Banned Book Staff Favorites

Article by Danielle

Each year, we celebrate Banned Books in September. It's one of our favorite times of year because it reminds us that we trade in 'dangerous' merchandise from time-to-time.

School and public libraries across the United States continue each year to challenge or ban books for a variety of reasons ranging from the obvious (profanity in CATCHER IN THE RYE, adult situations in THE COLOR PURPLE) to the not-so-obvious (Satanic influence in the HARRY POTTER books, promotion of homosexuality in THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK). Fortunately the government has stopped banning books as a matter of policy, but in the 1920s, the U.S. Postal Service regularly burned copies of ULYSSES by James Joyce because it violated obscenity regulations set forth by the Supreme Court.

I love books that challenge the status quo. I want books to challenge my basic notions and force me to reconsider my own ideas about the world. When I browse our Banned Book display table, I see at least a dozen titles that did just that and have made me a better human as a result. 

Our favorite banned books will be displayed through the end of September. We hope you'll come in, take a look, and tell us about your favorite 'dangerous' title.


Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Cover Image
By Alvin Schwartz, Brett Helquist (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780060835194
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperCollins - July 27th, 2010

Many silly rationales have been cited for the censure of this contemporary kid’s classic, violence and glorification of the occult chief among them. However, the real reason that parents have been wary of this collection of ghost tales for more than a decade is that the original Stephen Gammell illustrations were so genuinely terrifying. In 2010 HarperCollins released new editions of each volume of Schwartz’s SCARY STORIES with still-creepy but sanitized drawings by Brett Helquist in an attempt to pacify nervous parents. If you need some great tales to tell around a campfire, I can recommend a copy of the updated SCARY STORIES, but I can’t help but suggest you search out used copies of the originals if you really want a fright! -Danielle

Staff Pick Logo
Tropic of Cancer (Miller) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802131782
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Grove Press - January 6th, 1994

Sexually explicit, amoral and ingenious, Tropic of Cancer not only broke new ground for American literature with its sui generis mix of fiction and memoir, it also sparked an overturn of US censorship standards and the definition of “obscenity” after being banned for nearly thirty years. Like an American Rimbaud, Henry Miller used his own hedonistic experiences while living in 1930s Paris as the inspiration for this visceral novel. And although his style has often been imitated, nothing is quite like the ribald, insouciant profanity of Miller’s narrative voice. -Keaton

Green Eggs and Ham (I Can Read It All by Myself Beginner Books) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780394800165
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House Books for Young Readers - August 12th, 1960

Dr. Seuss’s evergreen classic GREEN EGGS AND HAM is the first books many kids remember reading. But did you know the book has been banned, both in California for Sam I Am's "homosexual seduction" of his friend and in China for "early Marxism"? I personally think the book is perfect just the way it is, but I wouldn't mind a ban on green eggs and ham itself. Yuck. -Mary

Slaughterhouse-Five: Or the Children's Crusade, a Duty-Dance with Death (Modern Library 100 Best Novels) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385333849
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Dial Press - January 11th, 1999

SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE was a revelation to me when I read it in high school. Before then, I didn't know that 'literary' books could be funny and ironic and could even--gasp!--contain drawings. This book has been banned countless times in numerous school districts. When the book was stricken from the public schools of Oakland County, Michigan in 1972, the circuit judge called it “depraved, immoral, psychotic, vulgar, and anti-Christian.” Ironically, SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE makes a powerful argument about how we humans keep repeating the same fatal mistakes over and over. Hmm… -Mark

Naked Lunch: The Restored Text Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802122070
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Grove Press - July 16th, 2013

Do you enjoy dwelling in a world of heroin-soaked surreality filled with shady characters and foul language? I sure do, which is why I think NAKED LUNCH is a must-read for any banned book "junkie". -Chris

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