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What are the Most Common Illegal Books?

Alex Tree
Updated May 23, 2024
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Governments and other authorities have attempted to ban books for hundreds of years for various reasons. Often, these books criticize the government, express views that go against a popular religion, or detail how to do something potentially dangerous or fatal. Sometimes, depending on the jurisdiction, illegal books may have strong language or talk favorably about a shunned race or sexual orientation. Often, illegal books are officially illegal in one country rather than multiple countries because the book is never released internationally, but there are some cases of books being illegal in several places. For example, Lady Chatterley's Lover was once banned in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, mostly for previously unprintable, vulgar words and detailed sexual acts.

One reason books are commonly banned is because a government or jurisdiction does not like the religious, ethical, or ideological views that a certain book is espousing. For example, the government of Lebanon took issue with and banned The Da Vinci Code because religious leaders of Catholicism did not like how it portrayed Christianity. Lebanon also banned The Diary of Anne Frank because the government disagreed with the book’s positive portrayals of Jewish culture. In Thailand, the biography of a king titled The King Never Smiles was banned because the government did not like its view on the king.

In many parts of the world, illegal books include those that show homosexuality in a positive light. Depending on the region and jurisdiction, these books are not necessarily illegal, but are restricted from children. A lot of these books, such as King and King, Daddy’s Roommate, and Tango Makes Three, are restricted or banned because they portray a homosexual couple in a positive light. In these books, the homosexual couple often goes about normal family behavior associated with heterosexual relationships, such as raising a child and dealing with household chores. In the United States, for example, there is sometimes outrage from parents whose children have been exposed to books that demonstrate a homosexually oriented family as normal, which often leads to restriction of the book or outright banning of it in some areas.

Some illegal books contain information that is considered dangerous, antisocial, or violent by a jurisdiction. For example, France banned a book called Suicide mode d'emploi, which explained various ways to commit suicide. In addition, the book American Psycho, which depicts murders in the first person, is completely banned in Queensland, Australia, and can only be legally sold to people above the age of 18 in other parts of the country, though the ban is not always enforced.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Alex Tree
By Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and Language & Humanities contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
Discussion Comments
By jessiwan — On Oct 29, 2013

@anon310649: Cute.

By anon310649 — On Dec 25, 2012

I've got a theory. People who try to ban books aren't offended by their content. They just want more people to read them, so they feign outrage over classics so children and teenagers will be more willing to open them.

By backdraft — On May 16, 2012

What is ironic about book banning is that the publicity the book receives as a result of being banned usually encourages more people to read it. The banning has the opposite effect of what it intended.

Another irony is that the most commonly challenged books are all considered classics. Not are they not inappropriate, they should be required reading. It is amazing the lengths that small, simple minded people will go to to ensure that the world looks exactly the way they want it to.

By jonrss — On May 16, 2012

There was a book banning controversy at the high school where I work. One of the parents objected to a book in the library that had a frank discussion of homosexuality and endorsed gay marriage. She had some pull with the PTA and the whole thing turned in to a bigger fight than it should have.

We have a very courageous school librarian who put up a passionate and valiant fight to keep the book on the shelves but in the end it was removed. The school board said that it was not because of the content, but because of the frankness of the content. They said that other books on the subject would be allowed if they were not so detailed which sounds like a big excuse to me.

By nextcorrea — On May 15, 2012

Luckily, book banning is largely a thing of the past. There are minor controversies here and there but for the most part information is free and open. And with the development of books online there is almost no way to ban a book. Once it is out there is never goes away.

This is a sign of our development as a culture and as a species. We still have many of our old problems, but we have begun to realize that information is important, no matter how dangerous it may seem. The answer is not to try to control it but to allow for an open and honest discussion of any topic, image, idea, character etc.

Alex Tree
Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and Language & Humanities contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
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