We’re not even through the first month of the year and already 2022 is shaping up to be one for the records in terms of challenged and banned books. I usually do a whole big thing during Banned Books Week, but I don’t want to wait until September to talk about them this year. I don’t feel like I CAN wait, given how things are going.

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever lose the ability to buy banned books on your own, so “while you still can” part of the title is a bit of sarcasm. However, it’s becoming increasingly likely that your kids will lose access to many of these novels and biographies through their school library. It’s already happened in places like Tennessee, which just banned Maus entirely from classrooms.

The best way to fight back is, of course, to buy, borrow and read banned books. So, without further ranting on my part, here are 50 banned books to read…while you still can, starting with the top 10.

banned books to read in 2022

Top 10 Banned Books to Read in 2022

First, let me just say that these 10 particular books are no more or less important than the rest in the next section. I chose them because they’re the ones making headlines right now, both on a national level and in quieter ways in small town newspapers. I also chose a good mix of topics to give you a broader view of what kind of information “book banners” don’t want you to see.

FYI, the book links below are affiliate links, so if you buy through them, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I embedded the Kindle preview when possible (not all have one). Many of these books are available to borrow through Overdrive. If you need access, check out my post on where to get a free library card in your state that you can use online.

1. The Complete Maus

The Complete Maus

Let’s start with one making major headlines right now, Maus. The popular Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the horrors of Holocaust. As NY Times explains, “Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), shocks us out of any lingering sense of familiarity and succeeds in ‘drawing us closer to the bleak heart of the Holocaust.'”

It’s currently sold out on Amazon and pretty much everywhere else. As for borrowing it, all of the libraries that I have access to show a long wait list for it. It wasn’t even in the top 100 books until Tennessee banned it, which just proves that the the quickest way to ensure that everyone wants to read something is by telling them that the can’t.

The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Spiegelman, Art (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 296 Pages - 11/19/1996 (Publication Date) - Pantheon (Publisher)

2. All Boys Aren’t Blue

LGBTQIA books are being banned at an alarming rate, according to a recent MSNBC story (and verified simply by looking at the most recent challenged books lists). A handful of parents in my son’s district are actively trying to get this book either pulled entirely from the library or shoved behind a counter where kids can’t see it, so it’s at the top of my list to read.

The book is a series of essays chronicling the author’s childhood and teen years as a queer Black man in New Jersey and Virginia, as well as a “primer for teens eager to be allies.” It’s available for Kindle and in hardcover & paperback on Amazon.

Depending on your local library, you can also borrow it from Overdrive. I use the Free Library of Philadelphia, and they still have like 13 copies open for borrowing.

All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Johnson, George M. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 304 Pages - 04/28/2020 (Publication Date) - Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (Publisher)

3. The Bluest Eye

Toni Morrison’s 2007 heartbreaking book about an 11-year-old Black girl in America who prays for her eyes to turn blue so that people will think she is beautiful made headlines this year when a Missouri school board voted 4-5 to ban it from their district.

Morrison, who passed away in 2019, once said that banning books was the “purist and yet elementary kind of censorship designed to appease adults rather than educate children.” I couldn’t agree more.

The Bluest Eye is available on Amazon for Kindle and in hardcover & paperback. You should be able to find it in your library, too.

The Bluest Eye (Vintage International)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Morrison, Toni (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 226 Pages - 07/24/2007 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

4. Gender Queer

Gender Queer

Just a few days ago, the Virginia senate killed a bill that would have required a signed parent permission slip to check out this book and others “that describe or depict sexual acts.” It’s also the other subject of that aforementioned effort on some parents’ part to remove access to books in our own district’s library. In fact, since its release in 2019, it’s been one of the most banned books in America period.

Maia (who goes by  e/em/eir pronouns) originally started the memoir as a way to explain to eir parents what being non-binary meant. Today, it’s considered one of the best guides on gender identity for teens and allies alike. Grab it on Amazon in Kindle/comiXology, hardcover, or paperback.

Gender Queer: A Memoir
  • Kobabe, Maia (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 05/28/2019 (Publication Date) - Oni Press (Publisher)

5. New Kid by Jerry Craft

The New Kid

Jerry Craft’s award-winning graphic novel for middle-grade readers is a hit among kids…but not so much with parents in one Texas school district. While they’ve since put it back, the Katy Independent School District yanked the story from its shelves after a few parents complained that it “promoted Critical Race Theory and Marxism.” It doesn’t, of course. According to MSNBC, Craft actually had to look those things up to try to figure out exactly how he was teaching them to children.

The story follows Jordan, a 7th grader attending a prestigious school where he’s one of only a handful of kids of color. From the description: “As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?”

It’s available Amazon in Kindle/comiXology, audiobook, hardcover, or paperback.

New Kid: A Newbery Award Winner
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Craft, Jerry (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 02/05/2019 (Publication Date) - Quill Tree Books (Publisher)

6. “Monday’s Not Coming,” by Tiffany D. Jackson

Monday’s Not Coming is yet another on a long list of books by Black authors that are being challenged or outright banned by parents who see Critical Race Theory everywhere because they haven’t bothered to take five minutes to learn what it actually is.

The YA novel centers around the mysterious disappearance of Monday and her best friend’s desperate attempts to find out what happened to her. Jackson wrote it to shine a light on missing Black children.

According to a CNN report, “Data shows that missing white children receive far more media coverage than missing black and brown children, despite higher rates of missing children among communities of color.”

Monday’s Not Coming is currently free on Amazon for Kindle (you may need a Prime membership, though). You can also buy it in hardcover, paperback, and audiobook format.

Monday's Not Coming
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Jackson, Tiffany D. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 432 Pages - 05/22/2018 (Publication Date) - Katherine Tegen Books (Publisher)

7. Lawn Boy by  Jonathan Evison

Lawn Boy is just one of the many books challenged by parents at a school district in Wake County. Ultimately, their request was denied, and denied again after those parents appealed the board’s unanimous decision.

Evison’s semi-autobiographical novel centers around Mike Muñoz, a young Chicano man living in Washington State who recently lost his latest gig working on a landscaping crew. At its heart, it’s a coming of age story, but it’s also a strong commentary about classism.

As of right now, it’s available for Kindle and as an audiobook. You can also get it in “library binding” format, but it’s a lot more expensive.

Lawn Boy
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Evison, Jonathan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 321 Pages - 04/03/2018 (Publication Date) - Algonquin Books (Publisher)

8. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Thomas’ YA novel The Hate You Give made headlines this week when a school in Illinois yanked it from classrooms for “profanity.” It’s not the first time Thomas’ novel (inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement) was challenged, and sadly it probably won’t be the last.

Like Craft’s character in New Kid, 16-year-old Starr tries to balance living in a poor neighborhood while attending a fancy prep school. When she witnesses the police shoot her unarmed best friend, that careful balances shatters and her world comes crashing down around her.

The Hate You Give is available Amazon in Kindle, audiobook, hardcover, or paperback.

The Hate U Give: A Printz Honor Winner
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Thomas, Angie (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 447 Pages - 02/28/2017 (Publication Date) - Balzer + Bray (Publisher)

9. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Unlike the other books on this list, I can almost understand the rationale behind challenging 13 Reasons Why. At the very least, I can empathize with it. Parents are terrified that it glamorizes teen suicide, that it will somehow encourage their own children to take their lives.

Here’s the thing, though, it’s not really about Hannah (the girl who leaves behind her 13 reasons for killing herself) at all. It’s about the people she left behind and the devastating consequences of her actions. It’s a book that parents should read with their teens rather than trying to protect them from it.

This one is also available Amazon in Kindle, audiobook, hardcover, or paperback.

10. The Hunger Games

Another frequently challenged book, the Hunger Games trilogy has been banned by high schools for its perceived “insensitivity, offensive language, violence, anti-family, anti-ethic and occult/satanic.” Yes, it does have some violence in it, but I’m not sure where they’re getting the rest from.

If anything, its incredibly pro-family, given that the entire series kicks off with Katniss volunteering to take her sister’s place to save her from certain death.

All three books are available through Kindle Unlimited, paperback, and hardcover.

The Hunger Games (Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 1)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Collins, Suzanne (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 387 Pages - 09/01/2009 (Publication Date) - Scholastic Press (Publisher)

40 More Challenged & Banned Books to Add to Your “To Be Read” Pile

The American Library Association puts out an updated list each year around Banned Books Week. The 2021 list isn’t out yet, but in 2020 they tracked 156 total challenges to books and materials in libraries and schools across the US. Here are just a few, broken down by the most commonly cited reason.

Challenged for “LGBTQIA content”

In 2020, LGBTQIA books made up 80% of the top 10 banned books, and they remain among the most frequently challenged.

  1. George by Alex Gino
  2.  Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
  3. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Marlon Bundo and Jill Twiss
  4.  Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg
  5. Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack
  6. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel
  7. Mommy, Mama and Me by Leslea Newman
  8. 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert
  9. Lily and Dunkin – Donna Gephart
  10. Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland

Challenged Books by Black Authors

After LGBTQIA topics, books by Black authors are among the most frequently challenged.

  1. The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones
  2. Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  3. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
  4. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
  5. Monster by Walter Dean Myers
  6. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard
  7. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  8. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
  9. The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander
  10. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Challenged for “vulgarity,” “profanity,” and “sexually explicit content”

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  2. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (also banned for “political agenda” and being biased against males)
  3. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki
  4. Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman
  5. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
  6. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  7. Drama by Raina Telgemeier
  8. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  9. Forever by Judy Blume
  10. Looking for Alaska by John Green

Challenged for “occult themes,” “witchcraft,” and “religious viewpoint” reasons

  1. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
  2. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  4. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  5. Carrie by Stephen King
  6. The House of Night Series by P.C. and Kristin Cast
  7. Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer
  8. Goosebumps Series by R. L. Stine
  9. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  10. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

There are dozens of other “reasons” that people who challenge books give, these are just some of the most common. If you’re interested in more banned books Marshall University has a terrific list along with extensive reasons behind each challenge. I also used this one by the Pikes Peak Library District as a reference.

Last update on 2024-07-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API