1. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, 1932
This book was banned in Ireland when it was first published and continues to be challenged in some US states today. Explicit sexual scenes caused controversy as Huxley imagined a world where birth control and reproduction were controlled for society rather than by individuals. For Catholic Ireland, the idea was just too much!
2. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, 1955
This is the tale of literary scholar Humbert Humbert and his sexual obsession with ‘Nymphets’ and in particular 12 year old Dolores (Lolita) who becomes his step daughter. Nabokov had trouble getting the novel published due to its contentious material and though there is little that is explicit in the novel, the themes of paedophilia and incest were enough to ban it in France, England, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa.
[Related article: Banned adverts of 2012 so far]
3. And Tango Makes Three, Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, 2005
Based on a real life penguin family, the story of Tango the penguin and his two dads was written to teach children about same-sex parent families. It was revealed to be the most banned book at the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week, mostly having been removed from US libraries and schools.
4. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini, 2003
Now a major film, the Kite Runner was banned in Afghanistan, where the story is set, for its rape scene of a young male character. It’s also banned in some parts of the US because of the sexually explicit scene and offensive language.
5. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood, 1985
Describing a bleak future where women are sexual slaves, the Handmaid’s Tale regularly appears on most ban request lists and was removed from the English curriculum in Texas after complaints by parents that it was anti Christian.
[Related article: Ten foods that have been banned]
6. The Well of Loneliness, Radclyffe Hall, 1928
An early lesbian novel, Hall’s story, thought to be a thinly veiled account of her own life, was feared by the authorities for introducing ideas of homosexuality to women. It was banned soon after publication but this probably only served to make the British population far more aware of lesbianism.
7. Ulysses, James Joyce, 1922
Banned in the US in 1928, the UK in 1926 and named a prohibited import to Australia in 1933, Ulysses was considered ‘obscene’ by the authorities thanks to a scene where the main character masturbates. In 1933 it was ruled ‘pornographic’ but not obscene and the ban was lifted.
8. Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller, 1934
Miller’s book has been credited with giving literature the free speech we now take for granted. Its US publication in 1961 tested American pornography laws but in ‘obscenity trials’ the tome was declared ‘non obscene’. Loosely based on Miller’s own life in Paris, the protagonist’s sexual experiences are recounted in detail and the book is considered one of the most important in 20th-century literature.
[Related article: Should airbrushing be banned?]
9. Fifty Shades of Grey, EL James, 2011
Banned in libraries in the states of Georgia and Wisconsin (Florida lifted its ban), the rather badly written sexual exploits of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey have been dubbed ‘mummy porn’ for their popularity with older women. Despite being banned by these conservative states, the book topped the best seller charts in both the US and UK.
10. Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (Fanny Hill), John Cleland, 1748
When it was published, Fanny Hill was ignored by the authorities, but a year later its publishers were charged with "corrupting the King's subjects". Sold underground, it was also banned in the US in 1821. Strewn with details of sex acts, the book depicts prostitution, lesbianism and mutual masturbation. The ban was lifted in the 1970s after the book was decided to be a historical source and of literary value.