You can’t please everyone. Every book will have its fans and its foes. But restricting reading for another person or group of people? That goes too far.
Those who ban books believe that not only are banned books not appropriate for their own kids, they’re not appropriate for anyone else’s kids. Their biggest complaints usually center on the following issues:
- alcohol use
- anti-God / religion
But, I’ll give them one thing. Ideas are powerful.
Ideas in books can ignite discovery, encourage empathy, and offer solace. (Among other things.) With that in mind, here are 16 banned and challenged books that are worth reading (maybe more than once) for their ideas.
BANNED FOR: witchcraft, violence
Harry Potter is a well-written, must-read series. It’s a coming-of-age fantasy about friendship and the choices between good and evil.
BANNED FOR: rape, profanity, racism
Both a coming-of-age story and a portrait of Southern prejudice against Blacks in the 1930s, this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel shows the extremes of human nature — the worst and the best.
BANNED FOR: euthanasia, suicide, sexuality
When you start controlling what books people can read, it’s a slippery slope and you get a society like this one. When Jonas discovers the terrible truths hidden underneath the surface of his utopian community, he begins to question everything he’s believed.
CHALLENGED FOR: sex, homosexuality
In this novel based on true events, two teen boys’ attempt to beat the world record for the longest kiss provides the backdrop for a larger meditation on acceptance and love. It is skillfully written and simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming.
BANNED FOR: profanity, fantasy world, death
After creating an imaginary world in the woods, Jess’s best friend tragically dies on the way there. Through art, Jess discovers redemption and healing.
BANNED FOR: childhood rape, racism
Reading this powerful story is like stepping into the shoes of a poor Black girl in the South. We discover that despite all of life’s hardships, the wounded can heal. They can even sing. What’s even more powerful is that the story is autobiographical.
BANNED FOR: undermining religious beliefs
Good versus evil. Time travel. Kids saving a parent. What more compelling story elements do you need? Add in L’Engle’s award-winning writing and this is another thought-provoking, must-read book.
BANNED AND CHALLENGED FOR: sex, profanity, homosexuality, undermining religious beliefs
Named the most challenged book of 2015, John Green’s debut novel centers on a teen seeking new adventure and happiness via his self-destructive yet alluring classmate.
BANNED FOR: rape, alcoholism, violence
Similar to Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, Julie of the Wolves is a story about survival. Julie (Miyax) escapes from her forced marriage into the wilderness of Alaska and lives with a pack of wolves. When she returns to civilization, she struggles with who she really is.
BANNED FOR: immorality, anti-Christianity, offensiveness
Margaret conversationally talks to God about her periods, boys, breasts, and her questions about religion. What growing girl can’t relate to that?
BANNED FOR: witchcraft, misogyny
This is a hilarious story about a young boy who discovers that witches hate all children. With help from his Grandmamma, he outwits the witches, turning them into mice.
BANNED FOR: language, racism
You’ll fall in love with Gilly, the angry, foul-mouthed heroine who is trying to survive yet another foster home. Throughout the story, Gilly learns to trust, a process that changes her.
BANNED FOR: sex, homosexuality
An excellent graphic novel about a middle school drama class, this book does not in fact contain any sex. It does, however, capture the struggles of middle school life with its crushes and friendship drama.
BANNED FOR: nudity, sex, abortion, homosexuality
I think information is power — or at least if not power, it’s really, really helpful. This controversial book covers everything about puberty and sex that kids wonder about. Seeing the illustrations of naked bodies may be uncomfortable for parents, but I think it’s a great way to empower and educate.
BANNED FOR: anti-God
An adventure of heroic children, villainous adults, fantastical creatures, and a challenging quest make this an entertaining and award-winning fantasy novel.
BANNED FOR: violence, profanity
Often used as a class book in middle school, this thought-provoking allegory of the human condition forces you to notice and think about the real-life connections to the story. Yes, real life is often disturbing.
Learn more about banned books and Banned Books Week here.