Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information.
Banned Books Week 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.
As President John F. Kennedy remarked, "Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors."
The James V. Brown Library is participating in Banned Book Week this year by highlighting some of the most frequently challenged books in our collection. Some of those include:
- Sherman Alexie, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian." This book was challenged as required reading in at least three freshman English classes at Westfield, N.J. High School (2012) because of "some very sensitive material in the book and strong language."
- Stephen Chbosky, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." This book was challenged as an assigned reading at the Grandview Heights, Ohio High School (2012) because the book deals with drugs, alcohol, sex, homosexuality and abuse.
- E.L. James, "Fifty Shades of Grey." This book was pulled, but later returned to the Brevard County, Fla. public libraries' (2012) shelves "in response to public demand." The racy romance trilogy is particularly popular among middle-aged women. Despite overwhelming demand and long wait lists for library copies, some other libraries across the country are refusing to acquire the book.
- Jeannette Walls, "The Glass Castle: A Memoir." This book was removed, but later returned as an assigned reading for ninth-grade honors English in the Traverse City, Mich. West Senior High School (2012).
The 2005 best-selling memoir recounts the author's experience growing up in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father and a mother who suffered from mental illness.
Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries.
A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.
To see lists of the most frequently challenged books, go to www.jvbrown.edu.
Celebrate your freedom to read by reading a banned book today.
The James V. Brown Library, 19 E. Fourth St., Williamsport, Pa., is the place to learn, connect and grow.
Founded in June 1907, the library champions the love of reading, opens the doors to lifelong learning, provides a safe haven to those who seek and ensures the preservation of public library services for future generations.
The library and its outreach services assist more than 350,000 patrons who come through its doors annually and online at for access to free materials, computers, classes, exhibitions, and programming for children, tweens, teens and adults.
The James V. Brown Library is part of the statewide literacy initiative of PA Forward, helping libraries build communities one person at a time.
The James V. Brown Library is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and 24/7 at www.jvbrown.edu.