A First Lines Post – Guess What These Books Have in Common

First Lines is a series of blog articles posted on around the first of the month. The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. Do these first lines hook you? Do you want to read more?

This month’s theme is a little different from most first line posts I do. In this collection of first lines, the books do not share a common genre or subject or trope. Can you guess what these very different books have in common?

The cover of the Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is black with a the author's name parallel with the spine and in a blue shadow box letter, lime green and white lettering announce art by and bonus content and tenth anniversary edition. on the right third of the book are a lime green illustration of a plastic cowboy town above white lettering of the title and below that a lime green plastic indian.

I was born with water on the brain. Okay, that’s not exactly true.”

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie

The cover of Gone with the wind has a deep red brocade style background with white and gray type for the title in the center of the book. Below the title is an illustration of a woman in a hoop skirt with two gentleman standing outside an antebellum house.

Scarlett O’Hara was  not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Talon twins were.”

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

The cover for Charlotte's web features the title adorned with a web and a spider dangling from a thread of web to talk to a young girl holding a pig while a dug and sheep look on.

‘Where’s Papa going with that ax?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

The cover of Grapes of Wrath is a primitive style illustration of a man in coveralls standing between two children seated on a rock overlooking an old car and beyond it a yellow mostly barren field with blue rolling hills or mountains in the background.

To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.”

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

The cover of The Hill We Climb is an ombre yellow and red with red and black lettering. Red curlie-Qs adorn the lower left corner and upper right corner.

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?”

The Hill We Climb, Amanda Gorman

Did you Guess the Theme of this Month’s First Lines?

All of these books have been banned in the United States. October 1-7 is Banned Book week in the US. According to the American Library Association, “Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read and spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools.”

This is a dangerous time for readers and the public servants who provide access to reading materials. Readers, particularly students, are losing access to critical information, and librarians and teachers are under attack for doing their jobs.”

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom 

There have been  an unprecedented number of attempts to ban books in schools and libraries across the nation.

Reasons Why

Each of these books include topics that can be triggers for some. They explore painfully difficult aspects of the human and societal condition. It is your right to choose not to read any of these titles. It is also absolutely your right to read any of them you wish to read. The following are some of the reasons given for why these books were banned.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author. 

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Banned for its portrayal of slavery, racism, and the glorification of the antebellum South. The book has been criticized for romanticizing the Civil War and depicting Black characters as subservient to white characters.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Banned due to themes of death and the fact that the main characters are talking animals.

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Viewed as communist propaganda, and many farmers and agricultural groups were irate that it fomented anger about their labor practices.

The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman. Banned because it “included references to critical race theory, ‘indirect hate messages,’ gender ideology and indoctrination.”

Other Banned Books

All Boys Aren’t Blue

by George M. Johnson. Banned because it includes LGBTQIA+ content and profanity; it is also “considered to be sexually explicit.”

The Bluest Eye

by Toni Morrison Banned and challenged because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit.

The Catcher in the Rye

by J.D. Salinger. Banned for excess vulgar language, sexual scenes, things concerning moral issues, excessive violence and anything dealing with the occult” and “communism,” among other things.

A Court of Mist and Fury 

by Sarah J. Maas. Claimed to be sexually explicit


by Ellen Hopkins. The book has frequently been banned and challenged in the United States because of drugs, offensive language, and being sexually explicit.

Diary of A Young Girl 

by Anne Frank. Banned, mostly in regard to passages that were considered “sexually offensive,” as well as for the tragic nature of the book, which some felt might be “depressing” for young readers. 


by Mike Curato. LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit

Gender Queer: A Memoir 

by Maia Kobabe. LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit

The Glass Castle: A Memoir 

by Jeannette Walls. Banned due to strong sexual situations, alcoholism, and abuse—both physical and sexual.

The Handmaid’s Tale 

by Margaret Atwood. Banned and challenged for profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 

by J. K. Rowling. Banned for containing witchcraft, the occult, and anti-family themes.

The Hate U Give 

by Angie Thomas. Banned for profanity and violence and was accused of promoting an anti-police agenda.

How To Be An Antiracist 

by Ibram X. Kendi. Challenged and banned for vulgar language and discussions of race.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings 

by Maya Angelou. Banned for language and being too explicit in the book’s portrayal of rape and other sexual abuse.

The Kite Runner 

by Khaled Hosseini. Banned for its sexually explicit content, offensive language, and age inappropriateness.

Lawn Boy  

by Jonathan Evison. Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.

Leaves of Grass 

by Walt Whitman. Banned as deemed “obscene,” “too sensual,” and “shocking” because of its frank portrayal of sexuality and its obvious homoerotic overtones.

Looking for Alaska 

by John Green. Banned for offensive language, sexually explicit scenes, homosexuality and unsuitable religious viewpoints.

The Lovely Bones 

by Alice Sebold. Banned due to sexual content and language.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl 

by Jesse Andrews. This book was banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and degrading to women.

Nickel and Dimed 

by Barbara Ehrenreich. Banned and challenged for drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint.

Of Mice and Men

by John Steinbeck. Banned for “profanity,” “morbid and depressing themes,” and the author’s alleged “anti-business attitude.” Others have called it “derogatory towards African Americans, women, and the developmentally disabled.”

Out of Darkness

by Ashley Hope Pérez. Banned as viewed as patently offensive in the description or depiction of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, sadomasochistic abuse, or excretion”

The Perks of Being a Wallflower 

by Stephen Chbosky. Depiction of sexual abuse, LGBTQIA+ content, drug use, profanity, claimed to be sexually explicit

The Poet X 

by Elizabeth Acevedo. Banned because of its themes of sexuality and struggling in a religious household.

To Kill a Mockingbird 

by Harper Lee. Banned for language and racial depictions.

Water for Elephants 

by Sara Gruen. Banned for its sexual content, violence, extensive use of swear words.

A Wrinkle in Time

by Madeleine L’Engle. Banned for various reasons such as for being too Christian and then also, for not being Christian enough. The book’s “New Age” content was constantly critiqued.


There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. They are here for your enjoyment and information. And to entice you to buy more books.

Do You Want to Read More?

If you haven’t read these books I encourage you to do so. Think about what you think the author wanted to say and whether you think it a worthwhile message despite the insensitivities and ignorance of times past and today.

Check out previous First Lines posts. Please take a moment to share in the comments below—

Have you read any of these titles? If not, did you buy or borrow a copy?


  1. Good grief! I’ve read many of the books listed. Some I thought were very good. Gone with the Wind, Catcher in the Rye, Anne Frank, Kite Runner, Charlotte’s Web, Water for Elephants, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Wrinkle in Time, Leaves of Grass and probably more.

    1. I have also read many of those titlea and loved them too. I am planning on reading more. Thank you for commenting and for choosing the freedom to read.

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