Culture Archive

Top Ten Reasons Books Are Banned

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The last week of September is banned books week in Canada and the US. As in, not a week to ban books or celebrate their banning, but rather one to spend time discovering some of the great titles that have found themselves outlawed and to wonder at a culture that justifies the sometimes active attempt to oppress its own artifacts. In honor of this week, the American Library Association has put together a nifty list of the top ten reasons books have been historically banned (source):

The Top Ten Ludicrous Reasons To Ban A Book

  1. “Encourages children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.” (A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstien)
  2. “It caused a wave of rapes.” (Arabian Nights, or One Thousand and One Nights)
  3. “If there is a possibility that something might be controversial, then why not eliminate it?” (Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown)
  4. “Tarzan was ‘living in sin’ with Jane.” (Tarzan, by Edgar Rice Burroughs)
  5. “It is a real ‘downer.’” (Diary of Anne Frank, by Anne Frank)
  6. “The basket carried by Little Red Riding Hood contained a bottle of wine, which condones the use of alcohol.” (Little Red Riding Hood, by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm K. Grimm)
  7. “One bunny is white and the other is black and this ‘brainwashes’ readers into accepting miscegenation.” (The Rabbit’s Wedding, by Garth Williams)
  8. “It is a religious book and public funds should not be used to purchase religious books.” (Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, by Walter A. Elwell, ed.)
  9. “A female dog is called a bitch.” (My Friend Flicka, by Mary O’Hara)
  10. “An unofficial version of the story of Noah’s Ark will confuse children.” (Many Waters, by Madeleine C. L’Engle)

The American Library Association (ALA) also has a great compendium of statistics on the banning of books. Some notable facts include that by far the most common reason for banning a book is because it is considered sexually explicit, and parents are overwhelmingly the initiators of book challenges and bans.

In the last ten years, the top ten banned/challenged books are:

1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Myracle, Lauren
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

The top challenged classic books:

1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2.
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
3.
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
4.
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5.
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
6.
Ulysses, by James Joyce
7.
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8.
The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
9.
1984, by George Orwell
10. The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner

The crazy thing is, people still attempt to ban books – regularly. If you live in the US and you know of a book that is being challenged or banned, you can report it on the ALA website. In the meantime, hug a librarian or independent bookseller because without them many of these classic books would no longer be in circulation.

Image Credit: Banned Books Week Banner by DML East Branch