Reading Banned Books – Oh, My!

This is an essay by Ruth O’Neil. 

If you are an avid reader, teacher, or a parent, you are probably aware that there is a list of banned books. Books are banned by school boards, parents, teachers, bookstores, and even governments. This list does change from time to time since new books are always being published and people change their minds about what others should and shouldn’t read. I find it completely entertaining to read these lists. Sometimes I even find myself chuckling at the titles and the reasons given. The first time I looked at the list I was surprised to see how many of the books I have read. While the list does contain book titles that I question why made the list at all, there are other books that I won’t read. The reason I won’t read them is because of my belief system. However, I do take the time to find out something about the books before I “ban” them from my own personal reading list.

I read a lot. I review books for magazines and individual authors. I am part of a book club that meets once a month. I homeschool my children, which forces me to read even more. Do I like every book I read? Absolutely not. In fact, I was so disappointed one time because I had actually paid full price for a book I had been wanting. Throughout the first few chapters there were things I didn’t like. But then I got to a scene where I just could not continue reading further. That book sits on my shelf, unread. Does that stop me from reading other books? Absolutely not.

Just because a book is published does not mean you have to read it. But it also doesn’t mean you should be ignorant of its content. Don’t be like some organizations that have banned books without reading a single word

Perusing the banned book list is entertaining, but it can also be educational and eye-opening for you. Reading the list and the reasons for banning can force you to realize why you believe what you believe. For example, The Holy Bible has made the list more than once. Who added it? Probably an atheist or someone whose religion was something other than Christianity. They didn’t “like” the Bible so it made the list.

Do you think the Bible should be banned?

The Little House on the Prairie series of book made the list at some point, too. Who added these titles? I have no idea and I have no idea why. Maybe it was because the Ingalls family killed animals for food.

Should they be banned?

Several versions of dictionaries have been banned because they contain the definitions to slang words. Let’s be honest; don’t you remember looking up “dirty” words in the dictionary when you were a kid?

Should we read books on the banned books list? You should at least read some of them. You might be surprised, as I was, at how many you have already read. If you don’t want to read them, you should at least research them a little and discover why they were banned in the first place. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was banned because it contains the “n” word. Is that a reason not to read the book?

Do I really want to read what Hitler had to say in Mein Kampf? Not really. So, I leave that book for someone else.

There are many, many books on the list pertaining to a wide variety of topics including sexual orientation, philosophy, government, religion, culture, etc. I dare you to examine the list and decide what books you think should or shouldn’t be there and why. It can challenge you to know why you believe what you believe. It can open your mind to areas of our culture, whether recent or past, that are not so pretty, such as the meat-packing industry in The Jungle. It can challenge you to change things in life.

I agree that some books should be on “a” banned book list. These are books that I do not encourage my children or family to read. Not all books are appropriate for all ages, but I always give an explanation to my kids of why and it’s usually something centering on the “garbage-in-garbage-out” theme. If the reasons for banning a book are minor this gives us a chance to talk with our kids about the way things used to be. If the issues are larger, it still opens the door for conversation of why you don’t want them to read it. However, you have to say more than, “I don’t want you to.”

There are numerous websites and even some books dedicated to noting which books have been banned over the years. Some lists give the reasons for the ban. Some of these are hilarious! When multiple reasons are given, some of them seem to contradict each other

Reading is a privilege, a joy, a learning experience, and an opportunity to escape to another world. It is an occasion for us to lean about people and cultures of the past. Don’t let the opinions of what a few people have to say ruin your chances of reading a book that could change your life. Look at the list and pick a few banned books to read in the next year. You might find you like them!

Photo: Some rights reserved by MLibrary.


Ruth O’Neil has been writing for over 20 years. She has published hundreds of articles in numerous publications. She homeschools her three children. In her spare time she enjoys quilting, crafting, and especially reading.


  1. Chris

    Great post, Ruth. I remember I read the Bridge to Terabithia in school, which is on some banned lists, as well as Zen and the Art of Motorcylce Maintenance, which makes some lists. I’ll always remember one girl’s parents didn’t want her to read it.

    1. Ruth

      Thanks, Chris! It does at least make you think as a parent what you want your kids to read and not read.

  2. Susan Sundwall

    Very interesting post, Ruth. Gosh, now I’m curious. I’ll bet I’ve read a number of banned books and don’t even know it. I’ll check out your links.

    1. Ruth

      If you read much at all, I bet you’ll have read several. Some of it was required reading when I was in High School.

  3. Joseph Dante

    I’ve actually read quite a few of these books! I’ve also noticed that a good majority of them are often required reading for school. Haha.

    1. Ruth

      I just read your post after replying to the last one! You are absolutely right. It’s good to read books that make you think.

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