Banned Books Week: Stand Up for Your Freedom to Read

Banned Books Week challenges the idea that anyone can tell you what to read. Or what not to read. This week, look through your TBR pile or scan lists of challenged books. Pick up a title you might not normally choose. Don’t let anyone tell you that a book is too racy or radical or risky for you. Dare to read dangerously.

Every year, the American Library Association tracks what books have been challenged or banned. Challenging a book involves attempting to remove access by a person or group, where banning successfully removes that book. People challenge books for many reasons, objecting to sexual content, religious ideas that conflict with their own, or subjects they find distasteful. Check out the books most frequently challenged, organized by year, and including books for children and young adults, as well as titles challenged for diverse content and even classics.

If you’re interested in recent challenges, the ALA provides handy annual infographics.

Top 10 Most Challenged Books 2016
Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

Banned Books Week takes place every September, but people challenge or ban books all year long. They attempt to block your access to material that might change your way of thinking or open your mind to new ideas. We fight for the publication of more diverse books, but we must also stand for the right to read them.

Take a Stand

Do you love a book that people threaten to ban? Speak out this week on social media. Tell us why you love that title. If you hear about someone challenging a book in your town or city, make your opinion known. Speak up and explain what makes that book important. Check out the ALA for ways to help, ideas for boosting the signal, and resource materials. Share your love of books by helping to keep them accessible to everyone.

Rise to the Challenge: Read a Banned Book

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

This year, Banned Books Week runs from September 27 through October 3. As it does each year during this week, the American Library Association will be promoting its lists of books that are commonly banned or challenged in order to encourage readers to stand up for freedom of information and their right to read what they choose.

While some some writers may be aware during the creation process that they’re delving into potentially incendiary subjects, most likely have no idea that their work will one day be challenged by a library or teacher or parent or community. And though it might be flattering to be hotly debated, most writers would probably prefer to be read rather than banned. Banned books get increased attention, but also lose readers.

How would you feel if a book you’d poured your heart and soul into writing suddenly was challenged by a local school board or librarian? If it disappeared mysteriously from your corner bookstore’s shelves because someone complained about its content? What books have you read and enjoyed (or perhaps hated) that have graced a banned-books list at some point? You might be surprised at the titles that have garnered criticism.

Check out the top banned books from 2014, and the books that have been most challenged through the decades. See what already graces your bookshelves, and maybe pick up one or two new ones to read next week. Everyone should have a choice of what books they read; it’s not for someone else to remove that freedom.

Banned Books Week

It would be terrific to live in a world where Banned Books Week was unnecessary, but as long as people attempt to get books thrown out of libraries and schools, as long as there are individuals who think books are for feeding fires instead of feeding minds, Banned Books Week remains important. It serves as an opportunity to draw attention to those titles that have been criticized for addressing subjects that make people uncomfortable, to books with difficult ideas or harsh imagery or what some might label objectionable vocabulary. Banned Books Week reminds us to embrace our right to read what we wish and to stand up for all the diverse voices striving to be heard.

Over at Book Riot, contributor Kelly Jensen urges us to stop “celebrating” Banned Books Week, rightly pointing out that the week itself is nothing to celebrate. But what we should celebrate is our freedom to read the very books that have been banned, not just this week but all year long. So choose a book from one the many available lists of banned works, and add it to your reading pile for the week, and maybe pick up a few more for the months ahead. Sadly, you can choose from many, many titles.

Banned Books That Shaped America

Banned and Challenged Classics

List of Books Banned by Governments

Banned Books Week: A List