Celebrating Banned Books Week

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

In honor of Banned Books Week, the David L. Rice Library and University Archives and Special Collections believes all books should be accessible for our students, faculty, staff, and public. Inside of our rare and special book collection, we have numerous banned and controversial books. The American Library Association (2017) listed the top one hundred banned and controversial novels of the 20th Century reasons and some of our books were listed such as:

  • The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (PR 9499.3 .R8 S28 1989)
    • Banned in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Quatar, Indonesia, South Africa, and India because of its criticism of Islam.
    • Burned in West Yorkshire, England (1989) and temporarily withdrawn from two bookstores on the advice of police who took threats to staff and property seriously.
    • In Pakistan, five people died in riots against the book. Another man died a day later in Kashmir.
    • Ayatollah Khomeni issued a fatwa or religious edict, stating, “I inform the proud Muslim people of the world that the author of the Satanic Verses, which is against Islam, the prophet, and the Koran, and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, have been sentenced to death.”
    • Challenged at the Wichita, KS Public Library (1989) because the book is “blasphemous to the prophet Mohammed.”
    • In Venezuela, owning or reading it was declared a crime under penalty of 15 months’ imprisonment.
    • In Japan, the sale of the English-language edition was banned under the threat of fines.
    • The governments of Bulgaria and Poland also restricted its distribution.
    • In 1991, in separate incidents, Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator, was stabbed to death and its Italian translator, Ettore Capriolo, was seriously wounded. In 1993, William Nygaard, its Norwegian publisher, was shot and seriously injured.
  • For Whom the Bells Toll by Ernest Hemingway (PS 3515 .E37 F6)
    • Declared non-mailable by the U.S. Post Office (1940). On Feb. 21, 1973, eleven Turkish book publishers went on 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 possible sentences of between one month’s and six months’ imprisonment “for spreading propaganda unfavorable to the state” and the confiscation of their books. Eight booksellers also were on trial with the publishers on the same charge involving “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.
  • Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence (PR 6023 .A93 L3 1930)
    • Banned by U.S. Customs (1929).
    • Banned in Ireland (1932), Poland (1932), Australia (1959), Japan (1959), and India (1959).
    • Banned in Canada (1960) until 1962.
    • Dissemination of Lawrence’s novel has been stopped in China (1987) because the book “will corrupt the minds of young people and is also against the Chinese tradition.”
  • An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser (PS 3507 .R55 A4 1925)
    • Banned in Boston, MA (1927) and burned by the Nazis in Germany (1933) because it “deals with low love affairs.”
  • Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (PS 3525 .I5454 T7 1961)
    • Banned from U.S. Customs (1934).
    • The U.S. Supreme Court found the novel not obscene (1964). Banned in Turkey (1986).

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For more information on banned and controversial books, please go to ala.org and search “Banned Books Week” for more information.


American Library Association (2017). Banned and/or controversial books from the Radcliffe publishing course top 100 novels of the 20th century. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/classics/reasons

This entry was posted in American Library Association (ALA), Banned Books Week, literature. Bookmark the permalink.

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