The best banned books everyone should read

Best banned books

At some point in the existence of these books, they were banned – by a school or a library, or a group of angry parents – deemed unfit for readers for a variety of reasons. This is a selection of our favorite banned books, although there are many, many more of them out there! Here’s to not banning books and being able to read everything you desire. These are the best banned books everyone should read in their lifetime.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls

Banned for: “Strong sexual scenes and situations dealing with alcoholism and abuse.”

Despite growing up in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic but brilliant father, and a careless free-spirit mother, Jeannette Walls and her siblings somehow escape their difficult childhood. While her parents choose to remain homeless, Jeannette finds her way to New York to create a better life for herself. This is a powerful memoir about family, love and loyalty.


Looking for Alaska by John Green

Banned for: “Inappropriate language” and “too racy to read.”

Miles moves from the safety of his home into a boarding school in search of the “Great Perhaps” and nothing will ever be the same. When he befriends the elusive and enigmatic Alaska and eventually falls in love, he comes face-to-face with death and learns the value of life and love.


The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

Banned for: “Alleged depiction of controversial and ungodly themes.”

Another banned classic, The Outsiders is the story of Ponyboy and his friends and brothers, all those whom he can count on. They just need to stay away from the gang of rich kids, known as the Socs, whose idea of fun is beating up on Ponyboy and his ‘greaser’ friends. When one night gets drastically out of control, things for Ponyboy and his friends will never be as they were.


Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Banned for: “Pornographic passages.”

Hidden from the outside world, Anne Frank and her family lived secretly in order to avoid the Nazis. Her diary details her experience about what it was like to be in hiding, and she also shares honestly about her family, going hungry, growing up, boredom and the fear of being discovered. At times humorous and completely honest, this classic is a thoughtful look at human courage and strength from a young girl’s perspective.


Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Banned for: “References to witchcraft and atheism and a lot of swearing.”

Despite the new girl outrunning Jess, who was the fastest runner in fifth grade, he befriends Leslie immediately. The two spend days in the woods, creating an imaginary land called Terabithia. When Leslie heads to Terabithia one day without Jess and a tragedy occurs, Jess must find a way to deal with his grief and will do so through the help of his family and through the love and strength Leslie had given to him.


Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

Banned for: “Language and sexual content.”

Go Ask Alice is the story of a girl who gets addicted to drugs when she participates in a dangerous party game. The story is a look at the downward spiral of what can happen when a normal teen with a good home and family becomes addicted. Her innocence and youth are ruined, and ultimately, Alice loses her life because of her drug addiction.


Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Banned for: “Soft-pornography” and “glorifies drinking, cursing, and premarital sex.”

When Melinda calls the cops at an end-of-summer party, she quickly becomes the school outcast. But no one knows what happened that night except for Melinda. Raped by an older student, she finds solace in her art class, where she will finally be able to come to terms with what happened to her and learn to speak up for herself.


Forever by Judy Blume

Banned for: “It’s basically a sexual ‘how-to-do’ book for junior high students. It glamorizes [sex] and puts ideas in their heads” and “sexually provocative reading.”

The quintessential teen first love story Forever is a classic in its own right. Michael and Katherine are in love and she has decided to lose her virginity with him. But when they are separated over the summer, can their love withstand obstacles, and does first love have to end, or does it always last forever, even if the relationship doesn’t?


The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Banned for: “Statements defamatory to minorities, God, women and the disabled” and “too explicit for students.”

In the Republic of Gilead, women are now forbidden to read and are valued only for their viable ovaries. Offred used to have a normal life, with a husband and daughter, where she could work, make money and think on her own, but things are different now, and she must acquiesce to the new rules in order to survive.


The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Banned for: ”Language and sexual references.”

Elegant parties and the mysterious Jay Gatsby are at the crux of this novel of the Jazz Age. When neighbor Nick gets caught up in Gatsby’s fascinating world, he is thrown into the midst of his obsession with former love Daisy Buchanan. Soon, however, tragedy will find its way into the glamour and mystery of the great Gatsby and all those near and dear to him.

Stephanie Elliot

Stephanie Elliot writes for a variety of websites and magazines on topics such as parenting, mental health issues, relationships, and of course, books. She is an editor and book reviewer. Stephanie is also the author of the young adult novel, Sad Perfect, which was inspired by her own daughter’s journey with ARFID, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband and their three children. For more info, visit www.stephanieelliot.com.

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