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15 Banned Books That Challenge Conventions

by Brinda Goel
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Throughout history, several publications have been censored or outlawed for questioning political beliefs, social mores, or contentious subjects. These “forbidden words” have provoked arguments about the right to free speech, protests, and debates. 

In this enlightening collection, we unearth 15 prohibited books from many eras and civilizations that defied expectations and served as potent emblems of the value of unrestricted thought and a variety of viewpoints in literature.

1. Fire and Fury (2018) by Michael Wolff

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After its publication, Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” (2018) sparked a firestorm of debate due to its harsh criticism of the Trump administration. The book provides an inside glimpse at the turbulence and dysfunction that existed in the White House in the early stages of the Trump administration. Legal threats and efforts to prevent its release resulted from its unfavorable portrayal of then-President Trump and his administration. Despite the criticism, “Fire and Fury” quickly became a best-seller and ignited heated discussions about censorship and free speech. The book’s fame only helped to increase its influence, making it a classic example of a work that was outlawed yet nevertheless managed to find a global audience.

2. Spycatcher (1987) by Peter Wright

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Peter Wright’s gripping memoir “Spycatcher,” which was released in 1987, detailed suspected covert operations at the British intelligence agency MI5. The book identifies significant individuals engaged in intelligence operations and divulges contentious facts concerning espionage operations. The British government attempted to outlaw the book in the United Kingdom due to its sensitive material, citing concerns for national security. But “Spycatcher”‘s” ban just increased people’s excitement and curiosity about it globally, leading to a rise in its popularity and extensive distribution. The book is nevertheless an important historical record that sheds light on the murky world of intelligence and government secrets, despite the efforts made to suppress it.

3. Operation Dark Heart (2010) by Anthony Shaffer

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When “Operation Dark Heart,” written by Anthony Shaffer, was deemed a prohibited book in 2010, it became the subject of debate and censure. The memoir describes Shaffer’s experiences in Afghanistan as a former officer of the Defence Intelligence Agency and divulges secret information regarding the activities of the American military and intelligence procedures. The book had many redactions and revisions because the government tried to prevent its release because it believed it posed a threat to national security. Despite these attempts, the book was finally rewritten and published, but the incident brought to light the challenges of information freedom and the tension between openness and national security concerns.

4. Harriet The Spy (1964) by Louise Fitzhugh

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Louise Fitzhugh’s “Harriet the Spy,” which was published in 1964, has received praise and controversy for being a banned book. The exploits of young Harriet, an aspiring writer and astute observer, are chronicled in this famous children’s book. She has a spy notebook where she keeps notes about her friends and neighbors. Due to objections and book bans in some schools and libraries, the novel’s portrayal of Harriet’s independence and occasionally dubious acts has drawn criticism. Despite the debate, “Harriet The Spy” is still regarded as a treasured and significant work that has had a lasting impact on readers and inspired them to value creativity, curiosity, and the power of self-expression.

5. James and The Giant Peach (1961) by Ronald Dahl

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The renowned children’s novel “James and the Giant Peach” by Roald Dahl has had its fair share of difficulties and controversy, leading to its banishment in some locations. The colorful story follows young James as he sets out on a fascinating journey inside a huge peach and meets talking insects along the way. The novel has faced censorship despite its captivating plot and inventive storytelling because of how fanciful elements, perceived violence, and darker themes are depicted in it. However, “James and the Giant Peach” has become a beloved tale that continues to enthrall young minds all over the world for many readers thanks to the wonder and appeal of Dahl’s writing. 

6. Greek Memories (1932) by Comptom Mackenzie

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Compton Mackenzie’s “Greek Memories” (1932), a compelling memoir describing the author’s experiences and travels in Greece, was censored and banned at the time it was published. The book explores Mackenzie’s passionate love for the nation, its culture, and the colorful personalities he meets while traveling. However, outrage over its open depiction of several political and social issues led to restrictions and efforts to censor its distribution. Despite the difficulties, “Greek Memories” is still cherished as a literary masterpiece, giving readers a vivid and personal peek into the beauty and complexity of Greece as seen through a passionate and perceptive writer. 

7. The Big Breach (2001) by Richard Tomlinson

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Richard Tomlinson’s controversial and now-banned book “The Big Breach” (2001) explores the author’s experiences as a former MI6 operative. Tomlinson, a dissatisfied former intelligence officer, divulges top-secret information about MI6 operations and charges the group with corruption and inefficiency. Because of the book’s delicate subject matter and potential threat to national security, it was outlawed in the United Kingdom. Tomlinson’s revelations sparked a contentious discussion about how to strike a balance between the protection of state secrets and information freedom, which resulted in court disputes and additional limits on his publications. The intrigue and controversies surrounding whistleblowers inside the intelligence establishment are captured in “The Big Breach,” a story that is still considered prohibited.

8. Animal Farm (1945) by George Orwell

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George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” which he wrote in 1945, has seen its fair share of controversy and censorship, making it a book that is considered to be banned in some areas. Some countries and institutions have declared this political allegory subversive because it employs a rural setting to criticize tyranny and highlight the perils of power and corruption. There have been attempts to limit the novel’s availability and distribution because of its condemnation of authoritarian governments and its depiction of social and political issues. Despite the difficulties, it has had, “Animal Farm” is nevertheless praised for its provocative topics and insightful reflection on human nature and government.

9. The Spy Loved Me (1962) by Ian Fleming

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Although Ian Fleming’s “The Spy Loved Me” (1962) is not a prohibited book, it is frequently recognized as one of the James Bond series’ more divisive works. This book is unlike other Bond novels in that it is told from the viewpoint of a female character named Vivienne Michel who recalls her previous romantic experiences. The portrayal of women and relationships in the book, according to some reviewers, is sexist and reinforces gender stereotypes. Although the novel has drawn criticism for its subject matter, it is nonetheless an important element of the James Bond literary canon since it sheds light on the development of the famous spy created by Ian Fleming.

10. The Straits Impregnable (1916) by Sydney Loch

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Sydney Loch’s 1916 novel “The Straits Impregnable,” which was outlawed, dared to depict the grim reality of World War I. This eye-opening book challenged the official narrative supported by governments by offering an unvarnished account of Loch’s experiences as a soldier on the Gallipoli front. The open and emotional depiction of the horrific circumstances and casualties sustained throughout the fight was viewed as a danger to military morale and propaganda initiatives. As a result, the book was banned and restricted in some places, but when it was finally published, it revealed the harsh reality of war and served as a moving reminder of the value of maintaining the truth in historical narratives. 

11. How To Read Donald Duck (1971) by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart

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The 1971 publication of “How To Read Donald Duck” by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart was controversial because it was outlawed in a number of nations. Donald Duck, a beloved Disney character, and his portrayal in comic books were subjected to critical scrutiny in the book, which made the case that these depictions helped to spread toxic beliefs and imperialist attitudes. In their investigation of how popular culture affects young people’s viewpoints, the writers called attention to the subliminal implications of consumerism and cultural imperialism in Disney comics. This brave critique, which questioned the massive influence of international companies, resulted in its suppression in some areas and sparked issues on cultural representation and freedom of expression.

12. Soft Target (1989) by Zuhair Kashmiri and Brian Mcandrew

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Due to its contentious and delicate subject matter, “Soft Target” (1989) by Zuhair Kashmiri and Brian McAndrew met the terrible fate of being banned in various nations. The book investigates the complicated world of political intrigue and terrorism, looking at the goals and tactics of extremist organizations. Its bold themes and open discussion of international terrorism triggered discussions about free speech and national security. Despite the controversy, “Soft Target” is nevertheless a potent and insightful book that explores the nuances of terrorism and forces readers to face hard realities about the society we live in. 

13. Lihaaf (1942) Ismaat Chugtai 

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Ismat Chughtai’s 1942 short story “Lihaaf” is thought-provoking. The story revolves around a young girl who unintentionally learns about the intricate and taboo realm of female intimacy and desire while living in a traditional home. For its explicit depiction of female sexuality and same-sex relationships, the controversial and considered to be daring for its time film “Lihaaf” was subject to censorship and prohibited. Chughtai’s bold and compelling tale defied patriarchal rules and cultural norms, making it a foundational piece of Urdu literature. Despite being first forbidden, “Lihaaf” has since broken down barriers and started discussions on gender and sexuality, making it an important part of literary history.

14. The Room Where It Had Happened (2010) by John Bolton

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The 2010 book “The Room Where It Had Happened” by John Bolton, a former national security adviser, sparked debate upon its publication due to its openness and candor about the inner workings of the White House. The book digs into complex diplomatic negotiations and offers a firsthand account of significant occasions that occurred under the Trump administration. Its open disclosures about delicate political issues and intimate encounters with well-known people, however, prompted legal challenges and attempts to halt its publication. Despite the uproar, the book generated a great deal of public attention and sparked discussions about the limits of government transparency and information freedom.

15.  The Irish War (1998) by Tony Greaghty 

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Tony Greaghty’s “The Irish War” (1998) is a challenging and divisive book that explores the nuances of the Northern Ireland conflict, also known as The Troubles. Greaghty gives a thorough analysis of the historical and political elements that fostered the violence and unrest in the area through rigorous research and first-hand accounts. “The Irish War” has encountered difficulties and problems because of its delicate subject matter and ability to spark discussions, which has resulted in it being prohibited in some areas. The book continues to be a major and influential work, offering light on a crucial moment in Irish history and its effects on the rest of the world despite its contentious nature.

Wrap Up: 

We are reminded of the persistent ability of writing to question the status quo and push limits as we come to the conclusion of our examination of 15 banned novels. These works, which were once banned or heavily restricted, have recently been distributed to readers, provoking debates and encouraging critical thought. 

The act of banning a book serves as evidence of the possible danger caused by ideas that oppose conventional wisdom or call for change. In the end, these prohibited works serve as a reminder that literature has the potential to dismantle conventions, challenge established wisdom, and inspire people to look for the truth and understanding in a society that respects different viewpoints and freedom of speech.

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