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Top Ten Banned Books

Updated on May 3, 2011

Celebrating Freedom of Speech

The American Library Association has designated the last week of September for their campaign to celebrate banned (or challenged) books and freedom of speech.

It's a great time to revisit some old classics as well as familiarize yourself with some new titles.

I hope you'll take some time during the month of September and throughout the year to enjoy a banned book.

Is it o.k. to ban books?

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Forvever by Judy Blume

Forever . . .
Forever . . .

It seems like you can't grow up a teenager without having a healthy dose of Judy Blume mixed in. This is one of her more controversial novels because of its blatant teenage sexuality. It was published in 1975 and is still a popular and somewhat "romantic" read.


The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Awakening
The Awakening

Can you imagine "vulgar language, sexual explicitness, or violent imagery that is gratuitously employed" in a novel first published in 1899? That's what happens when a 28 year old mother of two decided not to conform to society's (and her husband's) expectations of a woman's duties. It's too bad that Chopin never got to enjoy the success of this literary work. This was her last novel and while today she is described as an "exquisite" writer, she had to virtually become a hermit in her time for the backlash it caused. She was clearly a woman and writer before her time.


Geography Club by Brent Hartinger

Geography Club
Geography Club

Nothing has been more controversial than sexuality; especially if goes against perceived societal norms. This young reader about gay teens was published in 2004 and followed a young boy's journey to prove to himself he wasn't alone. It's hard to believe something that was published so recently would be challenged.


"...One flew east, one flew west,

One flew over the cuckoo's nest."

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

This 1962 novel still stands strong after forty years. Even the movie (1975), starring Jack Nicholson, is still one of the best made films. Kesey brought love and compassion into an area of life that most of society had closed the door on, the mental ward. He gave faces, personalities, hopes, dreams, fears and voices to these characters. Despite being considered an "American classic," this novel never won any awards.


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird

This racially charged novel was published in 1960. It's narrated by the daughter of Atticus Fitch, a lawyer, who defends a black man charged for raping a young white child. Harper, who was born in Louisiana, has deep roots in the south which she brought to her writing. She won a Pulitzer Prize for this novel. It was made into a movie starring Gregory Peck in 1962. Celebrate both!


"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." (To Kill a Mockingbird)

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver (Giver Quartet)
The Giver (Giver Quartet)

Twelve year Jonas is being given a gift from the "Giver," the knowledge of what life was like before their current utopia. He is to carry this knowledge in case it is ever needed in the future. Once received, he realizes that he can not go on living the way he had. This 1993 novel about a "dystopian" society won the Newberry Medal in 1994.


The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye (Oprah's Book Club)
The Bluest Eye (Oprah's Book Club)

This debut novel was first published in 1970. In it's minute it is about a pubescent black girl's desire to be pretty and those around her who refuse to let her believe it. Eleven year old Pecola dreams of having blue eyes. She's learned that only beautiful people are treated well. And in her mind, to be beautiful she must have blue eyes. Oprah picked this book as part of her book club in 2000. Morrison has produced other racially charged and well received novels like Beloved which was made into a movie in 1998. Morrison won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 for her body of work.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, 10th Anniversary Edition
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, 10th Anniversary Edition

Imagine all the kids (and adults) who wouldn't be reading if J.K. hadn't written and published this book (and subsequent ones) about a lovable young sorcerer and his friends. This book was published in 1997 (hard to believe isn't it) and has remained on the best sellers list ever since.


The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye

This book was published in 1951 and despite being constantly attacked for its profanity and sexuality it has managed to maintain a consistent best seller status and cult following. Salinger took a few days from a 16 year old's life and made it interesting to adults and their children.


"Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules." (The Catcher in the Rye)

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

This well known literary classic was first published in 1884, eight years after its predecessor, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. In this adventure Huck travels with an escaped slave named Jim. It's been attacked for its "language" and "grammar" despite its realistic imagery of historical racial conflict and friendship beyond color.


Tell us about your favorite books or just say hello.

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    • TransplantedSoul profile image

      TransplantedSoul 4 years ago

      It is surprising what has been banned over the years and why.The only type of ban I would ever support is when a work lashes out about other beliefs in a way that is designed to put them down. In other words hate literature. In most cases however, this sort of stuff tends to self-destroy because most people see it for what it is. In general there should be a ban on bans. But remember - "All generalizations are bad!"

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 6 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      @Tiggered: As surprising as it is, there have been numerous attempts in a number of states to have these books banned; some were successful. If you do a search at any of the sites above that I provided links for you'll find lots of fodder on why some parents want it banned.

    • Tiggered profile image

      Tiggered 6 years ago

      Hi:) Good idea for a lens.

      Only one question: what is Harry Potter doing here???

    • TeacherSerenia profile image

      TeacherSerenia 6 years ago

      Excellent and educational lens.I learnt some new things. Blessed by a Book Angel.

    • drs2biz lm profile image

      David Schroeter 6 years ago from St Kilda, Victoria, Australia

      The problem with banning books is in posing the question "Who is it that will decide whether a book should be banned or not?" It's a brave person/committee who can decide for me what I should read or not ;) Great lens.

    • Barb McCoy profile image

      Barb McCoy 6 years ago

      I don't think we should ban books but there is no reason to make some of the more "out there" books required reading for children. As a homeschooling mom, we have tackled many of the books on the banned list but when I felt it was appropriate for my children. We have read some tough stuff as part of our high school literature courses, stuff that makes me squirm but I wouldn't want it banned.

      Very nice lens and well organized. Adding to my favorites and blessing.

      ***Blessed by an Angel***

    • TerriLynnC profile image

      TerriLynnC 6 years ago

      Interesting lens!

    • kerbev profile image

      kab 7 years ago from Upstate, NY

      I haven't read Judy Blume's Forever, but I did read her Summer Sisters and was shocked. It was not the Judy Blume I remembered. Not that I want it banned or anything.

    • OnlineDiscountF profile image

      MacKenzie Stout 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Fantastic Lens! Thank you for putting together such a thorough site on banned books!

    • profile image

      kimmanleyort 7 years ago

      Some wonderful, classic books on this list. We need to introduce books to kids at the right time, but the books themselves should not be banned. Kids need to learn to discuss books and come to their own conclusions.

    • Twmarsh profile image

      Twmarsh 7 years ago

      I've read four of the ten highlighted books on your nice list here. Looks like I need to get to work and do some more reading!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      If there is to be true freedom of speech, there should be no banned books ever.

    • poptastic profile image

      Cynthia Arre 8 years ago from Quezon City

      Good selection of books here - I didn't even know some of them were banned!

    • profile image

      lostinfiction 8 years ago

      I've noticed that a lot of banned books are usually the most thought-provoking ones. I'm surprised though that they are outright banned, as opposed to the film industry which also produces highly controversial and graphic content but merely get by with an age-appropriate ratings system. You can read a more detailed post about it at and it also includes a list of the ALA's recently published top banned books. Definitely some food for thought...

    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      JenOfChicago LM 8 years ago

      Seems to me that the banned books are always the best books.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      The banning of books is a slippery slope. It can lead to self-censorship and the closing of the fair exchange of ideas. Banning, even when you think you're doing good, can cause harm.

    • profile image

      EaglePress22 9 years ago

      The problem seems to be that the discussion of certain issues generates fear in some people when most writers are really only attempting to promote awareness. To me, for that reason, books should only be banned in extreme cases.