Banned Books

Books have been censored for a variety of reasons over the centuries. A book may be completely banned, where it cannot be accessed by anyone, or it may be restricted, where there are conditions on its access (eg age restrictions, or a requirement of sections being removed from the original text). A book may also be challenged. This means there was an attempt to ban or restrict a book, but it may be unsuccessful.

The corner of a book, focusing on the word ban.

Book Bans in Australia

In the past, Australia was one of worst censors in the English-speaking world. The most common reason for a book being banned in Australia was that it was deemed “obscene,” meaning it was believed it could corrupt the morals of the reader. This was often used to suppress LGBTQIA+ works. Overturning Australian’s book bans was initially started by Don Chipp under the Gordon Government and then more broadly dismantled by the Whitlam Government, but some books remain banned — or at least restricted — in Australia, or in a specific State.

Examples of Books Banned in Australia

American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis. Although the movie is readily available, the original novel is restricted in Australia for its inclusion of graphic violence and sex, and was completely banned in the State of Queensland.

The Anarchist Cookbook, William Powell. This book has been banned since 1985. It was most recently reviewed and still refused classification in 2016, on the grounds that it “promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence.”

Another Country, by James Baldwin. This was banned from 1963-1966 for obscenity, due to references to homosexual and interracial sex.

The Decameron, by Giovanni Boccaccio. This classic work of 14th Century literature was deemed too obscene in Australia. It was banned from 1923-1936, and again from 1938-1973.

The Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs. This was the last work of fiction to be banned in Australia, due to its depiction of homosexuality and drug culture. The ban lasted from 1960-1973.

Previously Banned Books in our Catalogue

Cover of Brave New World, by Aldorus Huxley.
Cover of The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger.

Book Bans in Other Nations

Books continue to be challenged or banned around the world. Today, the US is the worst censor in the English-speaking world, with hundreds of titles being challenged for a variety of reasons. Sometimes these could be classics where people are upset by the dated point-of-view around race, but most are LGBTQIA+ works that are challenged on obscenity or religious grounds. Around the world, many books are banned on the grounds of obscenity, religion, or for challenging the political establishment.

The US’s most challenged books | List of books banned around the world

Banned Books Week

The Banned Books Week logo.

Banned Books Week is an annual event about the freedom to read. Typically held in the last week of September, it celebrates free and open access to all forms of information. It highlights books that have been recently challenged and raises conversation on the freedom to seek and express ideas. You can visit the Banned Books Week website to learn more, and keep an eye open in the Busselton and Dunsborough libraries for displays during this period.