There are many different reasons an institution will ban a book. The magic in a fantasy novel can be construed as anti-religious, or the language in a novel can be considered too mature for younger audiences. No matter the reason, banned books intrigue audiences and tempt readers as soon as they are restricted. Some of the top banned books throughout the last century include:
- Ulysses, by James Joyce (1922)
- Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley (1932)
- Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck (1937)
- Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger (1951)
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (1960)
- Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)
- The Chocolate War, by Justin Richardson (1974)
- Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson (1977)
- The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman (1995)
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky (1999)
- The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini (2003)
- Looking for Alaska, by John Green (2005)
- Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher (2007)
- The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (2008)
Before a book can be banned, it first is challenged. A book challenge occurs when someone attempts to remove or restrict a piece of literature based on various objections. The book doesn’t become banned until it is removed from a curriculum or library. This means that free access to the book is no longer available in the designated institution, or in more extreme cases, prohibited by law; however, while books are challenged regularly, only about 10% of books that are challenged are actually banned.
Banning books has many negative consequences, as the practice restricts access to significant works. Often books are challenged with good intentions, but according to the Free Access to Libraries for Minors, the decision about what is mature is the responsibility of the parents, not the institution.
The First Amendment makes it difficult to ban a book in the United States. Some books are repeat offenders, such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky or Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, but other books such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland have become more accepted with time.
Though many banned books are seemingly innocuous by today’s standards, the reasons they were banned gives deeper insight into the time period in which they were published. Consider adding a vintage book to your collection and look into how people reacted to it when it first came out. You may be surprised by what you find!
Sources: American Library Association 1 ,2, 3, 4, 5 | The Guardian | The University of Tulsa | Writer’s Digest University | Banned Books Week | Unbound Worlds | Dallas News | Banned Library 1, 2, 3 | PBS