24 Banned Books Throughout History You Should Absolutely Read

Hadley Mendelsohn


James Baldwin once wrote, "It is true that the nature of society is to create, among its citizens, an illusion of safety; but it is also absolutely true that the safety is always necessarily an illusion. Artists are here to disturb the peace. They have to disturb the peace. Otherwise, chaos." But not everyone is comfortable in that space of self-awareness, evolution, and critique—the illusion of peace and quiet is perceived as easier, however deceiving it may be. In Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury affirms that "a book is a loaded gun," there to disturb the peace, and Oscar Wilde echoes this sentiment, saying, "The books the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame," in The Picture of Dorian Grey

Unsurprisingly, schools, parents, and library patrons have fought to get certain books pulled from public shelves consistently, and, despite the first amendment, oftentimes successfully. Also unsurprisingly, these contested works are often the ones worth wrestling with, fighting for, and simply curling up with. 

Since they all deserve a place in both public and private libraries, we rounded up some of the top banned books throughout history. Whether we read to better understand ourselves, to learn and see beyond our own experiences, or to escape, literature, at its best, is both soothing and confrontational. Read through our list to see which of these 12 banned books you want to discover first. Some are surprising, others are more glaringly controversial, but all of them are must-reads.

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