Banned Books Week is a cultural movement that was first started in 1982 by Judith Kurg, a prominent First Amendment and library activist in USA to celebrate the freedom of reading. The campaign has since then turned into an annual event celebrated internationally by the entire book community – from publishers to sellers, buyers, journalists, teachers – in their support to the freedom from restriction to reading and expressing ideas. Banned Books Week is now popularly endorsed by American Library Association (ALA), the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), Association of American Publishers, American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and National Association of College Stores. The campaign highlights the “importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them” and stresses on the need to keep banned material publicly available and in circulation so that readers can form their own opinion about the text by reading it rather than judged by the opinions of others.
From George Orwell’s Animal Farm to James Joyce Ulysses, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code to even Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland, all these books are or were banned in certain parts of the world as some part of contents or the text is seen inappropriate by certain communities for some reasons. Here is a list of top 10 popular banned books whose name will even amuse you:
1. Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland (1865): Banned in Hunan province of China since 1931 for its personification of animals as human beings and giving animals the same level of human complexity and language. The censor General Ho Chien holds the view that it is “disastrous” to teach children to regard humans and animals on same level, having same attributes.
2. George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945): After its initial struggle with the print for its criticism of U.S.S.R, then an important ally of Britain in the war and corrupt leaders, this political novella still faces a series of censorship and challenges in different parts of the world for its politically stirring content. The book faces restriction in U.S.S.R, and many other communist nations, China, North Korea and Cuba for its criticism of communism, in Kenya (since 1991) for criticizing corrupt leaders and in U.A.E (since 2002), as it is thought that the text contains some images that is against the Islamic values, especially for the image of ‘taking pig’.
3. V.S. Naipaul’s An Area of Darkness (1964): The book is banned in India ever since its first publication for the negative portrayal of India.
4. The Bible: Believe it or not, this Holy text of the Christians has seen many censorship and restriction, both in history and present times. In 1234, King James I of Aragon commanded to burn all Bibles written in the vernacular language. In recent history, Bible has been banned in many countries, including North Korea.
5. Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (14th Century): Reading of this famous medieval extant of English literature is amusingly banned in the U.S. mail under the Federal Anti-Obscenity Act (Comstock Law) of 1873 for apparently containing text that is “obscene”, “inappropriate” or “filthy” in nature.
6. Anne Frank’s The Dairy of Anne Frank (1947): This biographical epoch by a 15 year old girl of German Jewish descent writing her personal experiences while in their hiding in the secret annex of her father’s office in Amsterdam in the Nazi occupied Holland that gives a first-hand record of the experiences of any Jews under the Nazi regime is banned in Lebanon for being sympathetic towards “Jews, Israel or Zionism”.
7. Dan Brown’s The Da Vince Code (2003): This best-selling thriller fiction novel by Dan Brown faces censorship in Lebanon since 2004 as some of the content is considered offensive to Christian faith by some Catholic leaders of the country.
8. Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (1818): This famous fiction of 19th century is banned in South Africa since 1955 for containing material that is “indecent” or “obscene”.
9. Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (1955): One of the most controversial and best-selling novels of the Russian author Vladimir Nabokov that now retains a classic status in 20th Century literature, the novel still faces censorship in France, United Kingdom, Argentina and New Zealand.
10. Joseph Lelyveld’s Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India (2011): Banned in the state of Gujarat (since April, 2011), in India for suggesting that Gandhi had a homosexual relationship.
American Library Association (ALA)
American Booksellers Association
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE)
Association of American Publishers
American Society of Journalists and Authors
Library of Congress
National Association of College Stores
List of Banned Books