2021 Reading Challenge: Read a Book That Has Been Banned or Frequently Challenged

Throughout the years, books have been challenged—usually with the seemingly-innocent intention to protect others (frequently children) from difficult or abstract ideas and information. 

Issues around gender expression, sexuality, identity, race, immigration and even consent have not been part of the mainstream discourse, so when books emerge that challenge the status quo, some people get angry and demand those books be removed so no one has access to them. Even when well intentioned, this gate-keeping constitutes censorship, and denies individuals—specifically young persons—from gaining access to a text that could help them work out who they are. One person’s moral judgement of appropriateness might severely limit access to a crucial work and thereby prevent others from discovering key information that could be relevant to their actual lives.

This reading challenge encourages you to support the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular, by reading a book that has been banned or frequently challenged. 

The books featured for this reading challenge have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. September 26-October 2 also marks Banned Books Week, which draws attention to the harms of censorship and the benefits of unrestricted reading.

When searching for titles, I recommend checking out the American Library Association’s Top 10, opens a new window lists of each decade.

 A recent addition to the list was "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, opens a new window," which was almost removed from the curriculum in Round Rock, Texas after one parent filed a complaint against the book. "Stamped" is a highly accessible history of racism and Black history in America. 

In 2020, ALA published a list of 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the Decade, opens a new window. One of my absolute favorite books (included in this list) is the mystery and coming-of-age novel, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" by Mark Haddon. 

Many excellent graphic novels are on that list, too. "This One Summer, opens a new window" is a beautiful graphic novel written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki and features LGBTQ+ characters on a summer getaway. I also recommend "Fun Home" by Alison Bechdel, a powerful and moving story about a dysfunctional family.

Check out OPL’s other lists of banned/challenged books for kids, opens a new window, teens, opens a new window and adults, opens a new window, and find additional title suggestions in this list, opens a new window

If you’re still having trouble deciding and want something tailored specifically to your interests, fill out a Custom Reading List request at omahalibrary.org/find-your-next-read, opens a new window and a librarian will find you more options! 

Submit your completed reading log online, opens a new window or return a completed tracking sheet, opens a new window to any OPL branch to receive a pin and to be entered into a drawing for some fun literary-themed prizes! All completed tracking sheets or online challenge form entries must be received by December 31, 2021, to be entered into the prize drawing.