15 Banned Books You Can Read on eNotes

It’s incredible how many books we now consider to be classics were, at one point in time, banned from the public. The American Library Association (ALA) launched Banned Books Week in 1982 to celebrate the freedom to read and bring national attention to the harms of censorship. Book-banning is most dangerous when it erases different points of view and promotes discrimination. Thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, and the booklover community who advocate for our freedom to read, the majority of banned and challenged books have remained available to the public. 

Let’s look at some of literature’s most challenged texts and celebrate the fact that we can now read them for free on eNotes!


1.) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Why was it banned? Many considered the language “trashy” and the content “suitable only for the slums” a month after its publication. Nowadays, there is controversy surrounding its frequent use of the N-word.


2.) Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare 

Why was it banned? For a whimsical portrayal of cross-dressing and an accidental same-sex romance.


3.) The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Why was it banned? Jack London’s socialist views were considered “too radical.”


4.) Candide by Voltaire

Why was it banned? Voltaire’s satire contains religious blasphemy and political hostility.


5.) The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Why was it banned? It contains sexual content many considered inappropriate at the time of publication.


6.) A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

Why was it banned? Ibsen’s Nora Helmer challenges the Victorian ideal of a woman’s role in marriage, in the home, and in society.

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7.) The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Why was it banned? Kafka’s book was banned under Soviet and Nazi regimes for being “decadent” and “despairing.”


8.) Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Why was it banned? Wharton’s portrayal of infidelity between a married man and another woman was considered too controversial at the time.


9.) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Why was it banned? Shelley’s subject matter was “objectionable and obscene” because it shows a man playing God by creating life.


10.) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Why was it banned? Swift makes politically insensitive references to the European elite. It has also been banned for controversial topics such as displays of madness and public urination.


11.) Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Why was it banned? Conrad’s Marlow portrays Africa and Africans in ignorant, racist ways.


12.) The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Why was it banned? The text includes some vulgar language and sexual references. 


13.) The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Why was it banned? Hawthorne’s writing was seen as sympathetic to adultery. 


14.) The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

Why was it banned? The portrayal of Shylock and the anti-Semitism present in the text are particularly insensitive.


15.) Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Why was it banned? In apartheid South Africa, it was banned because the word “black” appeared next to the word “beauty.”.

Which book is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below!