Controversial Downloads: 18 Free ‘Banned’ Books


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Celebrate Banned Books Week 2012 – and enjoy your First Amendment rights – with these free e-books.

What do classic “Huck Finn,” Pulitzer Prize winner “Grapes of Wrath,” and book-turned-film “Gone With the Wind” have in common?

They’ve been banned, burned, and banished from classrooms. They’re also celebrated during Banned Books Week – which is this week.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the “holiday,” which is co-sponsored by a dozen national organizations – the American Library Association, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and National Council of Teachers of English, to name a few – and endorsed by the U.S. Library of Congress.

So you can join the festivities without spending a dime, we’ve rounded up censorship-inducing e-books that are free, thanks to universities like Australia’s U. of Adelaide and volunteer efforts like Project Gutenberg. Just click on a book’s title to download it or read it right from your browser. (If you prefer paper books, contact your local library or try WorldCat.org to find out where to check one out.)

And lest you not also learn something while celebrating this week, we’ve included highlights of these books’ clashes with diction dictators as chronicled by the American Library Association and the University of Cincinnati libraries.

1. “1984,” George Orwell

  • 1981: Challenged in Jackson County, Fla., because it was “pro-communist and contained explicit sexual matter.”

2. “A Farewell to Arms,” Ernest Hemingway

  • 1929: It first ran in the June issue of Scribner’s Magazine, which was banned in Boston.
  • 1929: Banned in Italy because of its “painfully accurate account of the Italian retreat from Caporetto, Italy,” during World War I.
  • 1933: Burned by the Nazis.
  • 1974: Challenged at Dallas (Texas) Independent School District high school libraries.
  • 1980: Challenged at the Vernon-Verona-Sherill (N.Y.) School District as a “sex novel.”

3. “An American Tragedy,” Theodore Dreiser

  • 1927: Banned in Boston.
  • 1933: Burned by the Nazis because it “deals with low love affairs.”

4. “Animal Farm,” George Orwell

  • 1977: Suppressed from being displayed at the Moscow (Russia) International Book Fair.
  • 1982: A survey of censorship challenges in schools, conducted in DeKalb County, Ga., revealed that the novel had been objected to because of its political theories.
  • 1987: Banned from four middle schools and three high schools in Bay County, Fla. After 44 parents filed a suit against the district claiming that its instructional aids policy denies constitutional rights, the Bay County School Board reinstated the book.
  • 2002: Banned from schools in the United Arab Emirates by the Ministry of Education because it contains material that contradicts Islamic and Arab values, and “indecent images” like pigs and alcoholic drinks.

5. “Catch-22,” Joseph Heller

  • 1972: Banned in Strongsville, Ohio, but the school board’s action was overturned by a U.S. district court in 1976.
  • 1974: Challenged at Dallas (Texas) Independent School District high school libraries.
  • 1979: Challenged in Snoqualmie, Wash., because of references to women as “whores.”

6. “Gone With the Wind,” Margaret Mitchell

  • 1978: Banned from Anaheim (Calif.) Union High School District English classrooms.
  • 1984: Challenged in the Waukegan (Ill.) School District because it uses the word “nigger.”

7. “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” D.H. Lawrence

  • 1929: Banned by U.S. Customs.
  • 1932: Banned in Ireland and Poland.
  • 1959: Banned in Australia, India, and Japan.
  • 1960-1962: Banned in Canada.
  • 1987: Distribution was stopped in China because the book would “corrupt the minds of young people and is also against the Chinese tradition.”

8. “Sons and Lovers,” D.H. Lawrence

  • 1961: An Oklahoma City group called Mothers United for Decency exhibited it, along with other books deemed objectionable, in a trailer the group dubbed the “smutmobile.”

9. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” Mark Twain

  • 1957: Removed from an approved textbook list for elementary and junior high schools by the New York City Board of Education.
  • 1963: Removed from curriculum, and replaced with a more politically correct version, in Philadelphia.
  • 1976: Removed as required reading, but retained as elective reading, by New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill.

10. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” Mark Twain

  • 1867: Excluded from the children’s room in Brooklyn’s public library and the Denver Public Library because it set a bad example for kids.
  • 1937: Banned in Brazil as part of a campaign against “subversive” and “communist” literature.

11. “The Awakening,” Kate Chopin

  • 1899: When first published, this novel disturbed critics and the public so much that it was banished for decades afterward.

12. “The Call of the Wild,” Jack London

  • 1929: Banned in Italy and Yugoslavia.
  • 1933: Burned by the Nazis.

13. “The Grapes of Wrath,” John Steinbeck

  • 1939: Banned in Kansas City, Mo., and Kern County, Calif., the scene of the novel. Burned by the East St. Louis (Ill.) Public Library. Barred from the Buffalo (N.Y.) Public Library because of “vulgar words.”
  • 1953: Banned in Ireland.
  • 1973: Eleven Turkish book publishers stood trial before an Istanbul martial law tribunal on charges of publishing, possessing, and selling books in violation of an order of the Istanbul martial law command. They faced up to six months of imprisonment “for spreading propaganda unfavorable to the state.”
  • 1980: Banned in Kanawha (Iowa) High School classes. Challenged in the Vernon-Verona-Sherill (N.Y.) School District.
  • 1981: Challenged as required reading for Richford (Vt.) High School English students because of its language and portrayal of a former minister who recounts how he took advantage of a young woman.
  • 1982: Banned in Morris, Manitoba, Canada. Removed from two high school libraries in Anniston, Ala., but later reinstated on a restrictive basis.
  • 1986: Challenged at the Cummings High School in Burlington, N.C., because it’s “full of filth” and “takes the Lord’s name in vain and has all kinds of profanity in it.” Challenged at the Moore County school system in Carthage, N.C., because it contains the phrase “God damn.”
  • 1991: Challenged in the Greenville, S.C., schools because it uses the names of God and Jesus in a “vain and profane manner along with inappropriate sexual references.”
  • 1993: Challenged in Union City (Tenn.) High School classes.

14. “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • 1987: Challenged at Baptist College in Charleston, S.C., because of “language and sexual references.”

15. “The Jungle,” Upton Sinclair

  • 1929: Banned from public libraries in Yugoslavia.
  • 1933: Burned by the Nazis because of Sinclair’s socialist views.
  • 1956: Banned in East Germany as harmful to communism.
  • 1985: Banned in South Korea.

16. “The Lord of the Rings,” J.R.R. Tolkien

  • 2001: Burned outside Christ Community Church in Alamagordo, N.M., because it’s satanic.

17. “The Sun Also Rises,” Ernest Hemingway

  • 1930: Banned in Boston.
  • 1933: Burned by the Nazis.
  • 1953: Banned in Ireland.
  • 1960: Banned in Riverside and San Jose, Calif.

18. “Ulysses,” James Joyce

  • 1918: Burned in the U.S.
  • 1922: Burned in Ireland and Canada.
  • 1923: Burned in England.
  • 1929: Banned in England.

Stacy Johnson

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