Brave New World
When people normally think of Brits writing dystopian literature, their minds instantly go to George Orwell and his always-popular 1984. However, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is another great novel from across the pond that imagines a futuristic, totalitarian society. While Orwell may have been focused on how nations keep their citizens compliant through power and fear, Huxley saw another possible danger of authoritarian society—domination through pleasure.
In the society of Brave New World, people are stratified into genetically modified castes, but no one really seems to mind because the government keeps everyone pumped full of feel-good drugs and preoccupied with leisure and free sex. This book shouldn't be banned because it illustrates how much power feeling good has over humans and how that can be weaponized against us.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird has been a staple of American classrooms for decades. And during that time, it's faced attacks from across the political spectrum. It follows the story of a young girl, Scout, and her lawyer father who is defending a black man accused falsely accused of raping a woman in the deep South.
Despite the naysayers through the years, To Kill a Mockingbird is another book that should never be banned. It illustrates a sad but important moment in American history and played it own role in shaping and changing attitudes about race in the country. Plus, reading it is basically an American tradition at this point—many students reading it for the first time today have parents (and maybe even grandparents) that read it in school themselves.
George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984 is probably his most famous work, but Animal Farm is a close second, and for good reason too. This allegorical tale about the dangers of Communism follows the story of talking animals who successfully overthrow their tyrannical, cruel farmer. However, it's not long before another despot on the farm has emerged, and this time, the animals' dictator has four legs just like them.
This book should never be banned because this is not just a cautionary tale about Communism—it illustrates common power struggles that pop up in all sorts of political and social movements. What starts as a well-intentioned crusade can quickly and easily turn into a vehicle for a power-hungry tyrant to use the movement for their own personal gain. Remember, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
Lord of the Flies
Lord of the Flies by William Golding is not for the faint of heart, but this disturbing story is definitely a good and important read. In it, a group of preteen boys is stranded on a deserted island, and things quickly go downhill for the group. Not only do they struggle to survive in the wilderness, but they also struggle to keep their darkest human impulses in check.
Like many of the books on this list, Lord of the Flies should never be banned because it's another great example of the terrifying things that can happen when groups succumb to hysteria and irrationality. While the story may focus on children indulging their violent impulses, those impulses are in us all, and I don't think we always appreciate how easily society would crumble were they left unchecked.
The Giving Tree
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is a short, illustrated story that has managed to provoke a whole range of reactions from readers. Some people love it because they think it's a cautionary tale about destroying the environment while others hate it because they say it teaches children to let people take advantage of them.
Regardless of how you feel about it, this is one story that shouldn't be banned. It's not a story about nature nor taking advantage of people—it's a story about the pains and joys of selfless love. The world could probably do with a few more Giving Trees in it.
When it comes to contentious books, the Bible puts everyone else to shame. Heather Has Two Mommies may have spurred some protests, but no one has ever taken a life or laid down their own for it. At least in America, it seems like two types of people have very strong opinions about the Bible—those who think it's the word of God and should be everywhere and those who think it's a collection of barbaric myths and superstitions and should be censored entirely.
The reason the Bible shouldn't be banned is that we shouldn't allow the loudest, most radical voices on the matter to ruin it for the rest of us. Reading the Bible opens readers up to a whole new world of important cultural references and some of the oldest and most beautiful literature in human history.
Candide by Voltaire isn't a long read, but it is one of the funniest and most disturbing you'll ever experience. The story follows young Candide, his love, Cunegonde, and their radically optimistic tutor, Dr. Pangloss, who constantly professes that they're living in "the best of all possible worlds" despite massive evidence to the contrary. While Voltaire was satirizing a specific popular philosophy of his time, it's still a hilarious and important read for those unfamiliar with its real-world implications.
Candide is a book that should never be banned because it still has important lessons for us today. In a world gone crazy over fears of "disinformation," you're likely to run into plenty of Dr. Panglosses who are telling you to believe something that directly contradicts what you see with your own two eyes. If Candide had just told the good doctor that he was full of crap the first time he spouted his nonsense, he could have spared himself and Cunegonde a lot of pain and suffering.
The Lottery and Other Stories
Shirley Jackson had several big hits during her career, but she's probably most famous for her short story "The Lottery". In it, we see a seemingly idyllic New England town where each year a citizen is chosen at random and stoned to death as a sacrifice to ensure a good harvest. When it was originally published in The New Yorker, the magazine reported that they had never received so much hate mail for a short story.
"The Lottery" is a terrifying masterpiece about the dangers of mob mentality and our human desire for a scapegoat, and it shouldn't be banned unless we want to learn those lessons the hard way. It's truly unnerving how willingly the town's citizens go along with this horrific tradition. Even the eventual sacrificial victim is on board with the whole thing until their name gets chosen!
Flowers in the Attic
Unlike some of the other books on this list, not many people would consider V.C. Andrews' Flowers in the Attic to be high literature. This sordid, Gothic tale follows a group of young siblings who are trapped against their will in their grandmother's home. The controversy surrounding this book is largely due to the fact that the oldest two siblings begin an incestuous relationship while in captivity.
The reason that Flowers in the Attic shouldn't be banned is that it's just not worth it. Banning it will just give it an aura of mystery and danger and make kids want to read it even more! Even if you're okay with your kids reading racy stuff like this, it's not the most well-written novel in the whole world. It's honestly kind of a snooze fest that's best just ignored.
In the literary world of Franz Kafka, one thing is always true: life is very, very absurd. Even when it's terrible, it's still ridiculous. In his novel The Trial, the protagonist experiences this firsthand when he is accused of an unspecified crime and is told to wait for his trial. His life quickly devolves into a confusing nightmare as he tries to navigate the opaque bureaucracy that has charged him with these unnamed offenses to plead his innocence.
Despite being almost a century old, this is still an important novel that shouldn't be banned in our modern society. Too many people these days don't seem to appreciate just how much power unaccountable bureaucrats have over our lives and how easily they can turn our lives into a nightmare. Paper pushers may seem like more of a joke than a threat, but don't forget that they execute the protagonist at the end of the story without him even knowing what he was charged with!
The Salem Witch Trials may be long gone, but the animating spirit of paranoia and conformity that inspired them is still alive and well in our society. And no other play points out this obvious fact better than Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Originally intended as an allegory for the communist allegations roiling Hollywood at the time, its message is still right at home in our modern cancel culture.
The Crucible should never be banned because people need to realize that hysteria, tribalism, and "righteous" causes can lead humanity into some very dark, very violent places. People also need to realize that the cost of standing up against the mob is sometimes as high as your own life.
There's no denying that reading Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita is a disturbing experience. The 1955 novel follows an adult male narrator who has become erotically obsessed with a little girl. Needless to say, people have been up in arms about this book since it was published, and they don't show any signs of letting up their anger anytime soon.
However, all that being said, this book should be banned under any circumstances. Despite the disturbing subject material, Lolita is still one of the most beautifully written, artistic novels of all time. Even a creep for a narrator can't put a dent in the genius and glory of Nabokov's prose and no amount of screeching about child abuse can change that.
When you describe Art Spiegelman's Maus, it sounds patently bonkers—it's a graphic novel about the Holocaust where Jews are mice and Nazis are cats. However, it's become a popular, major figure in literature about the Holocaust. But it hasn't been without controversy. Recently, a Tennessee school removed the book from their English curriculum, causing a backlash among some people.
Maus shouldn't be banned because it offers such a unique format for exploring the Holocaust through literature. Even if the whole cat vs. mouse thing seems a little trite and silly, the graphic novel is surprisingly dark and serious about the subject matter that it's covering.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
When it comes to classic American novels, none are more popular than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. And since it's been released in 1885, people have constantly been advocating for it to be banned or censored. Their main complaint centers around the book's liberal use of the n-word.
However, this is one book that should never be banned. For one, levelheaded, reasonable people should not be ceding any ground to activists demanding the use of insults and epithets be verboten in all contexts. Context matters, and the book's use of the n-word is not particularly egregious, and definitely not harmful to readers, consider the setting and characters using that word.
Go Ask Alice
When Go Ask Alice debuted in 1971, it caused a real stir. Written in a journal format, the book was allegedly ripped from the pages of a real teen girl's diary. The book details all the sex, drugs, and scandalous situations this anonymous girl finds herself in. There was just one problem—none of it was real. It was clear to anyone who read a couple of pages that this story was too absurd and out there to be true.
Despite it being a phony "real life" account of the dangers of sex and drugs to teens, Go Ask Alice still shouldn't be banned. And that's mostly to spite the people involved in its creation. We can't let future generations forget that the people behind Go Ask Alice thought we were big enough gullible rubes to buy their baloney hook, line, and sinker.