It’s Banned Books Week, and that means that readers all over the world are reading banned books to celebrate freedom of speech. We all know the famous examples: Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for instance, or George Orwell’s Animal Farm. But there are other examples of censorship beside these famous ones, and it’s important for us as readers to make sure that we give proper attention to some lesser-known banned books. Use our list as a guide, and share your own suggestions in the comments!
Voltaire’s classic has been read widely since the 1700s, but it caused a scandal upon its first release. As recently as the 1930s, US Customs agents were confiscating it for obscenity. This book remains widely known, but it doesn’t have as much of a reputation as a banned book as it deserves.
Peck’s coming-of-age story about a boy in rural 1920s Vermont has taken heat since its publication in the 70s. Peck unflinchingly describes rural life: he covers pig slaughter, animal mating, and other visceral scenes in detail. A Day No Pigs Would Die has frequently made the ALA’s list of frequently challenged books.
Lewis was a Nobel laureate in literature and remains one of the most important authors in the history of the United States, but he was pretty unpopular in some circles in the late 1920s. His 1927 novel Elmer Gantry is a send-up of fanatical Christian preachers, and the hypocritical title character does some pretty un-Christian stuff in the book. Needless to say, Christians were not pleased: the book was banned everywhere from Boston to Kansas City.
Solzhenitsyn is one of several great Russian writers whose work was banned in the communist USSR. The Gulag Archipelago is a massive work, and it doesn’t take it easy on the Soviets. Like Doctor Zhivago, The Gulag Archipelago was an important act of literary rebellion.
Before Daddy’s Roommate there was Heather Has Two Mommies. Lesléa Newman’s book is commonly considered the first lesbian-themed children’s book, and it has been a frequent target of conservative parents and librarians. Heather Has Two Mommies has been dealing with bans since its original publication back in 1989.
This horror novel tells the story of students who decide to kidnap their strict English teacher, Mr. Griffin. It’s been criticized for depicting crime and violence perpetrated by young students. Duncan also wrote I Know What You Did Last Summer, which was the inspiration for the well-known horror movie of the same name.
Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead draws on his own experiences in World War II, and it features realistic violence and tragedy. Canada banned the 1948 novel for obscenity, but critical reception was positive. Mailer went on to have a long and well-respected career in writing.
Burroughs was a key figure in the Beat movement, which also included Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Naked Lunch is a strange, hallucinatory journey that includes all sorts of imagery that some readers would consider offensive. Among the offended were Justices in Boston, who attempted to ban the book (fortunately, they were overruled by the State Supreme Court.)
Political writers enjoy quite a bit of freedom in today’s Western world, but that wasn’t always the case. Paine’s political treatise was banned in England back in the 1700s. Paine eventually became an American patriot, but it was his thoughts on the French Revolution that got him in trouble here.
D.H. Lawrence attracted plenty of controversy in his career. His novel Lady Chatterly’s Lover is his best-known book, and it’s regarded (quite rightly) as a classic book that was often challenged by conservatives. But Women in Love is similarly revolutionary, and received plenty of negative attention itself. This sequel to Lawrence’s The Rainbow is one of his finest works.