Hank Howls For Banned Books


hankshowlsfinalBooks have been banned throughout the world for many reasons.  Here is a list of ten famous books that were banned and the reasons why from the website http://www.shortlist.com/shortlists/10-banned-books.  Chances are you’ve read at least some of them.

Brave New World* by Aldous Huxley     (1933)  A parody of H. G.Wells’ novel Men Like Gods, Brave New World took a look at industrialization.  Huxley explored loss of identity and the increasing subdivision of society.  It was banned because of “its controversial themes on child birth” and “its themes of negativity.”

The Grapes of Wrath* by John Steinbeck     (1939)  This novel, which won the Pulitzer Prize, tells the story of how one rural family survived during the Great Depression.  Who could possibly be upset with that?  So many Americans hated Steinbecks’s description of the poor that it was banned and “burned en masse by the general population.”

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller     (1934)  Miller, who wrote this while a struggling writer, tells about his sexual encounters with friends and colleagues while living in France.  Pennsylvania Supreme court Justice Michael Musmanno called it a “pit of putrefaction” among other things.

Slaughterhouse-five* by Kurt Vonnegut     (1969)  An American soldier is captured by Germans during World War II.  He and other POWs, along with their German captors, hide together from the firestorms caused by the Dresden bombing.  Criticized for being antiwar and questioning the idea of free will, Slaughterhouse-five was banned by one circuit judge for being “depraved, immoral, psychotic, vulgar, and anti-Christian.”

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie     (1988)  This novel tells the story of two plane crash survivors.  One rebuilds his life while the other sees his life torn apart.  Many people in the Islamic community see the book as blasphemous.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky     (1999)  A teenage boy writes a series of letters to an anonymous friend in which he describes his introversion, sexuality, abuse and drug use.  It has been banned because of its “explicit sexual content, particularly the homosexual aspects.”

Things Fall Apart* by Chinua Achebe     (1958)  A highly acclaimed African novel that involves the influences of  British colonialism and Christian missionaries on the traditional African community circa 1900.  It was banned because it criticizes colonialism and its consequences.

American Psycho by Bret Easton     (1991)  Easton’s novel is the tale of a person who is a business man during the day and a serial killer at night.  The book was banned because of graphic violence and sexual content.

The Metamorphosis* by Franz Kafka     (1915)  A man wakes up one morning to find that he has been transformed into a giant insect.  Although his family does not seem surprised, they give him the cold shoulder.  He becomes so estranged by everyone that eventually he is locked up in his room and forgotten.  Kafka’s novels are known for being weird, deep and interesting.  All of Kafka’s writings were banned by the Nazis and the Soviets.

Lolita* by Vladimir Nabokov     (1955)  A married man with the improbable name of Humbert Humbert becomes obsessed with a 12-year-old girl.  Before long, the two run away together.  Unsurprisingly, this novel creeps many people out.  Nevertheless, Nabokov’s book about a middle-aged pedophile is on most lists of the top 100 novels of the 20th century.

* I have read these books and enjoyed all but one.


Here are some things that schools have banned recently from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/17/school-bans-20-weird-things_n_1797858.html

Holding Hands
bill passed in Tennessee earlier this year declared hand-holding a ‘gateway sexual activity,’ with teachers facing firing for even demonstrating the action.

Surprisingly, the ban on hugging isn’t a one-off rule at a select school, but a trend that seems to be spreading. Schools in Portland and Florida started instituting these rules in 2010, while administrations in New Jersey, Brooklyn and New Zealand took it upon themselves in 2012. For all, the reasoning appears to be the same: Respecting personal space and “unsuitable interactions” between students.

Red Ink
At schools in both Australia and the U.K., green ink has replaced red ink in marking children’s paper because of its ‘confrontational’ nature.

Due to its “aggressive” nature, dodgeball has been banned in schools across North America, as it’s frequently named the cause of injuries and fights. Adult dodgeball, on the other hand, has been enjoying a continued popularity.

Non-Motorized Transportation
You’d think, with all the talk about childhood obesity these days, schools would be encouraging students to ride their bikes or skateboards to school. One New York said it was illegal for kids to have bikes, while another Orthodox school disagreed with the freedom afford by the two wheels.

There’s plenty of debate about the best possible bookbag for kids — but one school in Michigan doesn’t allow bags into the classroom at all. Citing safety concerns in lunchrooms and classes, the high school asked students to keep returning to their lockers between classes to retrieve the appropriate books.

There have been many toy bans in schools, but Pogs — those tradeable metal disks — made a huge splash when their safety, and the competitive rush spurred by their very existence, was called into question by schools around the world.

Bake Sales
Though later overturned, a Massachusetts school attempted to ban bake sales on the basis of their lack of nutrition.

Black Makeup
In Ohio earlier this year, a 13-year-old boy was sent home from school because of his black lipstick, eye makeup and nail polish (boy is not shown here). The school claimed it had a rule against “extreme or distracting” makeup.

Yoga Pants
An Ottawa school banned yoga pants last year – unless the tight bottoms were covered up with long shirts.

Silly Bandz
Silly Bandz are fun! Silly Bandz are cute! Silly Bandz are, apparently, a distraction in the classroom and should not be permitted. Schools all over North America have banned these collectables from class, but that sure doesn’t keep them from getting trading at recess.

Best Friends
No more BFFs for you, British kids! At a few U.K. schools, teachers are preventing children from making “best friends” in an attempt to save others’ feelings.

Milk was always seen as part of a wholesome school lunch, but now a group of doctors wants it off the menu entirely. A vegan and physician group in the U.S. is pushing a petition to get rid of milk in schools, due to it being “…high in sugar, high in fat and high in animal protein that is harmful to, rather than protective of, bone health.”

Well, not dinosaurs exactly, but the word dinosaur, in addition to other words like “poverty,” “birthdays,” “Halloween,” and “dancing,” which might elicit “unpleasant emotions” in students.

Ugg Boots
It might get chilly in Pennsylvania, but students there won’t be allowed to wear their sheepskin Ugg boots into class, thanks to the potential for storing contraband like cell phones in the roomy footwear.

Baggy Pants
You may have thought baggy pants were more of a ’90s thing, but schools today are continuing to push for bans on the sagging pants, with some schools claiming it interferes with learning, and others saying the style is related to gangs.

Skinny Jeans
And then there’s the opposite end of the spectrum. Much like yoga pants, skinny jeans have been banned in schools all over the place, due to their lack of modesty anddistraction factor for the opposite sex.

It’s physical and emotional injury teachers are attempting to avoid by banning competitive games in schools and at recess, goes the claim.

A Toronto school made headlines last year when it was announced it would ban hard balls from its premises, following a parent suffering a concussion after being hit by a ball.

Grinch, much? We’ve all heard of holiday trees and all-encompassing December concerts, but some schools have gone as far as banning references to Santa and carols, among other Christmas-oriented terms.



Author: hank

I am married with two daughters and one grandchild. After teaching in the inner city of South Bend, IN for many years, I now work at the St. Joseph County Public Library. I started keeping track of the books I read when I was sixteen years old, and now have read over 1700 books with a page count of more than 500,000.


  1. Hank – when I was a kid they banned “clackers” – which were like two giant marbles on a string. You ‘clacked’ them together. Apparently they would sometimes shatter causing all sorts of mayhem.

    Nice post. I see I’m behind in reading my banned books. I’ve only read two of those.

  2. Hank,

    I loved your blog on Banned Books. I too have read many of these books and believe it or not, I read most of them as high school English required reading! My personal favorites are Brave New World (so forward thinking and relevant for today’s world of scientific advances in genetic engineering) and Slaughterhouse Five (a great antiwar novel- one of Vonnegut’s best). Your blogs are always fun to read and informative!

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