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Top 10 Books That Were Banned For Ridiculous Reasons

VO: Rebecca Brayton

Script written by Savannah Sher

There are books that have been forbidden for good reasons, but the reasons behind these book bans are just absurd. From “Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret”, to “Slaughterhouse-Five”, to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” these famous banned books and the reasons why are bizarre. WatchMojo counts down ten books that were banned for ridiculous reasons.

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Transcript
Script written by Savannah Sher

Top 10 Books That Were Banned For Ridiculous Reasons



Light up the bonfires; it’s book-burning time! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Books That Were Banned for Ridiculous Reasons.

For this list, we’re covering books that were either challenged or banned outright, for reasons that don’t make a whole lotta sense to most people. However, we’re excluding any books intended for very young children and picture books like “Where’s Waldo?”

#10: “Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.” (1970)

Judy Blume
This 1970 young adult novel focuses on all the perils of growing up as a girl. It was considered revolutionary thanks to its frank discussion of issues like religion, family and sexuality. In the book, Margaret gets her first period, goes shopping for her first bra and experiences many other common coming of age landmarks. However, over the years, the book has been challenged or banned for being “profane” and “sexually offensive.” Considering the book’s goal is to teach young girls about the issues they will, inevitably, have to deal with, this seems short-sighted, to say the least.

#9: “Slaughterhouse-Five” (1969)

Kurt Vonnegut
In what is widely considered Kurt Vonnegut’s most vital work, the main character, Billy Pilgrim, uses time travel and a non-linear storytelling style to share his tale. This sci-fi tome was well received by critics upon its release, but in the years since, it’s been challenged for its so-called profanity, vulgarity, sexual content and “mention of religion.” In a 1982 Supreme Court case relating to the removal of “Slaughterhouse-Five” from the libraries of public schools, the court ruled that a book could not be banned simply because some people disliked its content. Yet even today, it’s prohibited in many schools and is challenged regularly.

#8: “Harriet the Spy” (1964)

Louise Fitzhugh
Many children’s books have been banned for seemingly ludicrous reasons, but this one seems truly unbelievable. “Harriet the Spy” is a landmark piece of children’s literature and beloved by many. You’re probably thinking that there isn’t anything sensitive in this book: no budding sexuality, no swear words, nada. Well, the reason it was contested by one Ohio school board is that it apparently “teaches children to lie, spy and back-talk.” Luckily, this ban did not go through, though other schools and libraries were indeed successful in their bids to get it off the shelves.

#7: “The Diary of a Young Girl” (1947)

Anne Frank
Considering this memoir’s historical merit, and considering how many school curriculums include it, it seems shocking that anyone would consider banning it. Anne Frank’s diary has been widely read in the decades following her death during the Holocaust. It contains her thoughts and feelings about a wide variety of subjects, which she jotted down while hiding from the Nazis in an attic in Holland. However, considering the book was written by Frank in the years leading up to her death at age 15, it does feature the budding sexuality of a teenaged girl – especially the revised 50th anniversary edition. For this reason, some parents and schools have tried to ban it.

#6: “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (1865)

Lewis Carroll
This children’s novel was penned by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, in 1865. It took nearly a century after its initial publication for readers to begin associating the fantastical tale with drug culture. However, decades before that, the Chinese government actually banned the book for an entirely different reason: officials did not like the fact that in the story, animals were able to speak using the same language as humans because it “put animals and humans on the same level.”

#5: “Lord of the Flies” (1954)

William Golding
Golding won the Nobel Prize for literature, but that didn’t offer his book any protection from attempted bans. “Lord of the Flies” tells the story of a group of schoolboys stranded together on an island, and what happens when they’re forced to essentially create a new system of order. The takeaway from the book is that humans can revert to brutish behavior and do anything to seize power. In 1981, one North Carolina high school attempted to ban the book due to the fact that it is “demoralizing, in that it implies that man is little more than an animal.” Hey, they managed to encapsulate the intended theme of the novel pretty well! A+!

#4: “Nineteen Eighty-Four” (1949)

George Orwell
Most people are familiar with the premise of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” because it was on their assigned reading list in high school. The novel is a seminal piece of dystopian fiction that imagines a future where a totalitarian government has full control over its citizens’ lives. What’s more, it offers a scathing critique of tyrannical politicians and totalitarianism, which some people interpreted as a commentary on Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. That’s why it’s so ironic that “Nineteen Eight-Four” was challenged in 1981 by a group of Florida parents for supposedly being “pro-Communist.” Even so, this book’s legacy lives on thanks to its enduringly pertinent message, and for inspiring phrases like “Orwellian” and “Big Brother.”

#3: “Fahrenheit 451” (1953)

Ray Bradbury
Banning a book that’s about banning books is not only meta, but also comically ironic. The overarching theme of this ‘50s sci-fi novel is how damaging censorship can be to a population. In the world of “Fahrenheit 451,” all books are banned, and if one is found, it has to be burned immediately by “firemen.” Of course, that didn’t stop some people from censoring the book on censorship: a school in Irvine, California decided that rather than banning it, they would simply black out offensive words like “hell” and “damn” to make it suitable for their students. Other places did, however, ban the book in its entirety, failing to see the irony in their actions.

#2: “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (1997)

J. K. Rowling
See, this is why we can’t have nice things. Considering the quick rise to global popularity experienced by the “Harry Potter” series, it was invariably going to have its detractors. And sure enough, despite the fact that the debut novel is relatively tame in terms of scares or violence compared to later books in the series, “The Philosopher’s Stone” was challenged. Citing its themes of magic and witchcraft, some religious groups called for the book to be banned in some countries, claiming it would endorse real-life sorcery and promote children’s interest in the topic. Well, we can’t exactly say they were wrong: we’re still waiting for our Hogwarts letters.

#1: “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1960)

Harper Lee
This book is widely considered one of the greatest novels of the past century, and perhaps that’s why it’s been a lightning rod for controversy. A constant refrain in battles over Harper Lee’s seminal work is that the text features racist language – similar to how Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” has also been challenged for its inclusion of racial slurs. And, yeah, “To Kill a Mockingbird” also includes slurs, but that’s kinda the point: the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel dissects issues of racial inequality in the American South of the 1930s in a frank and realistic way. However, despite its literary and artistic merits, a Mississippi school district as recently as 2017 banned it because it “made people uncomfortable.”
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