Oedipus Rex (Sophocles, circa 429 BCE) One of the Sophocles' noted three Theban plays (Oedipus Rex, Oedipus Coloneus, and Antigone) produced by one of the greatest Ancient Greek tragedians, this cautionary tale of fate versus free will tells the rise of Oedipus as King of Thebes who is prophesized by the Delphic Oracle to murder his father and marry his mother. Sophocles's Theban plays were required reading in schoolrooms, but the one that caused the most controversy was Oedipus Rex due to sexuality, specifically incest, violence, and strangely sorcery and witchcraft.
The Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer, circa 1372) - One of the oldest works in the English language, it is a collection of stories presented as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims travelling from Southwark to Canterbury Cathedral. It is banned in most libraries in the United States due to sexual situations, offensive language, inappropriate characters, and truthful observations on society and religion that the state (and the church) did not like to be revealed.
Divine Comedy (Dante Alighieri, 1472) Widely considered the preeminent work of Italian literature and perhaps one of the greatest works of world literature, this epic poem, divided into three volumes (Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso), is an imaginative, allegorical, and philosophical medieval world-view of the afterlife, as Dante and his friend Virgil journey through the Nine Circles of Hell, the Seven Terraces of Purgatory, and the Nine Spheres of Heaven, creating the in-depth concept of the Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven Holy Virtues. Ironically, the Divine Comedy embraced by the Church as a cautionary warning to sinners, heretics, and pagans, despite the fact that Dante wrote is as an insult to a number of religious patrons he made enemies with in his lifetime (whom all appear, in one form or another, in the poem). Nowadays, the work is condemned as "offensive and discriminatory" and accordingly "has no place in a modern classroom" due to racist, homophobic, anti-Islamist and anti-Semitic themes. Ironically, many have interpreted the Dante-Virgil relationship as an "homoerotic," described Virgil as a "foreign," and most of the concepts were taken from Islamic and Jewish text that were originally deleted from the Bible.
The Prince (Niccolς Machiavelli, 1513) Written as a political treatise, it was one of the first works of modern philosophy, especially modern political philosophy, in which the effective truth is taken to be more important than any abstract ideal, but it was also in direct conflict with the religious and scholastic doctrines of the time about politics and ethics. It was banned as anti-religion and anti-government, perpetrating criminal deeds and justifying the use of immoral means to achieve one's goals.
Titus Andronicus (William Shakespeare, circa 1590) While many Shakespearean works have been challenged and banned, such as Hamlet (incest), Othello (racism), The Merchant of Venice (anti-Semitism), Macbeth (witchcraft), A Midsummer's Night Dream (bestiality), Romeo and Juliet (underage sexuality), The Taming of the Shrew (anti-feminist), Troilus and Cressida (prostitution), Twelfth Night (homosexuality), etc, this was considered his bloodiest and goriest piece, telling the fictional story of Titus Andronicus, a honourable general in the Roman army, who was caught in a cycle of revenge by Tamora, Queen of the Goths. To accomplish her sea of evil, Tamora marries the Emperor Saturnius and has him banish Titus and his family, forces Titus to murder his own son, convinces her own sons Chiron and Demetrius to rape and disfigure Titus' daughter Livania, blames the murder on Saturnius' brother on two of Titus' other sons and has them publicly executed, has an affair with her slave Aaron the Moor, bares a half-black child and orders Aaron to murder it, and the long-suffering Titus goes mad and, in revenge, chops off his own hand, murders Chiron and Demetrius, bleeds them, chops them up into meat pies, feeds them to Tamora and Saturnius, and murders them, destroying himself in the process. While the play was infinitely popular at its time, it was it fell out of favour during the 1880s, as considered "distasteful" to snobby Victorian audiences, and has since regained popularity today. However, due to the over-the-top themes of violence, sexuality, incest, rape, adultery, torture, dismemberment, cannibalism, racism, interracism, murder, war, as well as its anti-politicial/anti-government/anti-judiciary/anti-nobility/anti-military not-so-subtle undertones. It is universally hated and completely removed in schoolrooms internationally.
Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes, 1605-1615) Considered the most influential work of literature from the Spanish Golden Age, a scholar who reads too many chivalric novels sets out to make his, somewhat half-baked, adventures as a chivalrous, antiquated knight dipping into madness and recruits a simple farmer as his squire. The story allegedly insults the establishments of religion and nobility and discusses the power and folly of absolute conviction, as well as the influence of and the the danger of faith in the absurd.
Paradise Lost (John Milton, 1667) Often considered one of the greatest literary works in the English language, this epic blank verse poem, published in ten volumes, concerns the Biblical story of the Fall of Man: The protaganist Lucifer (Satan), the most beautiful of all angels in Heaven, recounts his Fall from Grace, as a tragic figure, unwilling to be subjugated any further, who led a civil war to wrestle control of Heaven from God and now he employs his rhetorical skill to organize his evil forces of Hell in order to poison God's newest and most favored creation mankind, in the form of Adam and Eve expel them from the Garden of Eden and instil the "virtue" of free will. Despite being a "Christian" work, the Church hailed the work as "blasphemous," portraying Satan as a "hero," God as "wicked," Adam as "arrogant," and Eve as "vain," as it radically challenged concepts of idolatry, divinity, perfectionism of God, and the human condition, such as self-identity, individualism, free will, sexuality, marriage, hubris, and the pursuit of knowledge outside teachings of the Church.
Arabian Nights, or One Thousand and One (Arabian) Nights (compiled by Antoine Galland, 1704) This collection of centuries-old Middle Eastern and South Asian folk tales, from "The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor" to "Aladdin's Magic Lamp" to "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves," compiled during the medieval Islamic Golden Age. However, the book was accused for causing a "wave of rapes" when these "infidel" stories made their way to "gentile" Europe. Various editions of the literary collection have been banned, including most Arab countries, where it has been described as "lewd," "indecent," "filthy," "obscene," and full of "vice and sin."
Grimms' Fairy Tales, or originally Children's and Household Tales (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, 1812) At first, this appears to be absurd, but few have read the original "uncensored" Grimms' stories: Rapunzel, imprisoned in a tower by a witch, allows a prince to climb her golden hair, they have sex, and she gives birth to twins, but the witch, angered by Rapunzel's lost of virginity, casts her (and the twins) out in the streets penniless and has the prince's eyes gouged out. Sleeping Beauty is raped by her prince while she slumbered and bears a set of twins of her rapist. Years later, she and her twins break into the castle and attempt to murder the prince in revenge, but are thwarted by him and, in the end, Sleeping Beauty is forced to marry her rapist. The Big Bad Wolf tricks Little Red Riding Hood with false instructions to her grandmother's house, causing her to be raped and cannibalistically devoured by the Wolf. The Pied Piper, whom was never paid for ridding the village of its vermin, kidnaps all the children: First edition had the Piper leads the children to a cave and molests them but, in the second edition, he leads them to a river where they all drown. Rumpelstiltskin, after the heroine reveals his name to save her child to be taken by him, has a temper tantrum, ripping out his arm and leg from its sockets, and dies from his injuries. Cinderella, the daughter of the king, escaped marrying her own incestuous father by sailing into another shore in a chest that locks from the outside and inside. After becoming a servant girl to a cruel family and meets her newest love, a prince, her stepsister dismember sections of their feet in order to fit the slipper, but the prince is alerted to the trick by two pigeons who pecked the stepsisters' eyes and they were forced to live the rest of their lives as blind beggars, as Cinderella lived a life of luxury. Hansel and Gretel, finding their way to a gingerbread house, is kidnapped by the wife of a devil (not a witch) who builds a sawhorse to bleed the children to death before devouring them, but Hansel and Gretel trick the devil's wife onto the sawhorse and the children escape, slashing her throat from ear to ear. After the first publication was deemed "unsuitable" for children and quickly removed from bookstores all over Europe, the Brothers Grimm rewrote and revised, adding and subtracting stories and other details, between 1814 and 1858, publishing ten to fifteen more editions each one "nicer" than the previous. Nevertheless, these efforts were in vain because, nowadays, all variations of Grimms' stories, even the heavily watered-down versions, are still banned.
Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert, 1856) Trapped in a loveless and unfulfilling marriage to an elderly man, a bored, wealthy aristocrat engages in adulterous affairs in an attempt to find happiness. The sexuality in the book prompted many countries to ban it on the basis of being immoral.
The Origin of the Species (Charles Darwin, 1859) Considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology, this was the first mature and persuasive work to explain how species change through the process of natural selection, transforming attitudes about society and religion. It was banned for being anti-religious.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (Lewis Carroll, 1865 and 1871) Practically the creation of the "literary nonsense genre," A little girl falls down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world known as Wonderland populated by peculiar creatures and has been banned because it contained expletives, references to drug use, masturbation, underage sexuality, and derogatory characterizations of a teachers and of religious ceremonies.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain, 1876 and 1885) A collection of "misadventures" of two mischievous, rambunctious, misfit teenagers chafing under the bonds of civilization of their humdrum worlds by playing hooky at school, being pursued by a murderer in Missouri, or floating on a raft down the Mississippi River with a runaway slave. Offensive language, one very racially-charged word in particular, is the usual reason given for banning these books, which has been controversial since their publications.
Sherlock Holmes Mysteries (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1887-1917) Appealing to mystery fans for generations, the collection of stories that involve the literature's greatest friendship between Sherlock Holmes, the World's Greatest Detective, and his partner-in-crime Dr. John H. Watson. The reason why the complete Sherlock Holmes stories are banned is not due to graphic themes of violence, death, murder, adultery, incest, sexuality, racism, torture, drug use, child abuse, animal abuse, police/political corruption, and vigilantism. It was, alternatively, because the first published story, novel A Study in Scarlet, was considered anti-Mormon, as the plot involved a brief flashback to mid-19th-century Utah where a woman was blackmailed into a marriage with a Mormon and, because Sherlock Holmes is regularly used as an introduction to mystery genre in schools all around the world, the rest of the series was banned as well.
The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde, 1890) The novel tells of a young, handsome man who was the subject of a painting, who becomes enthralled and espouses the philosophy of hedonism, believing the only things worth pursuing in life are beauty and fulfillment of the senses. Realizing that one day his beauty will fade, he makes a Faustian bargain for his soul to ensure the painted portrait would age rather than he. His wish is fulfilled, plunging him into debauched acts, as his portrait serves as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul, with each sin and sign of aging is displayed as a disfigurement of his form upon the painting. Often described as "unclean," "effeminate," and "contaminating" made it a sensation amongst Victorian readers, the novel has not-so-subtle undertones of drug use, sexuality, homoeroticism, and distorted views of morality and immorality.
Ulysses (James Joyce, 1918-1920) One of the most important works of Modernist literature, this unique, stream-of-consciousness serial chronicles the passage of a Jewish advertising salesman indifferently married to a siren going about his business on June 16, 1904 a day distinguished by its utter normality and crosses paths with a gallery of indelible Dubliners. Cramming almost every variety of human experience into the accordion folds of one single, solitary day, the book was banned in the United States, labelling as obscene due a tiny, tiny reference to masturbation (which you can possibly see if you squint). However, when publishing company took the case to court in 1933, the judge determined it to be a "sincere and honest book" and ruled that it be admitted into the country, causing an era of reduction in government censorship. However, due to the book's reputation alone, many public libraries and schools do not carry the book at all.
The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925) Taking place after the First World War during Prohibition, where the consumption of alcohol was illegal, the novel tells of the rise of a self-made, self-invented but emotionally damaged millionaire to glory and his eventual fall from grace. Opponents of this work cite sexual references, profanity, and drug use, as a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.
Lady Chatterley's Lover (D.H. Lawrence, 1928) This story of class and social conflict concerns a young married woman whose upper-class husband has been paralyzed and rendered impotent after the tragedy of the First World War. Forced to live a life completely on intellect and celibacy, her sexual frustration leads her into a torrid affair with the brutish gamekeeper. The book was taken to court numerous times under various obscenity laws and banned in multiple countries, believing it "will corrupt the minds of young people" with its "pornography and use of profanity."
A Farewell to Arms (Ernest Hemingway, 1929) Regarded as one of Ernest Hemingway's best works, based on his own experiences during the Italian campaigns during the First World War, this first-person account of American Frederic Henry, serving as a Lieutenant ("Tenente") in the ambulance corps of the Italian Army focuses on his doomed romance with a British nurse, Catherine Barkley, against the backdrop of the First World War, cynical soldiers, fighting and the displacement of populations. Although this was Hemingway's bleakest novel, its publication cemented his stature as a modern American writer. Early editions censored profane words with dashes and his corrected text has not been incorporated into modern published editions of the novel yet, despite this (and due to honest, frank depictions of the brutality of war violence and sexuality), it continues to remain banned.
Brave New World (Aldous Huxley, 1932) In a futuristic totalitarian society where people have no control of their lives and/or destiny, a group of adults began to dull their senses with pacifying drugs and casual sex. As one of the most challenged books in the American Library Association, it is has been banned for being anti-family, anti-religion, pornographic, and is said to be completely "centered around negative activity" as acceptable behaviour.
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (J.R.R. Tolkien, 1937 and 1954-1955) Created by an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, The Hobbit tells the tale of simple, home-loving hobbit named Bilbo Baggins who travels with a wizard named Gandalf and a rag-tag band of dwarven adventurers to win a share of the treasure guarded by the dragon, Smaug. In the epic trilogy of The Lord of the Rings (consisting of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King), Gandalf enlists the help of four mischievous but brave hobbits, along with a ranger named Aragorn, a rider named Boromir, a dwarf warrior named Gimli, and an elven prince named Legolas, to a journey to an enemy land in order to destroy the magical One Ring of Power, the ultimate weapon of Dark Lord Sauron, which would cause him to rise again and rule all of Middle-Earth. Due to prevalent themes of sorcery, witchcraft, and magic, the series as deemed "anti-religious" as well as "dangerous" to children.
Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck, 1937) It is a tragic melodrama about two displaced migrant ranch workers during the Great Depression in California. He has been banned from public and school libraries or curricula for allegedly promoting euthanasia, condoning prejudice against race and disabled, being anti-business, and containing violence, profanity, sexuality, and animal cruelty.
The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck, 1939) Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on a poor family of sharecroppers driven from their Oklahoma home in the Dust Bowl by drought, economic hardship, and changes in financial and agricultural industries set out for opportunity in California to seek jobs, land, dignity, and a future. Publicly banned and burned since its publication, it has been accused of exaggeration of the camp conditions to make a political point, underplaying the plight of the poor, promoting prejudice towards the migrants, and has been labelled as communist propaganda. However, there is evidence that shows the censorship was lead by wealthy landowners who did not want their treatment of their workers to become highlighted.
For Whom the Bell Tolls (Ernest Hemingway, 1940) Regarded as one of Ernest Hemingway's best works, based on his own experiences during the Italian campaigns during the First World War, it tells the story of Robert Jordan, a young American dynamiter in the International Brigades attached to an anti-fascist guerrilla unit during the Spanish Civil War, who is assigned to blow up a bridge during an attack on the city of Segovia, knowing that he will not survive, in a span of three days. It banned due to violence, sexuality, profanity, and pro-communist sentiments.
Native Son (Richard Wright, 1940) The novel tells about a twenty-year-old African American living in Chicago's impoverished South Side ghettos in the 1930s, dealing with racial inequality and social injustices so deep that it becomes nearly impossible to determine where societal expectations and conditioning end and free will begins, and is banned due to explicit violence, sexuality, and profanity.
Animal Farm (George Orwell, 1945) Published on the heels of the Second World War, this is a satirical allegory of a downtrodden society of overworked, mistreated animals and their quest to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality by freeing starting a violent, bloody revolution against their human masters. This book allegedly banned due to violence, profanity, political corruption, and pro-communist/anti-war sentiments.
Brideshead Revisited (Evelyn Waugh, 1945) The novel is a story of faith, never-ending struggling between religion and desires, and chronicles the rise and fall of the friendship between two Oxfordian undergraduates Charles Ryder, a solemn middle-class agnostic from Hertford College, and Lord Sebastian Flyte, a flamboyant Roman Catholic son from Christ Church, trapped in a dying world of English aristocracy, who carries around a teddy bear named Aloysius. The relationship between Charles and Sebastian has been interpreted as a platonic to some and homosexual to others and the jury is still out on that point, but has caused the book to be removed from shelves for this reason.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, or simply The Diary of Anne Frank (Anne Frank, 1947) This Dutch-language diary was kept by a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl, hiding for two years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, who was eventually apprehended along with her family and ultimately died in a concentration camp. This book was taught in almost every school in America, but that does not mean it has not faced its challenges: Parents have protested against it as being too sexually charged (as the author was growing into puberty), even homosexual, pornographic, and that it was too depressing to be taught to children.
Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949) Living in a totalitarian, war-ravaged future society ruled by the omnipresent Big Brother, a bureaucrat forced to rewrite history books for the government rebels against the established order as a "thoughtcriminal." Written as a warning to society that has become eerily true, the book has been banned in the past due to sexuality and pro-communist/pro-anarchy/anti-government/anti-religious sentiments.
The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis, 1950-1956) A powerful series of seven books (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, The Horse and His Boy, The Magician's Nephew, and The Last Battle) that explore friendship, life, and death through the adventures of children who play central roles in the fantasy world of Narnia. The author explored of themes not usually present in children's literature, such as religion, but has claimed to foster sentiments in sexism and racism, as well as promoting gender stereotypes, disobeying authority, and (despite being written as a fervently pro-Christian work) anti-religious sentiments due to themes of witchcraft and sorcery.
The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger, 1951) Originally published for adults, it has since become popular with adolescent readers for its themes of teenage confusion, self-identity, angst, alienation, and rebellion about a coming-of-age story of a prep school dropout narrating the last couple days of his sixteen-year-old life. It is banned due to its liberal use of profanity and sexuality, particularly a scene with a prostitute.
Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury, 1953) In a dystopian society evolved on a diet of mass media and literal sedation under a regime of censorship, where books are outlawed, a fireman, who does not put out fires but makes them, has been hired to burn books for the government for ten years and suddenly undergoes a crisis of faith when he meets his next-door neighbor who prefers books over the mindless chatter of the television. When she disappears mysteriously, the fireman is moved to make some changes, hording books in his home, but is turned in by his wife to burn his secret cache of books. Fleeing to avoid arrest, he winds up joining an outlaw band of scholars who memorizes the contents of books in their heads, waiting for the time society will once again need the wisdom of literature. While the use of profanity, a "corrupting force on society," was the initial complaint, opponents then noted that one of the books burned was the Bible and took the position that the author advocated burning Bibles (rather than the opposite that he was trying to show how bad things had become in the context of the novel) and "using God's name in vain." The primary reason of its ban is that one of the main themes is that a government which tries to suppress freedom of expression should be opposed. In the early 1950s, when this book was written, this advocacy of opposition was seen as a bad thing by real world authoritarian groups that claimed to have all the answers, particularly by McCarthyism, whom were (at the time) considered the authority of all things "pure" and "just" in America l anyone or anything who opposes McCarthyism is considered pro-socialist, pro-communist, anti-religious, anti-government, and is, thus, "immoral" and "dangerous" and filled with "all kinds of filth."
Lord of the Flies (William Golding, 1954) On the already-controversial subjects of human nature and individual welfare versus the common good, the novel involves around a group of British boys stuck on a deserted island who try to govern themselves with disastrous results. For a time, it was required reading in many schools and colleges, but has since been systemically banned due to violence, sexuality, homosexuality, bestiality, profanity, nudity, and statements defamatory towards minorities, the church, women, and the disabled.
Story of O (Pauline Rιage, 1954) Published in French, an elegantly written, powerful, unapologetic erotic tale about love, dominance, and submission, written in the form of love letters, of a beautiful Parisian fashion photographer and anywoman dominatrix named O who is bound, blindfolded, whipped, and required to obediently do whatever she is told, for whomever tells her, unadulterated surrendering of her body, mind, and soul and, in the end, is betrayed by her lover and inadvertently illustrates a terrible truth of love and passion with a price. Credited of re-inventing/re-defining the BDSM subculture as we know today, it won several international literary awards, including the prestigious Prix des Deux Magots, but this did not prevent the French authorities from bringing obscenity charges against the publisher and banning the book, deeming it as "pornographic," "abusive," and "immoral." Strangely, Britain did not "officially" ban the book, but censorship laws forbade the publication into the English language. Copies were sent to an American publisher, but were seized and shredded by United States Customs, and were subsequently to be sold on the black market. Feminists are divided on the book: Some feminists criticized that it promoted the ultimate objectification of a woman and felt it glorified the abuse of women. Other feminists defended it, as O grants permission beforehand for everything that occurs and her permission is consistently sought throughout the book, hailing it as an allegory of female empowerment under an environment of brutality.
Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov, 1955) First published by a pornographic press in France, the story narrates the life of Humbert Humbert, a schoolteacher-and-pedophile who runs away with the twelve-year-old daughter of his landlady. The book was banned from many countries due to its sexuality, primarily charged through the minor rather than the adult. While it is removed from thousands of libraries and bookstores around the world, it was once illegal to even possess the book, as many governments' strict laws against the contraband of the "pornographic" works, and the reader could actually serve jail time for a maximum of six months in a federal prison.
Flowers for Algernon (Daniel Keyes, 1958 and 1960) First written as a short story and subsequently expanded into a novel, a laboratory mouse who has undergone surgery to increase his intelligence by artificial means, as told through progress reports written by the first human test subject for the surgery. Both versions touch upon many different ethical and moral themes such as the treatment of the mentally disabled, and was removed from the school curriculum and school libraries, after a parent complained that it was "filthy and immoral."
To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee, 1960) Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, the novel tells the story of a lawyer in the Depression-era South who defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, addressing issues of race, class, courage, compassion, gender roles, and human behaviorism. Racism, profanity, violence, and sexuality, particularly due to a rape scene, are the usual culprits when banning this book, but the author, in actuality, was highlighting the subjects of her time in an attempt to change the wrongs she saw in society.
Rabbit, Run (John Updike, 1960) The novel depicts five months in the life of a twenty-six-year-old man-child named Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, a one-time high-school basketball star, who comes home one day from his sad, dead-end job to his sad, cramped apartment to find his sad, pregnant wife Janice and, on an impulse, deserts his life and becomes caught in a struggle between instinct and thought, self and society, sexual gratification and family duty. Though his flight from home traces a zig-zag of evasion, he holds to the faith that he is on the right path, an invisible line toward his own salvation as straight as a rulers edge. Considered "obscene" and "indecent," the book was banned due to graphic sexuality, particularly with themes of adultery and promiscuity, and profanity.
Catch-22 (Joseph Heller, 1961) This non-linear, anti-war satire of a United States Army Air Forces B-25 bombardier trying desperately to be certified insane during the Second World War, so he can stop flying missions. It was surprisingly not challenged because of its theme, but because of the depiction of women in the novel: The word "whore" is used frequently, believing the book was promoting misogyny.
Stranger in a Strange Land (Robert A. Heinlein, 1961) Considered one of the most famous science fiction novels ever written, a human born of Earth and raised on Mars returns to his homeworld to found his own church, preaching free love and disseminating the psychic talents taught him by the Martians and, ultimately, confronting the fate deserved for all messiahs. It was banned for sexuality, violence, cannibalism, and anti-religious/anti-war/anti-consumerist sentiments.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Ken Kessey, 1962) Later adapted into an award-winning Broadway play and film, it tells the story of a group of mentally ill patients in an oppressive hospital where an ex-con stands up to that oppression in order to create a more equanimous situation, moral choice everyone must face, and friendships in despite of hardship. Those opposed to the novel due to the depictions of abuse, torture, profanity, sexuality, and is said to promote criminal activity and secular humanism.
Slaughterhouse-Five (Kurt Vonnegut, 1969) An "absurdist" sliced-and-diced narrative that is part-science fiction and part-autobiography about a prisoner-of-war is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore and bounces around time to all the various portions of his life, returning to the Second World War where he was captured, taken prisoner, and held in concentration camp in Dresden, Germany when the city was firebombed. It was banned due to gratuitous violence, torture, profanity, sexuality, racism, sexism, and anti-war/anti-religion sentiment.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou, 1969) This is an autobiographical coming-of-age story for independence, personal dignity, and self-definition by overcoming racism and trauma, transforming from a victimized child with an inferiority complex into a self-possessed, dignified young woman. Many parents objected to the depictions of childhood rape, lesbianism, premarital cohabitation, pornography, language, violence, and religion, causing it to be removed from school curricula and library shelves.
A Light in the Attic (Shel Silverstein, 1981) Cartoonist, playwright, poet, performer, recording artist, and Grammy-winning, Oscar-nominated songwriter Shel Silverstein authors an amusing collection of prose and poetry of humorous sketches, whimsicality, and fanciful word play. Banned in a number of states, the exact reasons why are nothing short but laughable: Parents claimed that the poem "How Not To Have To Dry The Dishes" encourages disobedience, describing children to smash dishes in order not to dry them, and the poem "Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony" encourages suicide, describing the death of a girl after her parents refuse to buy her a pony. The ban was later lifted with an "parent-teacher advisory" stamp then the ban was re-instated due "suggestive illustrations" and supernatural themes, including demons, devils, ghosts, sorcery, and witchcraft.
The Color Purple (Alice Walker, 1982) Compiled as a heart-wrenching collection of letters by a poor black woman from the Deep South, it tells thirty years of her life, beginning at her abuse and rape by her father at age fourteen, attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to a brutal "Mister," and befriending his showgirl mistress. The novel was banned due to gratuitous scenes abuse, violence, profanity, racism, and sexuality, particularly rape, incest, and lesbianism.
The Butter Battle Book (Dr. Seuss, 1984) As an allegory to the arms race, The Yooks and Zooks declared war on each other because they disagreed on how to butter their bread butter-side up or butter-side down and both parties create a bomb to destroy one another. While many other of Dr. Seuss' books have been removed from children's libraries in many selected cities, such as Yertle the Turtle (Hitler and authoritarianism), The Sneetches (racial inequality), Horton Hears a Who (religious intolerance), The Lorax (environmentalism and anti-consumerism), the lesser-known Butter Battle Book has suffered the most and, sadly, have that the least publicity after it was banned because it was considered too grim and too violent for children.
The Handmaid's Tale, (Margret Atwood, 1985) Set in the near future, a fundamentalist totalitarian theocracy, that overthrew the United States government, considers women as intellectually and emotionally inferior and segregates from men, resulting society is a feminist's nightmare: Women are strictly controlled, unable to have jobs, earn money, be educated to read or write, and assigned to specific castes in this patronymic society the chaste, childless "Wives" used as arm-candy companions for the elite dressed in blue; the housekeeping, compliant "Marthas" used for domestic servitude dressed in green; and the reproductive "Handmaids" used for reproductive purposes, who turn their offspring over to the "morally fit" wives, dressed in red; and geisha-like "Jezebels" trained as prostitutes and entertainers who operate in unofficial but state-sanctioned brothels dressed in sexualized costumes. Originally required reading in high schools, the book was banned for being anti-government, anti-political, anti-religious, anti-Christian, anti-Islamic, anti-feminist, anti-class, as well as violent and pornographic. Many claimed that the book was promoting misandry, polygamy, and physical/sexual/emotional abuse towards women.
Watchmen (Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, 1986-1987) In a literary world that believes comic books are just for kids, nothing can be further from the truth: This "graphic novel" focuses and deconstructs on the struggles of costumed vigilante superheroes, as an investigation into the murder of a government-sponsored "mask" pulls them out of retirement, and leads them to confront a plot that would stave off nuclear war by killing millions of people. This seminal work brought the comic book into mainstream literature and has been banned due to nudity, violence, sexuality, profanity, as well as anti-war/anti-political views.
Where's Waldo?, or Where's Wally? (Martin Handford, 1987-2011) A series of detailed double-page spread illustrations that depict dozens, if not thousands, of people doing a variety of amusing things at a given location and the readers are challenged to find a red-and-white striped shirted, bobble hat-wearing, bespeckled character named Waldo hidden in the group. It is perhaps one of the strangest banned books that allegedly has racial/cultural stereotypes, as well as numerous images of "compromising positions" among the background characters and "wardrobe malfunctions" where nudity is claimed to be shown, specifically as a topless beach tanner (although we really only see her back) in the original 1987 book.
The Satanic Verses (Salman Rushdie, 1988) Inspired in part by the life of the Prophet Muhammad, two actors from India flying across the English Channel have their jetliner is hijacked, explodes, plummets them from the sky, washing up on the snow-covered sands of an English beach, and proceed through a series of metamorphoses, dreams, and revelations of both human and divine nature. This allegorical postmodern satire is the study in identity, alienation, ruthlessness, brutality, compromise, and conformity. It was considered as anti-religion/anti-Christian/anti-Muslim/anti-colonialism/ anti-government/anti-political/anti-conservative. The author, for a time, was placed under around-the-clock police protection by the British government due to the work's blasphemous controversy, causing numerous killings, attempted killings, and bombings by Muslims angered by the novel. British politicians were denouncing him as an "outstanding villain [whose] public life has been a record of despicable acts of betrayal of his upbringing, religion, adopted home and nationality." However, the United States were unaware of the controversies it caused in Great Britain, instead libraries and schoolrooms banned the book without ever reading simply by the title alone.
The Sandman Series (Neil Gaiman, 1989-1996) In a literary world that believes comic books are just for kids, nothing can be further from the truth: Born at the beginning of time, this series chronicle the popular epic mythological fantasy tales of Destiny, Death, Dream, Desire, Despair, Delirium, and Destruction a family of magical and mythical beings known as the Endless who each lord over their respective realms. This seminal work brought the comic book into mainstream literature and has been banned as anti-family, anti-political, anti-religious, violent, pornographic, homoerotic, fetishistic, offensive, profane, and immoral.
The Giver Tetralogy (Lois Lowry, 1993) Taking place in an utopian future where there is no war, no poverty, no pain, no strife, no bad words, no bad deeds, and no choices where converted to "Sameness," a plan that has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. Jonas, who has spent twelve years of his life in "Sameness," looks forward to his new role in the community, but things begin to change once he has been assigned as the new "Receiver of Memories" where he must receive and hold within himself all of the memories of the time before order to experience pain for the first time in his life and, with this, he has the will to make his own choices to stay with the community and live without love, colour, and knowledge, or to run away to where he can live a life to the fullest. Originally part of elementary and middle-school reading lists, it was banned on the grounds of "objectionable themes" that were inappropriate for children due to themes of mind control, selective breeding, the degradation of motherhood, the elimination of the old and young alike when they are weak, feeble and of no more use, pro-communist views, violent and sexual passages, encouragement of euthanasia and suicide, and the novel's use of terms of "clairvoyance," "transcendent," and "guided imagery," believing it promotes "all occult New Age practices the Bible tells us to avoid." A fourth book is planned to be added to the soon-to-be tetralogy (The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messenger, Son) is planned to be released this year.
His Dark Materials Trilogy (Philip Pullman, 1995-2000) The three books (Northern Lights/The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass) are an epic coming-of-age tale of of two children, as they wander through a series of parallel universes against a backdrop of epic events and fantasy elements, such as witches and armoured polar bears, and alluding to a broad range of ideas from physics, philosophy, theology, and intellectual freedom. Written as a result of the author reading C.S. Lewis' pro-Christian Chronicles of Narnia, His Dark Materials, as a re-telling of John Milton's Paradise Lost, took the opposite anti-Christian route, causing the series to be banned due to themes of witchcraft, sorcery, violence, sexuality, homosexuality, drug use, profanity, and anti-religious and anti-dogmatism views.
The Harry Potter Series (J.K. Rowling, 1997-2007) This coming-of-age fantasy series of seven books (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows) that made generations of children to read chronicle the adventures of three students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and their quest to overcome the evil Dark Lord Voldemort. Parents object to the themes of witchcraft, sorcery, and magic that were at the heart of the series, deeming it anti-religious and anti-Christian, and claiming it was promoting disobedience towards adults. Themes of death, prejudice, child abuse, child violence, and war were considered too grim for children. Because of these objections, many schools and libraries have banned the series all together.
And Tango Makes Three (Peter Parnell, Justin Richardson, and Henry Cole, 2005) Based on the real-life story of Roy and Silo, two "mated" male chinstrap penguins from New York's Central Park Zoo were given an egg by zookeepers and, together, they raised a female chick named Tango. Due to the penguin parents being the same sex and its existing theme of homosexuality was what made this book infamous and adults defiantly objected to the content of this popular, award-winning learning-to-read book, removing it from the children's section of public library and placing it in the adult section. It remains one of the most frequently challenged and most frequently banned children's book in recent history.
The Hunger Games Trilogy (Suzanne Collins, 2008-2010) American Library Association released its annual report on most frequently challenged/banned books list in 2012 with the recent best-seller The Hunger Games finishing third on the list after Lauren Myracle's Interner Girls and Kim Dong Hwa's The Color of Earth. The series is told from the perspective of sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen who lives in a post-apocalyptic district of Panem, where North America once existed. As part of the surrender terms of the districts that waged war against the Capitol, each district agrees to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called "The Hunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change, but one thing is constant kill or be killed and Kat steps up to go to the lottery in the place of her sister. Consisting of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay, the series is banned due to violence, profanity, insensitivity, and anti-ethnic/anti-family/anti-political/anti-religious themes.