"Catcher in the Rye", "Where the Wild Things Are", and "To Kill a Mockingbird" all have one thing in common. They were banned. Extraordinary as that may sound the list is not limited to these three classics. Banned Books Week, celebrated nationally during the last week of September, brings together readers of all types—authors, librarians, booksellers, publishers, teachers and others—to celebrate the freedom to read, uncensored. According to the American Library Association, more than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982.
The institutions that have been most likely to challenge books since 1990 are schools, school libraries and public libraries, and the most common person to initiate a book challenge is a parent, according to banned book statistics from the American Library Association. Most common reasons for challenging books include sexually explicit material, offensive language, unsuitability for an age group and violence, though many of the books that have been banned or challenged are considered American classics. According to the Office of Intellectual Freedom, more than 300 book challenges were reported in 2013. Challenges are considered an attempt to remove or restrict access to books, and bans reflect actual removal of books.
All the books on this list have been banned indefinitely, banned and brought back, or challenged—but should be read. Whether they're classics, books that have helped shape American culture or even a modern read that's kept kids, tweens and teens interested in reading, here are 15 books we still love.
"Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak
Although parents today may not see the problem with this classic, imaginative children's book that many grew up reading, at the time it was published in 1963, many parents and librarians challenged this book due to what they called the dark and disturbing nature of the story.
"The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison
This heart-wrenching novel about a young girl who is the victim of sexual abuse and the society that rejects her is banned year after year from multiple schools, due to its sexual content and offensive language, despite landing on the Common Core 11th-grade suggested reading list.
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by StephenChbosky
One of the most famous coming-of-age novels is also famous for constantly being challenged and removed from classrooms nationwide for what parents consider to be vulgar subject matter and depictions of teenage drinking and drug use.
"To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee
This beloved American classic is contested time and time again due to its use of profanity, racial slurs and sexual content. Even more than 50 years after its release, it still lands in the Top 10 most frequently challenged books lists.
"The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger
According to the American Library Association, this modern classic has been a "favorite of censors since its publication." Why the fuss? Vulgar language, sexual content and a general dystopian tone—basically adolescent angst at its finest.
"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou
Angelou's autobiography may have been nominated for a National Book Award, but its also been challenged year after year by parents who are concerned about its graphic depictions of sex, racism and violence.
"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain
Often considered one of the great American novels, Twain's classic novel is also one of the most challenged books of all time. The most commonly cited offense is its prevalent use of racial slurs.
"Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck
The story of two displaced ranch workers is a loved novel by many teachers as an entryway to rich themes of real life, such as racism, the harshness of poverty, and death. It has been banned out of fear that younger minds may not be able to handle such complex and unsettling themes.
The "Harry Potter"Seriesby J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter has become a childhood classic that launched theme parks and a film series. For many, Harry Potter provides a magical world outside of reality. However, the wizarding world of Harry and his friends has often been banned for violence and references to the occult and Satanism.
"The Giver" by Lois Lowry
"The Giver" tells the story of a dystopian society, and has been a staple in schools for decades. The most common reason for attempting to ban the book is the dark novel is not considered appropriate for the age group.
"A Wrinkle in Time"by Madeleine L'Engle
Madeleine L'Engle's tale became a classic almost immediately after it was published in 1962, and provided a strong female hero and an adventurous journey through space. The book ran into problems with religious groups and was sometimes criticized as being pro-communist, a hot topic in the politically unstable 1960s.
"Lord of the Flies" by William Golding
When a group of British schoolboys crash on an island, Golding provides a powerful dialogue on human nature that is often stark and dystopian. Despite being chosen as one of the most important novels of the century, issues of language and other controversial topics have frequently earned this book a spot on the banned list.
"The Hunger Games" Trilogy by Suzanne Collins, 2008
The blockbuster trilogy about an annual event that forces a group of children to fight each other to death has logged enough parental complaints for its depiction of violence among children and religious sentiments to earn the distinction of becoming the third most challenged books of 2011 by the American Library Association.
"Looking for Alaska" by John Green
Sexual content, drug use, smoking and inappropriate language contained within this coming-of-age novel has earned it a nearly permanent place on the challenged book list. In many schools, parents must give written permission for their children to read it.