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A few of our favorite Banned Books

This week, September 22-28, is Banned Books Week, an annual event coordinated by the American Library Association that celebrates the freedom to read.  Banned books are ones that have been removed, or threatened with removal, from library shelves because some felt their content was inappropriate for certain audiences. Many of the titles deemed controversial in the past have become today’s classics. We’ve already shared with you some of the surprising modern banned titles that are in our collection . In addition to the works listed there,  our Dibner Library contains early editions of works by Galileo, Martin Luther and Voltaire, prohibited by the Catholic Church and listed in their infamous Index Librorum Prohibitorum (List of Prohibited Books).

Below are some of our staff’s personal favorites. Would you agree?




My favorite banned book is Alice in Wonderland (for banning details, see: I loved reading this book when I was a child, and I really wanted to be like Alice. The book’s nonsensical plot and unforgettable characters, and the original illustrations by John Tenniel –especially the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, and the Queen of Hearts–will always serve as my ideal work of fiction.

–Diane Shaw, Special Collections Cataloger, Discovery Services


Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  New York : Little, Brown, 2007.  (Deloria Library, NMAI: Call# PZ7.A382 Ab 2007).  This book won the 2007 National Book Award and was one of the top ten banned books of the American Library Association in 2011. See more at:

–Elayne Silvermith, Librarian, National Museum of the American Indian, Vine Deloria Library


hitchhikersThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.  I read this in high school as a break from the classical literature requirements of my English teachers.  It was fun and light and there was also a great BBC series with Simon Jones as Arthur Dent.

–Katie Wagner, Book Conservator, Preservation Services


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, 1900 — banned throughout the 20th century by many a school library and condemned by church leaders, for its witchcraft, “ungodliness”, having “no value”, “negativism”, and most significantly, for portraying females as strong leaders (!). Indeed, America’s first fairy tale was written by one of the most “feminist” authors of his day.

–Carrie Smith, Library Technician, History & Culture


to kill a mockingbirdHands down—Ana and I would both vote for To Kill A Mockingbird!

–Ginny Colten-Bradley and daughter Ana, Volunteers, Discovery Services


Any Judy Blume book (I think they have all been banned or challenged at some point somewhere) because she has the ability to write in a voice ‘tween’ girls understand.  Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson.  It is a well written coming-of-age book where the main character gets justice in the end. I was a school librarian for much of my career and always made sure there were high quality banned/challenged books in the collections.  YA’s (Young Adults) and ‘tweens’ have a thing for the forbidden.

–Edie Orazi, Contract Cataloger, Discovery Services


On the Classics list I enjoyed reading Gone with the Wind and Lord of the Rings only because I *wanted* to read them.  Many on the list I *had* to read in school so didn’t enjoy them nearly as much 🙂

–Polly Lasker, Librarian, National Museum of Natural History


Did we miss your favorite? Tells us: what’s your best-loved banned book?

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