The Top 5 Most Banned Books of the 20th Century

It seems the Powers That Be are terrible at learning a lesson all parents eventually figure out on their own: if you don’t want something to seem attractive, do not, under any circumstances, try to limit access to it! The act of banning something usually makes that thing immensely more desirable. This holds as true with books as it does with anything else, the difference being that while banning books (aka information) is myopic and foolish, banning certain other things – such as hard drugs, human trafficking, and explosives – just makes good sense.

5 Mein Kampf

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Ultimately, banning any book is a mistake, because it is taking sides on the morality of information and thought, not on action. But if you must ban a book, the fact that Hitler’s Mein Kampf is outlawed in many nations is OK with us. Beside the fact that the book itself is said to be terribly written, it contains such hate-filled, deranged vitriol that it would be just as well if it simply disappeared for good, once and for all.

4 The Catcher in the Rye

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The Catcher in the Rye might seem like a book most every young American reads as a rite of passage, and it certainly doesn’t seem offensive by today’s standards (or by any sane standards). But J.D. Salinger’s book was one of the most frequently censored and/or contested books in many school’s curricula for decades after it came out in the early 1950s. Today, fortunately, it is recognized for the American masterpiece it is, and few people lose sleep over a bit of profanity and references to smoking and drinking.

3 Tropic of Cancer

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If you have ever read Henry Miller’s beautiful, wretched, shocking book Tropic of Cancer you will not be surprised to learn that it was banned for more than three decades in America, from the 30s to the 60s, for flagrant indecency. What you might be surprised to learn, though, is that the censors were so taken aback by Miller’s writing that they went ahead and banned everything else he had written for many years too!

2 The Diary of Anne Frank

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Of all the books to ban, one would be forgiven if The Diary of Anne Frank never crossed their mind. Yet banned it is in Lebanon! Largely due to the influence of Hezbollah, a young girl’s world-famous, touching personal narrative of life during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam has been outlawed in Lebanon as it is seen to paint “Zionism” in a favorable light. (It is also harder to deny the Holocaust when you have a first-hand account of a child hoping to avoid becoming a victim of it.)

1 The Christian Bible

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The Christian Bible is both the world’s most popular book and, arguably, the most commonly banned book, too! While claims that the bible is banned in 52 countries may abound online, they are mostly trumped up hysteria. But it is true that historically and to this day this holiest, sacred (to many) text is banned in various countries, including North Korea and Eritrea, where punishment for reading The Good Book can be wildly heavy handed.

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