These 15 frequently banned books everyone should read feature prize-winning modern classics from The Catcher in the Rye and The Lord of the Flies to Beloved and The Grapes of Wrath, and more. With Banned Books Week 2022 just around the corner from September 18-24, add one or all of these frequently banned books everyone should read to your reading list. Also, check out the top 10 most banned and challenged books of 2021.
15 Frequently Banned Books Everyone Should Read
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Embraced and celebrated throughout the world, The Catcher in the Rye has been banned, challenged, and restricted countless times since the 1960s for a variety of reasons including claims the book is “anti-white” and “obscene” and “blasphemous and undermines morality.”
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
This Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression has been banned, challenged, restricted, and burned since 1939 in America, Ireland, Turkey, and Canada. One reason in America: the “book is full of filth. My son is being raised in a Christian home and this book takes the Lord’s name in vain and has all kinds of profanity in it.”
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about injustices in the Deep South has been banned, challenged, and restricted since the 1970s. A few reasons include “psychological damage to the positive integration process” and “represents institutionalized racism under the guise of good literature.”
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
This winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award has been banned, challenged, and restricted since the 1980s for “troubling ideas about race relations, man’s relationship to God, African history, and human sexuality” among many other justifications.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
This winner of the Pulitzer Prize has been banned, challenged, and restricted since the 1990s for countless reasons including a mother’s complaint that her child had nightmares after reading it. Her story was featured in a political ad for Gov. Glenn Youngkin in Virginia, who campaigned to ban certain books from schools.
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Considered one of the greatest books ever written for young adults, The Lord of the Flies has been banned, challenged, and restricted since the 1970s for a variety of reasons including because it is “demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal.”
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
A tale about an unlikely friendship during the Great Depression, Of Mice and Men has been banned, challenged, and restricted since the 1950s for countless reasons including “profanity and using God’s name in vain.”
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Considered a masterpiece, Brave New World has been banned, challenged, and restricted since the 1930s in Ireland and America because it makes promiscuous sex “look like fun” and because of “the book’s language and moral content.”
Animal Farm by George Orwell
A satire about society’s blind march towards totalitarianism, Animal Farm has been banned, challenged, and restricted in America, Russia, and United Arab Emirates since the 1960s including a challenge from the John Birch Society who objected to the words “masses will revolt.”
Native Son by Richard Wright
Called “the single most influential shaping force in modern Black literary history,” Native Son has been banned, challenged, and restricted since the 1970s due to “objectionable” language among other complaints.
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
This American classic, and considered one of the world’s great antiwar books, has been banned, challenged, and restricted since the 1970s. One reason includes the “book’s explicit sexual scenes, violence, and obscene language.”
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, Song of Solomon has been banned, challenged, and restricted since the 1990s because passages from the book are “filthy and inappropriate” among other reasons.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
An international bestseller and considered one of the defining works of the 1960s, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has been banned, challenged, and restricted since the 1970s. In one of the cases, parents stated that teachers “can choose the best books, but they keep choosing this garbage over and over again.”
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
Winner of the Whitbread Prize, and one of the most controversial and acclaimed novels ever written, The Satanic Verses has been banned, challenged, restricted, and burned since the 1980s in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Quatar, Indonesia, South Africa, India, England, America, Venezuela, Japan, Bulgaria, and Poland primarily because of the book’s criticism of Islam. In 1991, Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator, was stabbed to death and its Italian translator, Ettore Capriolo, was seriously wounded. In 1993 William Nygaard, its Norwegian publisher, was shot and seriously injured. In 2022, the author Salman Rushdie survived a violent attack in Chautauqua, New York.
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read, A Separate Peace book has been banned, challenged, and restricted since the 1980s because of claims it is a “filthy, trashy sex novel” among other reasons.
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