This week for our weekly picks we are participating in banned books week.  Below is a list of some of our favorite titles along with the year and reason it was banned.  Banned Books Week is the only national celebration of the freedom to read, even so, book bans and challenges still run throughout our country. Created in 1982, it focuses on educating people about censorship, and has since been celebrated internationally as well. As a special addition, we are including some of our favorite banned music as well. Below, you can see a map of the US book bans and challenges over the last two years.

View Book Bans and Challenges, 2007-2009 in a larger map
From the New and Used Book Departments

1. The Absolutely True Diary of Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Suspended in 2008 from a classroom in Oregon after parents complained that it was offensive. The protagonist discusses masturbation. The book was a New York Times bestseller and a National Book Award winner.

2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This book is about censorship and those who ban books for fear of creating too much individualism and independent thought. In late 1998, this book was removed from the required reading list of the West Marion High School in Foxworth, Mississippi. A parent complained of the use of the words “God damn” in the book. Subsequently, the superintendent instructed the the teacher to remove the book from the required reading list.

3. Howl by Allen Ginsburg

Officials of the Cold War era saw only willful destruction of American values in a poet’s grief over suffocating 1950s convention.

4. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

This title has been causing controversy in the U.S. since it’s publication in 1970. Offended by Mickey’s nudity, many librarians have had to draw diapers on him with correction fluid in order to keep the book in their libraries. To this day, it remains the 25th most challenged book according the American Library Association.

5. Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

The Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran put a price on the head of this author for writing this book which allegedly is critical of the Islam religion. Rushdie, as a result, went into hiding for an indefinite period of time, fearing for his life

6. Lysistrata by Aristophanes

U.S. import ban on Lysistrata was lifted in 1930.This Greek tragedy was written somewhere around 400 B.C.

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird has been a source of significant controversy since its being the subject of classroom study as early as 1963. The book’s racial slurs, profanity, and frank discussion of rape have led people to challenge its appropriateness in libraries and classrooms across the United States. The American Library Association reported that To Kill a Mockingbird was #23 of the 100 most frequently challenged books of 2000–2007

8. Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov

Although it was published in Paris, it was soon (1956) to be banned there for being obscene. An Argentinian court banned the book in 1959 and again in 1962 ruling that the book “reflected moral disintegration and reviled humanity.” In 1960, the New Zealand Supreme Court also banned the book. It was later freely published in France, England, and the U.S

9. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

This is a perennial favorite of censors and has been banned in the U.S. and Australia. In 1960, a Tulsa, OK teacher was fired for putting the book on the 11th grade reading list. The teacher was reinstated, but the book was permanently removed from teaching programs. A Minnesota high school administration was attacked for allowing the book in the school library.

10. His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman

Pullman’s publishers have primarily marketed the series to young adults, but Pullman also intended to speak to adults. North American printings of The Amber Spyglass have censored passages describing Lyra’s incipient sexuality, which Pullman intends as a reevaluation of the tale of Adam and Eve. “This so-called original sin is anything but. It’s the thing that makes us fully human.”

From the Music Department

1. Billy Holiday Love for Sale was banned by ABC because they thought it promoted prostitution. (1956)

2. Louie Louie by the Kingsman was banned in parts of the US because of the indecipherability of the lyrics leading to hysteria. (1966)

3. All Beatles music was banned in August of 1966 because of Lennon’s “more popular than Jesus” remark.

4. Chinese Democracy by Guns ‘n’ Roseswas banned this year in China because of the name of the album.

5. God Save the Queen was banned in Brittan due to it’s disrespectful tone. (1977)

6. Rumble by Link Ray and His Raymen was dropped by radio stations even though it’s instrumental because they thought it promoted violence.  When it appeared on American Bandstand, Dick Clark refused to mention the song’s title.

7. There Stands the Glass by Webb Pierce (one of Logos all time favorite songs) was banned on some radio stations because they thought it promoted drinking. (1954)

Special thanks to the American Library Association and The Controversial and Banned Books site for providing most of the information on books, and to my colleague Dave Irmini for supplying the music selections and information.


Janina Larenas is the book buyer for the New Book Department. She is a printmaker and book artist who works with a variety of mediums to create narrative imagery. Her pieces range from stickers and posters to science illustration, embroidery to zines, often merging technical crafts with fine art presentation.