Banned: How Censorship Impacts the First Amendment

Books have been challenged, censored, banned and burned for centuries.  

From the World Economic Forum: “The burning of books, for instance, has long been used to send a powerful political message. Four months into Hitler’s regime, over 25,000 books were burnt in Munich because they were considered ‘unGerman.’” Learn more about this dark time in history here. 

Sometimes argument over censorship has ended up in court. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence was banned in the UK until 1960 when the publishers won the right to publish the novel after a famous court case. On the first day of publication, 200,000 copies were purchased. 

Related: When the Supreme Court Had to Read an 18th-Century Erotic Novel ( 

Even books that have been sitting on bookshelves for years can come under scrutiny. At Royal Holloway, University of London, Fanny Hill, one of the oldest erotic novels in the English language (which had been taught at the university for a long time) was dropped after a consultation with students because of its “pornographic content.”  

Back in 1982, so many books were being challenged in the US that a number of organizations came together to start Banned Books Week, both to highlight the fact that literature was being banned, and to celebrate the freedom to read. 

The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom dedicates much of its work to advocate for banned and challenged books. From compiling lists of frequently challenged books each year to the creation of an online form where anyone can report censorship, the freedom to read is at the forefront of the organization. 

Want to learn more about censorship’s many forms within our society, and how we can advocate for our First Amendment freedoms?  

We’ve compiled some titles below to help you learn more about the history of banned books, censorship and the fight for the freedom to READ.

You can sign up for a free library card here. If you are new to our eResources, check out these tutorial videos on how to get started.

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Pros and Cons: Banned Books

There are always two sides to every argument. Advocating for issues that matter to you is important, but what’s equally as important is understanding those issues from the other perspective. Pros and Cons: Banned Books dives deeper into this highly debated topic and provides readers with the tools and strategies to think critically and analyze the topic through an unbiased lens.

Banned Books

Immerse yourself in the stories behind the most shocking and infamous books ever published!

The Index of Prohibited Books

The first comprehensive history of the Catholic Church’s notorious Index Librorum Prohibitorum, with resonance for ongoing debates over banned books, censorship, and free speech.

Literature and the New Culture Wars

In Literature and the New Culture Wars, Deborah Appleman calls for a reacknowledgment of the intellectual and affective work that literature can do, and offers ways to continue to teach troubling texts without doing harm. Rather than banishing challenged texts from our classrooms, she writes, we should be confronting and teaching the controversies they invoke. Her book is a timely and eloquent argument for a reasoned approach to determining what literature still deserves to be read and taught and discussed.