Have You Read These Banned Books?

It's Banned Books Week and to celebrate, the Australian National University is taking a look back at the best books which at some point or another, have been off limits.

It's highly likely during your high school education you were exposed to To Kill A Mockingbird -- Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning classic about racism and prejudice in America's south.

But despite its acclaim, the novel was listed in the top 10 most challenged books of 2017 by the American Library Association and was pulled from the shelves of a Mississippi school as recently as October last year.

Objections to the book usually centre around its use of racial slurs and violent scenes which make people uncomfortable.

The issue of banning books has always been controversial and while Australia has a long history of the practice, things have changed significantly over the years.

"We don’t ban books the way we used to,” Library Manager of the ANU JB Chifley Library Meredith Duncan said.

“The main type of books Australia used to ban were those seen as obscene. They would have been considered sexually explicit or as having very bad language."

Duncan said Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence is a good example.

Following the story of a woman trapped in a loveless marriage with an impotent man, the novel was banned in Australia from 1929 to 1965 because of its frank depiction of sex and explicit relationships.

The edition of Lady Chatterley's Lover which will go to auction next month. Image: Getty

The copy of the novel used by the judge who presided over the famous obscenity trial in 1960-- during which the book's own author called it "the most improper novel in the world"-- is going up for auction next month. It's expected to fetch up to $27,000.

While it may have been a "most improper novel" back then, Duncan said it wouldn't be viewed as such now.

“If you read these books now, they are so tame. We see so much worse on shows like The Bachelor that our society is more accepting of a wider range of views and experiences – in both fiction and non-fiction.”

The most recent book to ruffle Australian feathers was Easton Ellis' 1991 novel American Psycho.

American Pyscho was adapted into a film in 2000. Image: IMBd

Slapped with an R-rating, Australian censors allowed it into the country but under tight restrictions which require it be sold wrapped in plastic and only to those aged over 18. In 2015, an Adelaide bookshop even received a visit from the police for selling copies which were unwrapped.

Alongside To Kill A Mockingbird and Lady Chatterley's Lover, here's a list of the banned books ANU has put on display.

Lord Of The Flies by William Golding: Golding's allegorical 1954 novel about a group of stranded boys who descend into chaos has been banned largely due to its scenes of sex and violence, and use of racial slurs.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: The #1 New York Times best selling story of an unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant in Afghanistan made ALA's Top Ten Challenged Books list for 2017. This was due to its depiction of sexual violence and was thought by some to "promote Islam" or would "lead to terrorism".

Animal Farm by George Orwell: An allegorical tale of corruption in Soviet Russia, Animal Farm was banned in the USSR until the 1980s, is still banned in North Korea and is censored in Vietnam.

1984 by George Orwell: There's something ironic about banning a book which explores the dangers of suppressing free speech, isn't there? Orwell's book was banned in Florida in 1981 on the grounds it was "pro-communist and contained explicit sexual matter."

Ulysses by James Joyce: A loose modern reworking of The Odyssey, Ulysses was formally banned in Australia in for eight years for its obscenity and depiction of sexuality. It was also restricted to people over the age of 18 from 1941 to 1953.

Today, Duncan says book censorship is more focused on hate speech and instructional books for things like bomb and weapons making.

Banned Book Week began in the US in 1982 as an awareness campaign in response to a sudden increase in books being banned or challenged. This year's theme is 'Banning Books Silences Stories.'