10 of the most challenged and banned books ever

The power of the written word has the ability to anger the masses and create controversy.

Whether with a politically challenging view, sexually explicit topics, or religion issues, many books have shaken the censorship walls and made their marks literature history. However, the same banned books have also became must-read classical or contemporary masterpieces, perhaps for the same reasons they were so strongly challenged. Below are 12 books that caused much controversy throughout history.

 1. Ulysses By James Joyce 


Referred to as one of the most important books of the 20th century, Ulysses was first published in serial form in 1918. Several years later the book was challenged in the New York court as it was considered to be vulgar, obscene and blasphemous. The war against the book continued in 1922 when it’s first complete publication was realised and New York postal officials burned 500 copies of the novel.

 2. The Giver by Lois Lowry


This book has been placed among the top 100 children's books yet it has been widely criticised for being inappropriate for young adults. According to the American Library Associations, The Giver and it’s sequels Gathering Blue and Messenger are among the most challenged books of the 90’s. Topics such as euthanasia, mind control, and selective breeding have caused parents around the world to request this book to be removed from school’s reading lists.

 3. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis


American Psycho was to be published initially by Simon & Schuster, but it was dropped due to the controversy surrounding the book. It was later picked up and published by Vintage books and the agency and the author both received death threats afterwards. The book was accused of depicting excessive violence and explicit sexual content and was described by the National Organization of Women as “a how-to novel on torture and dismemberment of women”.

 4. Harry Potter (Trilogy) by J. K. Rowling

According to the American Library Association, the Harry Potter trilogy is one of the most frequently challenged books. In fact, the books have been banned from schools, removed from libraries and burned in public. The cause of such controversy comes down to three main factors: promotion of witchcraft, disobedience to authority, a propensity to the dark side. Many parents and teachers have voiced their strong opinion on Harry Potter as being unsuitable for children.

 5. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

Fallen Angels is a novel for young adults about the Vietnamese war. Though it was widely acclaimed when it was first released in 1988, the book has angered many as it was deemed to be inappropriate for its target audience. The novel has been removed from schools and libraries throughout the US for being racists, violent graphics and profanity.

 6. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck


A Day No Pigs Would Die was a young adults' book written in 1972. The book is about the author’s coming-of-age and talks about the beliefs and values he was framed by when growing up. A Day No Pigs Would Die is surrounded by much controversy due to a number of reasons. Critics believe it has a too brutal depiction of animal slaughter and animal cruelty. Graphic sexuality is another reason together with the inappropriate behaviour displayed by adults.

 7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley


Based in a dystopian future, A Brave New World has caused negative criticism ever since it was first published in 1932, and it is now considered a classic. Censors have gone to great lengths to prevent students from reading this book due it’s explicit themes of sexuality, suicide and drugs. The book was immediately banned in Ireland upon its publication for its explicit language and for being against religion and family.

 8. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck


First published in 1939, The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. The book narrates the story of the a farmer family during the Great Depression that is forced to move from Oklahoma to California in search of a better life. The book has caused anger due to its vivid depiction of the harsh living conditions the family had to endure, and many believed that such conditions were exaggerated due to political reasons. The book was banned across several states in the US and publicly burned.

 9. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is an autobiography about the author's early years. It begins with the three-year-old Maya and the older brother moving to live with their grandmother and continues all throughout until at the age of 17 when Maya becomes a mother. The autobiography has been challenged close to forty times publically since it was published in 183 for subjects such as rape, racism, and sexuality.

 10. The Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

Two weeks following its publication in 1951, The Catcher in the Rye was no. 1 on the New York Times best seller list. The book explores the life of a rebellious teenager dealing with psychological issues. The book has become a favourite on the book censor list due to it's extremely vulgar language, profanities, blasphemous acts, sexual references, and negativity against disabled, minorities and women. The book has been banned in many schools and libraries across the US.


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