9 Surprising Banned Books

This post is taken from How Stuff Works and it might shock you at some of the books (and why) that are listed! My thoughts are in green.

1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury reportedly wrote this novel in the basement of the UCLA library — on a pay-by-the-hour typewriter. Ironically, the story examines censorship, but unbeknownst to Bradbury, his publisher released a censored edition in 1967, nixing all profanity so the book would be safe for distribution in schools. A school in Mississippi banned the book in 1999 for the use of the very words Bradbury insisted be put back into the book when it was reprinted.

2. Where’s Waldo? Series by Martin Hanford
Who wants to look for Waldo when there are so many more interesting things to see in the pages of these colorful, oversized children’s books? Waldo-mania swept the country in the mid-1990s, but schools in Michigan and New York wiped out Waldo because “on some of the pages there are dirty things.” These “dirty things” included a topless lady on the beach. It’s just a hunch, but if you can find her, Waldo’s probably not far away. . . . What the what?! I grew up on this!!! True ignorance…

3. The American Heritage Dictionary
As recently as 1987, a school district in Anchorage, Alaska, went straight to the source of their problem and banned the whole darned dictionary. They didn’t approve of the inclusion of certain slang usage for words like bed and knockers. Really? Not only do they ban our books but our entire speech and language?! So what if I say the word knockers or bed? If that’s offensive, there’s a reason you are living in Alaska!

4. The Complete Fairy Tales of The Brothers Grimm by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Those Grimm boys sure knew how to push the envelope. Most of the fairy tales we learned as kids are watered-down versions of classic Grimm stories such as Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel. In the original works, however, there was more blood and fewer happy endings. Concerned parents have been contesting the literary merit — and age-appropriateness — of the Grimm Brothers’ work since it was first published in the early 1800s. So Grimm is not only their last name but quite frankly it describes every single story in this book…no wonder it’s the most well-know fairy tale collection ever! People love it!

5. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
You’re probably thinking, “I can see why this book might not be appropriate for youngsters, what with the baffling subject matter — how do you explain anti-Semitism and the Holocaust to anyone, much less a sixth-grader?” Unfortunately, that’s not why a school in Alabama banned this book. Their reasoning? They just felt it was “a real downer.” A real downer, huh? More like saying “Don’t worry kids, this never happened. We don’t need to hear a story of a brave girl fighting for her life…let’s read The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.” Oh wait! That was banned too.

6. The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling
Wizards, magic spells, ghosts, and clever kids who outsmart adults — J. K. Rowling’s dizzyingly popular series about a young magician with funny glasses is a treasure trove of “questionable content” for a surprising number of parents and teachers around the world. Just like Christine O’Donnell, I once dabbled in witchcraft as a kid. His name was Harry Potter. Also, “clever kids who outsmart adults”? Isn’t that what childhood is all about?!

7. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
No one can deny that Tom Sawyer is a bit of a troublemaker, and you could say the book somewhat glorifies running away from home, but was it really bad enough to ban? Libraries in New York and Colorado banned Mark Twain’s adventurous tale soon after the book came out, claiming Tom Sawyer was a protagonist of “questionable character.” Tom would probably approve of the controversy. Who isn’t a troublemaker? That was me growing up…why can’t I read a book about a kid like me! 

8. Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman
Sixties political activist Abbie Hoffman was cheeky as usual when naming his guide to governmental overthrow. The book was banned in Canada, and many stores in the United States refused to carry it for fear the title would prompt customers to shoplift. Had they carried the book, it would’ve been banned for other reasons — Hoffman describes how to make a pipe bomb, steal credit cards, and grow marijuana. Just that last line makes me want to read this book even more!

9. Forever by Judy Blume
Lots of authors tackle touchy topics such as divorce, racism, and death. Judy Blume did, too, only the novels she wrote were for young adults. Blume has always felt the issues that kids deal with on a daily basis are the ones they want to read about. When she published Forever in 1975, parents and teachers everywhere were steaming mad about the story of a girl and her boyfriend who decide to have premarital sex. The book is still being challenged in school libraries today. Welcome to Young Adult fiction…I guess this was written before it’s time. But thank God for Judy and her courage to write this book when it was even more controversial!

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Jeffrey West

Editor at Novel Thoughts
I'm a 22 year old writer and filmmaker living in New York City. I am constantly questioning everything around me.
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11692372512747494474 Adam Russell

    Jeremy, your comments are SPOT. ON. I particularly loved the one about Anne Frank’s Diary! I mean, come on people? Anne Frank? That’s about as low as you can go.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15197838969034724889 Kah Woei

    Items #4 – #7 are really surprising.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07568646164849243366 Cass (Words on Paper)

    WHERE’S WALLY?!?!?! (It’s Wally here in Australia) Nuts!

    Thanks for the list, and the comments.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06232051653336116079 Mandarina

    interesting Tom Sawyer…I only see this in television…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08348780103116828440 Megan Hoover-Swicegood

    The dictionary is my favorite. So full of dirty words and inappropriate things to do.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01799258621946735462 Jena

    I can’t believe where’s waldo is on there! lol

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17124722748517656056 Casey (The Bookish Type)

    I will never get over the irony of Fahrenheit 451 being banned/challenged. Didn’t they even READ the book???

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08201194083470343354 Christie (The Fiction Enthusiast)

    Where’s Waldo? Really? That is just mind blowing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00863150341861996185 inthemiddlereading

    Farenheit 451 banned? Caterpillar loves that book and can’t imagine why it would be banned. Where’s Waldo??? Banned!! Why???
    Caterpillar

  • Anonymous

    Where’s Wally is by a British illustrator. In the drawing, you only get to see the side of one breast. I used to live on the seafront in the UK, and the beach would normally be full of families and children on a sunny day, plus of course anyone who wants a suntan. Many women go topless, some of my friends included. This is accepted here. No-one is offended in the least. The ban of this book in some American schools and libraries is ridiculous.

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