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Banned Books Week 2013: Top 10 Banned or Challenged Books

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French writer and philosopher Voltaire — who you may remember as the dude who wrote Candide — once famously said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." (In French, though.)

This quote sums up nicely the spirit of healthy discourse. However controversial, unpopular, or downright weird it may seem to someone else, you’re entitled to your opinion and your right to share it. After all, it’s by talking through issues and weighing all sides that we really learn about the matter at hand – and about one another.

This idea of sharing knowledge and being exposed to new ideas, whether you agree with them or not, is particularly relevant right now in Banned Books Week (9/22–9/28). As a college textbook company made up of avid readers and lifelong learners, it’s important to us to raise awareness about books unfairly under fire, and to introduce you to some you might love in the process!

What is a "banned" book?
When a person or group succeeds in getting a book they don’t like removed from a school or library, that book is considered banned. The problem, of course, is pretty clear – that instead of objecting appropriately by stating their opinion and starting a conversation, the objector just restricts everyone’s access to the book by having it banned. This is totally counterproductive to spreading knowledge because it leaves no room for discussion and debate.

And "challenged"...?
That term is for a book that someone attempted to ban, but the ban was not successful.

How did Banned Books Week start?
The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) held its very first Banned Books Week in 1982. It was in response to a sudden spike in the number of challenges being submitted against books available widely in schools, libraries, and bookstores. The OIF uses Banned Books Week to raise awareness of banned books and to show solidarity with teachers, librarians, and other educators. Basically, they're on a mission to inform, educate, and celebrate our freedom to read.

How can I participate in Banned Books Week?
First off, read a banned or challenged book! Then, check in with your local library to learn how you can support librarians who face challenges to books on their shelves. Promote awareness among not just among your fellow bookworms but everyone you know who sees the intrinsic value in discussing freely, sharing knowledge, and weighing opinions that differ from their own.

Without further ado, here are this past year’s top 10 challenged books according to the ALA – all proudly available on

1. Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey
2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
3. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
4. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
5. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
6. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
7. Looking for Alaska by John Green
8. Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz
9. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
10. Beloved by Toni Morrison

Want to see more banned books? There’re lists of the 100 most frequently challenged books by decade on the ALA website. And for our big list of heroic Banned Books Week displays, quotes and titles, check our Banned Books Week pinboard!

Image source: San José Library on Flickr