In Praise of Book Banning (But Let’s Ban the Right Ones!)


I am horrified by the ignorance of today’s Book-Banners (AKA Banners of Books).  

I do not object to banning books. I object to banning the wrong books. Today’s right wing  censors are incompetent amateurs. They are trying to ban the wrong book–books, such as  The Handmaiden’s Tale, The Hunger Games, 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, The Catcher in the Rye. 

These books have only one thing in common. They are all undemanding reads that are easy to understand. If any were on the final exam, one could get a passing grade having read only the inside front cover.

If the book banners really cared about the students, they would proscribe overlong books stuffed with impenetrable prose. Books that provoke panic attacks when appearing on the final exam.

They could start with German philosophers. Columbia, my alma mater, required all first-year students to take a two-semester course on western civilization’s great thinkers — philosophers, political theorists, economists, etc. – all in their own inscrutable words.

An evening’s homework assignment might be 90 pages of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, which began: “Human reason, in one sphere of its cognition, is called upon to consider questions, which it cannot decline, as they are presented by its own nature, but which it cannot answer, as they transcend every faculty of the mind. It falls into this difficulty without any fault of its own.”

Kant should be banned. Exposing teenagers to Kant causes side effects including gastrointestinal problems (nausea, constipation, and diarrhea), multiple personality disorders, death, eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, ordering burritos), acne (especially on the nose and ears), addiction to similar writings (Schopenhauer/Wittgenstein syndrome), bad hair days, paranoid schizophrenia, catatonic schizophrenia, undifferentiated schizophrenia, and voting Republican.

Another day this course could assign a similar quantity of gems from Hegel:

“In the preceding kinds of certainty, the truth for consciousness is something other than consciousness itself. However, the concept of this truth vanishes in the experience of it. The way the object immediately was in itself, as sensuous-certainty’s entity, perception’s concrete thing, or the understanding’s force, proves not to be the way it is in truth. Rather, this in itself turns out to be a way in which the object is only for another. The concept of the object is sublated in the actual object, or the first immediate representation is sublated in experience, and, in truth, certainty falls by the wayside. However, what has now emerged is something which did not happen in these previous relationships, namely, a certainty that is equal to its truth, for certainty is, to itself, its object, and consciousness is, to itself, the true.”

I could read both To Kill a Mockingbird and The Handmaiden’s Tale in less time than the above Hegelian paragraph.

Reading Hegel generates more frightening reactions than reading Kant. Between 2013 and 2021, in the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, 84.8% of persons convicted of poisoning younger relatives had read Hegel the day before committing this crime.

Force feeding such incomprehensible gibberish to innocent college students should be deemed cruel and unusual punishment, unlawful under the Eighth Amendment. The Eighth Amendment should also apply to Husserl, Heidegger, and Feuerbach. To avoid accusations of Teutophobia, I would include Derrida, Foucault, and Levi-Strauss.

For first year students, Columbia also required another two-semester course on great books. A great book, from Homer to Dostoyevsky, was assigned weekly. 

Paradise Lost was one such assignment.  Dr. Samuel Johnson describes this as a book that the reader “lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is.”

I reached a state of acute apathy after struggling through 35 pages of Paradise Lost in three days. I then bought the Cliff Notes. They were more tedious than the book. I could not finish either.

Book-banners, would you rather read 1984 or Paradise Lost? Catcher in the Rye or Paradise Lost? Of Mice and Men or Paradise Lost? I rest my case.

The Brothers Karamazov was another assigned weekly read. This book features nine major characters, each of whom has an average of seven nicknames. The three brothers are:

  • Alexei (Alyosha, Alyoshka, Alyoshenka, Alyoshechka, Alxeichick, Lyosha, Lyoshenka) 
  • Dmitri (Mitka, Mitya, Mitenka, Dimas, Mitri)
  • Ivan (Vanya, Vanka, Vanechka,)

In addition, the patronymic name, Fyodorovich, may, or may not, be added to each name or nickname. Thus, when the brothers assemble, they generate 320 name permutations. Editions of this book that lack name and nickname indices should be banned. 

Augustine’s Confessions was one great book I read in entirety in one week. I now can remember only that Augustine stole some pears. Nonetheless, I remember all the lyrics to the exceptionally atrocious songs of my freshman year, such as Running Bear and Please Mr. Custer. Though repulsively inane, they’re more memorable than anything that Augustine wrote. 

Book Banners, forget The Hunger Games. Do your job:

Outlaw Augustine’s Confessions. 

Banish the songs Running Bear and Please Mr. Custer

Ban Kierkegaard. All of him.

Steve Clifford
Steve Clifford
Steve Clifford, the former CEO of KING Broadcasting, has written humor for and the Huffington Post. He is the author of "The CEO Pay Machine."


  1. Anyone who’s read St. Augustine’s Confessions, especially as a college freshman, never forgets his famous prayer:

    “Lord, give me chastity and continence. But not yet!”

  2. A scholar named Anthony Esolen has written a new Confessions translation, which is already getting a lot of praise & might spark more curiosity, aside from the famous prayer. On the whole, I remember Confessions as a wondrous work, not quite as personally resounding as Dante’s Inferno, but close. Neither of those sustained cries of anguish are ever likely to make the banned books list (aside from Steve Clifford’s satire here).

    The problem is that banned books are frequently proposed by adults, long past the adolescent angst of Holden Caulfield or poor, doomed Anne Frank, and who have no clues how much those works can resonate with young people. The philistines shoveling through the bans often admit, with pride, that they’ve never cracked open the books. However, Sherman Alexie has said that whenever his Mostly True Diary of a Part-Time Indian reappears on the list, his sales get a nice fat bump. That’s some consolation.

  3. With apologies to Mr. Clifford, I think that the humor in this post is pretty clear, but I’m pretty sure that those who would ban books, including the Bible (version unspecified), would take this post as an affirmation of their so-called ‘crusade.’ I’ll give them a bit of credit for having the capability to understand the post — or maybe just reject it out of hand because somebody said to do so.


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