9 Surprising Banned Books

The Diary of Anne Frank on display at the Netherlands Pavilion
The Diary of Anne Frank is just one of many surprising banned books. GUILLERMO LEGARIA / AFP via Getty Images

In a world where sex, violence, and murder rule the television airwaves, it's hard to imagine that classic books such as Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath were ever banned for objectionable content. Read on to find out why the following seemingly innocent tales have been banned in various locales.


1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury reportedly wrote this novel in the basement of the UCLA library -- on a pay-by-the-hour typewriter. Ironically, the story examines censorship, but unbeknownst to Bradbury, his publisher released a censored edition in 1967, nixing all profanity so the book would be safe for distribution in schools. A school in Mississippi banned the book in 1999 for the use of the very words Bradbury insisted be put back into the book when it was reprinted.



2. Where's Waldo? Series by Martin Hanford

Who wants to look for Waldo when there are so many more interesting things to see in the pages of these colorful, oversized children's books? Waldo-mania swept the country in the mid-1990s, but schools in Michigan and New York wiped out Waldo because "on some of the pages there are dirty things." These "dirty things" included a topless lady on the beach. It's just a hunch, but if you can find her, Waldo's probably not far away. . . .


3. The American Heritage Dictionary

As recently as 1987, a school district in Anchorage, Alaska, went straight to the source of their problem and banned the whole darned dictionary. They didn't approve of the inclusion of certain slang usage for words like bed and knockers.


4. The Complete Fairy Tales of The Brothers Grimm by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Those Grimm boys sure knew how to push the envelope. Most of the fairy tales we learned as kids are watered-down versions of classic Grimm stories such as Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel. In the original works, however, there was more blood and fewer happy endings. Concerned parents have been contesting the literary merit -- and age-appropriateness -- of the Grimm Brothers' work since it was first published in the early 1800s.

On the next page, you'll find the continuation of our list of surprising banned books.


5. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

You're probably thinking, "I can see why this book might not be appropriate for youngsters, what with the baffling subject matter -- how do you explain anti-Semitism and the Holocaust to anyone, much less a sixth-grader?" Unfortunately, that's not why a school in Alabama banned this book. Their reasoning? They just felt it was "a real downer."


6. The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling

Wizards, magic spells, ghosts, and clever kids who outsmart adults -- J. K. Rowling's dizzyingly popular series about a young magician with funny glasses is a treasure trove of "questionable content" for a surprising number of parents and teachers around the world.


7. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

No one can deny that Tom Sawyer is a bit of a troublemaker, and you could say the book somewhat glorifies running away from home, but was it really bad enough to ban? Libraries in New York and Colorado banned Mark Twain's adventurous tale soon after the book came out, claiming Tom Sawyer was a protagonist of "questionable character." Tom would probably approve of the controversy.


8. Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman

Sixties political activist Abbie Hoffman was cheeky as usual when naming his guide to governmental overthrow. The book was banned in Canada, and many stores in the United States refused to carry it for fear the title would prompt customers to shoplift. Had they carried the book, it would've been banned for other reasons -- Hoffman describes how to make a pipe bomb, steal credit cards, and grow marijuana.


9. Forever by Judy Blume

Lots of authors tackle touchy topics such as divorce, racism, and death. Judy Blume did, too, only the novels she wrote were for young adults. Blume has always felt the issues that kids deal with on a daily basis are the ones they want to read about. When she published Forever in 1975, parents and teachers everywhere were steaming mad about the story of a girl and her boyfriend who decide to have premarital sex. The book is still being challenged in school libraries today.


Helen Davies, Marjorie Dorfman, Mary Fons, Deborah Hawkins, Martin Hintz, Linnea Lundgren, David Priess, Julia Clark Robinson, Paul Seaburn, Heidi Stevens, and Steve Theunissen