Launched in the 1980s with help from the American Library Association, Banned Books Week is a celebration of the freedom to read that now reaches nearly 3 billion readers every year.
The freedom to read is a key piece of intellectual freedom – the crucial freedom to hold, receive, and disseminate ideas from all points of view without restriction. Intellectual freedom is very important to libraries – they are committed to providing the ideas and information, in a variety of formats, to allow people to inform themselves.
Despite the success of Banned Books Week, censorship (the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons find objectionable or dangerous) still occurs and books are still being banned and challenged across the United States and the world.
Librarians, teachers, students, and community members must continue to stand up and speak out for the lifelong freedom to read and against censorship.
Read on to learn about some important banned books, some reasons why they were challenged or banned, and how you can read them for yourself!
– Drama by Raina Telgemeier – book, book in Spanish, ebook, ebook in Spanish
Callie rides an emotional roller coaster while serving on the stage crew for a middle school production of Moon over Mississippi as various relationships start and end, and others never quite get going. According the American Library Association*, challenged for LGBT+ content.
– George by Alex Gino – book, ebook, eaudiobook, CD audiobook, Playaway
Knowing herself to be a girl despite her outwardly male appearance, George is denied a female role in the class play before teaming up with a friend to reveal her true self. Challenged for LGBT+ content*.
– Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey – books, ebooks, eaudiobooks, Hoopla eaudiobooks
Best friends George and Harold are fourth grade students and class clowns at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School. They also love comics and have hypnotized their mean principal Mr. Benny Krupp to become the superhero Captain Underpants. Together they all become involved in hilarious adventures from stopping evil space aliens and toilets to overcoming villains. Challenged for profanity*.
– Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – book, large print, book in Spanish, book in Japanese, book in Korean, book in Russian, ebook, eaudiobook, CD audiobook, Playaway
Rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle, a young boy with a great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Challenged for occultism*.
– Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor – book, large print, ebook, eaudiobook, CD audiobook, Playaway
A Black family living in the South during the 1930s is faced with prejudice and discrimination which their children don’t understand. Challenged for profanity*.
– The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – book, large print, ebook, ebook in German, eaudiobook, CD audiobook, Playaway, Hoopla ebook, Hoopla eaudiobook
After witnessing her friend’s death at the hands of a police officer, Starr Carter’s life is complicated when the police and a local drug lord try to intimidate her in an effort to learn what happened the night Kahlil died. Challenged for profanity, substance use, and sexuality*.
– The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – book, ebook, eaudiobook, CD audiobook
Charlie is shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward; he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie attempts to navigate his way through the uncharted territory of high school: the world of first dates and mix-tapes, family dramas and new friends. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. Challenged for offensive language and LGBT+ content*.
– Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin – book, ebook
Draws on six first-person interviews to share compassionate insights into the teen transgender experience, tracing each individual’s emotional and physical journey as it was shaped by family dynamics, living situations and the transition each teen made during the personal journey toward acknowledgement of gender preference. Challenged for LGBT+ content*.
– Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – book, book in Spanish, ebook, eaudiobook, CD audiobook, Playaway
When high school student Clay Jenkins receives a box in the mail containing thirteen cassette tapes recorded by his classmate Hannah, who committed suicide, he spends a bewildering and heartbreaking night crisscrossing their town, listening to Hannah’s voice recounting the events leading up to her death. Challenged for addressing suicide*.
– Beloved by Toni Morrison – book, large print, ebook, eaudiobook, CD audiobook
Sethe, an escaped slave living in post-Civil War Ohio with her daughter and mother-in-law, is persistently haunted by the ghost of her dead baby girl. Challenged for violence and sexuality*.
– The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – book, large print, ebook, eaudiobook, CD audiobook, Playaway
Offred, a Handmaid, describes life in what was once the United States, now the Republic of Gilead, a shockingly repressive and intolerant monotheocracy, in a satirical tour de force set in the near future. Challenged for profanity and sexuality*.
– Fun Home by Alison Bechdel – book, book in Spanish, ebook in Spanish, Hoopla ebook
An unusual memoir done in the form of a graphic novel by a cult favorite comic artist offers a darkly funny family portrait that details her relationship with her father, a historic preservation expert dedicated to restoring the family’s Victorian home, funeral home director, high-school English teacher, and closeted homosexual. Challenged for violence and sexuality*.
– Saga: Volume One by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples – book, ebook, Hoopla ebook
Two soldiers from opposite sides of a galactic war, fall in love and risk everything when they decide to start a family. Challenged for profanity and sexuality*.
– The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison – book, large print, ebook, eaudiobook, CD audiobook
Eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove, an African-American girl in an America whose love for blonde, blue-eyed children can devastate all others, prays for her eyes to turn blue, so that she will be beautiful, people will notice her, and her world will be different. Challenged for sexuality*.
Click here for more banned books available with your Suffolk County public library card!
*American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom Top 10 Most Challenged Books Lists
Header image by Movidagrafica from Pixabay.