Top 10 Banned Books

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Throughout the history of the world, starting with the church, censors have been put on many different things. The church was able to create a list of banned books, and many of the books were burned. The first list of banned books came from Pope Paul IV who established The Index of Prohibited Books to protect Catholics from controversial ideas. However, authors found ways to get around these censors. Many just published in a nearby country.

Whether it is for political reasons, religious reasons, or some other reason, books, to this day, continue to be banned, extremely looked down upon, or challenged harshly. As for me, I believe it’s completely ludicrous. Who says anyone has to right to ban someone else’s hard work and ideas? In any case, here are the top 10 banned books.

10. The Color Purple

The Color Purple

“I see Sofia and I don’t know why she still alive. They crack her skull, they crack her ribs. They tear her nose loose on one side. They blind her in one eye. She swole from head to foot. Her tongue the size of my arm, it stick out tween her teef like a piece of rubber. She can’t talk. And she just about the color of eggplant.”

A novel written by Alice Walker, The Color Purple depicts the life of a young black girl, Celie, who speaks about her life in letters to God. Celie has been raped by her stepfather, beat by her much older husband, and is basically alone. The book expresses what life is like in the deep south through the eyes of a black female. It has been banned because of its extreme and graphic violence, troubling ideas about relations between races, African history, human sexuality, and man’s relationship with God.

9. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I know why the caged bird sings book

“If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unnecessary insult.”

This novel is an autobiography of the early life of Maya Angelou. It is able to show how trauma and racism can be overcome by strength and a love of literature. Angelou is able to depict her life from age three to age 17, in Stamps Arkansas. She at first lives with her older brother, and in the end becomes a parent. Throughout the novel, there is a lot of racism and violence, including rape. The book has been banned because of its explicit scenes of rape and other sexual abuse, as well as violence, homosexuality, and vulgar language.

8. To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird Book

“So it took an eight-year-old child to bring ’em to their senses…. That proves something – that a gang of wild animals can be stopped, simply because they’re still human.  Hmp, maybe we need a police force of children.”

Published in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird became popular quick, and eventually won a Pulitzer Prize. It was immediately successful and has been said to be a classic of modern American fiction. The book is known for its humor and warmth while still dealing with critical and serious issues such as racism, rape, and loss of innocence. Many see the banned book’s famous character, Atticus Finch, as being a hero both morally and racially. However, the book has been challenged many times because of how it deals with race issues. It is extremely prejudice and stereotypical. The novel also portrays an assault that is somewhat sexual, resulting in a rape. Vulgar language, including the “n” word, is also used.

7. Brave New World

Brave new world book cover

“We can make a new one with the greatest ease-as many as we like. Unorthodoxy threatens more than the life of a mere individual; it strikes at Society itself.”

Written in 1932 by Aldous Huxley, this book revolves around a setting of a drugged, dull and mass society. The book takes place in the future, but it doesn’t provide much hope for generations to come. The book is a parody of a Utopian society. The novel explained much disdain for youth, as well as a culture that is driven by the market. The book has been banned for its strong themes of drugs, sexuality, and suicide. In the novel, something as minute as chewing gum is seen as a way to deliver sex hormones, and pornographic films are spread around like free candy. Simply, Brave New World has been banned and challenged for its negativity, the latest being in 1993.

6. 1984

1984 book cover

“Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling. Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves.”

Written by George Orwell in 1949, 1984 is a novel that depicts an extremely grim future of society. The society has no free will, truth, or privacy. The book was first banned in 1984 by the American Library Association because of its “bleak warning of totalitarian government and censorship.” Many see the novel as one that is expressing immoral themes, as well as being pro-Communist. The book tosses around the idea of “Big Brother,” which is still highly influential and popular in culture today. The banned book has also been challenged for sexual themes.

5. Lolita

Lolita book cover

“A normal man given a group photograph of school girl or Girl Scouts and asked to point out the comeliest one will not necessarily choose the nymphet among them. You have to be an artist and a madman, a creature of infinite melancholy, with a bubble of hot poison in your loins and a super-voluptuous flame permanently aglow in your subtle spine…”

This 1955 novel written by Vladimir Nabokov, analyzes the mind of a highly intelligent, self-loathing man named Humber Humbert, who is a pedophile and has an extreme obsession for “nymphets,” which are young girls, generally around the age of 12. Lolita was first published by a French pornographic press after being rejected by four publishing firms, but soon after, it was banned in France for being obscene. It was also banned in South Africa, New Zealand, England, and Argentina. However, the book was never really banned in the U.S. because when it was published, sexuality and teenage sex weren’t out of the norm. In any case, most countries have challenged the book because of its portrayal of a sexual relationship between a child and an adult.

4. Catcher in the Rye

the catcher in the rye book

“Sex is something I really don’t understand too hot. You never know where the hell you are. I keep making up these sex rules for myself, and then I break them right away. Last year I made a rule that I was going to quit horsing around with girls that, deep down, gave me a pain in the ass. I broke it, though, the same week I made it – the same night, as a matter of fact.”

Written by J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye became a best-seller weeks within its release in 1951. The novel explains three days in the life of a 16 year old boy, who is seen as extremely troubled. It is a true expression of teenage angst and rebellion against adults, and many have challenged the book because they fear younger people will look up to Holden, the main character. The banned book first caused controversy in 1960 when a school principal fired a teacher for using the novel as part of an 11th grade class. Many states around the country have issues with the book, some saying it is “anti-white,” while others express that it puts too much emphasis on slang, sex, violence, and issues with morals.

3. Harry Potter Series

harry-potter-books

“As much money and life as you could want!  The two things most human beings would choose above all – the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”

The most recent books on the list, the Harry Potter series tell the tale and adventures of a young boy named Harry Potter, who is a wizard, and his friends Ron and Hermione. The central theme of the book is a struggle against evil, Lord Voldemort, who killed Harry’s parents. Since the first book’s publishing in 1997, the series has been under much scrutiny. In 2001, parents from all over the U.S. and other parts of the world challenged the book because of its witchcraft, violence, the occult, and its overall scariness. Years later, the series is still banned and challenged for the same reasons, including lying, cheating, stealing, ghosts, spells and promoting Wicca ideology.

2. Candide

candide-book-cover

“’What! Have you no monks to teach, to dispute, to govern, to intrigue and to burn people who do not agree with them?”

A great book of great satire! Candide is a classic French novel that satirizes all things that many saw sacred in its day. Churches, philosophers, armies, and rulers were all poked fun at. Voltaire, through the use of satire and funny phrases, was doing nothing more than trying to express a man finding the best of all possible worlds while going through some of the worst things that could ever happen in life. The Great Council of Geneva banned the book after its release, but more than 30,000 copies sold in a year. In 1930, U.S. Customs seized Harvard-bound copies of Candide, and then in 1944 the U.S. Post Office wanted the book dropped from Concord Books.

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Huckleberry_Finn_book

“I knowed he was white inside, and I reckoned he’d say what he did say – so it was all right, now, and I told Tom I was agoing for a doctor.”

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This book, written by Mark Twain, has been banned in many different places since it was published. Huckleberry Finn is a story of a young boy, Huck, and a runaway slave, Jim, who travel down the Mississippi in order to escape “sivilization.” Here in the U.S., the book was banned in 1885, a year after it was published. At first, the book was banned for its use of slang, which was seen as demeaning. Over time, the focus shifted towards the fact that the novel uses the “n” word so many times, in fact over 200 times. Many cannot get around the fact that such a derogatory word is used so much. Readers often substitute the word with “slave” or “servant.” Despite much controversy, many of the most famous writers, such as Ernest Hemingway, see the book as a great piece of literature, as do many readers.


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57 Comments

  1. How about Edmund Wilson's book of short stories "Memoirs of Hectate County"? It was bannned because of the story "The Princess with the Golden Hair" with its erotic portrayal of a crippled girl. (I think it's still banned in New York)

  2. I remember that after reading Huck Finn in high school, a couple of years later, some one complained and the book was banned from being taught in English classes at my high school. So lame. The Notice and Explanatory at the begining of the book (write by Twain, of course) sum up the point of the book – and if you don’t get it, you’re an idiot. …

    “NOTICE
    PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narra- tive will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.
    BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR,
    Per G.G., Chief of Ordnance.

    EXPLANATORY
    IN this book a number of dialects are used, to wit: the Missouri negro dialect; the extremest form of the backwoods Southwestern dialect; the ordinary “Pike County” dialect; and four modified varieties of this last. The shadings have not been done in a hap- hazard fashion, or by guesswork; but painstakingly, and with the trustworthy guidance and support of personal familiarity with these several forms of speech.
    I make this explanation for the reason that without it many readers would suppose that all these characters were trying to talk alike and not succeeding.

    THE AUTHOR. “

    • They should be, because they are all of them edgier by far than anything you will find today on Smashwords (well, would have found).

      But if they went after de Sade, or A Clockwork Orange or The Tin Drum, they’d look like philistines, and the press would pillory them as the parochial idiots they are.

      But who would ever stand up for a book titled ‘I Did Daddy’? No one.

      As erotica writers, we were an easy target. The genre tends to be meticulous about tagging potentially offensive subject matter in order to offer readers the chance to make informed choices. We were a search term away from expurgation.

  3. Censorship isn't terrible. (Did I get your attention?) Would you sit down with a five year old and watch "Debbie Does Dallas"? Of course not! To me, censorship should not become an issue until high school, but I may be giving high school students too much intellectual credit. Some parents may feel differently and may want to limit their children's exposure until the age of 18. Either way, the Libertatian in me feels that there should be almost no censorship for adults. Why do I say "almost"? Simple: child porn and the media messing with the military (like when Geraldo gave away troop movements on t.v.) See what I mean?

  4. I wasn't surprised when I read the list, albeit slightly disappointed by the fact that some of these books are still banned in schools. I have read a majority of these books and I question why teachers wouldn't be allowed to use these for teaching material. Brave New World and 1984 in particular were very enlightening and and exposed me to political and philosophical views that I might never have considered if I hadn't read the books myself. Catcher in the Rye, The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings are good narratives for exploring the character of man and how environment effects development. Of course there are many other books that are excellent material for achieving the same ends, but they may be banned as well for all I know. However, it is good that we have groups to censor material especially for younger children who couldn't begin to comprehend what they are reading, and some things shouldn't be published at all, like pornographic novels and such. If we didn't have censorship then we'd have pre-adolescent kids running around with playboys and other offensive material. I'm just rambling now…

  5. A Clockwork Orange should have made this list, definitely. It must have been banned somewhere, it's too good of a novel not to have been banned.

  6. I am surprised that your list didn't contain the most banned book of all time – The Bible! From ancient times until now, The Bible has been banned by many Communist and Muslim countries and even at times by The Roman Catholic church.

    • I second that. The only reason I read any of them is because they were required reading at both of my high schools. And I liked almost all of them.

  7. What strikes me about Harry Potter being banned for promoting witchcraft is that those books are actually christian in nature. Those who were likely advocating for it being banned are those who would likely appreciate their christian nature if they read.

    Also children and especially adolescents are very clever. I credit them for being more intellectual than many of us adults at times. They understand the important themes and messages that are being portrayed in these novels. I remember reading Brave New World in grade 10 and understanding it well. As long as they are read under the careful guidance of someone who is an expert on this literature, for example an English teacher, I think they can figure out for themselves what they are reading and if it holds truth in this world. It perhaps in a way prepares them for the real nature of life outside of childhood. Ignorance is unhealthy.

  8. What? Where the hell is the Satanic Verses?!?!!? Salman Rushdie was in hiding for his anti – Islamic views! In fact, I don't think the bounty has been removed from his head yet! This list only includes books some Americans disliked but everyone's read anyway. The Satanic Verses should definitely be part of this list.

  9. AmiLianna McPherson on

    What? Half of these books I read a sophomore in high school. And the Harry potter series since it came out. I think its ridiculous. Does nobody see there educational. How are people going to learn about things, PAINFUL things without having to go through it?. As for the HP series its just make believe and fun. Banned my arse.!

  10. Citation Needed!

    While Orwell's 1984 has certainly been challenged, it is extremely doubtful that it was by the American Library Association, as they are extremely anti banning anything, and publish an annual list of banned and challenged books. Where did the article author get this idea?

    • Agreed. My guess is the author of this list saw 1984 on the ALA’s Frequently Banned Books list and didn’t bother to read further to discover that list is an attempt to promote awareness of the restriction of the 1st amendment.

      It does throw all of the other information into question, as well.

  11. I'm almost certain that To Kill A Mockingbird isn't banned as my class is reading it in English class right now. However, I may be misunderstanding just what "banned" means. Maybe this list is written by someone who doesn't live in America. Or maybe my teacher is breaking a law 0.o

    • These books were banned at one time or another. Bans have been lifted in many cases, I'm sure. Also a book banning may be limited to a geographical or political area. Some areas of the world and our own country are more conservative than others.

  12. Ironically (and thankfully) half the books on this list were required reading in my schools and we're not banned. But anyway, seriously, why do the most sensitive and weak minded people get to make all the rules?!? Harry Potter has garnered much controversy for it's depictions of wizardry ( or witchcraft as they prefer to call it) but the point of the books are so much bigger than that! And even still, why is magic automatically deemed "evil" or "satanic" by these people? Magic can be used for good or evil, it's ultimately the person's decision to make. That's one of the main ongoing themes of the series. At any rate the books should be lauded more often for bringing countless children around the world the joy of reading good literature!

  13. I am so glad I live in Australia!

    We studied "To Kill A Mockingbird" in High School!

    I saw "Catcher In The Rye" at the supermarket the other day and bought it along with a copy of "On The Road"

    About the only books I can think of banned here in Australia are the "Paladin Press" survivalist guides!

    I am so glad we Australians don't try and ram weird ideas of morality and religion done each others throats,

    • Whitmanamerican on

      Andrew, you are, like many other smug Aussies, ignorant of your own country’s history of repression in this and other respects. Try doing a little research: google “books banned in Australia.”

      • Smug?!

        At least I’m not “smug” like you relying on friggen google for definitive information!
        Did you actually read the list of banned material here?
        What a joke your argument is.

        Wikipedia regurita is a sad thing mate.

        Considering your country invented the concept of “race” to justify slavery,
        started “the war on terror” that’s pissed off the muslim world,
        led us into a global financial crisis,
        and talk about being “leaders of the free world”, when you can’t even look after your own people.

        yeah, I can be smug about our government banning the “Biggles” and “Noddy” books in schools.

        So you go back to google, feel good about the way your country treats it’s poor.

  14. ok where the hell are these books banned? becuase uh i read almost every single one of these in school, so idk wtf they're talking about.

  15. The Malleus Maledicarum should be on here. It was banned from the world and the only copy left (original) is locked in the basement of a museum in England.

    • There are surely several original copies (what is an original copy at all – in an era before copyright) left, since it was printed countless times, even after the church banned official use. It was never rare or lost and today it’s neither difficult nor expensive to find a new edition.

  16. Is it just me or is it ironic that most books on this “banned” list are now required reading in most schools. Maybe it’s time for a more current list.

  17. vivian hernandez on

    i do understand how THE COLOR PURPLE is banned because it is graphic but still it is a very meaningful book…if others would like to read this book then i think they should….it doesn’t matter what the people say as long as some one is learning from it……

  18. sofia perez on

    to ban books is unconstitutional. because of this other people cant let out any comments on how he or she is living and on how they are seeing life today.to me being in high school is good and all but to elimanate what really is the cause of what things are really happening in society today is plain wrong. i dont agree with this at all.

  19. Scarlet Thomas on

    i can’t believe they are banning “To Kill a Mocking Bird” i love this book and i believe this is uncalled for. even though it talks about rape, racism and loss off innocence, this is very true now in days. society doesn’t want books that have true life occurrences but we all know that this happens whether we like it or not. i think schools should have books that children can relate to. and what about the first amendment, did we already forget the right of freedom of speech? you can’t ban books that speak the truth just because you don’t like it, you may say it’s Anti-Christian but it is reality.

  20. Banning these sort of books should not be allowed for they allow kids or teens to imagine, to go to new places, places only stories can bring. Why should we take this away, especially the hard work the authors had but on these stories? Its easy to take away for they were never part of making this book possible, they didnt have to go threw the hard process of making a story, i think we should re think of this,……

  21. The excuse that people use to ban books are so lame! “violence, rape, racism etc?” Then how about we ban the evening news and all newspapers since I read/hear about all of those issues daily!

  22. Peter Boucher on

    How about these two books : “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess and “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas” by Hunter S. Thompson

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