Banned books in the United States and why we should read them anyway (opinion)

The list of banned books seems bottomless, which presents a question of whether or not most of the books should even be there.


Anakin Morales-Jimenez, Reporter

Censorship comes in multiple forms, which includes the action of banning books and other forms of literature for the means of reducing religious, political, legal, and moral controversy.

Typically, books are generally banned at a district level for several different reasons depending on the district, yet viewing the list of banned and challenged books at a national level is almost overwhelming.

Why Books are Banned

Inappropriate Language and Profanity

It is something about hearing someone swear that disturbs a number of people; it is more if it comes from the mouth of a child who happened to read a book with a good number of f-bombs and such. Several young adult titles have been challenged because the language is rather excessive sometimes, as demonstrated with Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park.

Sexual Content

Oh no! Someone said the s word out loud!

Sexual content in books is considered taboo in most parts of the United States, so alongside, there will be titles that will be brought up to the question. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James is a popular example, unfortunately. A lesser known title by Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, is also a prime example of sexual content. Understandably, these titles are banned and challenged throughout the United States in fear that children would normalize and accept the ideas written in the books.

Not Sure Why, but Apparently Witchcraft and Challenging Religious Viewpoints are Valid Reasons

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien have history with being questioned for “Satanic” themes and witchcraft. The books do have fantastic elements implemented with beasts and magic, and since pacts with dark overlords are looked down upon in specific areas, such classics are hit with concern since people stretch the themes into evil.

Themes with Racism and Racial Tension

If To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee did not instantly come to mind, then you have never stepped into a library.

Racism has been, consistently, among one of the most sensitive topics given the dark history of the United States and racial discrimination. When such books exemplify and highlight such a theme, it is upsetting to some people and therefore banned in fear of spreading hateful ideals.

Violence, Flat-Out

There is nothing like opening up a book and reading about someone being beaten up or nearly drowned (The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, I am looking at you!). Might as well block boxing channels on television as well!

In all seriousness, violence is commonly discouraged among several cultures, so when someone perceived a book standing as a threat to encourage violence, then one would not hesitate to ban the book.

Exemplifying a Corrupt Government and Propaganda

Is that the Animalism anthem I hear in the background? It appears so, George Orwell.

Given the Cold War era and the fear of communism overtaking the capitalistic ideals of the United States, titles that exemplify a Communist-esque theme are challenged and often banned to not corrupt the fragile political mindsets of politicians and citizens alike.

“Non-Traditional” Lifestyles

Now, it is a shot in the dark to ultimately pinpoint what is a non-traditional lifestyle, but we all subconsciously know the term refers to LGBT+ and rather ambiguous themes that for a miscellaneous reason offends someone.

Why Books Should NOT be Banned

Freedom of Speech and Expression Exists, Does it Not?

It is legal for individual school boards and districts to ban books that are prone to cause unwanted controversy as long as the means of banning a book aligns with the Supreme Court’s standards, but it seems counterintuitive, no? To completely object the message of a book, although often meant to be educational, and say no to their rights?

After all, the first amendment does state that the government will come after you for saying something questionable. Unluckily for several books that have good intentions, they are still subject to being banned.

Most Banned Books are the Ones that are Common Classics… Correlation? Pft, of course not.

It seems to be that a majority of banned and challenged titles are regarded as classics that are often enjoyed and have earned their place of recognition for a reason, and that reason may very well be that it is well-written and meaningful to readers.

Of course they have their downsides: being more recognizable and prone to misunderstanding, and that is why they are often banned. Why not give The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky a read?

Books are Crucial to Learning

As bad as some ideals seem in some titles, books still hold the value of providing literary education for those who read. As simple as expanding vocabulary.

Hiding Away the Dark Realities from Children of What Happens to Others would Result in no Understanding

The world is not perfect, and books provide a full scope of several imperfections that mankind withholds through dystopian to personal titles. Would it really be lawful to lie to a child and say that the world is perfect and will protect them, leaving them vulnerable and dependent?

“When these people call Eleanor & Park an obscene story, I feel like they’re saying that rising above your situation isn’t possible. That if you grow up in an ugly situation, your story isn’t even fit for good people’s ears. That ugly things cancel out everything beautiful.” — Rainbow Rowell, 2013, on being uninvited to Minnesotan school because her book is banned.

All in all, I personally believe that way too many books have a spot in the list for banned and challenged books because of common misunderstandings and misconceptions drawn from individuals.

Luckily for Mead High School, our library and our English teachers yield a good sum of book titles that are banned anyway. With that said, I encourage everyone to consider reading one— analyze it, see what you think it means.