“Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.”
– Laurie Halse Anderson
Great books have always influenced the world and great authors have been known to cause waves of change in our lives. But often, these books get caught in the gulfs of religious, moral or downright stupid crossfire and get banned.
Here is a list of books that went on to become legends, but faced outrage and challenges at some point or the other since their publication.
1. The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown
This best selling book was banned in Lebanon and some other places post its release because of its story-line of Christ’s sexual relationships with Mary leading to their baby. Shop owners were ordered to remove copies of the book on account of offense to Christianity.
2. Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling
Our beloved magical world of Hogwarts has faced numerous challenges and oppositions since the book’s release. Both sides of Atlantic called for a ban on the book for its plot promoting witchcraft, anti-family themes and the focus on evil and death.
3. American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis
An easy kill for the censors, American Psycho has been banned in Queensland, Australia, and was also pulled from bookshelves in various other countries in the past for brutality and extreme graphic violence. Now it is sold to people who are 18 and above.
4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
This beloved children’s’ book was banned in China in 1931 as the then governor of Hunan province believed that putting animals and humans on the same level was a disaster and that animals shouldn’t communicate with humans or use our language.
5. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
This posthumously published diary novel accounted the real life experiences of a Jewish teenager and her family during World War II. The book received banning requests from a lot of textbook committees in the US for having ‘pornographic passages’.
6. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
The heart-touching story of a horse based in countryside England was banned by the South Africa’s apartheid regime in the past because of its title having the words ‘black’ and ‘beauty’ together.
7. Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler
Hitler’s autobiography that translates to ‘My Struggle’ is among the most famous books of all times, but has been banned in numerous countries like Germany and Austria for being extremist and glorifying Nazi values.
8. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
As controversial as it is loved, this book by Vladimir Nabokov is a tale of a middle aged man’s desires regarding a 12 year old and has been banned in countries including Belgium, France and Argentina. The UK lifted the ban on it 5 years post the book’s publication.
9. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
This bestseller with the plot capturing the friendship between two young boys in Afghanistan has been banned in parts of United States for offensive language and graphic sexual content. Even its film adaptation was banned in Afghanistan for belittling the country’s ethnic groups.
10. Animal Farm, George Orwell
Once the book was published, it saw an outright ban in several communist countries. Depicting political corruption through farmland animals, this book remained banned in USSR until 1980s. Also, it was banned in Arab schools till 2002 for featuring a talking pig that went against their religious values.
11. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
Regarded among the best, this novel created a moral upheaval upon publication. Surrounding the plot of affairs of a married lady, the author and the publishers were also put on trial for portraying obscenity.
12. The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
Mark Twain is one of the most loved writers of all times and this classic novel has been subject to bans, debates and challenges from time to time on charges of racial stereotyping.
13. Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak
This wartime novel is a marvel portraying the Russian revolution and remained banned in the Soviet Union till 1988 for showing them in a bad light. Things were so bad in his nation that the author had to refuse the honor of Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958.
14. Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
The most famous fairy tales have come from the Grimm’s collection, like Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel etc. But the book that still faces objections on grounds of gruesome storytelling, sexism and violence could only release parts of the stories in the wake of continuous bans.
15. The Well Of Loneliness, Radclyffe Hall
This epic lesbian novel attracted trials in both US and UK for being vulgar and portraying homosexuality after it got published in 1928. It wasn’t until 1949 that the ban was lifted sparking endless debates. A quote from the book explaining homosexuality reads:
“You’re neither unnatural, nor abominable, nor mad; you’re as much a part of what people call nature as anyone else; only you’re unexplained as yet”
16. Ulysses, James Joyce
Regarded as a modernist novel, this acclaimed novel was banned in the UK until 1930s and the US also banned it for 11 years on charges of obscenity and radicalism.
17. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
This classic novel set in 1930s and one of the greatest literature, has been accused of racism and faced countless challenges and many temporary bans in the US for the same.
18. The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer
A book from the the 14th century, the series followed the journey of pilgrims and was rebuked for filthy language and sexual content till the late 20th century. The sale of the novel was prohibited by law in the US in 1873 and even now, only abridged versions are widely available.
19. The Famous Five, Enid Blyton
A prolific author who has given thousands of children’s stories, BBC imposed a ban on her books for 30 years for lacking “literary value.” Even her Noddy series faced criticism for being racist and her other series were removed from libraries for being sexist, as the boys were mostly seen saving the girls.
20. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
Now a known television series attracting controversies, the book also had similar fate. Banned on numerous accounts for explicit sexual content and offense to Christians, the novel has also been blamed for being derogatory towards women.