Darwinian triumph in Academic Book Week

News - Academic Friday, 08 March 2019

On the Origin of Species crowned most influential banned book after public poll to mark Academic Book Week


The general public has voted Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) as the most influential banned book, as part of Academic Book Week. Runners-up were Harper’s Lee To Kill A Mockingbird (1960) and George Orwell’s 1984 (1949).

Considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology, On the Origin of Species introduced the idea of ‘natural selection’ and speciation. On the Origin of Species was also chosen as the most influential academic book of all time during the inaugural Academic Book Week in 2015.

The book was first banned in 1859 by the library of Trinity College, Cambridge, where Darwin had been a student. In 1925, Tennessee banned the teaching of the theory of evolution in schools; the law remained in force until 1967. The book was also banned in Yugoslavia in 1935 and in Greece in 1937.

Emma Bradshaw, head of campaigns at the Booksellers Association, said: "It’s fascinating to see the results of the Academic Book Week public vote to find the most influential banned book. On the Origin of Species has shaped the way in which we think about our entire history as a human race, despite attempts to ban it."

Academic Book Week’s full shortlist of most influential banned books is:

1984 by George Orwell (PRH)
A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller (PRH)
Beloved by Toni Morrison (PRH)
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (PRH)
Country Girls by Edna O’Brien (Faber)
His Dark Materials (series) by Philip Pullman (Scholastic)
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (Virago, Hachette)
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Lawrence (PRH)
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (PRH)
On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (OUP)
Rights of Man by Thomas Paine (OUP)
Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (PRH)
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (PRH)
The Color Purple by Alice Walker (W&N, Orion, Hachette)
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (PRH)
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (PRH)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (PRH)
Ulysses by James Joyce (PRH)
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (Faber)
Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (PRH)

Building on the success of previous years, Academic Book Week 2019 is being coordinated by the Booksellers Association in partnership with University College London. The week celebrates the diversity and influence of academic books throughout history, now and in the future, and it runs until 9 March.

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