most books are banned because the
central message conflicts with some
religious, moral or societal norm.
Shocking and overly graphic books are
banned to protect the children. No
matter the reason, here are 25 of the
most controversial books of all time.
25) Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by
This sexually explicit book is often called
the first Intimate novel written in
English. First printed in 1748, this book
has been banned on and off for over a
quarter of a century in various countries
around the world. In fact, it was illegal
to publish it in the United States until
24) Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
First published in 1958, this book
caused a stir for its subtext (both subtle
and not) and criticism about colonialism
– particularly British Colonialism and
Christian influence in Africa. Malaysia
still bans the book.
23) Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt
Captured during the Battle of the Bulge,
Billy Pilgrim is brought to
Slaughterhouse number five by his
captors and must attempt to survive
the end of the war. It has been
removed from countless libraries over
the years as well and it often makes the
list of most challenged books in America
because of its themes.
22) The Communist Manifesto by Karl
Marx and Friedrich Egles
A critical look at capitalism, the
Communist Manifesto , is partly
responsible for the rise of communism
throughout the 19th and 20th
centuries. The book claims that
capitalism is only a theoretical success.
21) Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by
Often required reading for adolescents,
this book’s continued use of the ‘n-
word’ and an overabundance of vulgarity
make it controversial. Others claim the
oversimplification of blacks is
problematic. At the time it was
published the anti-slavery message was
also a major mark against it.
20) The Anarchist Cookbook by William
It contains some terribly dangerous
designs for creating bombs that
probably won’t work and instructions on
how to make some potentially illegal
substances. Powell’s work was written
during his youth and at the height of
the Vietnam War, and its very anti-
government nature and terroristic
themes are controversial, to say the
19) Origins of the Species by Charles
Darwin’s greatest work has become
something of an inadvertent attack on
Christianity and a rallying cry for pro-
evolutionists. Origins of the Species has
been blamed by many for causing the
chasm between Christians and science
and it shall likely remain ever so.
18) A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
Not so controversial because of the
content, A Million Little Pieces is the
memoir of James Frey. Also, most of it
is a lie. Frey’s book was applauded at
first, then subsequently ripped by Oprah
Winfrey after details surfaced that Frey
altered the truth.
17) The Color Purple by Alice Walker
It features sex, spousal rape, incestuous
rape, spousal abuse and homosexuality.
Its underlying themes focus on the
struggle of a black woman making her
way in the world. In addition to the
graphic content, it has been criticized as
being unfair to black men.
16) Ulysses by James Joyce
Banned in Ireland, the United States
and Britain, parts of Ulysses were
printed in serial format in the US at first
and considered too obscene to warrant
a book deal, so Joyce had to first publish
it in France. Its stream of
consciousness-style content is
considered vulgar and overly graphic as
it depicts several vivid descriptions of
bodily functions including: sex,
masturbation, menstruation and
15) Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
This novel about soldiers during the
Vietnam War has angered numerous
people since its publication in 1998. It’s
been challenged because of its language
and graphic, violent war scenes. It’s
been called racist and removed from
the shelves of schools and libraries
throughout the US.
14) The Catcher in the Rye by J.D.
When it was published in 1951 it was
considered vulgar and profane – even
though by modern standards it’s not
worse than some of the things you hear
every day on television today. Teenage
angst and the end of innocence are still
important themes today and attitudes
about the book have changed greatly in
the last 50 years.
13) The Harry Potter Series by J.K.
One of the world’s most beloved
modern series, many consider the Harry
Potter series to advocate the notions of
witchcraft. These books have been on
the most challenged books lists since
2000. They’ve been banned and burned
in various places throughout the world.
12) A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert
It’s been challenged repeatedly over
the years largely because of the graphic
scenes of animals being butchered. The
story itself is an autobiographical coming
of age tale and it’s widely regarded as
one of the better books of the 1970s.
11) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Its themes on child-birth and a utopian
society led to Ireland banning the book.
Some in the US believed the book was
so negative it was removed from
schools and libraries.
10) The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
A book about a man turning into a bug
seems like an odd choice for this list on
the surface, but the themes in The
Metamorphosis focus on isolation and
estrangement. Kafka was banned in his
home country of Czechoslovakia
because he wrote it in German. It was
also banned by the Nazis and Soviets.
9) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by
The Perks of Being a Wallflower involves
a teenager sending letters to an
anonymous friend where he vividly
describes his experiences with sex,
abuse and drugs. Because of the
homosexual experiences of the
narrator, this book is often removed
from libraries and banned in some
places in the United States.
The Satanic Verses by Salman
The tale of an Indian expat living in
England is so controversial that you can
be imprisoned if you’re caught reading
this book in Venezuela or fined if you’re
caught selling it in Japan. Some
booksellers in the US refuse to sell this
book because they received death
threats. What makes it so controversial?
Rushdie’s opinions on the Islamic faith is
widely considered to be heretical.
7) Topic of Cancer by Henry Miller
Miller’s book is largely autobiographical
and focuses on the lives of expats living
abroad in France. It features several
sexual encounters and focuses on the
lives of a struggling writer and his
relationships with his friends and
colleagues. It was banned in America
almost immediately upon publication in
6) Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet
Written at the height of slavery in
America, Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped
shed light on the cruelty and tragic
suffering imposed on African-American
slaves. The book was widely panned by
pro-slavery supporters and several
attempts were made to deride the
themes written, but none were
5) And Tango Makes Three by Justin
Richardson and Peter Parnell
It’s a children’s book that features two
male penguins hatching and raising a
child together. It’s one of the most
challenged books in America for its
depiction of homosexual lifestyle.
Christian and non-gay groups have
vehemently protested against this book
since it was published in 2005.
4) The Grapes of Wrath by John
Many Americans weren’t ready to read
about the graphic struggles of the poor
and downtrodden in 1939, when this
book was first published. Steinbeck’s
novel was said to be even more graphic
before edits. It has been banned,
burned and condemned by the public –
despite going on to be considered a
3) American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis
Extremely violent, Brett Easton Ellis’s
tale of an American yuppie and serial
killer was deemed too graphic for
minors. First banned in Germany before
Australia and Canada both banned or
restricted the sales of this book.
Queensland still bans the book and the
rest of Australia restricts its sale to
those over the age of 18.
2) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by
Maya Angelou’s autobiography is one of
the most banned books in US history. It
features racism, rape, drug abuse,
profanity and numerous adult themes.
The book has been used in universities
since its publication and remains a
steadfast reminder of the strength of
the individual. Some schools have
removed it as required reading and it’s
one of the most challenged books ever.
1) Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
A book about a man who marries a
woman so he can embark upon a
relationship with her 12-year-old
daughter is bound to be controversial. It
was banned in various countries and has
been called pornography by various
authority figures over the years,
enshrining it as one of the most
controversial books of all time.
25 Most Controversial Books: Banned,burned
most books are banned because the