20 Beloved Books & Why They Were Banned

This story was originally published on September 26, 2014.
Before Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, books were one of the most powerful ways to transmit information and stories. They still are, and (hopefully) always will be. Some books are bound to cause controversy and stir up trouble. Again, such is the power of the written word.
September 27 through October 3 marks the American Library Association's annual Banned Books Week. It's a celebration of freedom — freedom to read, freedom from censorship, and freedom to share unique ideas that may not jibe with everyone.
In honor of the occasion, we're taking a look at 20 commonly banned or challenged books. Some of them will surprise you. (Can you guess why someone would find Green Eggs and Ham contestable?) Others, you can probably predict. And, fun fact, putting this list together unearthed a trove of Cliff's Note-esque study guides to Gossip Girl. They're a silly reminder that there's always deeper meaning to be found in the most surprising of places.
Ahead, see which beloved works continue to top the ALA's list of the most frequently banned books. Read them. Love them. And yes, challenge them — but not for the reasons on this list. Question them because that's what good literature should make you do.
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Photo: Courtesy of Scholastic.
Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey
Published: 1997
Banned: 2002

Why: Captain Underpants is the story of a superhero in his underpants, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t my favorite book growing up. The hilarious tale tops this year’s list of banned books for “offensive language” and being unsuitable for its age group.

Quote: “Tra-la-laa.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Published: 2005
Banned: 2006

Why: Critics accused this sweet story of two adorable male penguins raising an even more adorable baby penguin of being “anti-family, and unsuited for its age group,” resulting in a ban in both the U.S. and Singapore.

Quote: “Roy and Silo were both boys. But they did everything together.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Ballantine Books.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Published: 1953
Banned: 1987

Why: The message from this dystopian novel (literally about banning books) fell on deaf ears when it was banned for vulgarity and references to drugs and alcohol.

Quote: “Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Published: 1962
Banned: 1990

Why: This seemingly innocent children’s story (which is about to be adapted for the big screen by the writer of Frozen) was banned for challenging religious beliefs through references to things like witches and crystal balls.

Quote: “We can't take any credit for our talents. It's how we use them that counts.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Virago Press.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Published: 1969
Banned: 1983

Why: Maya Angelou’s moving autobiography was banned for offensive language, sexually explicit material, and violence, though obviously that didn’t stop Angelou from becoming one of the most iconic writers in history.

Quote: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Random House.
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
Published: 1960
Banned: “Until as recently as 1991”

Why: Remember that time when Sam I Am tried to seduce his friend? Me neither. But, the book was banned in California on accounts of “homosexual seduction.” It was also banned in China for “early Marxism” from 1965 until Dr. Seuss’ death in 1991.

Quote: “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-Am.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Speak.
Looking For Alaska by John Green
Published: 2005
Banned: 2012

Why: Just like Green’s mega-hit The Fault In Our Stars, this YA novel is jam-packed with quotable lines and a dramatic teenage romance, which explains why the book has been banned for offensive language and sexually explicit material.

Quote: “The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Poppy.
Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily von Ziegesar
Published: 2002
Banned: 2006

Why: As the saying goes, “You know you love me, XOXO, Gossip Girl.” Except, you know who doesn’t love the GG series? Parents of the ever-impressionable youth. The books are frequently challenged for depictions of drug use, offensive language, and being sexually explicit.

Quote: “She wanted someone to love her and shower her with attention the way only a boy who was completely in love with her could. That rare sort of love. True love. The kind of love she'd never had.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Yearling.
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Published: 1964
Banned: 1983

Why: Harriet’s spunky attitude was apparently enough to cause this book to be banned for teaching children to lie, spy, and talk back to their parents. WWHD — What would Harriet do?

Quote: “Sometimes you have to lie. But to yourself you must always tell the truth.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Grand Central.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Published: 1960
Banned: 1968

Why: Despite winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961 and almost immediately entering high school curriculums across the country, Harper Lee’s classic has been consistently banned or challenged since publication. It’s frequently cited for its racial themes, use of rape as a plot device, blunt language, and slurs.

Quote: “People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Published: 2007
Banned: 2010

Why: This National Book Award winner was banned for all sorts of reasons including offensive language, racism, sexually explicit material, and violence.

Quote: “If you let people into your life a little bit, they can be pretty damn amazing.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Riverhead Books.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Published: 2003
Banned: 2008

Why: Despite this book’s popularity, the “offensive language” and “sexually explicit” material was dubbed unsuitable for its audience.

Quote: “I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Pocket Books.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Published: 1999
Banned: 2003

Why: The extremely popular epistolary novel has been challenged due to “profanity and descriptions of drug abuse, sexually explicit conduct, and torture,” or in a more broad sense, “offensive content.”

Quote: “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Back Bay Books.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Published: 2002
Banned: 2006

Why: Well, the book does start with the narrator, Susie Salmon, being brutally raped and murdered by a neighbor. So, even though it’s narrated by a teenager, The Lovely Bones is often considered too frightening for middle schoolers and less-mature teens.

Quote: “Sometimes the dreams that come true are the dreams you never even knew you had.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Dell Publishing.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Published: 1969
Banned: 1972

Why: Slaughterhouse-Five has been causing drama since it hit the shelves in 1969. It was considered “depraved, immoral, psychotic, vulgar, and anti-Christian” leading it to be banned in the U.S. So it goes...

Quote: “There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Bantam Doubleday Dell.
The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney
Published: 1990
Banned: 1990s

Why: The book, which became a series and a made-for-TV movie, has appeared on the ALA’s frequently challenged book list since the ‘90s. It’s considered contestable for sexual content (when at most it has a whisper of sex) and challenging authority.

Quote: “I have no beliefs, only hopes.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Amulet.
ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series) by Lauren Myracle
Published: 2004
Banned: 2007

Why: [In Stefon voice] This series has everything: drugs, nudity, profanity, sexually explicit content, and controversial religious viewpoints.

Quote: “no means no, u weirdo stalkerhead!”
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Photo: Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Published: 1985
Banned: 2006

Why: A parent complained that the book had anti-Christian themes in a Texas school district, and also objected to graphic sexual descriptions, profanity, and the violence contained within some passages.

Quote: "Better never means better for everyone... It always means worse, for some."
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Photo: Courtesy of Yearling.
Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park
Published: 1996
Challenged: 2004

Why: Parents in a North Dakota district pushed to have the book removed from elementary school shelves, on grounds of profanity and adult themes. They also objected to references to birth control and eating disorders.

Quote: “But what does that even mean... heaven? Because see, I need to be able to put him somewhere, Zo. In my head, I mean. I need to be able to close my eyes and picture him and know he's okay. And just saying the word heaven doesn't help that much. Because like what is heaven, exactly? And where is it? And what do you do there?”
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Photo: Courtesy of Scholastic.
Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
Published: 2001-2011
Banned: Where do we even begin?

Why: Lots of people across the world have objected to the Harry Potter series' presence in schools, mostly for religious reasons categorizing the magic portrayed in the books as occult and Satanism.

Quote: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”