Celebrate the Freedom to Read: Banned Books Around the World

Library Resources | September 25, 2017

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Banned Books Week is a celebration and reminder of our freedom to read, highlighting the value of free and open access to information.

Banned Books Week is upon us, and libraries in the United States and around the world are getting ready. Started in 1982 by the American Library Association (ALA), Banned Books Week is observed every year as a celebration and reminder of our freedom to read. According to ALA, Banned Books Week is generally held during the last week of September and “highlights the value of free and open access to information.” Books are typically banned or challenged in schools and libraries for sexual or violent content, or for expressing religious or political ideas. 

Many libraries have commemorated the event in creative ways, and this year is no different: Washington D.C.’s library foundation has hidden banned books around the city and provided clues for patrons to find them, scavenger-hunt style; the town of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is putting on a show titled “Banned Together: A Censorship Cabaret,” in which local actors and singers will perform songs and scenes from banned plays and musicals; and in Chicago, Illinois, City Lit Theater Company is hosting a 60-minute program which features five-minute readings from the top ten challenged books of 2016.

However, banning books isn't just something that happens in the United States. Other countries have joined the cause in commemorating Banned Books Week. For example, artist Marta Minujín built a full-sized Parthenon replica using over 100,000 banned books in Kassel, Germany, a site that Nazis once used to burn thousands of books. Even today, governments still ban books for whole countries.

[Banned Book Week] highlights the value of free and open access to information.

Here are some examples of currently banned books around the world.  

  • Nine Hours to Rama by Stanley Wolpert – banned in India since 1962, this book describes the people who were involved in Mahatma Gandhi's assassination in 1948 and is banned for implying that the Indian government either colluded in his death or was too incompetent to stop it. 
  • One of the most famous banned books in the world, The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie has been banned throughout the Middle East since 1982 due to its perceived blasphemies against Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwā against Rushdie after the book's publication.
     
  • Zhuan Falun by Li Hongzhi details the beliefs of the Falun Gong sect, which was outlawed by the Chinese government in 1999.
     
  • Area of Darkness (can be found on EBSCO eBooks™) by V.S. Naipaul was banned in India immediately after publication in 1964 due to its "negative portrayal of India and its people."
     
  • The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown was banned in Lebanon upon publication in 2004 due to objections by the country's Catholic community. 
     
  • Great Soul (can be found on EBSCO eBooks) by Joseph Lelyveld was banned in India in 2011 because it was interpreted by the Indian government as portraying Mahatma Gandhi as gay or bisexual.  
     

For more Banned Book recommendations, check out our e-book collection of Banned and Challenged Books

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