10 Famous Banned Books

I am devoting this week’s blog post to a subject that never ceases to fascinate us, namely banned books. Over the years countless famous books have been banned for a host of reasons. I suspect that not so long ago my satirical black comedy Necropolis would have raised the ire of the authorities.

In chronological order here are 10 famous books that have been banned:

 

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (1915) 

The Metamorphosis

Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to find that he has been transformed into a beetle. To compound matters Gregor’s family now see no use for him. Click here to read my review.

Why banned: Kafka’s books were banned in Czechoslovakia because he refused to write in Czech (Kafka wrote in German). The author’s works were also banned during the Nazi occupation and later by the communist regime.

 

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence (1928)

Lady Chatterley's Lover

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a fictional account of an aristocrat’s clandestine love affair with the family gamekeeper. The book details their erotic meetings.

Why banned: Lady Chatterley’s Lover’s perceived pornographic content resulted in the original version being banned in the UK. Penguin published the book in its entirety when the decision was overturned in 1960.

 

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)

The Grapes of Wrath

Set during the Great Depression, The Grapes of Wrath is about a poor family from Oklahoma, who trek to California to start a new life.

Why banned: This Pullitzer Prize winner was banned from many libraries in the US, and was even burned, due to peoples outrage at its controversial depiction of the poor.

 

Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945) 

Animal Farm

This dystopian novel about animals living on a farm is an allegory about the Russian Revolution and Stalinist rule in the Soviet Union.

Why banned: So controversial was the subject matter that the book was not published until more than a year after its completion. Animal Farm was banned in the Soviet bloc because of its political content.

 

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951) 

the Catcher in the Rye

Protagonist Holden Caulfield recounts his two day trip to New York following expulsion from his private school for fighting with his roommate.

Why banned: Between 1966 and 1975 the book was the most frequently banned book in schools due to its profanity, sexual references and the relentless negativity of its protagonist.

 

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955) 

Lolita

The story is about a man named Humbert Humbert, who falls in love with a twelve-year-old girl, Lolita, the daughter of his landlady. Click here to read my review.

Why banned: Citing the book’s controversial subject matter and perceived pornographic content, the UK Home Office confiscated all copies of the book in 1955. Lolita was banned in France the following year, but never in the US.

 

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)

Slaughterhouse 5

The story follows the life of Billy Pilgrim, a married optometrist and a survivor of the notorious firebombing of Dresden in World War II. Click here to read my review.

Why banned: Slaughterhouse-Five’s anti-war rhetoric has resulted in it being banned from numerous US schools and libraries. It is one of the American Library Association’s 100 most frequently challenged books.

 

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (1988)

Satanic Verses

Having survived a plane crash, a Bollywood superstar has to rebuild his life, while the other survivor, an emigrant, finds his life in disarray.

Why banned: Many Muslims were offended by a number of allegedly pagan verses, which were included in the Qur’an, but later removed. It has been banned in Japan, Venezuela, and due to death threats, taken off the shelves of several US bookshops.

 

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (1991) 

American Psycho

The book is written from the perspective of a young Wall Street financier, Patrick Bateman.  Patrick is an intelligent, well-educated, wealthy, good looking psychopath. Click here to read my review.

Why banned: American Psycho’s graphic violent and sexual content resulted in it being banned in Canada and Queensland (Australia). In the rest of Australia and New Zealand its sale remains restricted to those over eighteen.

 

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (1996)

FightClub

The book’s nameless narrator starts a fight club with charismatic anarchist Tyler Durden. Their fight club concept soon becomes very popular and spreads across the nation. Click here to read my review.

Why banned: Despite its violent content and anarchist philosophy, Fight Club was not widely banned. In 1999 the Chinese authorities prohibited the sale of the book due to it containing instructions on how to make explosives.

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I am the author of the satirical black comedy Necropolis and the new psychological thriller, Symbiosis.

 

Necropolis

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16 Comments

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  • Another entertaining post Guy. I’ve read several of these books and didn’t find any of them offensive, but I can see why the authorities would have taken exception to some of them. I think from memory that Salman Rushdie took refuge in a Manchester church after his book was published. 🙂

  • Not read The Satanic Verses. I don’t like Kafka. Maybe his stuff is better in German. The others are awesome. Fight Club is amazing!!! Brilliant post.

  • Some of these are better books than others, of course. Lady Chatterly’s Lover has aged very badly, for example. Were it not banned in the first place, most of us would never have heard of it. Real slog to get through, to be honest.

  • I found that concise run-down very fascinating. I read “Catcher In The Rye 30 years+ ago and never could understand what the fuss was all about, lol. Seemed normal enough to me…certainly nothing to get excited or worried about…haha. If only my parents knew what I was learning at that tender age of late teen/early adulthood. The book pales in comparison to the words and topis we were learning back then…
    😛

    • I agree with you about ‘Catcher In The Rye’. It is certainly not that disturbing/controversial, at least not compared to some of these other books. Parents seem to be more concerned about PlayStation than ‘Catcher In The Rye’ these days. Thank you for reading.

  • I’ve read slaughter house five, that was the book that got me into Kurt Vonnegut. His writing is candid, funny, and unselfconscious. He’s totally reader friendly. Quite frankly I just gel with his stuff. I’ve read Animal Farm either during the final year of middle school or the first year of secondary school. I would have been aged 11 or twelve then. At home for a while I couldn’t stop talking about it. It stood out for me because I couldn’t understand how anyone could have such a complex understanding of humanity. I knew very little about communism, so luckily I didn’t make that connection or comparison. Something just resonated with me on massive scale. Maybe it was some parallel that was going on in my life back then.

    I haven’t read, the satanic verses, but wanted to because of all the hoo har. I somehow fantasised that it must be not only shocking but also interesting.

    Tried to read Metamorphosis but found it to be really hard going. I’ve also tried listening to the audiobook on youtube – same problem. I think the narrator wasn’t up to much, very wooden.

    Had and have no interest whatsoever in reading Fightclub. But that may or mayn’t change. I have seen the film though, but didn’t really get it. Maybe I need to watch it again. Or maybe it’s just not me.

    Although I’m aware of American Pyscho, due to the film, I’ve not read it mainly because title sounded silly and grotesque. Not sure if I want to. We’ll see. if its available on audiobook via youtube, I might give it a listen.

    Listened to the Grapes Of Wrath via youtube sometime last year, 2015. I thought it was amazing. Considering the political climate when this book was conceived, I’m not surprised they banned it.

    Read Catcher In The Rye about a quart of a century ago, it took me a while to get into it. It was beautifully written but slightly dated, to my mind. It may be just me. I don’t understand why it was band.

    Lady Chattersleys Lover, I wanted to read for the fact the it was racy. Again this novel was sluggish drudgery. But that’s just my opinion.

    • Thank you for the comment footballer legs (great name by the way). I liked American Psycho. The Grapes of Wrath is my favourite novel. Pleased to hear you enjoyed many of these books. The Metamorphosis is quite depressing, but I quite liked it. Happy reading.

      • Thanks for the feedback, footballer legs was what my brother used to call me – because I was sporty as a child, so my legs were quite muscly.

  • Interesting blog you have here!
    John Lennons killer Mark David Chapman sat and read Catcher in the rye while waiting for the cops. He was obsessed with it & had the book as his inspiration to kill Lennon.

    Found an interesting article about Catcher in the rye..
    https://atomicpoet.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/is-catcher-in-the-rye-an-assassination-trigger/

    The book could be an assassination trigger for instable ppl.
    Truly interesting & makes me wanna read
    it 🙂 (with caution ofc)

    See you on G+/ nina

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