The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.”
—Oscar Wilde / The Picture of Dorian Gray
Bookstore1 believes in the freedom to read. We show our commitment to free speech and our respect for all readers by carrying a selection of books from a variety of viewpoints. Our staff reads widely, and when asked to contribute a favorite book that has been banned, they were happy to share. Here are 10 banned books that we’ve read that are on the most challenged list. All were great reads that we would recommend to you.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Recommended by Andrea: The Book Thief was the 2010 Sarasota One Book selection. It is a beautifully written, poignant, moving, sad yet hopeful story. I loved it. I was so happy this book was chosen. It was a great book to discuss with the community.
The Book Thief has been challenged several times because of its surreal concepts, heavy plots, children’s perspectives on the German army, and war settings.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Recommended by Georgia: A dystopian novel that feels all too close to real.
Banned and challenged for profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones.”
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Recommended by Melanie: Jeannette Walls tells the story of her dysfunctional family, poverty, and chaotic upbringing. She ultimately overcomes this to become very successful. This "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" story should be applauded in my opinion. Unfortunately, there are those who pick at a few words or experiences which landed it on Banned Books lists.
Challenged over the years for “racist and sexually explicit” content and vulgar language.
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel Recommended by Katia: I read Fun Home for the first time when I was in middle school, not yet out to anyone but myself. It is as much a "coming out" narrative as it is a story of a complicated family, and it was exactly what I desperately needed to read at the time. It is a gorgeous representation of a young lesbian, uncomfortable with herself, growing up, finding her way to a messy, beautiful future. I shudder to think about an alternate universe in which I was not permitted to find such a story at the time when I needed it most.
"Fun Home" has been the target of multiple banning attempts, the first of which took place in Marshall, Missouri in 2006. Louise Mills demanded that "Fun Home" be removed from the public library, referring to the memoir as “pornographic” due to scenes depicting masturbation and oral sex.
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Recommended by Bryn: Charlie Gordon, an intellectually disabled, middle-aged man, takes part in an experimental procedure aimed at increasing intelligence. Told via a series of "progress reports" written by Charlie himself, we see that as he gains intelligence, he wrestles with newfound thoughts of love, identity, personal and societal guilt, and forgiveness. Reading this book in 8th grade, I'd never felt so moved by a story.
The novel "Flowers for Algernon'" has been banned for explicit sex scenes and offensive words.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Recommended by Roxanne: I was fortunate to have read this book to ninth graders under my charge. Alexie is a master at capturing moments in time, and his main character not only elicits pride for his Native American culture, but is the hormonally charged emotional middle schooler we all once were.
Consistently challenged since its publication in 2007 for acknowledging issues such as poverty, alcoholism, and sexuality, this National Book Award winner was challenged in school curriculums because of profanity and situations that were deemed sexually explicit.
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
Recommended by Georgia: Who doesn’t long for Neverland sometime & why deny us a fantastical trip there?
Peter Pan and Peter and Wendy have been challenged over the years for what has been called an offensive depiction of Tiger Lily and the Native American tribe living in Neverland.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Recommended by Doug: I read Fahrenheit 451 in 1966. It wasn't in the school library, had to get it from the Science Fiction Book Club. It wasn't banned until the following year -- or at least had its obscenities edited out in the "Bal-Hi Edition." Learned later that Bradbury was also a poet and included a Sara Teasdale poem in his short story "There Will Come Soft Rains." Forever after I was devout fan and a dystopian poet!
"Fahrenheit 451" has faced multiple censorship and banning attempts throughout the years, primarily for vulgarity and discussions about drugs.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Recommended by James: A powerful story of making amends, and how the shape of the world around us can pressure us into choices that are not always our own.
Challenged and banned because it includes sexual violence and was thought to “lead to terrorism” and “promote Islam.”
Maus by Art Spiegelman
Recommended by Bryn: This was the first (and so far only) Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel. Maus tells the story of a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father's story. Masterfully exploring themes of guilt, memory, racism, and language, Maus "studies the bloody paw prints of history and tracks its meaning for all of us." It's essential reading for 15+ year olds.
The Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel was banned for inappropriate curse words and a depiction of a naked character.
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
Recommended by Melanie: It seems we are frequently bombarded with tragic school shootings in our country. But what causes a teen to become a killer? In this very readable book the author addresses this. Is it from bullying, a mental illness, or as a victim being forced to fight back? And then, how does a family and a community understand how their behaviors may have contributed to this tragedy.
Restricted to high school students with parental permission at the Beardstown (IL) High School library because the novel “describes sex, uses foul language, and contains other ‘R-rated’ content.”
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Recommended by Georgia: This has to be the finest book in the English language for teaching empathy. Banned? It should be required reading for everyone.
Banned for the use of racial slurs.
Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information and brings together the entire book community - librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types - in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas. Learn more about the organizations we support: