"Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us." – US Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas in a speech to the Authors Guild in New York on December 3, 1951
Established by the ALA in 1982, Banned Books Week is an annual event that spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. It brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.
Among the 100 Most Frequently Banned or Challenged Books in the last decade are award-winning literary classics for children, young adults, and adults, including:
Harry Potter (series) by JK Rowling
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Forever by Judy Blume
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green
When Dad Killed Mom by Julius Lester
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
A Time to Kill by John Grisham
Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Black Boy by Richard Wright
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissenger
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
Grendel by John Gardner
The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
That three of the books on this list are written by the recently deceased Toni Morrison, recognized as perhaps the greatest American novelist of the late-20th century only demonstrates how banning access to such books harms readers by depriving them the opportunity to read quality literature.
Interestingly, among the most cited reasons for challenging or banning a book in 2018 are for featuring LGBTQIA+ characters, sexually explicit content or “inappropriate” political views. This is a sea change from a decade ago, when key reasons cited for banning or challenging a book were sexually explicit content, religious values (claiming certain books glorified the satanic, occult or supernatural) or racist language.
We salute all the banned authors present and past who have written works that provoke thought, challenge conformity, and introduce readers to concepts, places, people and themes that they’ve never before encountered!