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10 Banned Books Worth Reading

10 Banned Books Worth Reading

Vicki Santillano | Divine Caroline

October 08, 2010

When I was a kid, my nose was usually buried deep in a book, but I didn’t feel profoundly affected by literature until I read The Catcher in the Rye. This novel and its infamously sharp and sullen narrator spoke to my pre-pubescent heart in ways my previous favorite, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, couldn’t.

Sadly, some people never had this experience because it’s one of the most banned and challenged books in literature, which means people have requested its removal from libraries and schools numerous times. Salinger’s opus and other brilliant novels—ones that defined generations and broadened the genre’s scope—caused such outrage because they broke from convention and explored new (and therefore controversial) themes. Fortunately, their influence couldn’t be contained by bans, but it’s scary to consider what the literature world would be like without the genius of these books.

1. The Catcher in the Rye


A decade after its 1951 release, it became the most challenged book in schools and libraries and held that position until 1982. It’s currently number nineteen on the American Library Association’s (ALA) list of books with the most challenges or calls for bans. Reasons for banning included its use of profanity, references to sexuality and debauchery, and the fact that Holden Caulfield is a poor literary role model for young kids.

2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn


Controversy surrounding this novel began in 1885 when a public library in Massachusetts removed it from the shelves for “coarse language.” Over 120 years later, it’s still a hugely controversial book, mainly because of its exploration of race and society. Mark Twain’s extensive use of the “n-word” and the terrible treatment of a slave named Jim have the public fiercely divided on whether the book is racist or not.

3. Harry Potter (Series)


J.K. Rowling’s series about a young wizard’s coming of age set the literature world afire with each new installment. Readers young and old devoured the tales and proponents gave the author credit for renewing America’s love of reading. Critics vilified the focus on wizardry and claimed that the books encouraged witchcraft in children. The ALA lists it as the number one challenged book from 2000–2007.

4. A Light in the Attic


The tongue-in-cheek humor of Shel Silverstein’s poems hasn’t always been appreciated or understood by everyone. As of 2000, the ALA named it the fifty-first most challenged book, with objections ranging from its promotion of suicide (in “Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony,” Abigail kills herself because her parents won’t buy her a pony) to encouraging rebellion in children because of a poem entitled “How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes.”

5. The Color Purple


Published in 1982, this book immediately won critical acclaim and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction the following year. However, its graphic nature (violence and sexual content) and frank exploration of racism and slavery prompted calls for censorship across the nation. Despite its critical success—both the novel and film version—The Color Purple is still one of the most challenged books to date.

Next Page: 6. The Bluest Eye →



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