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While parents and educators spend much of their time encouraging students to read, these adults have also raised plenty of concern about books’ potential to corrupt young readers.

While parents and educators spend much of their time encouraging students to read, these adults have also raised plenty of concern about books’ potential to corrupt young readers.

For centuries, books have been accused of perpetuating dangerous ideas and inspiring deviant behavior, leading to calls for removal from libraries and school curriculums — even inspiring notable court cases.

To call attention to these controversies, the American Library Association and Amnesty International hold an annual awareness campaign called Banned Books Week during the last week of September, which "highlights the value of free and open access to information" and encourages "shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular."

In honor of Banned Books Week, here’s a look at 20 classic and bestselling books that have been frequently challenged — many of which you have probably read. The information about the reasons challenged has been compiled from three ALA timelines and a Banned Books Week list.

Dover Publications

"Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," Mark Twain, 1884

  • Publisher’s summary: "Huck, in flight from his murderous father, and Jim, in flight from slavery, pilot their raft through treacherous waters, surviving a crash with a steamboat and betrayal by rogues."
  • Reasons challenged: offensive language, "racism"
Penguin Random House

"Animal Farm," George Orwell, 1945

  • Publisher’s summary: "As ferociously fresh as it was more than a half century ago, this remarkable allegory of a downtrodden society of overworked, mistreated animals, and their quest to create a paradise of progress, justice and equality is one of the most scathing satires ever published."
  • Reasons challenged: "Orwell was a communist," "indecent images," "contradicts Islamic and Arab values"
Penguin Random House

"Beloved," Toni Morrison, 1987

HarperCollins Publishers

"Bridge to Terabithia," Katherine Paterson, 1977

  • Publisher’s summary: "Jess Aarons has been practicing all summer so he can be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. And he almost is, until the new girl in school, Leslie Burke, outpaces him. The two become fast friends and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie’s house, where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia. One morning, Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess and a tragedy occurs. It will take the love of his family and the strength that Leslie has given him for Jess to be able to deal with his grief."
  • Reasons challenged: "occult/Satanism," "profanity," the use of 'Lord' as an expletive
Scholastic

"Captain Underpants" series, Dav Pilkey, 1997–2015

Hachette Book Group

"The Catcher in the Rye," J.D. Salinger, 1951

  • Publisher's summary: "The hero-narrator of 'The Catcher in the Rye' is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story."
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

"The Color Purple," Alice Walker, 1982

Simon & Schuster

"Forever," Judy Blume, 1975

  • Publisher's summary: "Katherine and Michael are in love, and Katherine knows it is forever — especially after she loses her virginity to him. But when they’re separated for the summer, she begins to have feelings for another boy. What does this say about her love for Michael? And what does forever mean, anyway? Is this the love of a lifetime, or the very beginning of a lifetime of love?"
  • Reasons challenged: "profanity, sexual situations and themes that allegedly encourage disrespectful behavior"
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

"The Giver," Lois Lowry, 1993

  • Publisher's summary: "In Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal-winning classic, twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a seemingly ideal world. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver does he begin to understand the dark secrets behind his fragile community."
  • Reasons challenged: "'mature themes' including suicide, sexuality and euthanasia"
Penguin Random House

"The Golden Compass," Philip Pullman, 1995

  • Publisher's summary: "Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal–including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world. Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors?"
  • Reasons challenged: "anti-Christian message"
Simon & Schuster

"The Great Gatsby," F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925

  • Publisher's summary: "This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted 'gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,' it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s."
  • Reasons challenged: "language and sexual references"
Scholastic

Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling, 1997–2007

  • Publisher's summary: "Imagine a school in a castle filled with moving staircases, a sport played on flying broomsticks, an evil wizard intent on domination, an ordinary boy who’s the hero of a whole world he doesn’t know. This is the story that comes to life in the marvelous Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling."
Scholastic

"The Hunger Games," Suzanne Collins, 2008

  • Publisher's summary: "In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, 'The Hunger Games,' a fight to the death on live TV."
  • Reasons challenged: "anti-ethnic, anti-family, offensive language, occult/satanic, violence"
Faber & Faber

"Lord of the Flies," William Golding, 1954

Penguin Random House

"Of Mice and Men," John Steinbeck, 1937

Simon & Schuster

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower," Stephen Chbosky, 1999

  • Publisher's summary: "The critically acclaimed debut novel from Stephen Chbosky, 'Perks' follows observant 'wallflower' Charlie as he charts a course through the strange world between adolescence and adulthood."
  • Reasons challenged: "references to drug use, homosexuality and suicide"
Penguin Random House

"Slaughterhouse-Five," Kurt Vonnegut, 1969

HarperCollins Publishers

"To Kill A Mockingbird," Harper Lee, 1960

Hachette Book Group

"Twilight," Stephenie Meyer, 2005

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  • Publisher's summary: "Isabella Swan's move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Isabella’s life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Isabella, the person Edward holds most dear."
  • Reasons challenged: "violence," "sexually explicit," "unsuited to age group"
HarperCollins Publishers

"Where the Wild Things Are," Maurice Sendak, 1963

  • Publisher's summary: "After being sent to his room for making mischief, Max imagines a mysterious forest and journeys to the land of the wild things, where he is made king."
  • Reasons challenged: "dark and disturbing"