A Brief History
On December 6, 1952, Vladimir Nabakov finished his novel Lolita. With a subject matter concerning a mature man and a young girl in a love affair, it was no surprise that prudes would find the subject “unfit” for public dissemination. The Soviets and the Nazis banned and burned many books that were not in line with their concepts; the Chinese go so far as to also censor the internet. Here 10 reviled written works that someone at one point in time or another wanted to ban are listed.
10. Mein Kampf (Adolf Hitler).
Although the author and his book are rightly reviled, banning this poorly written hateful manifesto deprives us of the chance to get insight into the mindset of Hitler and his followers. If leaders of democratic countries had read Mein Kampf carefully before World War II, perhaps the war could have been avoided and millions of lives saved.
9. The Origin of Species (Charles Darwin).
So-called “creationists” object to this book being considered science, claiming it is just a theory. Newsflash: The Flintstones is not a documentary! Man did not walk the earth with dinosaurs. Mankind came after the dinosaurs. That is why fossilized human bones are not found with dinosaur bones. This give credence to the theories of species extinction and evolution.
8. The Communist Manifesto (Karl Marx).
As with all political-oriented books, The Communist Manifesto should not be banned and should probably be taught to our kids with the purpose of giving them insight into the history of Communism and the Soviet Union. If books like this are kept out of schools, then the logical conclusion would be to keep all political and social commentary out of the public education sector.
7. 1984, Animal Farm (George Orwell) Brave New World (Aldous Huxley).
These 3 books are interpreted as a criticism of communism and totalitarianism and are thus not banned in the West, but they were in communist countries. Perhaps communists could have learned from the lessons in these books. Apparently, we in the West have learned nothing from them, as “Big Brother” is watching indeed!
6. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain).
Surprisingly, although the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is widely assigned to school kids for reading and has been adapted for movies and television numerous times, it is the 5th most censored book in America. Naysayers object to the use of the “N-word” and to what they deem to be racist. Most scholars who have analyzed the book view it as anti-racist, but that does not convince those book burners who see one racial slur in print and immediately assume the entire book is racist.
5. Ulysses (James Joyce).
Written in the “stream of consciousness” style, Ulysses is a pretty hard read as it is. Just like movies or television shows that feature language, nudity or other activities you might not approve of, no one is forcing you to watch the show or, in this case, read the book. If sexuality makes you squirm, DO NOT READ THE BOOK! It does not have to be banned just because you have a problem with the content.
4. The Satanic Verses (Salman Rushdie).
This book is a work of fiction, a novel, and not an attack on Islam. That did not stop hardcore Muslims from trying to ban The Satanic Verses or calling for the death of Rushdie. Honorable mention to The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis.
3. Lolita (Vladimir Nabakov).
Lolita is the story of a 37-year-old man who is obsessed with his 12-year-old stepdaughter. In the book, the man shockingly gets sexually involved with the girl. As this not a rare thing and can occur in even the best of homes, topics such as incest and pedophilia should not be swept under the rug.
2. Catcher In the Rye (J.D. Salinger).
Parents attempting to insulate their school-aged children from the real world have been trying to keep this novel out of the curriculum ever since it first was published. Newsflash: Kids will eventually deal with rough language, moral dilemmas, sex and mental health issues and avoiding these topics only delays the inevitable. The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in America during the 1960s and 70s and remains a target of prudish parents to this day.
1. Holy Books.
Just because someone else’s religion is not in line with your views, does not mean you should try to ban their book or restrict access to it. Doing so is just a sign that you do not have enough confidence in your own religion’s message. The Bible, Koran (Quran), Book of Mormon, Talmud, etc. do not jump off the table by themselves and beat people into accepting their religion. If you have to coerce and force people to accept your beliefs, it might be that the message is not strong enough on its own.
Question for students (and subscribers): What other works would you add to the list? (Please do not say Fahrenheit 451, that would be too obvious! For those of you who do not know what Fahrenheit 451 is about, it is set in a future where books are banned, and any that are found are burned.) Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Bald, Margaret, Nicholas J. Karolides, et al. 120 Banned Books: Censorship Histories of World Literature. Checkmark Books, 2011.
Doyle, Robert P. Banned Books: Challenging Our Freedom to Read. Amer Library Assn, 2014.