The Most Popular Banned Books: Exploring Controversial Literary Works

Choose the banned books you think is the most popular!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Feb 23, 2024 05:16
Step into the world of forbidden literature and unleash your rebellious spirit as you join us at StrawPoll in ranking the most popular banned books of all time! We've gathered an eclectic selection of controversial masterpieces that have sparked debates, challenged societal norms, and pushed the boundaries of creative expression. From thought-provoking classics to modern-day sensations, our extensive list invites you to explore the reasons behind the ban and decide for yourself which literary gem deserves the top spot. So, put on your most daring reading glasses, and get ready to make your voice heard by voting for your favorite banned book or suggesting a missing piece of taboo literature. Remember, every vote counts as we collectively unveil the ultimate ranking of the most popular banned books that have captivated the minds and hearts of rebellious readers worldwide!

What Are the Most Popular Banned Books?

  1. 1
    Banned for its use of racial slurs and controversial themes surrounding race and class.
    To Kill a Mockingbird is a powerful and influential novel written by Harper Lee. It explores themes of racial inequality, social injustice, and the loss of innocence through the eyes of Scout Finch, a young girl growing up in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama during the 1930s. The story revolves around Scout's father, Atticus Finch, a lawyer who defends Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of assaulting a white woman. With its compelling storytelling and thought-provoking themes, To Kill a Mockingbird has become a classic of American literature.
    • Publication Year: 1960
    • Genre: Fiction
    • Setting: Maycomb, Alabama, 1930s
    • Main Characters: Scout Finch, Atticus Finch, Jem Finch, Tom Robinson
    • Themes: Racial inequality, social injustice, loss of innocence
    "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee in other rankings
  2. 2
    "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger
    Bantam · Public domain
    Banned for its use of profanity and controversial themes surrounding sexuality and mental health.
    The Catcher in the Rye is a novel written by J.D. Salinger. It was first published in 1951 and has since become one of the most popular yet controversial books in American literature. The story revolves around the rebellious and disillusioned protagonist, Holden Caulfield, as he navigates the complexities of adolescence and struggles with identity, isolation, and societal expectations.
    • Publication Year: 1951
    • Genre: Coming-of-age novel
    • Themes: Adolescence, alienation, identity, societal expectations, innocence
    • Controversies: Profanity, sexual content, rebellion against authority
    • Censorship History: Often challenged and banned due to its perceived explicit content and themes
    "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger in other rankings
  3. 3
    "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain
    E. W. Kemble (1861–1933) - illustrator · Public domain
    Banned for its use of racial slurs and controversial themes surrounding race and slavery.
    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel written by Mark Twain. It was first published in 1884 and is considered one of the greatest American novels ever written. The story follows the adventures of a young boy named Huckleberry Finn and his friend, a runaway slave named Jim, as they journey down the Mississippi River. Through their experiences, the novel explores themes of racism, morality, and the hypocrisy of society. Despite its critical acclaim, the book has often been banned or challenged due to its language, racial stereotypes, and controversial depiction of race relations in the 19th century.
    • Publication Year: 1884
    • Genre: Realistic Fiction
    • Setting: Mississippi River, United States
    • Main Characters: Huckleberry Finn, Jim
    • Themes: Racism, Morality, Hypocrisy
  4. 4
    "1984" by George Orwell
    Michael Kennar · Public domain

    "1984" by George Orwell

    George Orwell
    Banned for its portrayal of a dystopian society and criticism of totalitarianism.
    1984 is a dystopian novel written by George Orwell. It portrays a totalitarian society ruled by the Party, led by Big Brother, where the government exercises complete control over its citizens. The story follows Winston Smith, a middle-aged man who rebels against the oppressive regime and questions the nature of truth, language, and freedom. 1984 is considered a classic work of literature that remains relevant in its exploration of surveillance, propaganda, and the erosion of individuality.
    • Publication Date: June 8, 1949
    • Genre: Dystopian fiction, political fiction
    • Setting: Oceania, a totalitarian state
    • Themes: Totalitarianism, surveillance, censorship, language manipulation
    • Protagonist: Winston Smith
    "1984" by George Orwell in other rankings
  5. 5
    "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley
    BinaryPhoton · CC BY-SA 4.0
    Banned for its portrayal of a dystopian society and controversial themes surrounding sexuality and drug use.
    Brave New World is a dystopian novel written by Aldous Huxley. Set in the future, the story depicts a totalitarian society that is built on technologies and scientific advancements, where citizens are conditioned to accept their assigned social roles and maintain a superficial sense of happiness.
    • Genre: Dystopian literature
    • Publication Year: 1932
    • Setting: Future society
    • Themes: Totalitarianism, technology, social control
    • Protagonist: Bernard Marx
    "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley in other rankings
  6. 6
    Banned for its portrayal of a dystopian society and criticism of censorship.
    Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel written by Ray Bradbury. Set in a future society where books are banned and burned, the story follows protagonist Guy Montag, a fireman tasked with burning books. As Montag starts questioning his society's values, he becomes drawn to the forbidden world of literature and embarks on a dangerous journey of self-discovery and rebellion against the oppressive regime.
    • Genre: Dystopian fiction
    • Publication Year: 1953
    • Setting: Future society
    • Themes: Censorship, knowledge, individuality
    • Protagonist: Guy Montag
  7. 7
    Banned for its portrayal of sexual and physical abuse, as well as controversial themes surrounding race and sexuality.
    The Color Purple by Alice Walker is a powerful and thought-provoking novel that was first published in 1982. Set in rural Georgia during the early 20th century, it follows the life of Celie, a young African American woman, through a series of letters she writes to God and her sister Nettie. The novel explores themes of racism, sexism, abuse, and the power of resilience and self-discovery.
    • Publication Year: 1982
    • Setting: Rural Georgia, early 20th century
    • Protagonist: Celie, an African American woman
    • Themes: Racism, sexism, abuse, resilience, self-discovery
    • Writing Style: Epistolary (through letters)
  8. 8
    Banned for its use of profanity and controversial themes surrounding mental disability and euthanasia.
    Of Mice and Men is a novella written by John Steinbeck, first published in 1937. Set during the Great Depression in California, the story follows two displaced ranch workers, George and Lennie, who share a dream of owning their own piece of land. The book explores themes of friendship, loneliness, and the human longing for a place to call home.
    • Publication Year: 1937
    • Genre: Fiction
    • Setting: Great Depression-era California
    • Length: 107 pages
    • Main Characters: George Milton, Lennie Small, Candy, Curley's Wife, Slim, Crooks
  9. 9
    Banned for its portrayal of poverty and criticism of capitalism.
    The Grapes of Wrath is a novel written by John Steinbeck, first published in 1939. It portrays the plight of the Joad family, tenant farmers from Oklahoma, during the Great Depression. The story follows their journey as they are forced to leave their farm and travel to California in search of work and a better life. The novel explores themes of poverty, social justice, and the human spirit in the face of adversity.
    • Publication Year: 1939
    • Genre: Fiction
    • Setting: Great Depression-era United States
    • Main Characters: Tom Joad, Ma Joad, Rose of Sharon, Jim Casy
    • Themes: Poverty, social justice, journey, resilience
  10. 10
    Banned for its portrayal of slavery and controversial themes surrounding sexuality and violence.
    Beloved is a novel written by Toni Morrison that explores themes of slavery, memory, and trauma. Set in the aftermath of the American Civil War, the story revolves around Sethe, a former slave haunted by the memories of her past. The book delves into the psychological impact of slavery and its enduring legacy, as well as the lengths one woman goes to in order to protect her children from a life of bondage. Beloved is a powerful and thought-provoking narrative that confronts the brutalities of history and the complexities of human emotions.
    • Publication Year: 1987
    • Genre: Fiction
    • Page Count: 324 pages
    • Awards: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1988), American Book Award (1988)
    • Banned/Challenged Reasons: Explicit content, violence, and sexual themes

Missing your favorite banned books?


Ranking factors for popular banned books

  1. Geographic distribution
    Assess the geographical regions or countries where the book has been banned, as this can reveal cultural and political trends related to censorship.
  2. Historical context
    Evaluate the historical context in which the book was banned or challenged, as some books may have faced significant controversy during a specific time period, but are now more widely accepted.
  3. Impact on society and education
    Assess the book's significance in terms of literature, educational value, or social impact. Popular banned books may be those that challenge societal norms or promote critical thinking and discussion.
  4. Notoriety and public sentiment
    Consider the level of public awareness and sentiment surrounding the book, as this can indicate how much attention and controversy the book has garnered.
  5. Duration of the ban
    Assess the length of time the book was banned as longer bans may be indicative of a book's greater impact or controversy.
  6. Awards and accolades
    Examine the awards and recognition the book has received, as this can highlight its significance and popularity despite being banned.
  7. Sales and circulation numbers
    Look at the book's sales, readership, and circulation figures, as this can provide insight into its popularity and influence despite being banned.
  8. Relevance and popularity today
    Consider the current popularity and ongoing relevance of the book, as some banned books may continue to have a significant impact or resonate with readers today.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most popular banned books. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or Book is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 179 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each Book once every 24 hours. The rank of each Book is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.


More information on most popular banned books

Background Information: Banned Books Throughout history, books have been banned and censored for various reasons. From political ideologies to moral objections, certain books have been deemed too controversial or dangerous for public consumption. While some of these books have been banned permanently, others have been challenged and eventually reinstated. One of the most famous examples of a banned book is "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger. This classic novel has been banned in schools and libraries for its use of profanity and sexual content. Another controversial book is "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, which has been banned for its use of racial slurs and its depiction of rape. Other notable banned books include "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain, "Animal Farm" by George Orwell, and "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley. These books have been banned for their depiction of controversial themes such as racism, communism, and dystopian societies. Despite the controversy surrounding banned books, many argue that they are an important part of literature and should be available for readers to access. Banned Books Week is celebrated annually in the United States to raise awareness of the importance of free speech and the right to read.

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