13 Banned BOO!ks to Read in October

Banned and Challenged Books, General Interest

By: Ellie Diaz

The leaves are changing, the smell of pumpkin spice wafts through the air, and the flicker of jack-o-lanterns casts an eerie glow. We all know what’s upon us: It’s time to bust out our haunted reads and scare the “lit” out of ourselves.

What better way to spread frights than to read from a banned and challenged book? Here are 13 scary tales to get you psyched for October festivities.

The Stand by Stephen King

1. The Stand by Stephen King

  • Reasons it was challenged: violence, sexual language, casual sex
  • Why you should read it: A strain of influenza spreads across the U.S., killing millions. The few left are forced to build a society and resist the evil “Dark Man” Randall Flaag, who brings violence and chaos to this morally fragile world. If that summary didn’t drag you in, King’s description of the devilish Randall Flaag will send shivers down your (book) spine.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

2. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

  • Reasons it was challenged: violence, cannibalism, satanism
  • Why you should read it: If you read these short stories as a kid, then you know that they’ve followed you into your adult life. Featuring buried toes, hearst drivers and spider nests in skin, these narratives (and grim illustrations) haunt my nightmares. For double the fright, Guillermo Del Toro claims to be directing a movie adaption.
The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe

3. The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe

  • Reasons it was challenged: drugs, alcohol, smoking, violence
  • Why you should read it: Master of the macabre, Poe and his imagination have baffled readers for decades. The moral of this short story is perhaps to not follow your revengeful nemesis into damp catacombs for the pleasure of drinking an aged sherry.
A Tale Dark and Grimm

4. A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

  • Reasons it was challenged: occult, satanism, violence
  • Why you should read it: Hansel and Gretel explore eight other Grimm fairy tales, battling monsters and mayhem while creating their own destinies. The narrator’s snarky interjections within the story is more than enough reason to delve into this whimsical spin on classic tales.
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

5. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

  • Reasons it was challenged: violence, religious viewpoint
  • Why you should read it: In this short story, a community gathers around a shabby black box filled with names of potential winners — but this lottery is odd, in that no one wants to win. The ending of this haunting tale is reminiscent of a M. Night Shyamalan plot twist.
Say Cheese and Die by R.L. Stine

6. Goosebumps: Say Cheese and Die by R.L. Stine

  • Reasons it was challenged: demonic possession, promoting mischief, satanism
  • Why you should read it: Similar to Stine’s Night of the Living Dummy, which gave me nightmares well into my college years, Say Cheese and Die is a ghastly account that reminds you of the series’ title (and is also a warning to avoid distorted cameras).
IT by Stephen King

 7. IT by Stephen King

  • Reason it was challenged: “corruptive, obscene nature”
  • Why you should read it: Yes, a Stephen King novel is on here twice, but what did you expect from the sultan of suspense? A hideous clown that dwells in the sewers of a small town in Maine terrorizes a group of children. Adulthood disperses the friends to different parts of the country, allowing them to forget their haunted past until the monster lures the group back with terrorizing tactics.
The Handmaid's Tale

 8. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

  • Reasons it was banned: profanity, sexually explicit, violence, age-inappropriate, offensive to Christians, morally corrupt
  • Why you should read it: The brutality in this novel doesn’t come from a monster or phantom — it’s delivered in the form of a strict patriarchy. For more scares, Hulu will release a series based on the award-winning dystopian novel.
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

 9. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

  • Reasons it was challenged: violence, profanity, racism
  • Why you should read it: When a group of schoolboys are abandoned on an island, societal standards start to crumble. The animalistic savagery that emerges from the boys is more frightening than any monster, because human nature becomes the prime evil. #PiggyforPresident. (Side note: The novel also might inspire you to invest in a conch shell.)
Halloween ABC

 10. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam

  • Reasons it was challenged: violence, satanism
  • Why you should read it: Delightfully wicked and creatively grim, Halloween ABC is a poetic gem. Each letter is accompanied by an illustration and short poem — starting with Apple, Bat and Crawler.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

 11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

  • Reasons it was challenged: violence, witchcraft
  • Why you should read it: I could write a novel on the beauty and morals nestled in the Harry Potter series. But I’ll save you the speech by just mentioning that Harry Potter is the perfect read for every day of the year, but during fall you can enjoy the glow of candles from the Great Hall and a warm glass of Pumpkin Juice.
The Crucible by Arthur Miller

 12. The Crucible by Arthur Miller

  • Reasons it was challenged: uses “sick words from the mouths of demon-possessed people”
  • Why you should read it: This Tony Award-winning fictional play is based on the Salem witch trials of the late 1600s. It’s one big tale of “who dunnit” and point-the-finger-of-blame-to-the-nearest-girl that will keep you guessing who the real culprit is.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

 13. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

  • Reasons it was challenged: violence
  • Why you should read it: Similar to The Handmaid’s Tale, the Hunger Games series is set in a dystopian society, where tributes from 13 districts are forced to murder each other for survival and the promise of riches. The protagonist consistently deliberates who to trust, and when to flee or fight. 

What scary tales will you explore this October?


Ellie Diaz is the program officer in charge of Banned Books Week and staff liaison to the Intellectual Freedom Committee. As a journalist, she wrote regularly for the Loyola Phoenix newspaper about advocacy in literature, and she has contributed to several social justice publications. Ellie is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, committed to free press, access to information and ethical standards. She’s currently working through all seven seasons of “The West Wing” and crossing off books from her ever-expanding “to-read” list.

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