Reading is one of my favourite pastimes. I love to discover and learn about new things and reading is a great way to do this.
One of my favourite things to do is to go to the bookshop and browse the books. There are always new books to read and new authors to discover, but thinking about this made me wonder about all the books that people have been stopped from reading.
Books have been banned for many different reasons throughout history, so I decided to do some digging into which books have been banned and the reasons behind it.
Here are my Top 10 books which have been banned, and why.
Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll, 1865
You may be surprised to find out that the beloved tale Alice in Wonderland is on this list. But it was banned in Hunan, China, because of its use of talking animals – many religious institutions believed that it was an abomination to give animals human characteristics. They believed that putting animals and humans on the same level was abnormal.
All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque, 1929
I remember reading this book in my English Literature class when I was studying my A Levels. But when it was published in 1929 it received mixed reviews. Some pacifists hailed it as an anti-war publication, whilst others thought it was ‘anti-German’ and received it negatively. One of its main opponents was the National Socialist Party in Germany and it was subsequently banned when they rose to power.
American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis, 1991
This book has had mixed reviews since being published, and is banned in Queensland due to its excessive and graphic violence. It was given a ‘restricted classification’ in Australia when it was published, which means that it can only be sold to adults, and in a sealed wrapper.
Animal Farm – George Orwell, 1945
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Animal Farm was banned in the USSR and other communist countries when it was published. But did you know that it was actively promoted by the US? The CIA even funded an animated version of the book to be filmed and then distributed it around the world. Read more about that here.
The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer, late 14th Century
Could not be sent by US mail due to the Federal Anti-Obscenity Act of 1873, which said that it was illegal to send works which contained obscene material. In consequence of this it was revised many times and any material which was deemed offensive was removed.
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller, 1961
I have this book on my shelf and am slowly reading my way towards it. It was banned in various US states in the 1970’s because it refers to women as ‘whores’.
The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown, 2003
Banned in Lebanon because it was deemed offensive to Christianity, especially the part where it claims that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had a baby.
Fifty Shades Trilogy – E.L James, 2011-12
The Fifty Shades Trilogy was banned in Malaysia as it was viewed as being a threat to morality and because of the sadistic themes that it explores.
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley, 1818
Banned in Apartheid South Africa in 1955 because it was deemed obscene and indecent.
Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell, 1949
I love this book, it is one of my all-time favourites. And I was surprised to find out that it was nearly banned in the UK and US in the early 1960’s because of the Cuban Missile Crisis. However, it was most definitely banned in the Soviet Union, and copies of it were burnt, due to its unfavourable view of communism. Apparently, it is the 5th most challenged book of all time!
Bonus, The Harry Potter Series – J. K Rowling, 1997-2007
Did you know that the Harry Potter books have also been banned? It may be hard to believe, as they are seen as a national treasure and beloved by children and adults alike. But the books have been banned in schools in both the UK and US, because they have been viewed as presenting dangerous ideas and attitudes that could be harmful. The ideas and attitudes which have been frowned upon the most are, the use of magic and witchcraft and the behaviour of Harry himself, who breaks the rules on numerous occasions without any consequences.
Did any of these surprise you? What books would you put on your Top 10 list?