From reasons ranging from vulgarity to LGBTQ+ overtones, the books on this list have, at some point in time, been purged from the shelves of schools, libraries and shops. In fact, in America, these books are still being challenged today, with a flurry of book bans sweeping across the country.

At BLOT we celebrate the freedom to read and so we’ve compiled a list of the best banned books everyone should pick up in their lifetime.

  1. The Colour Purple by Alice Walker

Banned for: Offensive language and sexual content

Set in rural Georgia during the Jim Crow era, The Colour Purple is a series of letters to God written by a woman named Cecile throughout her life. She writes these letters to deal with her personal struggles of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her father and husband. 

Despite its critical acclaim, winning both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, the novel was first removed from shelves just two years after it was first published and has continued to be banned in school districts across the United States. 

  1. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George Johnson

Banned for: LGBTQ+ content, profanity and sexual content

This book is all about growing up black and queer in America and not being able to express those feelings of difference. Through a series of essays, Johnson explores issues of compulsory heterosexuality and cultural connectedness.

Published in 2020, this ‘memoir-manifesto’ has become one of the most banned books in America. Since its release, at least 29 school districts have banned the book because of its LGBTQ content and for being sexually explicit.


  1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Banned for: Profanity, violence and an anti-police message 

The book revolves around Starr, a teenage girl who has to navigate the elite private school she attends miles outside of her predominantly black neighbourhood. Most of the book follows the death of Starr’s childhood best friend who is murdered by a police officer after being pulled over.

Despite shooting to the top of the New York Times bestseller list following its 2017 release, the book has been taken out of English curriculums in multiple states in America.


  1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Banned for: “Statements defamatory to minorities, God, women and the disabled” and “too explicit for students”

The story follows Offred and her role as a handmaid in an oppressive American future. The role of the handmaids is to provide children for infertile women of a higher social status, undergoing regular medical tests and essentially becoming invisible. 

According to the American Library Association, this classic is among the most often challenged or banned books in US schools. In response to the bans, Atwood announced an “unburnable” edition of the novel last year.


  1. Looking for Alaska by John Green

Banned for: Inappropriate language and sexual content 

Teenager Miles finally finds some excitement in his life when he moves to boarding school and meets the gorgeous but troubled Alaska. When tragedy strikes, Miles discovers the value of living and loving unconditionally. 

In 2015, the book was named the most challenged book of the year by a survey from the American Library Association, beating out  EL James’ Fifty Shades of Grey and, intriguingly, The Bible.

If you liked this post then read CENSORED: The sinister truth behind America’s book banning boom or Penguin Random House and PEN America sue Florida school district over book ban next. 

You can also find more BLOT content on our socials: InstagramTikTok and Facebook.

Sophie Olejnik

Sophie Olejnik


Sophie is a trainee journalist at The University of Sheffield who specialises in feature writing. She has a keen passion for books and would love to work in the publishing industry in the future. She’s particularly passionate about how our ever-changing planet is represented in the books we read.