Ontario’s Most Infamous Challenged and Banned Books

By Mark Keast
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

World Book Day is April 23. In celebration, OntarioBets.com paused its coverage of Ontario sports betting to find out which banned or challenged books are favorites among Ontario residents. Using a list of the top 15 most banned and challenged books according to Penguin Random House Canada, we used Google Trends to see how often those books were searched in Ontario.

The search period was from March 9 to April 9, 2024.

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Ontario’s Most Popular Banned Books

Rank, Book Author Search Interest Score
1. “Brave New World” Aldous Huxley 55
2. “Of Mice and Men” John Steinbeck 40
3. “His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass” Philip Pullman 36
4. “The Wars” Timothy Findley 23
5. “Persepolis” Marjane Satrapi 13
6. “The Handmaid’s Tale” Margaret Atwood 5
7. “Snow Falling on Cedars” David Guterson 4
8. “The Diviners” Margaret Laurence 3
T9. “Such is My Beloved” Morley Callaghan 2
T9. “Barometer Rising” Hugh MacLennan 2

Which Books Drew Most Search Interest?

The titles at the top of our list of banned or challenged books drawing search interest among Ontarians includes some older titles.

At No. 1 is “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, with a search volume of 55. Huxley (1894-1963) released “Brave New World” in 1932 and it has been subjected to bans ever since for content that many feel is explicit and insensitive. 

Second among our popular books in Ontario that have been banned or challenged is the classic “Of Mice and Men” with a search volume of 40. The work by John Steinbeck (1902-68) was first published in 1937 and has been taught in schools, but also has drawn fire over the decades for what some consider to be profane and racist language.

“His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass” by Philip Pullman (36 search volume) is third. The fantasy novel was published in 1995 (titled “Northern Lights” in some parts of the world) and drew criticism from some Christian groups.

The other authors who penned our top 10 banned books belong to a diverse list that includes five Canadians: Toronto natives Timothy Findley and Morley Callaghan, Ottawa-born Margaret Atwood, Margaret Laurence (born in Neepawa, Manitoba) and Hugh MacLennan (born in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia).

Where Is Interest In Literacy?

Do people still even read books? All right, we’re being facetious, but you have to ask yourself that question.

Recently on X (the social media giant formerly known as Twitter) there was an image of grade school-aged kids sitting next to a famous painting in an art gallery. Every kid in the photo was on a mobile phone. That’s where we are.

Attention spans are diminishing. It seems many younger people are losing out on that feeling of relaxation that comes with settling into a good book in the comfort of one’s home, or on a vacation somewhere, perhaps on a beach or next to a pool. It’s something you don’t get scrolling through Instagram on your phone (on the other hand, Ontario casino apps are easily available on your phones and other devices).

The annual World Book Day on April 23 is a global celebration of books and reading. The day was organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and first celebrated in 1995.

The objective is promoting the joy of reading, and the appreciation of the cultural and educational importance of books, especially among young people. Of course, it promotes literacy, encouraging people to explore a diverse range of books and authors. It recognizes and celebrates authors, publishers, illustrators.

But some books are banned books or challenged in some quarters. These titles pique intrigue and curiosity, spawning discussion and debate. Banned books may still be recognized for their literary quality, their cultural significance or artistic merit. It’s just that some of them address controversial or challenging topics. What’s wrong with thought-provoking literature? Maybe they are books that take on societal norms? It’s almost an act of defiance to read it.

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Mark Keast has recently covered the sports betting industry in Canada for The Parleh, and is a long-time sportswriter and editor, most notably with the Toronto Sun.

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