Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Forbidden Books

Some books you’re not supposed to read. Considered dangerous or even evil. Depending on the country in which you live they may actually be banned.

I recently read some socially “forbidden” books, not because I agree with them, but because I wanted to form my own opinion about these books, without having to read what someone else wrote about them. I read Mein Kampf, and needless to say my wife gave me some very strange looks for reading something written by Hitler. Needless to say I abhor fascism and Nazism in every form, but I wanted to read this book so that I could form my own opinion on the subject and the man who indeed turned out to be truly evil. I also read the Koran, which many in the West shy away from, and even though I do not practice Islam, I found it enlightening on some subjects and disturbing on others. Such is my opinion, but I based it on my own reading and interpretations and not someone else’s.

What “forbidden” books have you read in the past? How do you evaluate controversial topics on your own? Do you feel that books that you disagree with should still be available in bookstores and libraries even if they contain offensive materials?


  1. It's an interesting topic. I do think freedom of speech is a basic right and as long as no one is trying to shove a book down someone's throat (in order to make them share their views for example), then everyone should be free to read what they want. An interesting example from history is "120 Days of Sodom" by the Marquis de Sade. I've not read it, but I bet it's tame compared to some of the porn that's out there now.

    BTW, kudos for getting through the Koran... isn't it longer than the Bible??

  2. Trying to think if I've read anything really controversial...

  3. I guess I could say I have becasue I've read both the Bible and the Book of Mormon which are banned in a lot of places. I would like to read Mien Kampf just becasue I think it's important to know history so that we don't repeat it.

  4. I like to believe society is strong enough to tolerate things it doesn't agree with. I never truly understand what is to be gained from banning a book other than to give it added attention.

  5. Hello Mark:
    This is a very interesting point which you raise here. We certainly agree that these 'forbidden' titles cannot be judged without having read them for oneself. That said, we rather think that when books are sensationalised in any way, it only serves to make them more attractive to readers even if the quality of the content is doubtful.

  6. The bible is sort of a controversial book. I did read Mein Kampf in college, but that was hardly a big deal on campus.

    I had to read Satanic Verses when a bounty was put on his head by extremists.

    Finally, I checked out The Anarchist Cookbook, just out of curiosity. That was one scary read, as I'm seeing signs of the tactics outlined in this book being employed by people in mainstream government!!!!

  7. I can't say I've read forbidden books. I know some of my schooling had me read books that were banned, at one point in time ... not that I got a whole lot out of them. But, yeah. There are very few books I actually shy away from. :)

  8. I've read several "forbidden" books--though sometimes I think that word means less and less as more and more books end up on some banned list.

    Since there's a lot of debate over what the Koran does and does not say I've considered reading it myself. Still might, if I can find the time, just to find out the facts.

  9. Is the Communist Manifesto a forbidden book (it was available at the book store)? I read it in high school. Then I read Plato's Republic (an abridgement) and was surprised by the similarities.

  10. For me, obviously, it would be Harry Potter. But it's amazing how very many classic books are on banned book lists.

  11. I actually don't pay much attention to if a book is banned. It's amazing how many are that shouldn't be. I just read away!

    Good for you for venturing into the unknown. Knowledge is power!

  12. I'm impressed, Mark. Reading those two is quite an undertaking. Especially the Koran.
    I just read whatever appeals to me. I am quite intrigued by the CO school shootings of late. So if there was something written by the shooters, I would likely read it. I think we all need to form our own opinions based on controversial writings and banned books.

  13. When I saw you were reading it on Goodreads, my first thought was the look Laurel would give you. :-D

  14. I think banned books get more hype than they deserve.

  15. Nick – Great point on freedom of speech. I find it’s often a much more slippery slope than I first believed. Also, I have heard of Sade, but not read him. Good one to bring up.

    Alex – Let me know when you come up with some;)

    J.A. – I’ve been meaning to get to the Book of Mormon…figure I ought to hit up all major religions too:)

    L.G. – Nicely put. Society needing to be strong enough to tolerate things it doesn’t agree with.

    Jane/Lance – That’s definitely true from a marketing perspective. I’m more interested in evaluating them for myself.

    Jay – The bible indeed has controversial parts. I also read Satanic Verses, but I have yet to read the Anarchist’s Cookbook.

    David – Yeah, I find that “banned” books are usually some misguided person’s attempt to shield children, but it never has the desired effect.

    Eagle – Yeah, it all depends on your own personal outlook in life. I found the Koran not as inspiring as I hoped…much too much fire and brimstone in there for my likes.

    Richard – I’ve read both Marx and Plato, and although both are interesting, I don’t think the two could possibly be further apart in ideology…IMHO:)

    Donna – Really? Harry Potter is controversial?

    Emily –Thanks for the moral kudos:)

    Susan – Very interesting perspective. I didn’t even think about shooter’s writings. I suppose it’s out there somewhere.

    Stacy – Indeed:) You should have seen her in the library when I picked it out.

    Lynda – I suppose it depends on the book, but yeah.