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A Rebel’s Reading List: Fascinating Stories of Banned Books

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What books are banned and why?

Banning books is a hot topic these days. We weren’t expecting that 2022 plot twist.

Leading many of us to ask, “why are books banned in the first place?”.

Every banned book has a unique story – and you’ll love learning about the challenges these classic works of literature have faced. 

We found the stories so fascinating that we created a line of candles inspired by banned books! All the novels on this list are in our Banned Books candle collection!

Banned Books Candle Collection -- Antiquarian Aesthetic -- Vintage Library Candles

Beloved, Toni Morrison

First published in 1987, Toni Morrison’s Beloved won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. It quickly became a fixture in high school literature classes. Bans and challenges swiftly followed. 

St. John’s County schools – in St. Augustine, Florida – experienced challenges to the novel in 1995. 

The inclusion of Beloved on a high school reading list in Round Rock, Texas, was challenged in 1996 – the novel was “too violent.” The challengers lost, and Beloved remained in the curriculum.

A school committee member in Madawaska, Maine, challenged the book in 1997 because of its language. 

In 1998, Sarasota, Florida, challenged Beloved’s inclusion in the school curriculum because of sexual material.

Bans and challenges followed Beloved into the new millennium. In fact, Beloved is one of the most challenged novels of the 21st century.

In Arlington Heights, Illinois, a school board member challenged Beloved – and eight other titles – in 2006. She made these objections based on her Christian beliefs and excerpts of the novel she found on the internet. The challenge did not stand, and the books stayed on the reading list.

In 2007, a group of parents in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, challenged Beloved and five other books. These parents felt that these particular books should require parental permission to read.

Also in 2007, an Advanced Placement English class at Eastern High School in Louisville, Kentucky, got caught in the middle of a challenge to Beloved. Two parents objected to the novel’s depictions of bestiality, racism, and sex – so the principal ordered the class to ditch Beloved and restart AP exam prep with The Scarlet Letter

The most recent controversy around the novel came in 2021 when Beloved became a hot topic in the race for Virginia governor.

1984, George Orwell

Orwell’s dystopian classic is a master class in human nature and totalitarianism – and it really got under the skin of some folks in Jackson County, Florida, in 1981. 

They saw the novel as “pro-communist” and objected to its “explicit sexual matter.”

A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess

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Anthony Burgess published A Clockwork Orange in 1962, but the dystopian novel didn’t begin inspiring backlash until the early 1970s. 

Coincidentally, Stanley Kubrick released his wildly successful film inspired by the novel in 1971.

The challenges started with the arrest of a Utah bookseller was in 1973, His crime? Selling A Clockwork Orange. The authorities dropped the charges, but he had to sell his store and leave town. 

In 1976, Aurora, Colorado, removed the novel from the high school curriculum because of “objectionable language.” Westport, Massachusetts, followed suit in 1977.

High school libraries in Anniston, Alabama, removed A Clockwork Orange from their shelves in 1982 – but later reversed course by making it available to students in the “restricted section.” 

I bet that made A Clockwork Orange a lot less interesting to students. 

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

In what sounds like a molehill compared to the challenges faced by other classics on this list, The Great Gatsby experienced a challenge in 1987 at Baptist College in Charleston, South Carolina.

“Language and sexual references.”

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye Book Candle -- Vintage Library Candle -- Antiquarian Aesthetic -- Bookworm Stocking Stuffer

Few books have experienced as many bans and challenges as J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. First published as a serial in the mid-1940s, Salinger’s masterpiece became a novel in 1951. 

It soon became the target of numerous bans and challenges. 

In 1960, a Tulsa, Oklahoma, English teacher got fired for assigning the book to his eleventh- grade class. The teacher appealed his dismissal and got his job back – but the board banned The Catcher in the Rye from the school curriculum.

A group of Columbus, Ohio, parents wanted the school board to ban The Catcher in the Rye in 1963 – finding the novel “anti-white” and “obscene.” The challenge failed.

In 1975, a challenge in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, succeeded when the school board voted 5-4 to ban the book. Unfortunately for the censors, The Catcher in the Rye was reinstated to the curriculum because the vote was illegal. A two-thirds majority was required to ban a book. 

Several school districts banned The Catcher in the Rye in the late 1970s – from Washington state to Ohio. A school district in New Jersey decreed that the book could remain part of the curriculum – but parents could decide if their kids read it or not.

Our friends in the Anniston, Alabama, school district placed The Catcher in the Rye in the “restricted section” in 1982 – at the same time as A Clockwork Orange

Throughout the ‘80s, ‘90s, and early 2000s, The Catcher in the Rye faced dozens of bans and challenges. School libraries banned the book in Canada, Iowa, and Florida. It was removed from required reading lists in California and New Hampshire – and challenged in countless other communities across the country. 

The charges included language – particularly the use of “the F word” – sexual depictions, being “centered around negative activity,” being immoral, and generally being “a filthy, filthy book.”

What is the Current Banned Books list?

The American Library Association maintains lists of banned and challenged books – from classic literature to books currently under attack.

You can find The ALA’s list of Top 10 Challenged Books of 2001-2021 here.

Banned Books Week

Every year, the American Library Association celebrates the freedom to read with Banned Books week – typically in late September.

In 2022, Banned Books Week will be from September 18-24 – with the theme “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.”

Book Candles inspired by Banned Books

Banned Books Candle Collection -- Bookworm Stocking Stuffer -- Vintage Library Candles -- Antiquarian Aesthetic


If you want to celebrate banned books – and need some unique bookshelf decoration for your home library – check out our collection of banned books candles! You’ll find all the novels listed above – and several more!

Each scented book candle is inspired by a challenged work of literature – and comes in a keepsake box describing the bans and challenges the book has faced. 

Every candle in our Banned Books collection is hand poured into a lovely glass jar and finished with a label that looks like a vintage library card. 

Add a touch of extra personality to your home decor with a banned books candle.