WHILE riding high on critical acclaim from all over the globe, on August 21, 1956, J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye was deemed "indelicate, indecent, and almost blasphemous" by censors and banned in Australia.
During the 20th century, Australia had some of the strictest censorship of any democracy, with thousands of books prohibited for being seditious or obscene.
In the early 1970s, the system crumbled and almost 50 years on, even the most salacious books rarely risk censorship.
As librarians in the United States celebrate Banned Books Week until September 27, their Australian cousins watch with raised eyebrows to see which books are offending American sensibilities.
A long way from Salinger's coming-of-age classic, the "most challenged titles" for the past year include children's illustrated classic Captain Underpants for bad language and the sexually charged Fifty Shades of Grey for being too explicit.
So are these banned books a better read than their peers on the shelf?
APN put the question to Australia Library and Information Association director Sue McKerracher and was asked, "Have you read Fifty Shades of Grey?".
"I'm not sure they have the best quality of writing," she said.
"But we're not in the business of judging books, we're in the business to offer library users the books they want to read."
Ms McKerracher said our views on what is offensive shifts with time.
"If you look back, up until the early 1970s, a whole heap of books were banned in Australia, a lot were about homosexuality, drug culture - it was mainly around sex," she said.
"Yet now we have Fifty Shades of Grey which has a long waiting list in libraries."
Although now considered classics, these books were once illegal to own.
- James Joyce - Ulysses (banned 1929)
- Ernest Hemingway - A Farewell to Arms (1931)
- Aldous Huxley - Brave New World (1932)
- J.D Salinger - The Catcher in the Rye (1956)
- Vladimir Nabokov - Lolita (1958)
- Ian Fleming - The Spy Who Loved Me (1962)
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