Books have been a source of entertainment for centuries. Writers have used books to express their opinion and to let people escape the woes of life. Sometimes writers find themselves in hot water when people deem their books to risqué or controversial. Here are a few books that have been banned throughout history.
Fahrenheit 451 is a 1953 dystopian book by Ray Bradbury. It takes place in a not so distant future (around 1999) where books have been made illegal and people called firemen are ordered to burn any novels they find. A fireman named Guy Montag begins to question book burning after he realizes the knowledge books can possess. He quits his fireman position and dedicates his life to preserving books and other great writings.
The book caused quite a stir upon its release and is still viewed as controversial today. The book has been banned multiple times for many different reasons since its release. There are parts in the book where the bible is burned leading to many Christians to denounce it. In 2006 parents from Montgomery County, Texas demanded the book be banned from their daughter’s school due to the bible being burnt.
Fahrenheit 451‘s use of vulgar language and subject matter has gotten it in trouble as well. In 1987 the book was removed from all schools in Panama City, Florida due to its vulgarity. The city returned the book to schools after student protests and a lawsuit was filed. The book still receives controversy today with many people wanting the book censored or banned from all schools. What is so ironic about this is Fahrenheit 451’s whole purpose is to expose the problems with censorship and book banning. Critics of the book are reinforcing everything the book deems problematic. Maybe if they actually read the book they wouldn’t be so quick to judge its meaning.
Of Mice and Men
This 1937 novel was written by famed author John Steinbeck. Although the book is highly praised and studied by many students across the country, Of Mice and Men is one of the most challenged books of all time. Many countries all over the world have banned the book with many U.S cities doing the same. It even made #4 on the American Library Association’s list of Most Challenged Books of the 21st Century.
Of Mice and Men tells the tale of 2 migrant ranch hands named George Milton and Lennie Small as they look for work in California during the Great Depression. George is a smart man but uneducated while Lennie is physically strong but mentally disabled. The 2 friends go from job to job in hopes of becoming successful and eventually owning their own piece of land.
The plot of the book sounds pretty tame but some of the subject matter in it is quite shocking. Of Mice and Men deals with racism, sexual situations, mental disabilities, and even euthanasia. The book also has quite a bit of profanity and racial slurs. Because of this, many schools and libraries refused to carry the book calling it “filthy.” Schools all over the country banned the book for vulgar language throughout the 1970s and 1980s. A few schools still refuse to teach it due to its controversial nature.
Some places banned the book altogether. Of Mice and Men was banned entirely in Ireland and in many U.S cities. Syracuse, Indiana, Oil City, Pennsylvania, Grand Blanc, Michigan, along with several other cities banned the book during the 1970s. Most of these bans were eventually lifted but Of Mice and Men still has its fair share of critics.
Catcher in the Rye
One of the most infamous banned books in history is Catcher in the Rye. It was the most censored book in high school and libraries in the United States from 1961 to 1982. Crimes including murder were blamed on Catcher in the Rye with many people labeling the book dangerous. The book was very popular among young people making the controversy even worse. The outrage was clearly an overreaction, but Catcher in the Rye still has quite the reputation.
Catcher in the Rye is a coming of age story about an angsty teenage boy named Holden Caulfield. Holden has just been expelled from his 4th prep school and is searching for his purpose in life. He wonders around New York getting himself into all sorts of mischief. Catcher in the Rye deals with the pressures of being a teenager and rebelling against society. It dives into sex, underage drinking, and other vices.
Since the book deals with many controversial things surrounding a teenager, the book received a lot of negative attention. In 1981 it was the most censored book in the United States even though it was the second most studied book in schools. In 1960 a Tulsa, Oklahoma teacher was fired after assigning the book to her class. The book was banned from every high school in Issaquah, Washington in 1978 because people believed the book had a communist storyline.
As stated before, many crimes were blamed on Catcher in the Rye. The assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan and the murder of Rebecca Schaeffer were said to be inspired by the book. The most famous crime surrounding the Catcher in the Rye was the murder of music star John Lennon. After Mark David Chapman was arrested for Lennon’s murder, the police found a copy of Catcher in the Rye on him with a message saying, “To Holden Caulfield, From Holden Caulfield, this is my statement.” Of course, the media blamed the book for Lennon’s death thus sparking even more outrage. The book is now seen in a better light but its reputation for being dangerous appeals to just as many young people today than it did back when it was first released.
The Harry Potter Series
Many of you might be surprised to see the Harry Potter series on this list. Although it is the best selling book series of all time, it still received a huge blowback when it first appeared on store shelves. Although the book wasn’t outright banned, many schools and libraries across the country refused to carry it. Many religious organizations believe the book is blasphemous since it deals with witchcraft and magic. There are still many private schools in the United States that banned the book entirely.
I’m sure everyone reading this is familiar with the plot of the Harry Potter series so there is no reason to go into grave detail about the story. It is basically about a boy named Harry Potter who finds out he is a wizard and attends the Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry to learn the craft. Along the way, he must fight evil to protect the school along with the rest of the world.
Although the book sounds harmless, many people were angered by the use of magic and the “dark arts” throughout the book. The outrage was so bad that many churches sponsored book burning to destroy the books (sound familiar?) Many private schools refused to let students read the Harry Potter series and deemed it satanic or evil.
A private school in Nashville, Tennessee banned the book THIS YEAR (2019) because they think the book could raise evil spirits. Just to be clear, this school believes that the Harry Potter book series contains spells that, if read aloud, will conjure evil spirits that could destroy the world. I can’t make this stuff up. Any sane person can see how ridiculous this is since millions of people worldwide have read the book and not a single evil spirit has tried to conquer the earth. Nevertheless, the Harry Potter series continues to ruffle people’s feathers with many people still protesting the books.