|Every year hundreds of individuals and groups attempt to banish books from their library shelves and classroom curriculums because of themes of violence, offensive language, and sexual references. For 30 years the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom has hosted Banned Books Week in an effort to keep books in the hands of readers “in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” Here are some of the classic novels that have been banned or challenged:
|To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird was a revolutionary title at the time of its first
printing in 1960. Opponents to the book criticized it for expressing
“racial hatred, racial division, racial separation, and [promoting]
white supremacy.” The book continues to be one of the most challenged
yet most widely read classic novels.
|The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
This behind-the-scenes novel of the country’s meatpacking industry
eventually led to the creation of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906
which became the Food and Drug Administration in 1930. Yet some readers
did not like the book’s socialist slant, thereby urging its banning.
|The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
A study of 1920s wealthy Americans, The Great Gatsby is a story of
excess and distrust. It was challenged in 1987 for its language and
|The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Read and studied by many high school students for its historical
context, this 1939 novel was challenged because of its blasphemous
language and for exaggerating the horrible living conditions of migrant
farmers. The novel earned Steinbeck the Nobel Prize for Literature in
1962, in addition to the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award.
|Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
This award-winning novel from 1962 follows a teenage boy and his violent
gang. It is rife with scenes of intense violence and questionable,
intrusive psychological treatments, yet it was banned for its
|The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye has been in a state of limbo since it was first
published in 1951. The novel has been deemed unsuitable for teen readers
because it is "blasphemous and undermines morality,” its “lurid
passages about sex” and “statements defamatory to minorities, God,
women, and the disabled”.
|Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
This story of obsession was challenged for being “unsuitable for minors”,
despite the book not being written for or marketed towards teens or
children. It, like every other title on this list, is considered a great
English-language of the 20th century.
|The Color Purple by Alice Walker
This 1982 novel accurately portrayed what life was like for black,
Southern women in the 1930s. Despite its award-winning status, the novel
was challenged for its profanity and sexual references.
|The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
This book is most often challenged for its "excessive violence and bad
language" but also because it depicts man as “little more than an
animal”. It, like others on this list, is considered one of the top
English-language novels of the 20th century.
|Beloved by Toni Morrison
Beloved is the story of a slave who fought and killed her way to freedom
in 1865. Morrison won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 because of the novel’s