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30 Books You Read in School That Are Banned Now

Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

This elementary school staple has had its banned status since the mid-1960s. It was found to be troubling due to the scene where Max was punished by being sent to bed without supper, as well as the mythical themes seen within the story. Compared to what gets written these days, it's quaint to think this outraged people. 

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The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton

This coming-of-age novel by Hinton was criticized for its gangs, fighting, and crime, but has come to be loved by generations of young readers. Everyone seems to be able to find some part of themselves represented by Ponyboy or one of his other Greaser comrades--as long as you can get over, you know, the child gangs. 

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Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Bill Martin

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Bill Martin

Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? I see a Marxist looking at me. This children’s book was added to the list of banned books because the author shares a name with a well known Marxist theorist. But angry mobs have never let a little misidentification get in their way. 

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Charlotte's Web, E. B. White

Charlotte's Web, E. B. White

What’s so wrong with Wilber, Charlotte, and Templeton? Well, they’re all animals that can talk. The portrayal of animals capable of speech was seen as “blasphemous” and “unnatural.”

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Of Mice and Men, Elise Weber

Of Mice and Men, Elise Weber

Though some of these bans seem warranted, it also doesn’t seem warranted to deny children of classic tales like that of Lennie and George. Of Mice and Men was banned in 1974 due to racism, profanity, violence. Won't someone think of the children (and the rabbits)? 

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1984, George Orwell

1984, George Orwell

Orwell’s not-so-subtle commentary on his thoughts of the political trajectory got his book 1984 banned in Kansas the same year it was published. Soon after, several other schools and libraries followed suit. These days, though, it's become obnoxiously popular again--it was a much cooler book when people hated it. 

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The Lorax, Dr. Seuss

The Lorax, Dr. Seuss

Surprisingly to some, Seuss’s memorable portrayal of The Lorax, a nominal character who “speaks for the trees” made the banned books list. It was banned in a California school for its negative portrayal of the foresting industry.

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Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald Fitzgerald

Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald took audiences on a gripping adventure through West and East Egg in this 1925 novel. But the due to language, sexual references, and several mentions of alcohol, it was banned in 1987. Speaking from personal experience, though, I was more bored than scandalized by this snoozer of a book. 

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Al Capone Does My Shirts, Gennifer Choldenko

Al Capone Does My Shirts, Gennifer Choldenko

A preteen boy named Moose, his naive little sister Natalie, and a world-renowned gangster all live together on Alcatraz Island. This thrilling tale of mischief and lore got its spot on the list for portraying Al Capone as someone children should be seeking after.

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The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger

The story that was originally published for adult readers soon became a popular read with teen readers due to its themes of angst and alienation. With the change in intended audience, the sexual frustration, profanity, and anti-authority themes also demonstrated in the story skyrocketed The Catcher in the Rye to the number one censored book from 1961 to 1982. There's no better way to get kids to read a book than by saying they can't. 

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Dead Poets Society, N.H. Kleinbaum

Dead Poets Society, N.H. Kleinbaum

John Keaton takes his new students at Welton Academy on a journey to “make your lives extraordinary” and encourages them in the revival of the Dead Poets Society. However, a pastor in Illinois found the book “disturbing” and overly sexual--something tells me he's inclined to see that everywhere, though. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

What is ninth-grade English without To Kill a Mockingbird? This Pulitzer Prize-winning book was banned in the mid-1980s (in most states) for uses of racial slurs, "trashy" content, and talk of rape. Like 1984, though, this is a book that's rebounded to the point that it's become obnoxiously beloved. 

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Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

Banned since 1982 for content of "distasteful" alternative definitions to words such as "knob" and "bang." There was also comment on some of the "unnecessarily explicit" definitions for words like "oral sex" and "f***."

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The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank

The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank

Let’s just say when you’re in hiding for two years you...learn a lot about yourself. (If you know what I mean.) In the original version of Frank’s diary, there are several explicit passages that cemented its appearance on the list of banned books. But in what insane universe are people actually getting hot and bothered by the diary of a teenage girl who would later be killed in the Holocaust?  

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Catch-22, Joseph Heller

Catch-22, Joseph Heller

This whirlwind of a story pulls readers back and forth in time that leaves readers scratching their heads. But due to descriptive violence and inappropriate language, this literary classic was banned in 1972.

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In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

This nonfiction novel takes readers on a mental roller coaster to figure out who murdered the Clutter family before the police. However, this book was banned in Savannah, GA after parents complained about sex, violence, and profanity. If they want to get rid of those, though, they're gonna have to ban a lot more than just one book. 

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Death and the Maiden, Ariel Dorfman

Death and the Maiden, Ariel Dorfman

This play about suffering, justice, and betrayal was deemed too explicit for younger audiences. It was placed on the banned books list in a New Jersey High School in 2016. We're suprised kids were still reading books in 2016, to be honest. 

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Rabbit, Run, John Updike

Rabbit, Run, John Updike

Trapped in the mind of 26-year-old Harry “Rabbit” Armstrong, we are guided through the same frustrations of his loveless marriage and dead-end job. Updike’s story was removed from the required reading list at Medicine Bow, WY Junior High for sexual references and profanity.   

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Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut

Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut

This science fiction novel takes readers on a trek that makes them question the importance of their own relationship with technology. This work was banned due to discussion of religion, the nuclear arms race, and science. It was written in 1963, so it's not like anything important related to the arms race was going on then anyway, right? 

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Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

Huxley’s depiction of this dystopian society was deemed “A masterpiece...One of the most prophetic dystopian works” by The Wall Street Journal. But in an A.P. language and composition in a Delaware High School, two board members sealed the book’s fate by declaring it insensitive, filled with racist and crude language, and explicit scenes. In their defense, it is basically about a world full of drug-fueled sex parties. 

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Sophie's Choice, William Styron

Sophie's Choice, William Styron

The story of the publisher McGraw-Hill and his encounters with the gorgeous Sophie Zawistowska. Styron’s work was criticized for its portrayal of a non-Jewish person as a victim of the Holocaust, explicit, and profanity, and was banned 22 years after its publication. Also, that choice business is not exactly easy reading. 

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The Color Purple, Alice Walker

The Color Purple, Alice Walker

Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel took readers through the same emotional hardships of Celie, who is continually beaten and raped by her father. These graphic depictions of violence, as well as explicit sexual references and portrayal of a “damaging” lifestyle, landed this classic on the list of 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books from 2000–2009.

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The Lord of the Flies, William Golding

The Lord of the Flies, William Golding

This 1954 book by Nobel Prize-winning author William Golding takes audiences on the tumultuous experience of a group of British boys stranded on an uninhabited island. This work was challenged due to its negative depiction of men, profanity, and demeaning language. Best keep this one away from your kids, unless you want to find a conch shell or a pig's head under their bed.   

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Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov is considered by many authors to be one greatest works of the 20th century. This tornado of a story puts readers in an uncomfortable position, asking them to take on the role of a middle-aged literature professor who falls in love with one of his very young students. This major theme of pedophilia understandably landed this book on the banned books list in 1960.

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A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess has been on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 best English-language novels since 1923 and has also been critically acclaimed by Modern Library.  This classic novel was removed at a High School in Colorado for use of "objectionable" language. Then it was turned into a hit movie, so kids don't even have to bother with reading it anymore.   

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Animal Farm, George Orwell

Animal Farm, George Orwell

This high school staple has undisputable political references but is thought to be a necessity for several literature teachers all across the United States. The book has been challenged multiple times over the years by people who would clearly be pigs within the scenario of the novel. 

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As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner

As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner

This southern gothic by Faulkner is consistently ranked among the best novels of the 20th century. As I Lay Dying has been banned by several U.S. school districts for uses of "coarse language" and questioning the existence of God. It's a dense book though, so good luck gleaning any of that from your reading.   

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Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

This renowned work is accredited for being one of the first to address the many social and intellectual challenges facing African Americans. The latest ban of this book was in North Carolina in 2013 for the use of profanity, descriptions of violence, and “talk of sex.”

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Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin

Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin

This first major work of Baldwin was one of the first to center its focus on the roles of the Pentecostal Church in the lives of African Americans. The several mentions of sex, violence, degrading treatment of women, and rape landed this classic its spot on the banned books list.

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The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

Though you may not have read this for class, this world-renowned, epic, fantasy novel captivated audiences all across the globe and transported them to the breathtaking land of Middle Earth. This book got its spot on the list for depictions of people smoking and being “generally anti-religious.”

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Multiple Titles, Dr. Seuss

Multiple Titles, Dr. Seuss

Schools don't even need to ban books when they have the publishers to do their dirty work for them. It was revealed in 2021 that Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the publisher for the beloved children's author, would cease production on six of his books for their alleged "racist" imagery--which included absurd examples like an Asian person holding chopsticks. We're sure that this decision came from the enterprise's strong convictions and was not at all influenced by the trend of companies signaling their wokeness in increasingly laughable ways to pander to their most deranged and censorious customers. 

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