This week, it is Banned Books Week. It started on Monday and ends on the 30th of September. For many years, books have been banned for a variety of reasons. Especially books deemed harmful for children and teenagers have long been banned by schools and religious groups among others. Now, there are of course banned books that are harmful. Hitler’s Mein Kampf for example should not be widely available. But other books are not necessarily bad. We want to take a look at those books and explain why they should be celebrated.
Why are books banned?
The most cited reason for banning certain books is to protect readers from foul language, sexual themes or other ‘offensive’ themes. Harry Potter, for example, is a book often banned by Christians for its magic and wizardry. Even though it is said that young people read less, books are still considered powerful. Stories can convey certain ideas and introduce readers to worlds formerly unknown to them. This can certainly be a bad thing, but more often than not, it is a good thing. Books allow readers to expand their horizons and make up their minds on themes they otherwise maybe not even hear about.
Not all banned books are fiction
One of the most banned books in the world is the Bible. While Christians are not opposed to banning a book or two, their holy book has been challenged ever since 1455. Another non-fiction book that has been banned is the Communist Manifesto, by Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx, for promoting communism. The book we mentioned before, Mein Kampf, was banned for many years in many parts of Europe. However, since the expiration of the copyright in 2016, Mein Kampf was republished in Germany. In Austria, owning a copy of the book and following its ideals is still illegal and can lead to a prison sentence of five to ten years.
Most banned fiction books
Most books banned are works of fiction and have been banned for a variety of reasons. In 1932, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World was banned for sexual content, drug use, foul language. Despite its banned status, it is still considered one of the most important novels ever written. Same goes for The Catcher in the Rye, Lolita and Lord of the Flies. While in their time these books were considered controversial, they are still read and even taught in schools and beyond today.
More recent works of fiction which have been banned for a variety of reasons are The Harry Potter series, despite the fact that it is scientifically proven that reading the series makes you a better human. But Harry’s witchcraft is not the only theme banned in the world. Another popular novel banned for its sexual themes and glorification of drugs is the novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Despite being banned, it is still a very important novel.
Why you should read banned books
Words are power, or as Dumbledore said in the banned Harry Potter series: “Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic.” For the most part, readers should be able to decide for themselves whether or not something is offensive. Censorship is not going to stop teenagers from experimenting. It is not going to stop people from enjoying stories about witchcraft. And believe it or not, reading a banned book will not mean you get a one-way ticket to hell. So read and decide for yourself whether or not you are offended.
If you really want to read a banned book, we’ve compiled a list of banned books we think are worth the read in no particular order.
- The Harry Potter Series
- Brave New World
- Lord of the Flies
- The Catcher in the Rye
- Animal Farm
- Looking For Alaska
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower