Did you know that some classic books have actually been banned? Here are ten banned books we think everyone needs to read anyway, and why. (It is also our first collaboration with another book blog! Thanks to Ink for Thought for reaching out and helping us!)
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we will earn a small commission from your purchase using this link.
Books can be banned for many reasons, typically it is because they contain a sensitive topic that is no longer considered appropriate. Topics can include racial issues, excessive violence, or crude language. All that being said, some of the books that have been banned should still be read because they help us to understand how people think during the time the book was written. Additionally, we do not believe that banning these books is the best solution.
We collaborated with Ink for Thought to make a list of 10 banned books everyone should read!
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
Synopsis: The Great Gatsby, gives us a gorgeous depiction of New York City during the roaring 20’s. The story is told from Nick’s point of view, a young man who moved next door to the millionaire, Gatsby. Nick befriends Gatsby along with several other characters in the story. We see their elaborate parties and expensive outings, but we also see their broken relationships and toxic habits. The further into the book you go the more tragic the story becomes.
This book was banned in multiple schools because of its language, sexual references, and excessive drinking shown through its characters. Although these are all good reasons to ban this book, we feel as though people still need to read it. The Great Gasby depicts the harsh, hidden reality of the 20’s. People tend to think of how prosperous America became in the 1920’s, but they rarely ever consider how peoples elaborate lifestyles negatively affected their mental and physical health.
We see characters struggle with all of these “banned” topics in such a realistic way, it is difficult to remember that this book is fiction. So even though The Great Gatsby has been banned, we think everyone should read it at some point to properly understand what could have actually been happening to many people in the seemingly roaring 20’s.
Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945)
Synopsis: Animal Farm tells the story of a farm where the animals take over to get rid of humans and their harsh rules with plans to create a perfect society. Written on the barn wall is the statement “all animals are equal”. Although the animal’s plans work at first, the farm is quickly taken over by selfish pigs. Their leader, Napoleon, is the worst of all. He mercilessly forces other animals to slave away, while the pigs abuse their power and live lavishly. Eventually, the animals notice a change in the words on the barn wall. It now reads the harsh reality, “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
Animal Farm has been banned from many countries around the world, although the United States is not in that category. Infact, they funded a cartoon version of the book in 1955. The book was banned for being misinterpreted as being against socialism, instead of specifically Stalinist communism. All of the characters are representations of historical people, or social classes. Manor Farm is Russia, and Mr Jones is the Russian Czar. Napoleon represents Stalin and the dogs are his secret police. The list continues, and the seemingly lighthearted tale shows the truth about Stalinist communism that is ignored in most histories.
Animal Farm is a must read, because it handles difficult and complex topics through easy to understand scenarios. It is informative, and allows us to see the dangers of an uneducated society, and is a wonderful representation of, as John Dalberg-Acton said, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876)
Synopsis: Tom Sawyer is a young orphaned boy who lives with his Aunt Polly in St. Petersburg, Missouri. Tom tends to get into trouble, whether it be skipping school or sneaking out, Tom’s life never seems boring. He is constantly running off on adventures with his friends, but on one unfortunate night, they witness something traumatic. The boys swear on a blood oath to never tell a single soul what they saw, but Tom’s guilt grows after the wrong man is arrested. Tom must decide whether or not he is brave enough to stand up for the innocent man and tell the truth or keep his promise to his friends to protect himself.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has been banned due to Tom’s “questionable character”. People, schools especially, thought that the mischief seeking boy set a bad example for the young readers whom the book was targeted towards. Although Tom may be considered a bad example to young children, we think that as tweens, teens, and adults you should have a decent understanding of basic human morals to the point where you could read this book. Yes, Tom made some bad choices, but he is a child who is still learning and by showing that not everyone is perfect, it makes the book more realistic.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (1937)
Synopsis: John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is all about two friends who work as traveling ranchers during the Dust Bowl. George is the brains of the pair while Lennie is the heart. These two have a dream to own their own ranch and are able to work hard to reach their goal. Things take a disastrous turn when a rumor begins to spread about Lennie and things start to get out of hand.
Of Mice and Men has been banned because it contains racial slurs and is rather vulgar. Since this book is written in the late 1930’s about two men in the Depression era, many of the things that the characters say or do are not considered to be appropriate in today’s day and age. This, however, should not stop anyone from reading the book. Steinbeck does an excellent job touching on many controversial ideas and handling them with maturity. Some of those ideas include mental illness, racial injustice, and disabilities. The most sensitive subject brought up in this book was euthianasia, without spoiling anything, let's just say that it is heartbreaking! (I am not embarrassed to say that I openly cried IN CLASS while reading this book. - Taylor)
The Giver by Lowis Lowry (1993)
Synopsis: Jonas lives in a perfect community. It is run by The Elders, and they decide everything, like who you marry, your job, who your kids are. The society has no pain, no war, and no hunger. It is seemingly perfect. In order to maintain this equality, there are no colors, no emotions, and absolutely no individuality. No one remembers what life was like before The Elders, except the Receiver of Memory. The Receiver's job is to remember the past, and provide counsel when needed. After Jonas is chosen to be the new Receiver, he must relive all of the memories. He watches starving children and bloody battles; memories of pain and suffering. Along with the few horrible moments come other memories; a peaceful walk in the sunset, a thrilling sled ride, a child's birthday. Laughs, smiles, joy, and love flood his mind and he begins to wonder why it was all taken away, and what would happen if everyone could experience the same memories.
The Giver is considered a banned book due to temporary bans from schools. It mentions topics including violence, starvation, and euthanasia. Although, these topics are not encouraged, but are used to emphasize the themes of suffering and individuality in the book. This book is a must read because it is a beautiful reminder of the importance of life, love, joy, and pain. It shows that it is better to experience everything, than nothing at all. The book was also adapted into a movie in 2014. If you have the time, we highly recommend this movie and book! Although they are very different, the story will bring you to tears at the beauty of humanity.