Book Banning And Why It Matters

In this post, we look at book banning and why it matters.

There is, at the moment, a rage against books happening in the United States of America. According to PEN America, a non-profit organization working to protect freedom of expression in the US, “More than 1,500 book bans have been instituted in US school districts in the last nine months, a study has found, part of a right-wing censorship effort described as ‘unparalleled in its intensity’.”

Book Banning And Why It Matters

While ‘rage’ is a good description for what’s taking place, it’s not the first time books have been banned in the world.

4 Things You May Not Know About The Rage Against Books

  1. The first book banned in Europe: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres by astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus was banned in 1616 by the Vatican.
  2. The first book banned in America: Thomas Morton published his New English Canaan, a harsh and heretical critique of Puritan customs and power structures in 1637.
  3. The fiction book most banned in America and many other countries: 1984 – George Orwell.
  4. The other 4 fiction books banned by the most governments around the world:
  • Animal Farm – George Orwell
  • Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  • Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

All of these are about governments. So if your government has banned them what does it say about your government?

17 Reasons Why Fiction Books Are Usually Banned And Which Do You Agree With

For the most part, fiction books are usually banned in any country because the content is:

  1. Anti-government.
  2. Shedding a bad light on a government’s race laws.
  3. Anti-state religion or religious viewpoints not in keeping with the religion of the country, and blasphemy.
  4. Anti the state stance of the sexuality portrayed in the book.
  5. Portraying anthropomorphic characters.
  6. Deemed to be obscenity and portraying sexual depravity.
  7. Deemed anti-authority of the country’s police or army.
  8. Content that may cause people to turn against a particular industry.
  9. Hate speech or incitement to hate and therefore violence towards another group of people because of their ethnicity, beliefs, or sexual orientation.
  10. Memories that portray the government or particular social groups of the majority in a bad light.
  11. Exposure of corrupt governments, political, religious, royal leaders.
  12. Exposure of phenomenon the country is trying to hide, like famine or genocide.
  13. Revealing state secrets.
  14. Detailed accounts of weapon-making etc that can be useful to terrorists.
  15. Inclusion of characters such as Blacks, Jews, LGBTQ+, ethnic minorities, etc.
  16. Written by authors who are Black, Jewish, LGBTQ+, from an ethnic minority.
  17. Deemed to be an instruction manual, albeit in fictional form, of euthanasia, murder, suicide, or terrorism.
  18. Content that ‘makes people uncomfortable’.

How many of those would you consider are good reasons for banning a book?

Tricky isn’t it? After all, who would want a book, fictional or otherwise, being freely available that is giving ‘instructional manual’ type information to terrorists? What decent human being would want a book that promotes hate, violence and the genocide of a particular group of people being freely available?

3 Questions We Should Ask About Book Banning?

  1. What qualifies someone to be ‘the’ authority on why a book should be banned?
  2. Who policies those people and their agendas?
  3. And where does it stop?

‘Wherever they burn books, they will also, in the end, burn people.’ – Heinrich Heine 

7 Types Of Governments That Ban Books

  1. Theocracies
  2. Autocracies
  3. Fascist
  4. Monarchies
  5. Totalitarian
  6. Communist
  7. Dictatorships

If a government, or groups of people within a country, (and especially in a country whose government type doesn’t, yet, appear on the above list) are actively trying to ban books, one should take a step back and see what kind of agenda they are trying to force upon others, because if they succeed, the government will soon be made up of those same types of people, and it won’t just be books they will be banning…or burning.

‘First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. Then They came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.’ – Martin Niemollër

Ask yourself, do you want to live under a theocratic, fascist, totalitarian, communist, dictatorship? Or would you rather be free to read whatever you choose to read, and let your neighbours choose for themselves the kinds of books they want to read?

5 Reasons Why Books Matter From People Who Write Them

  1. ‘Fiction is the lie that tells the truth, after all.’ – Neil Gaiman
  2. ‘Stories can empower and humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.’ – Chimanda Ngozi Adichie
  3. ‘The job of reading is to use stories as a way into seeing other people as we see ourselves.’ – John Greene
  4. ‘You’re never going to kill storytelling because it’s built in the human plan. We come with it.’ – Margaret Atwood
  5. ‘You want weapons? We’re in a library. Books are the best weapon in the world. This room’s the greatest arsenal we could have. Arm yourself.’ – Dr Who

13 Books That Are Classics And Yet Are Still Banned

  1. Animal Farm – George Orwell
  2. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  3. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  4. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  5. Lord Of The Flies – William Golding
  6. The Catcher In The Rye J. D. Salinger
  7. The Colour Purple – Alice Walker
  8. To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  9. Of Mice And Men – John Steinbeck
  10. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  11. The Great Gatsby – Scott Fitzgerald
  12. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
  13. Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe

7 Classic Children’s Books That Have Been Banned

The Last Word

There is, in truth, no one size fits all answer. But do you want to live in a world that bans Winnie-The Pooh?

Elaine Dodge

by Elaine Dodge. Elaine is the author of The Harcourts of Canada series. Elaine trained as a graphic designer, then worked in design, advertising, and broadcast television. She now creates content, mostly in written form, for clients across the globe, but would much rather be drafting her books and short stories.

More Posts From Elaine

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  8. 5 Things To Remember Not To Do When Publishing A Romance Novel
  9. What Is The Meet-Cute And How Important Is It?
  10. 5 Things To Remember When Outlining Your Romance Novel

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Posted on: 19th September 2022
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