1. The Satanic Verses – Salman Rushdie
Not only did two American bookshops refuse to sell the book due to death threats, but you could actually be imprisoned for 15 months if you were caught reading Rushdie’s 1988 novel in Venezuela. To top it all off the Ayatollah of Iran sent out a fatwa calling on all Muslims to kill Rushdie and his publishers. Rushdie avoided any harm but his Japanese translator was stabbed to death in 1991.
2. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Huxley’s dystopian novel was banned in Ireland during the 1930s for its coarse language, being anti-family and anti-religious. In the 1960s, the book was removed from shops in India with Huxley being branded a “pornographer.” A teacher in Maryland was fired for assigning the book to her students. The decision was upheld despite an attempt to sue for violation of First Amendment rights.
3. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
The American Library Association reports that Salinger’s 1951 novel about Holden Caulfield—an angst-ridden and alienated teenager—was the tenth most challenged book in the 1990s. The book was a major influence on Mark Chapman who shot and killed John Lennon and was even observed reading the book whilst waiting to be arrested. The novel was actually banned at high Schools in Washington in 1978 because it was deemed to be part of a “Communist plot.”
4. Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller
“It is a cesspool, an open sewer, a pit of putrefaction, a slimy gathering of all that is rotten in the debris of human depravity.” That’s how the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Musmanno described Miller’s 1934 autobiographical novel. Despite this the book has been accredited for the “free speech that we now take for granted in literature.”
5. Captain Underpants – Dav Pilkey
A surprise inclusion, perhaps, but this children’s favourite has been the most frequently challenged book in the last two years in America, according to the American Library Association. Its offensive language and violence was enough for parents to actively seek to get the series removed from the bookshelves.
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