17 Reasons Books Get Banned

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Books get banned around the globe even in today’s advanced cultures. Small pockets of society rise up to have books banned. Even governments have banned books. Why? There are many reasons. Some might sound logical while others might sound absurd.

These seventeen reasons are the main ones that will get books pulled from library shelves and even from bookstores around the globe.

Foul Language

This is a very big reason many books get banned. The banning is typically to remove the books from the reach of teens and younger children. It is not always to have it banned and burned forever though there has been time in history where that was suggested and actually carried through. Many people actually do not like bad language and do not want others to read it.

What is foul language? There are some words that are iffy in this category. What one person deems foul might be commonplace to another. Generally, it is what is considered foul language in society at that time. Once it was bad to say the word “pregnant”. While a foul word in one era, it is a commonly used one today.

  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • The Color Purple

Too Much Sex

A very common reason books are banned from libraries and more is the level of sex scenes in the book or at least references to. Anything that is graphic is usually challenged. Some even challenge books if they reference anything sexual including underwear. Some books have been challenged if there is a kiss in the story, but typically those that are successfully banned for too much sex have detailed scenes that some do not deem appropriate.

  • The Great Gatsby
  • In Cold Blood
  • Leaves of Grass
  • The Scarlet Letter

We might have read these books and not noticed anything offensive in them. Our exposure to sexuality is much stronger than most times in our literary history. In today’s world, too much sex would be pretty explicit, but the books listed above were banned because of the references to sex or the stories were based on the act itself. After all, The Scarlet Letter is all about a woman who had an affair and a child to bear evidence to the sinful act.

Racial Issues

When it comes to race, there is always something contentious there. This has been one topic that has gotten books banned almost as much as sex. It usually involves racial relationships or violence, but this ban has changed over the years more than most others have.

Originally, the ban had to do with the roles minorities were shown in the stories. If anyone, specifically one of African descent, was shown as an equal to the white world, it was deemed inappropriate. Inter-racial relationships were frowned on. Minorities in leading positions in society were not accepted. Any book that showed them in such roles was usually a reason to be banned.

Several books were banned over the years due to the ‘inappropriate’ racial issues discussed in the book. All it had to be was hinted at.

Then there are the books that are banned because they appear to encourage racism. If a book depicted any race in a lower class role, it has been challenged as well.

  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Gone with the Wind
  • To Kill a Mockingbird

This is a category that can be explosive and cover many areas. Books can be banned because there is any reference to race differences. Some are historically accurate and are still banned on what is correct for the time period. With many of the categories, most bannings are done out of emotion, and this is one explosive topic.


This topic is usually under the sexual content section, but I brought this out as it has become a rather hot topic in other areas in our culture today. This is a rather touching subject that guarantees to get books banned in some regions.

In the early to mid twentieth century, one did not discuss this alternative lifestyle. It was practiced more than most realized, but it was kept in the dark and behind closed doors. To discuss it in the open was taboo. Now society has moved forward and brought it out into the light. It is still not a lifestyle widely accepted in many communities which is why there are bans on many books containing any level of reference.

  • And Tango Makes Three
  • Between Lovers
  • Cheaters
  • Family Values

Some groups who have sought these books and other ones like them to be removed from school libraries usually don’t want the books destroyed or completely gone. They just want to control how their children are exposed to the lifestyle. The reasons vary based on regions and the various groups involved. Most object due to religious reasons.


Many people cannot stand violence in stories, especially if it is designed for younger children. The more violent it is, the more likely it will be banned somewhere. Some books might hint at the violence and still be banned. Others are more graphic or disturbing in nature.

  • Fun Home
  • Harry Potter,
  • Of Mice and Men
  • The Chocolate War

Many groups want any reference to murder or death removed. Physical attacks on others also prompt censorship. It typically is felt that violent books should not be in the hands of young children.

Too Religious

This is a big reason many books get banned. Most people don’t like books that are highly religious especially if it isn’t their religion. It could be that the number one reason is a tie between religion and sex. Some ban books because they feel they portray their religion in a bad light.

  • The Satanic Verses
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
  • The Da Vinci Code
  • The Bible

Over the years, there has been a large trend to not have a religion pushed on others. That leads then into banning books that are religious in nature because many want to avoid religion all together. This can then lead to many great books removed from shelves simply for mentioning a religion.


If a story has characters who do drugs, there is a big chance that it has been on the ban list. Why? Because most people think the drugs are glamorized or the story gets too deep into a sordid part of society. Those who want to ban books with drugs in them want a world where there is no mention of drugs.

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • The Color Purple
  • Brave New World
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Why dear ol’ Alice? Because many believed the author was on drugs when he wrote the book because it could only come from the mind of a druggie, right? Assumptions can get you into trouble.

Controversial Topics

Anytime there is a controversial topic in a book, there is a high chance it will be banned. Why? Because these topics are heated and can have large numbers arguing for or against. Anytime the side against it is loud enough, there will be banning.

Religion is always controversial. There are those who argue vehemently against any form and those who argue particular forms. Someone will always get heated over it. Then there are topics that are of moral natures. Those always bring about anger and passion. Mentioned in a book, there will be cries for it to be banned.

  • Heather Has Two Mommies
  • The Color Purple
  • The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Brave New World

Admit it! Controversial topics sell which is one reason so many authors write on them. Some even move mountains. Just look at Uncle Tom’s Cabin.


This has always been a reason for banning books. Those who were strong in their religious nature found the subject too dangerous to have on accessible bookshelves. Some felt it was inappropriate for young children.

The occult has resided in literature of all kinds including that of the Bible and Shakespeare’s plays which has brought about the demand for those works and more to be banned.

  • Harry Potter
  • Macbeth
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • The Prydain Chronicles

While some books are explicit in their references, others are chosen for hints of magic or anything supernatural. Even ghosts have been viewed as part of the occult and been the reason for censorship.


Has there ever been a time when politics hasn’t been divisive? I don’t think so. Even in literature, books can be banned for political reasons. Those political reasons could easily cross into these other reasons books are banned, but they are usually politically motivated. Anytime a book portrays a viewpoint opposite of what one political party stands for, they’ll demand its removal. It never fails. Heaven forbid we don’t all agree.

  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • The Satanic Verses
  • Heart of Darkness
  • Things Fall Apart

Those who yearn for change can find a ready audience in the written word and have used books to help their cause. Books can bring to light issues that otherwise are kept in the dark.

Bad Example

Sometimes a book is banned just because it is seen as a bad example for others. It might teach bad manners or show that no morals is a good thing. Some see books that show disrespectful children as ones to be removed from shelves. They are afraid the children will see the actions as acceptable and imitate the characters within the book.

  • Junie B. Jones
  • Captain Underpants
  • Lord of the Flies

Some children do imitate what they see, hear, and read, but many others do not and find the books entertaining. It all can depend on the child and the environment they are in.

Against Society Norms

Sometimes a book is banned simply because it goes against the normal day to day life in society. It could be based on religious or moral reasons as well, but it all comes down to not being the norm in society. For example, in today’s world, homosexual relationships are common. Banning books for this reason would be more for religious reasons instead of society norm. What is norm for today might not have been two decades before.

  • Brave New World
  • The Lord of the Flies
  • Fifty Shades of Grey
  • Beyond Magenta

Society does not kill off the old or encourage drug use. It doesn’t encourage murder just because. Society changes over the years which means the books banned for this reason change as well. Maybe one day, our new world will be the norm.

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Inter-Racial Relationships

Segregation comes in many forms. To show relationships that cross race lines can sometimes bring out the censoring rods from many groups. Many books over the years have challenged segregation and have been banned. It doesn’t have to be romantic relationships. Some have been banned just for friends reaching across barriers.

  • The Rabbit’s Wedding by Garth Williams
  • Night Talk by Elizabeth Cox
  • Othello by William Shakespeare

When society fears change in social groups, banning of books can result.


Some books can be banned not for being religious but for not being religious or books that appear to be against religion. This usually occurs in highly religious communities.

  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • Go Ask Alice by

It all depends on which religious group rules the roost. The one with the most influence can have books banned if they do not support their particular beliefs.

Dark Themes

If a story has a theme that is too dark and disturbing for some, they have been banned at one time or another. Most of the time they are children’s books, but some can be for older students and young adults and still get banned. Those who seek to ban them usually state they feel that the audiences shouldn’t be exposed to such dark subject matter.

  • Lord of the Flies
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • Where the Wild Things Are
  • The Disappearing Spoon: And Other Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements

Death, trauma, and the dark side of life are banned by those who want to avoid it or hide their children from the harsh realities.

Age Appropriatemess

Sometimes books aren’t banned forever, just based on the age of the intended readers. If society feels that the books are too old for certain ages, they will have them banned from those ages. Usually those books contain more adult material or dark subject matter.

  • The Diary of a Young Girl
  • Lord of the Flies
  • Brave New World
  • Of Mice and Men
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Graphic Scenes

Certain scenes can be reasons for banning books. They could be sexual, bloody, or anything that is described in such detail as to cause some readers discomfort.

  • The Color Purple
  • Song of Solomon
  • The Glass Castle
  • The Dead Man in Indian Creek

Don’t Ban Books

Banning books is never a good idea. You might argue well for banning one book, but banning of one leads to banning of many including many you might hold dear. Maybe we should hold tight to the freedom to read what we want and not allow that kind of power into anyone else’s hands.

Written by

Writer for ten years, lover of education, and degrees in business, history, and English. Striving to become a Renassiance woman. www.writerrebeccagraf.com

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