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7 Banned Books You’ve Already Read

7 Banned Books You’ve Already Read

Banning books has a long history, and these days, it seems that books can still elicit the same old panic over morality. Here are seven books you’ve likely read—not only because they were banned at some point, but because several of these subversive tomes are now considered classics.


If ya can’t ban it, just bar out the objectionable parts.

7. Catcher in the Rye

J.D. Salinger’s most famous work famously stirred up pearl-clutching for its use of vulgar language; frank depictions of smoking, drinking, and sexuality; and its overarching themes of teenage rebellion and angst. The novel has been accused of promoting everything from the breakdown of family values to communist plots. Nonetheless, the story remains popular with teens, even 40 years after publication. It continues to be assigned in high school classrooms, despite frequent objections. The controversy merely stirs up interest.

6. The Da Vinci Code

There are a lot of things wrong with Dan Brown’s early 21st-century bestseller, but few people would find much to object to. Some gullible tourists asked Italian gift shops for “real” depictions of Da Vinci’s Last Supper showing Mary Magdalene. It became a movie with Tom Hanks. But that was about the extent of the damage, right? Wrong, according to many Christians, including the Catholic Church. After the Church spoke out against the book and its contradictions to Church doctrine, Lebanon banned the book.

5. Fifty Shades of Grey

It’s little surprise E.L. James’s pseudo-BDSM bestseller landed on quite a few banned lists. A number of countries put a ban on the trilogy. The list of reasons the book was challenged is lengthy. Aside from the usual concerns about depictions of “alternate” sexuality and sexual acts perceived as “abnormal,” there were concerns about “corrupting youth.” Many in the BDSM community also objected, saying the book portrays harmful and incorrect views of BDSM. Perhaps the most interesting complaint was the suggestion the book needed to be banned because it was so poorly written.

4. Frankenstein

Mary Shelley’s classic horror novel started as a bit of “fun” between friends. They challenged each other to come up with the best yarn during a vacation to Switzerland. Shelley’s Frankenstein won the competition and went on to become the inspiration for thousands of terrible movie and TV adaptations, most of which are inaccurate. (If you’ve read the book, you know the monster isn’t Frankenstein.) In 1955, the Apartheid government of South Africa took another look at the book and decided it constituted “indecent” or “obscene” material. It hadn’t raised any concerns for more than 100 years, although the novel presents a critique of science, which can be used to effectively “play God.”

3. Green Eggs and Ham


Marxism at work.

This popular Dr. Seuss book is part and parcel of many people’s childhood. Not if you were a kid in the People’s Republic of China between 1965 and 1991. The reason for the ban was allegedly the book’s unflattering depiction of Marxism. Damn Dr. Seuss, indoctrinating all those kids with opinions about Marxism before they even know what Marxism is. The ban was lifted in 1991, following the author’s death. I bet you didn’t know the book even references Marxism.

2. Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel depicting the deplorable state of slavery in the pre-bellum United States makes a strong case for ending slavery and treating human beings as equals. Of course, this kind of uppity thinking is precisely what got the book banned in Confederate states during the Civil War. The book was also banned in Russia under Tsar Nicholas I, who wasn’t exactly comfortable with the idea of the equality of people. In fact, he was pretty sure that circumvented some kind of religious dictum.

1. Harry Potter

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series caused quite a stir—but not always in a good way. Many people complained about the depictions of witchcraft and magic in the books. They argued these depictions went against Christian values. Once again, concern for the innocence of children was a major factor in getting the book banned. In some cases, it was just removed from library shelves. People were concerned the book promoted belief in witches and witchcraft. They also thought it advanced Wiccan beliefs and taught children about occult practices.
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