Get Caught Reading Banned Books

Banned Books Mugshot
Jailed Book Ulysses grapes of wrath Slaughterhouse Five

I am guilty of reading subversive literature filled to the brim with dangerous ideas and inflammatory language. I have been committing illicit acts of reading since I was a child, though my teen years were my most seditious. Yet I have never been arrested, or had to smuggle in a restricted book. I have always enjoyed the right to read freely and that is why I celebrate Banned Books Week.

This year Banned Books Week is September 22-28 and I encourage you to visit your local Denver Public Library branch and get caught reading banned books! If you have your mug shot photo taken with your favorite banned book, be sure to share it with us on the DPL facebook page.

The cynics may point out that these days there are far more challenges to books than successful bans and no one is really arrested for reading. So why all the hubbub about banned books? 
The truth is, in our not too distant past, right here in America, books were banned and others literally burned. Let’s take a look back at some of America’s own acts of censorship and celebrate how far we’ve come.

  • James Joyce’s Ulysses was not even allowed to enter the country on the basis that reading it might inspire “impure and lustful thoughts.” Finally in 1933, a decade after its publication, a federal judge ruled that the book was not obscene, and concluded that, "If one does not wish to associate with such folks as Joyce describes, that is one's own choice."
  • In 1939 The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck was BURNED on the steps of the East St. Louis, IL Public Library on the grounds that "vulgar words" were used, while simultaneously climbing the bestseller list. Other private citizens took to burning the book as well, including in Kern County, CA (the characters’ final destination) where it was considered “liable and lie” and banned from local libraries. Even against such popular outrage, one local librarian struggled to overturn the ban.
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut still suffers challenges and was banned yet again from a Missouri high school in 2011. This classic has been accused of being vulgar and obscene, containing profanity and sexually explicit material, and more. In 1973, however, the local high school in Drake, ND took its disapproval of Vonnegut’s novel too far and burned all 32 copies in the school furnace.

In response to the 1973 book burning, Vonnegut wrote,
“Perhaps you will learn from this that books are sacred to free men for very good reasons, and that wars have been fought against nations which hate books and burn them. If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own.”

Today our freedom to read is protected by the Library Bill of Rights and most challenges prove unsuccessful. Yet the challenges to remove and restrict books from schools and communities continue. Stand up for your right to read and check out a banned book this week at your local Denver Public Library branch.

Top Ten Frequently Challenged Books of 2012

What’s your favorite banned or challenged book?

Is there a banned or challenged book that you would risk jail time for?


Don't read a banned book simply because it has been banned - that only guarantees it was not understood (and, probably not even read) by at least one fool.
Read a banned book, like any other book, because great books, and great literature are powerful means to growing your own mind and imagination.
Nazis burned books - out of Fear; thus too did the Chinese and Russian Communists. Only the ignorant fear great ideas.
Some of my favorites : "Generation of Vipers" - Philip Wylie, "The 109 Days of Sodom" - Marquis De Sade, "From Here to Eternity" - James Jones, "Black is the Night" - Rod Serling, "U.S.A. Trilogy" - John Dos Passos, "The Anarchist's Cookbook" - Anonymous, "Fear of Flying" - Erica Jong, "The Blue Book" - John Birch Society, any book by Timothy Leary, "Cobwebs From a Broken Skull" - Ambrose Bierce (also"The Devil's Dictionary"), "Towards Democracy" - Edward Carpenter, etc., etc.

Thru the years I believe I've read many of these. In school even.

You are really tall!

"Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison was banned by the Randolph County, VA Board of Education last week. It's on my reading list...

Excited to read, "God: A Biography" by Jack Miles now. Thanks fellow agitator!

Because of the controversy in Adams 12 Five Star Schools over Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye", I just had to read it. From what I saw about the parental objections, I expected it to be full of explicit & wonton sex and incest. It proved to be one of the most beautiful books I have read in a long time! Through her deftness of language, Ms. Morrison created a masterful depiction of a black, post WWII community. And though I know it was a fictional story, I feel that the understanding I gained from reading this controversial book left me a better person for doing so! Definitely appropriate for advanced placement Seniors! I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for insight to the African-American perspective.

A recent NPR article raised the question, "Does banning a book actually increase interest?"

Based on these blog comments, I'd say the answer is yes!

Why on earth is Jeanette Wall's The Glass Castle banned?!? It's an outstanding book and having read it 2-3 times, I honestly don't see much of anything worthy of being banned in it! A must read for sure!

I find that the "Most Frequently Challenged Books" list is more of a "What to Read Next" list, personally. So many of my favorite books have been banned or challenged (including Glass Castle) because they do not shy away from the harsh reality of many people's lives, and challenge us to examine humanity. A bit of profanity, violence and sexual abuse was enough for certain parents to want Glass Castle removed from their local high school.

Thanks for the great blog post. I am a librarian and I, too, celebrate and embrace banned books week.

Just yesterday, a North Carolina county banned Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" from all the school libraries. So yes, we should make a big deal out of it!

Here's the link to the LA Times article:

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