13 Important Stories to Celebrate Banned Books Week

Greatness often breeds controversy, and this has certainly been the case for acclaimed books throughout history. Harry Potter has been banned for its glorification of witchcraft, Go Ask Alice for its depiction of harrowing teen drug use, and Brave New World for its unsettling vision of the future—but we love them anyway. In honor of Banned Books Week, here is our staff’s list of favorite banned books, thorns and all.

The Glass Castle
by Jeannette Walls

Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. As dysfunction of the family escalates, Jeannette and her brother and sisters have to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weather their parents' betrayals and, finally, find the resources and will to leave home.

To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD takes readers to the roots of human behavior—to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.

Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury

First published in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 is a classic novel set in the future when books forbidden by a totalitarian regime are burned. The hero, a book burner, suddenly discovers that books are flesh and blood ideas that cry out silently when put to the torch.

Read the full review here.

Beloved
by Toni Morrison

Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Filled with bitter poetry, Beloved is a towering achievement.

The Handmaid’s Tale
by Margaret Atwood

This horrifying vision of our society radically overturned by a theocratic revolution has become one of the most powerful and widely read novels of our time. It has endured not only as a literary landmark but also as a scathing satire and dire warning of a possible future that is still chillingly relevant.

In Cold Blood
by Truman Capote

Laconic and atmospheric, this intensively researched narrative of the Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas, and the two men who brutally murdered them on the night of November 15, 1959, generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by Rebecca Skloot

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A Separate Peace
by John Knowles

Set at a boys boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. What happens between two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.

Read the full review here.

The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Some consider it “the great American novel.” The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his powerful love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan is an exquisitely crafted tale that has been essential reading since it was published.

Read the full review here.

Friday Night Lights
by H.G. Bissinger

This sports literature classic follows a champion high school football team in a sleepy Texas town divided by class and race.

Catch-22
by Joseph Heller

The classic satire is the story of Captain John Yossarian who, hoping to escape deadly combat flights, must struggle with the equally deadly bureaucracy of the Army: a man is considered insane if he is willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.

Speak
by Laurie Halse Anderson

In Laurie Halse Anderson's powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

The Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold

After her death in 1973, Susie Salmon is adjusting to her new home in heaven, and watching life on earth continue without her. Her friends are trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer is trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family is unraveling. From above, Susie learns more about the man who took her life, and watches as her father searches for answers.