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Katharine's Reading Challenge: Banned Books

Hello people of the internet!

If you read the title, then you know the journey I’m about to embark on. My reading challenge will be to read all of the banned or frequently challenged books in America.

For each book I finish, I will write a little blog post giving my review of the book and some background on why it was banned and where. I am a huge believer in stepping outside your comfort zone and reading things that make you uncomfortable and question your beliefs. I think what makes words and books so beautiful are the many different perspectives showcased.

This list was put together through a lot of Googling and article compilations, so it may not be a comprehensive list. If you have a banned book recommendation, then feel free to send it to me to add! You can email me at or comment your suggestions on any of the posts about the challenge.

Let me first set some ground rules:

  1. Since some authors have more than one of their books banned or challenged, I will start by reading their most popular banned book. I may later read another one of their banned books, but for now, I am going to stick to one book per author.

  2. I'm a busy girl, so there won't by a schedule of when I post these reading challenge updates.

  3. I can't promise I won't DNF books, but I will be completely transparent when that happens.

Now, I have already read some of these, so I will cross them out and put a quick review and rating beside them.

  1. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George Johnson

  2. Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

  3. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

  4. The Bluest Eye

  5. A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

  6. Carrie by Stephen King

  7. The Catcher in the Rye - Read my sophomore year of high school for class. The reason why the novel is banned in some places is because of foul language. I have strong feelings about this book, and they are all negative. The main character annoyed me.⭐️

  8. The Color Purple by Alice Walker - Read my senior year of high school for class. The book has been banned in a lot of schools since 1984 due to “graphic sexual content and situations of violence and abuse.” I won’t lie, it is violent and can be triggering, but it is also one of my all time favorite books. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  9. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

  10. The Dead Zone by Stephen King

  11. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

  12. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer - Read my sophomore year of high school for class. I was honestly surprised it was on this list, but an Illinois high school banned it for “its use of lewd and possible offensive materials.” I don’t remember this novel being offensive at all. I also watched the movie in class. This was one of the few books I liked reading for class because it uniquely tells the story of the aftermath of 9/11. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  13. Fifty Shade of Grey by E.L. James

  14. Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

  15. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

  16. Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine - Also a surprising addition to this list. I remember everyone reading these growing up. According to Teen Vogue, the series was banned because parents felt they were too graphic and scary and contained “excessive violence.” I think these books are classic kids books. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  17. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

  18. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling - OK this seems ridiculous to me. Apparently, Harry Potter is banned in some schools because it promotes witchcraft and are too dark. Also, according to the Toledo Library, Harry Potter books are now the most challenged books of the 21st century. I seriously don’t get it. They are amazing books, and I would read them to my kids as bedtime stories (If I ever have kids). ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  19. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - I definitely guessed the reason why this book is banned. It does include strong language, but the other reason, which I think is crazy, is “it was thought to promote anti-police views.” Yes, this book is about a police officer killing an unarmed Black teenager, but the book in itself is not anti-police. It’s anti-systemic racism and calls it out in a scenario that happens all too often. I really think students would benefit from reading this book. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  20. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende

  21. Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins - Read in seventh grade. Violence is the reason why this book is banned, but some of the other reasons were “insensitivity, offensive language, anti-family, anti-ethic and occult/satanic.” It is a book about children being put in a gladiator-style arena to fight to the death until one remains, so I get the violence part. Although as a seventh grader, I didn’t really think it was horrendously violent. I really liked this series, and I recommend it to people who like YA and want to get back into reading. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  22. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

  23. In the Night Kitchen by Mauric Sendak

  24. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

  25. Melissa by Alex Gino

  26. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

  27. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - Read this book senior year of high school for class. Now, this one is definitely violent and does not have a happy ending. It was also written a long time ago and is set in the Dust Bowl era, so there are some racial slurs and profanity. That being said, John Steinbeck is an incredible writer. This book really made me want to read his other novel East of Eden, but I haven’t gotten around to it. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  28. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien - Read this book junior year of high school for class. This book is EXTREMELY heavy because it is about the Vietnam War. It was banned for “vulgar language, sexual content and violence.” This wasn’t one of my favorite books, but I think it gives a little insight into the experience of soldiers in the war. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

  29. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - Read freshman year of high school for class. I think this is one of the most famous banned books. It is banned in some schools for its themes of rape, use of profanity and racial slurs. Hot take: I didn’t like this book. I know people rave about it, but I just struggled to read it and stay interested in it. ⭐️⭐️

  30. Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut

  31. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds

  32. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

  33. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

  34. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

  35. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

  36. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

  37. Beloved by Toni Morrison

  38. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya

  39. Stamped by Jason Reynolds

  40. This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki

  41. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

  42. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson - Read in elementary school. I cried for days because of this book, but I was confused why it was on this list. Apparently, it has been challenged because of profanity and references to witchcraft and atheism. It’s been a while since I read it, but I really liked it. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  43. 1984 by George Orwell - Read sophomore year of high school in class. This book was challenged for allegedly being “pro-communist and sexually explicit.” The book has a lot of political themes, but I am of the belief that you should read books that challenge your own political opinions. I liked the book. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

  44. Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher

  45. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X

  46. The Bookseller of Kabul by Asnne Seierstad

  47. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

  48. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - Read junior year of high school. This one surprised me as well. Apparently, it was challenged by the Baptist College in Charleston, South Carolina, for it’s language and for sexual references. This is definitely a classic that is a super quick read. I read it on the plane ride home from New York City. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  49. Ulysses by James Joyce

  50. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

  51. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

  52. Animal Farm by George Orwell

  53. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

  54. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

  55. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

  56. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

  57. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

  58. Native Son by Richard Wright

  59. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

  60. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Heminway

  61. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

  62. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

  63. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

  64. A Clockwork Orange by Anothony Burgess

  65. The Awakening by Kate Chopin - Read this senior year of high school for class. This book does deal with an affair and a woman’s sexual awakening as well as suicide, so there needs to be some trigger warnings before reading it. The book itself was published in 1899, and it was banned everywhere because it distrubed critics. It wasn’t my favorite book. ⭐️⭐️

  66. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

  67. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

  68. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

  69. A Separate Peace by John Knowles

  70. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

  71. Women in Love by DH Lawrence

  72. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

  73. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

  74. Rabbit, Run by John Updike

  75. The Giver by Lois Lowry

  76. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

  77. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

  78. Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

  79. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

  80. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

  81. The 1619 Project

  82. A Time to Kill by John Grisham

  83. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

  84. Looking for Alaska - Read in high school. I am shocked this is on the list, but apparently it was banned because it is considered "sexually explicit" and it depicts teens smoking. I really didn't think this book was that provocative. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  85. What If It’s Us by Beck Albertalli

  86. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

  87. The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

  88. How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith

  89. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

  90. The Da Vinvi Code by Dan Brown - Read in high school. Also shocked about this one, but it was banned in multiple countries and by the Vatican because of its "blasphemous content" about Christianity. I thought it brought an interesting historical perspective, and I really loved the modern-day murder mystery component. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  91. Manufacturing Consent by Edward S. Herman

  92. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

  93. Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

  94. Feed by M.T. Anderson

  95. Stranger in a Stranger Land by Robert A. Heinlein

  96. Water for Elephants by Dara Gruen

  97. Different Seasons by Stephen King

  98. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

  99. Assata: An Autobiography by Assat Shakur

  100. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

  101. Always Running by Luis J. Rodriguez

  102. Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

  103. The Red Badge of Courage by Stepehn Crane

  104. The Freedom Writers Diary by The Freedom Writers

  105. Black Boy by Richard Wright

  106. Critical Race Theory by Kimberle Crenshaw

  107. This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson

  108. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez

  109. Four Hundred Souls by Ibram X. Kendi

  110. Tweak: Growing Up on Methaphetamines by Nic Sheff

  111. Skeleton Crew: Stories by Stephen King

  112. Blood in the Water by Heater Ann Thompson

  113. I Am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin

  114. The Pentagon Paper by Neil Sheehan

  115. Crank by Elle Hopkins

  116. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

  117. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Ok, let's get this show on the road!

Which book should I read first?

  • The Handmaids Tale

  • Fahrenheit 451

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