10 Most Recently Challenged Books

This week we celebrate Banned Books Awareness Week, which pays tribute to the freedom to read and draws attention to books that have been banned or challenged.  Though we’d like to imagine that the censorship of literature is a thing of the past, books get banned and challenged every year for various reasons.  Here is a list of ten of the most frequently challenged books in the last few years and the reasons they have been challenged.

1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green, was challenged because of offensive language and being sexually explicit.

2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James, was challenged for being poorly written and sexually explicit with concerns that “a group of teenagers will want to try it.”

3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings, was challenged for homosexual content and being inaccurate.

4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin, was challenged for being “anti-family,” having offensive language and homosexual themes.

5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon, was challenged for “profanity and atheism.” Continue reading

Banned Collectible Books (Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

Again this year, in honor of Banned Books Awareness Week, we present a couple of perennial reading-list favorites that have been censored and banned.

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
First Printing, Little, Brown & Co., 1951

In 2015, one of our two featured books during Banned Books Awareness Week was J.D. Salinger’s first book. That copy sold out of one of our Minnesota stores, and this year a Texas store has acquired another first edition in Very Good condition.

The Catcher in the Rye has remained a popular and critical favorite since it was published, appearing near the top of the “greatest American literature” lists of Time, Modern Library and many other listmakers. Many school districts and libraries have restricted or banned it for profanity, sexual references and for being “negative” and because it “undermines morality.”

Continue reading

65 Banned or Challenged Books that Shaped America

Writer and philosopher Voltaire once said, “Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.” Sounds simple but at what point does someone else’s thinking or ideas become subversive? Where does one draw the line? Who gets to decide?

For the past 40 plus years, Half Price Books has strived to uphold co-founder Ken Gjemre’s direction; “We don’t let others, or ourselves, determine what our customers should read.” So every year we celebrate Banned Books Awareness Week to celebrate our First Amendment rights which enable us to write, speak, publish and read freely. We acknowledge authors and their work which have caused controversy. And you might be surprised about which books are stirring things up.

The number one challenged book in 2013 reported by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom is (brace yourself)… Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey.

Yep. Captain Underpants. Sounds silly, but over the years there have been many challenged books that have had a profound influence on American culture. Some of these banned or challenged books have shaped America. Below is the Half Price Books list of 65 Best Banned or Challenged Books Across the Decades, many of which you can find on our shelves.

(1) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (2) The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X & Alex Haley (3) Beloved by Toni Morrison (4) Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown (5) The Call of the Wild by Jack London (6) Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (7) The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (8) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (9) For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (10) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (11) The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (12) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (13) Howl by Allen Ginsberg (14) In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (15) Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (16) The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (17) Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (18) Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (19) Native Son by Richard Wright (20) The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (21) The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (22) The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

(23) Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey (24) Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (25) A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (26) Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (27) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (28) Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (29) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (30) The Words of Cesar Chavez by Cesar Chavez (31) 1984 by George Orwell (32) The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (33) The Color Purple by Alice Walker (34) Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (35) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (36) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (37) And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell (38) Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden (39) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (40) The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (41) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (42) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (43) Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

(44) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (45) The Giver by Lois Lowry (46) The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (47) The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (48) The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (49) Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (50) Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya (51) SlaughterHouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (52) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (53) Lord of the Flies by William Golding (54) The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (55) Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (56) Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (57) My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier (58) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (59) Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (60) Ulysses by James Joyce (61) As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (62) The Awakening by Kate Chopin (63) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (64) Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (65) The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (66) Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich


What book do you think shaped American life and culture? Or perhaps just your own?

Join Half Price Books as we celebrate our First Amendment rights during Banned Books Awareness Week, September 28 – October 5.

Susan is Production Assistant at Half Price Books Corporate.

40 Banned Books to Read at Your Own Risk

Banned Books Awareness Week is a time to celebrate our intellectual freedom by reading books that others have deemed unacceptable for certain people to read.  Reasons books get banned or challenged (which means someone wants the book banned from a school or library, but the request was denied) vary from “unacceptable sexual content “and “excessive violence” to “animals don’t talk” and “the book is a real downer.”

Now, if you are anything like me, you will want to stick it to Big Brother and read as many banned & challenged books as you can, but what if you don’t know what books have been banned?  Don’t worry.  We polled our 3,000 Bibliomaniacs to let us know what their favorite banned books are.  So without further ado, here are 40 Banned [or challenged] Books to Read at Your Own Risk.

1) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, 2) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, 3) Slaughterhouse-Five by KurtVonnegut, 4) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, 5) Lord of the Flies by William Golding, 6) Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger 7) 1984 by George Orwell 8) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, 9) The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, 10) My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara, 11) Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, 12) The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, 13) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, 14) The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, 15) The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, 16) Animal Farm by George Orwell, 17) The Color Purple by Alice Walker, 18) Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, 19) Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume, 20) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, 21) The Rabbits’ Wedding by Garth Williams, 22) The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, 23) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 24) Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman, 25) Inventing Witchcraft: A Case Study in the Creation of a New Religion by Aidan A. Kelly, 26) Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, 27) The Trial by Franz Kafka, 28) The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, 29) Where’s Waldo? by Martin Handford, 30) The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, 31) The Devil in the Drain by Daniel Pinkwater, 32) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, 33) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, 34) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, 35) Hey Dollface by Deborah Hautzig, 36) Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden, 37) The Giver by Lois Lowry, 38) Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, 39) James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, 40) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

So, did you discover that you have already read some dangerous books?  If you would like to know more about banned and challenged books and why they cause controversy, check out this ALA list.

You can find these and more banned & challenged books at your local HPB because we sell anything ever printed or recorded. Always remember to speak freely, write candidly and read endlessly.

Julie is Production Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.
You may follow her on Twitter at @auntjewey.

Banned Books Mix + Match Game

Michael Gormon, librarian and former president of the American Library Association, has said that banning books not only hinders tolerance and acceptance, but also limits the information exchange Americans hold dear — so Banned Books Awareness Week is all about upholding that fundamental value. In observance of #BBAW11, we’ve put together a brief (and hopefully fun) literary quiz about banned books. See if you can match the statement about the book with its cover.

1. Published in 1951, this novel, written by a famously reclusive American author, has been repeatedly banned and challenged for reasons such as “profanity,” “sexual references,” and the charge that it “undermines morality.” The novel’s protagonist has become an icon for teenage rebellion. (Hint: the protagonist’s name means “deep valley” and has grown in popularity in recent years.)

2. The movies Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me, and Apt Pupil were all based on short stories from this book, which was removed from the West Lyon Community School library in Larchwood, Iowa in 1987 because it did not meet the standards of the community. (Hint: This best-selling horror author is famous for pinning his many rejection letters to his wall and has published a popular craft book called On Writing.)

 3. The entire Concord Books catalog was declared “obscene” by U.S. Customs in 1944 because it featured this book by a French novelist and playwright. (Hint: the descriptive word in this title means “Curious or unusual in a way that provokes dry amusement.”)

4. This Newbery Award winner has been removed from classrooms and libraries due to “profanity, disrespect of adults, and an elaborate fantasy world that might lead to confusion.” (Hint: this children’s classic was made into a movie in 1985 and then remade in 2007.)

5. Challenged in the Waterloo, Iowa schools because of profanity and statements defamatory to minorities, God, women and the disabled, this book was also downgraded from “required” to “optional” on the summer reading list for 11th graders in the Upper Moreland, Penn. School District in 2000. (Interesting fact: this dystopian novel was inspired by The Canterbury Tales.)

6. Students at the Venado Middle School in Irvine, California received copies of the book with words deemed to be “offensive” crossed out. Students and parents protested, and after being contacted by the media, school officials agreed to stop using the expurgated copies. Ironically, this book is about the fear of certain books creating too much individualism and independent thought. (Interesting fact: the entire novel was written on a pay typewriter in the basement of UCLA’s Powell Library and was serialized in the 1954 March, April and May editions of Playboy.)

7. This book was banned from a Barnes & Noble store in San Diego, California in 1995 for being “too controversial for the bookstore’s conservative clientele.” (Hint: the title alone makes this book a very obvious lightning rod for religious controversy.)

8. A teacher was fired after purchasing this novel for the classroom, with approval by both the superintendent and the principal of Mascenic Regional High School in New Ipswich, New Hampshire. The book, found to be unsuitable, was banned and seized from students while they were reading it in class. (Hint: the book is about a woman who is attacked for her lesbianism after opening a bookstore for women in Boston.)

9. Prohibited in a Jacksonville, Florida Forrest High School advanced placement English class, this book led to the arrest of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the City Lights bookstore manager, Shigeyoshi Murao, on charges of selling obscene material. A judge found them not guilty. (Hint: the title poem is considered one of the principal works of the Beat Generation.)

10. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel was banned in Amarillo, Texas in 1962 because of “political ideas” and because the author was cited by the House Un-American Activities Committee. (Hint: this novel about a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp won the Pulitzer Prize For Fiction in 1956.)

Thanks so much for staying with us all week through our coverage of Banned Books Awareness Week! Let us know in the comments if you’re able to match all ten titles with their trivia blurbs! (We’ll be proud of you if you can!)

Thanks for reading, everyone — Bill

Banned Books Posters + T-Shirts Round-Up

Censorship is not a thing of the past. You might be surprised to learn that more than 11,000 books have been banned or challenged since 1982 and 348 reported in 2010. Banned Books Awareness Week (BBAW) is an annual event when we, the community of employees and customers at Half Price Books, celebrate our First Amendment rights. Alongside the American Library Association and booklovers everywhere, we celebrate our freedom to read. As part of this, posters and T-shirts are designed each year. Here’s a round-up of some of our favorites.


Support the imaginative and courageous authors of all books, including those that open our eyes to controversial topics. Exercise your First Amendment rights this week by reading a banned or challenged book. And encourage others to build libraries, not bonfires.

Put on your favorite “Banned Books” T-shirt this week and join us! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the virtual rally happening online. Make a comment below telling us how you joined the First Amendment Rights Rally before 3 p.m. CST on Thursday, September 29 and enter to win a free HPB Banned Books tee. Winner will be randomly selected.

— Meredith


UPDATE: Congratulations to our random winner, Jackie Fender. You’ve won your very own HPB Banned Books T-Shirt. Drop us a note at besocial@hpb.com to claim your prize! This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone who participated.

#BBAW11 Title Poetry CONTEST

We LOVED the Title Poetry contests put on the last few weeks by the incomparable Janet Reid and the adorable Tahereh Mafi, so we were inspired to do our own, with a Banned Books twist! 

Here’s how it will work: 

Make a poem with your *banned* books. You may need to add a word here and there, but each line of the poem must include the title of a *banned* book— children’s or adult.  

How to enter: EMAIL the poem and the jpg to besocial@hpb.com. Poem in the body of the email, jpg attached. The contest will close Wednesday 9/28 at noon (12:00 p.m.) and will open . . .  NOW! We will publish the Top 5 and the winner on Thursday 9/29. 

(UPDATE: We’ve heard that some of you would like more time (understandably) so we’re pushing the deadline back to Thursday 9/29 at noon, with the Top 5 & winner posted on Friday 9/30. Now get to it.)

Don’t have a stack of banned books just laying around? Feel free to go to your nearest Half Price Books — there are plenty sold there (since 1972 :))

We can’t wait to see what you guys come up with!

— Kristen D.  

Banned Books Awareness Week 2011

From our Springhurst store in LouisvilleHi guys! Y’know, just when I think my family and I are your average, ordinary citizens, I find out that, actually, we’re way-out radicals!  The folks at Half Price Books told me this was Banned Books Awareness Week.  Who knew? Huck Finn, the Twilight Series, even The Bible have all been challenged or banned by some group at one time or another.

Well, darned if I hadn’t read most of ‘em!  And my “wild” wife Jenni … she’s read To Kill a Mockingbird and Peyton Place plenty of times. Our youngest loves all the Harry Potter books, but there’re evidently some people out there that aren’t “just wild about Harry.” Yep, he’s on the list too! And The Joy of Sex was banned in 1972 when Half Price Books first opened their doors … thus creating the term “book lovers!”

Guess we just don’t buy into not having the freedom to read what’s out there if we want. We’ll never stop reading these so-called banned books … or shopping our favorite bookstore, Half Price Books. And if you can believe it, the latest radio ad was even banned from certain stations for being too controversial! 

So hurry in and be a way-out radical too! While you’re there, you might see some of these Banned Books Awareness Week displays the stores are putting up. Pretty creative! 

From our North Lamar store in Austin, Texas

From our Springhurst store in Louisville, Kentucky

From our South Lamar store in Austin, Texas

So, what’s your favorite banned book?

— Jim Swayze

Top 5 Young Adult Banned Books

Banned Books Awareness Week begins tomorrow, September 24, and to celebrate this week, here are my top 5 Banned Books for Young Adults. 

First, what is a banned book? A banned book is any book that has ever been removed from the shelves of a library, bookstore or classroom because of its controversial content.  This does not mean that the book has been removed from all libraries, bookstores or classroom, or that it is no longer available to readers. What it does mean is that at one time someone has stopped others in their country, state or community from reading these books.  Although some banned books have been burned or even refused publication, most books are banned because someone has decided that the content of a certain book is not suitable for another person or group of people to read, and they are taken off the shelves of classrooms or school libraries in the area where the book is banned.

1. The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank (first published in English 1952)

This true-life story of a young Jewish girl living in hiding in Amsterdam during World War II explores Anne’s true thoughts and feelings about herself, her family, boys, and the war.  Anne receives a diary for her 13th birthday.  Less than a month later, she and her family are in hiding as the Nazis continue to round up all the Jews in Holland and send them to labor camps. Reading this book, you would assume it was banned because of its difficult subject matter. I mean, how do you explain anti-Semitism or the Holocaust to a young American teen? Another reason you might think this book would be banned is for Anne’s honesty about her feelings toward her changing body and the emotional issues that plague every teen. And though the book has been banned in certain areas because certain passages were considered “sexually offensive,” the most common reason The Diary of a Young Girl has been banned is because it was “a real downer.”  Only happy books for these people it seems.

2The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton (published 1967)

I have to admit that this novel, which tells the story of a sensitive fourteen-year-old boy from the wrong side of town, was my favorite book when I was twelve and thirteen. The main character, Ponyboy, and his friend Johnny get into a fight with two of the social set, called “Socs.” During this fight, Johnny kills one of the “Socs.”  After that, Ponyboy and Johnny run away to escape persecution. Again, the reasons for banning this book are not always what you would expect.  You would assume the book would be banned because of violence (there is also a big “rumble” at the end of the book), but the actual reasons for banning this book include “drug and alcohol use ” and the fact that “virtually all the characters are from broken homes.”  Ironically, this story was based on a real life situation, as one of Hinton’s friends had been “jumped” for being a “Greaser.” The event upset Hinton so much that she went home and started writing The Outsiders. She was fifteen years old when she wrote the book.

3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier (published 1974)

Trinity High School, a boys’ Catholic school, sells chocolate every year, but this year the chocolate sales are more important than ever.  The goals have doubled and so has the price. Though the group of school bullies known as the Vigils have promised to support the chocolate sale, they give the assignment to fourteen-year-old Jerry to refuse to sell the chocolates.  And so, Jerry finds himself at war against the biggest bully of them all, his teacher.  The Chocolate War is a book about standing up to bullies and the sometimes futility behind it.  However, according to some critics, the book’s “vulgar language” and “sexual content” seem to overshadow its anti-bullying message. Personally, I thought the anti-bullying message was not overshadowed, and the book adequately portrayed the thoughts and feelings of the bullies as well as the bullied.



4.  ttyl, by Lauren Myracle (published 2004)

This interesting book, the first of three by author Lauren Myracle, is written solely in Instant Messenger and follows the messages of three fifteen-year-old girls as they face the daily struggles of high school.  While Angela (SnowAngel) faces constant boy trouble, and Maddie (mad maddie) is singled out by a mean girl causing total school-wide humiliation, Zoe (zoegirl) gets in over her head with a flirty teacher.  The book’s theme is friendship, and although it does cover topics that some may consider controversial, it never promotes negative behavior as a way to deal with those topics. Lauren Myracle’s entire series has been banned and challenged in many schools because of “sexually explicit content” and “foul language.”  Of course, it doesn’t help that it is “grammatically incorrect.”

5.  The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (published 2008)

Set in the ruins of what was once known as North America, this dystopian novel follows sixteen-year-old Katniss as she is forced to participate in what is known as the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death between twenty-four boys and girls, ages twelve through eighteen.  The games are a way for the Capitol to keep the twelve districts in line by forcing each district to send one boy and one girl to fight to the death each year. When Katniss’ sister is chosen to participate in the game, Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place. In the games, Katniss’s pride and perseverance, along with her hunting skills, make her a contender, and she and Peeta, her male counterpart, end up breaking the rules and changing the game.  Needless to say the book is banned because of “excessive violence,” and author Suzanne Collins admits the Hunger Game trilogy is violent. “It’s a war trilogy,”  she says. However, it is also banned for “sexual content,” which is odd since although it has a bit of a love story, the most they do is kiss, and though they do share a sleeping bag for a few days, it’s more about keeping warm than anything else. It does make me wonder what the movie is going to make of that scene though.  The Hunger Games movie is scheduled for release in March 2012.

For more about banned books and why they are banned, check out deletecensorship.org.

So what is your favorite banned book, and why is it banned?

— Julie