13 books you perhaps didn't know were once banned


'Harry Potter,' J.K. Rowling

The series of books about the school years of a young wizard fighting against dark forces topped best-selling lists from 2000 to 2009, but also faced frequent calls from religious groups for censorship. Many Christian readers in the US called them "satanic," and copies were even burnt by Reverend George Bender in Pittsburgh. The books are also banned in schools in the United Arab Emirates.


The Brothers Grimm's fairy tales

As ridiculous as it may seem to censor fairy tales, stories for kids make up a large portion of the books banned in many places of the world. Famous stories by the Brothers Grimm weren't spared either: In 1989, for instance, a California school banned from its reading list a version of the "Little Red Riding Hood," because of the wine she brought to her grandmother to make her feel better.


'James and the Giant Peach,' Roald Dahl

Even this classic story about a young boy's magical adventure in the clouds, which was published in 1961, was challenged in the 1990s for use of the word "ass" and references to tobacco and whiskey. A bookseller in Toledo, Ohio, even claimed the book advocated communism.


'Where The Wild Things Are,' Maurice Sendak

The young Max misbehaves and is sent to bed without dinner. The hungry child sees his room become a mysterious jungle inhabited by malicious creatures. Sendak's picture book from 1963 contains only 338 words, yet it has often been banned for its "dark content." It was even labelled as "psychologically damaging for 3- and 4-year-olds" by child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim in the '60s.


'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,' L. Frank Baum

First published in 1900, L. Frank Baum's fantasy novel series faced problems more than once in the US. It was banned in 1928 in public libraries in Chicago for "depicting women in strong leadership roles" and then in 1957 on similar grounds in Detroit. (The ban wasn't lifted until 1972.) To this day, some groups claim the books promote witchcraft.


'Mephisto,' Klaus Mann

Telling the story of ambitious actor Hendrik Höfgen, who joins the Nazis when they come to power, "Mephisto" was first published in the Netherlands in 1936 and did not appear in Germany until 1956. A lawsuit followed in the '60s and the '70s, because the novel is based on real events and the life of Gustaf Gründgens, the most influential actor of the Weimar Republic.


'Heart of Darkness,' Joseph Conrad

Polish-British author Joseph Conrad's book from 1902 exposes the dark side of Belgium's colonization of the Congo. Partly autobiographical and inspired by the writer's life, the novella dealing with racism and imperialism was banned from many US schools due to its violent content and use of the word "nigger." It inspired several adaptations – most famously Coppola's "Apocalypse Now" (picture).


'Animal Farm,' George Orwell

Published in 1945, Orwell's famous political satire reflects on the Russian Revolution and Soviet history. Perhaps not so surprisingly, it was banned by the Soviets – and strongly promoted by the CIA during the Cold War. The novella has been adapted into feature and animated movies, as well as radio and stage productions. It is a compulsory read in most schools in the US to this day.


'The Alchemist,' Paulo Coelho

This "best-selling phenomenon" was also popular in Iran, yet in 2011 "The Alchemist" – and all works by Paulo Coelho – were banned by the Iranian government. Although no official reason was given, some blame a video from 2009 showing Coelho's Iranian editor, Arash Hejazi, trying to save the life of a young woman who was shot in Tehran during post-election demonstrations. Coelho had supported him.


'The Diary of a Young Girl,' Anne Frank

One of the most symbolic books ever published, the diary of Anne Frank, a German girl who died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, raised concerns in Virginia in 2010 over multiple sexual passages of the uncensored edition. Similar complaints emerged in 2013 in Michigan as well.


'Lolita,' Vladimir Nabokov

The story of a middle-aged professor who is obsessed with a 12-year-old girl sparked an international controversy. "Lolita" was not only banned in France, the country where it was originally published in 1955, but also in Australia. Its contents also contributed to the end of the career of British conservative politician Nigel Nicolson, under whose publishing house the book was released in the UK.


'Frankenstein,' Mary Shelley

The famous novel by British author Mary Shelley transcends genres, but the story of "modern Prometheus" Dr. Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who creates a sapient creature, divided religious leaders for its references to God. The book caused great controversy in religious communities in the US and was banned in 1955 in South African Apartheid for being "objectionable and obscene."


The dictionary

It has been quipped that zyzzyva is the murderer in this book, as it's the last word in many English-language dictionaries. But this is not a joke: Merriam Webster's 10th edition of the dictionary was removed from many classes in California in 2010, after parents complained that it contained graphic definitions of sexual practices.

It's Banned Books Week: From "Harry Potter" to "The Alchemist," here are popular works that have faced censorship somewhere in the world. Even the dictionary hasn't been spared.

Everybody has the right to read – that's the idea behind the Banned Books Week. The 35th edition of the annual celebration is held from September 24 to 30, 2017.

First organized in 1982 by the American Library Association and Amnesty International, the event aims to draw attention to the harms of censorship and book banning all around the world.

LGBT characters still controversial

The list of the most challenged books in 2016 contains titles such as "This One Summer" by Canadian artist Mariko Tamaki or "Drama" by American cartoonist Raina Telgemeier, which have been causing controversy due to inclusion of LGBT characters, drug use and profanity.

Read more: US evangelist preacher calls for 'Beauty and the Beast' boycott over gay character

Another publication – "George" by Alex Gino – has been challenged because it portrays a transgender child and includes "language, sex education and offensive viewpoints."

A monument commemorating banned books

The list of books that have been banned at one point or another offers reading material for an entire lifetime.

In July 2017, a huge installation called "The Parthenon of Books" was built on Friedrichsplatz square in Kassel, the city that hosts the Documenta art exhibition. Made up of 100,000 banned books, it warned against censorship and persecution of writers.

Read more: Documenta cancels 'Auschwitz on the Beach' performance after hefty criticism

Click through the gallery above to discover popular works that have been banned somewhere in the world.

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