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15 Classic Books That Were Banned for the Most Ridiculous Reasons

The history of banned books might easily be misconstrued as a history of important books — so many organizations, private and public, have targeted influential books for censorship that it may seem as though a book must be banned to make it onto a list of classic literature. Luckily, the bans are mostly ineffective and limited in their longevity.

Let’s review some of the most ridiculous reasons that classic books were ever banned, so we might laugh at this ineffectual bit of literary history.

1. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye sitting next to a coffee cup on a red table

The Catcher in the Rye sitting next to a coffee cup on a red table Copy of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye | Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Since its immediate success upon its release in 1951, J.D. Salinger’s famous character study of disaffected boarding school dropout, Holden Caulfield, has been a frequent target of censorship. An Oklahoma school board fired a teacher for assigning the book to students. An Ohio community organization petitioned to ban the book from local schools, on the grounds that it was “anti-white.”

The book, which contains one scene wherein Caulfield hires a prostitute but tries only to talk and connect with her, was banned by one library for violating codes concerning “excess vulgar language, sexual scenes, things concerning moral issues, excessive violence and anything dealing with the occult.”

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