Every September, Banned Books Week honors our freedom to read the books that we want. The goal of this celebration is to shine a light on those books that have been challenged, censored, or banned, for one reason or another. Banned Books Week provides an opportunity for us to consider issues of censorship and creates a dialogue about our rights to read materials that might contain, in the opinions of some, controversial subject matter.
Ultimately, the freedom to read widely is essential to our ability to think broadly and engage with a wide range of ideas. According to the American Library Association, “even as we enjoy a seemingly limitless and expanding amount of information, there is always a danger in someone else selecting what is available and to whom. Would-be censors come from all quarters and all political persuasions and threaten our right to choose for ourselves" (Robert P. Boyle's Books Challenged or Banned in 2015-2016).
A few classic titles that have been banned or censored:
Censorship is not limited to the past. Even in 2015 and 2016, more than 45 titles were challenged and/or banned. Some titles you might recognize:
• The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
• The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
• I Am Jazz! by Jessica Herthel; Jazz Jennings; Shelagh McNicholas (Illustrator)
• The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
• The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
• Beloved by Toni Morrison
Top Ten Challenged Books of 2016, Video by the American Libraries Association for Banned Books Week:
Here, at the University Libraries, we have been showing off some of our favorite titles that have fallen on the challenged, banned, or censored books lists, at one point in time. We’re all smiles because we have access to read what we love!
• Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, chosen by Interim Dean of Libraries Leslie Reynolds
• J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, chosen by Interim Associate Dean Jennie Gerke
• F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, chosen by Executive Assistant to the Dean of Libraries Lisa Kippur
• Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, chosen by Director of Libraries IT Debby Weiss
• J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, chosen by Director of Social Sciences Gene Hayworth
• Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, chosen by Head of the Howard B. Waltz Music Library Stephanie Bonjack
Interested in finding out more about some of the books not mentioned above that might have made the lists? Check out this guide, libguides.colorado.edu/bannedbooks, created by our librarians, to discover if your favorite title appears as one of the many books that has been challenged, banned, or censored. The next time you pick up a book, consider that, under different circumstances, you might not have the freedom to enjoy it. Happy reading!