When it comes to books, it seems not everything floats everyone’s boat. Many of the books we consider classics these days were once banned for their graphic content and “offensive” language.
How many have you read?
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
The plot: A scholar born in Paris, is obsessed with young women, or “nymphets” as he calls them. He ends up becoming obsessed with his 12-year-old step-daughter and uses his relationship with her mother as a cover. Humbert and the girl leave and begin moving from town to town trying to conceal their true relationship.
Why was it banned?: After being called ‘the filthiest book I have ever read’ by the editor of the Sunday Express, the Home Office seized all copies of the book in 1955 on the grounds that it was pornographic and promoted incest. It was banned in France the following year, but eventually became known has a classic and his now taught in schools around the world.
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
The plot: The book is written in the first person and follows the life of author Miller. He talks about his sexual encounters with friends and colleagues as a way of exposing the lives of American expats living abroad.
Why was it banned?: This book received one of the most scathing reviews of all time, with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Musmanno saying it is, “not a book. It is a cesspool, an open sewer, a pit of putrefaction, a slimy gathering of all that is rotten in the debris of human depravity.” Later, George Orwell would call it “the most important book of the mid-1930s”.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
A harrowing book about loneliness, sacrifice, dreams, and dignity, it follows the story of a handicapped man who dreams of becoming a ranch owner. The story follows George and Lennie who ultimately becomes the greatest obstacle to achieving that dream.
Why was it banned?: Considered racist and containing too much profanity, foul language, violence the book was quickly banned in a number of countries. People also took issue with the fact that it was being taught to young children and that it was seen to be promoting Euthanasia.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The plot: The story follows a group of boys who live on an island and run things according to their own law. It is brutally honest at times and considered a stark look at how humans behave without proper law and order.
Why was it banned?: The book was banned for being racist, offensive to women and God. The language and violence was poorly received and the context was thought to encourage children to behave badly.
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D Salinger
The plot: The lead character Holden Caulfield tells the story of his teenage life and his experience in a mental hospital or sanatorium. He goes to New York where he has an encounter with his teacher after sleeping on his couch and tries to navigate life as a young man in the 1950s.
Why was it banned?: The book was considered to contain foul language and too many profanities. In the end though, its not the bad language that got it banned but what Holden was actually saying.
The plot: Comes is two parts, both of which caused offence.
Why was it banned?: The Bible has been challenged many times over religious reasons, but still remains as the best selling book in the world.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The plot: The book follows on from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and is narrated by the young Huck Finn. It takes place on the Mississippi River and observes the people and places along its banks.
Why was it banned?: While it’s considered a classic now, this book is one of the most complained-about novels in American schools. It’s frequent use of the N-word still makes many people uncomfortable to this day.