by Brian Clarey
1. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
In honor of Banned Books Week, we’re listing some of the best books ever written that were deemed dangerous enough to be banned — from schools, libraries or even general pubic access. We’ll start with the most banned book of the last decade, the Harry Potter series, which detractors say encourages witchcraft in direct contradiction to the Bible, enables bad behavior because Harry doesn’t follow the rules and is loaded with scary monsters that could damage children. Right.
2. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The American master John Steinbeck has several books on the banned list — my personal favorite, The Grapes of Wrath, and East of Eden among them. But the seemingly innocuous Of Mice and Men gets challenged because of use of the N-word, derogatory treatment of women, racial slurs and violence. Sorry, Lenny.
3. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
Yep, the illustrated children’s picture book by author and artist Maurice Sendak who also wrote Where the Wild Things Are was banned because the protagonist, the child Mickey, is depicted naked a couple of times. Also, there are apparently phallic undertones to the art.
4. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
This intricate piece of storytelling by perhaps our country’s best living author was banned in some states because it criticizes religion and the US government’s involvement in the Vietnam war and the Iran-Contra scandal.
5. The Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park
Barbara Park, who created literature’s most famous second-grader, was one of the 10 most frequently challenged authors in 2004 and continues to get flagged by parent groups. Critics say her protagonist uses bad grammar and makes poor decisions. One critic wrote: “It sends the message that… emotions such as hate are fine.” Sorry, Junie.
6. The Giver by Lois Lowry
The award-winning sci-fi tale that explores the thread between utopia and dystopia has been challenged more than 11,000 times since it came out in 1993 — most of them originating in Texas, citing “violence” and “unsuited to age group.”
7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou’s 1969 autobiography bears the distinction of being named one of the most influential books ever written in English — by Time magazine in 2011 — and also one of the most challenged over the last 30 years because of adult themes like rape and violence, and also because it has been called “anti-white.”
8. The Captain Underpants series, by Dav Pilken
There are literally a hundred books on the American Library Association’s list of the most banned, but the oddest inclusion may be the Captain Underpants series, a silly sort of graphic-novel franchise about a superhero who flies around in a cape and underpants. It was the most banned book of 2013.