Price Books told me this was Banned Books Awareness Week.  Who knew? Huck Finn, the Twilight Series, even The Bible have all been challenged or banned by some group at one time or another.

Well, darned if I hadn’t read most of ‘em!  And my “wild” wife Jenni … she’s read To Kill a Mockingbird and Peyton Place plenty of times. Our youngest loves all the Harry Potter books, but there’re evidently some people out there that aren’t “just wild about Harry.” Yep, he’s on the list too! And The Joy of Sex was banned in 1972 when Half Price Books first opened their doors … thus creating the term “book lovers!”

Guess we just don’t buy into not having the freedom to read what’s out there if we want. We’ll never stop reading these so-called banned books … or shopping our favorite bookstore, Half Price Books. And if you can believe it, the latest radio ad was even banned from certain stations for being too controversial! 

So hurry in and be a way-out radical too! While you’re there, you might see some of these Banned Books Awareness Week displays the stores are putting up. Pretty creative! 

From our North Lamar store in Austin, Texas

From our Springhurst store in Louisville, Kentucky

From our South Lamar store in Austin, Texas

So, what’s your favorite banned book?

— Jim Swayze