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Dig Deeper: Banned Books Week

Falvey Memorial Library’s Dig Deeper series explores topics of importance in our society and the news. It connects these subjects with resources available through the Library, so our faculty, students, and staff can explore and learn more, potentially sparking new research and scholarship.

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Banned Books Week runs this year from Oct. 1-Oct. 7. Started in 1982, this week was organized in response to a sudden surge in the amount of books challenged in libraries, bookstores, and schools. This annual event highlights the value of free and open access to information and brings together the entire book community—librarians, educators, authors, publishers, booksellers, and readers of all types—in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas.

This year’s theme is “Let Freedom Read.” In fact, the last day of Banned Books Week (Oct. 7) is Let Freedom Read Day, where people are challenged take at least one action to help defend books from censorship. This action can simply be checking out or buying a banned book or donating one to your local library. If you want to do something more active, you could reach out to library administrators, school board members, and elected officials to make your voice heard.

The American Library Association (ALA) rejects censorship, fights for everyone’s right to read, and works to ensure free and easy access to books and information. This organization also keeps track of requested book bans and commonly challenged books. In 2022, the ALA recorded an unprecedented number of 1,269 book ban demands.

Every year, the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) compiles a list of the 10 Most Challenged Books. The most recent list contains the thirteen most challenged books of 2022 (thirteen because some books are tied). If you’re interested in reading banned or challenged books, the OIF has an archive of the Top Ten Most Challenged Book Lists, going back to 2001.

The books listed below are from “The Top 13 Most Challenged Books of 2022” that are available at Falvey or through Interlibrary Loan:

Rebecca AmrickRebecca Amrick is a first year graduate student in the English Department and a Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.



Cat in the Stax: Banned Books Week Hits Close to Home

By Ethan Shea

Sunday, Sept. 26 marked the official beginning of Banned Books Week 2021. This celebration of the freedom to read hit close to home this year when controversy surrounding a book ban in York, Pa., made national headlines.

Just a couple weeks ago, there were several protests against the Central York School District’s imposition of what was effectively a book ban targeting antiracist literature. Some of the banned material included a children’s picture book titled I Am Rosa Parks, a story of the life of Malala Yousafzai, a documentary about James Baldwin, and an episode of Sesame Street on racism. The Central York School District claimed these texts were merely under review, yet this “review process” nearly lasted a year.

These books were banned last October, but this August, teachers in the district received an email telling them to continue to avoid a list of texts that included several Black writers. This ban was recently lifted as calls to reverse the ruling became more widespread, but the fact that the ban endured for so long shows that the fight for the freedom to read is ongoing. Banned Books Week comes at an especially apt time this year, as the reversal of this book ban gives readers everywhere a special reason to celebrate.

It is worth noting that denying access to books through exorbitant costs can work as an effective ban against material. If students cannot afford to buy certain texts, they have just as little access to them as they would if the texts were banned entirely. This is why the Affordable Materials Project (AMP) collaborates with Falvey Library to assure all students have access to much needed educational materials. This project has saved students over $1 million since 2018, so if you’re a student at Villanova who has not heard of AMP, I would highly recommend looking into it here.

"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings"

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou

To conclude, here are a few famous books that have been banned at some point in history:

"Brave New World"

“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou is one of the most banned writers in the United States. Since she published this autobiography in 1969, it has been challenged time after time for its depictions of racism and sexuality. Other works by Angelou have also been banned, such as her poetry collection, Still I Rise.

Brave New World

This classic dystopian novel by Aldous Huxley has been repeatedly banned for what some interpret as the glorification of sex and drugs. The 1932 work of fiction takes place in a futuristic society and warns of the dangers of industrialism and commodity culture.

"Go Tell It on the Mountain"

“Go Tell It on the Mountain” by James Baldwin

Go Tell It on the Mountain

This 1952 novel by James Baldwin was also banned for portrayals of race and sexuality. The text documents the life of John Grimes, a teenager growing up in Harlem. Much of this story is based on the life of James Baldwin himself








Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a first year English Graduate Student at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.

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Banned Books Week Selection: The Lord of the Rings

headshot of Darren Poley

“Banning The Lord of the Rings makes no sense at all. The works of J.R.R. Tolkien are woven so densely that the underlying Christian sensibility of them is a nearly imperceptible part of the fabric, but that hardly means they should be denounced as Satanic. In fact, some of the greatest works by some of the greatest minds including Augustine struggle with the invisible hand of God and the human discernment of free will in concert with a limited understanding of divine foreknowledge.

“I submit that divine Providence is a major character of The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien, because and not in spite of the fact that there is no religion in it at all, and anyone who takes a grossly un-intellectual approach to it should brush up on what C. S. Lewis called transferred classicism.”Darren G. Poley, Associate Director of Research Services and Scholarly Engagement, Theology, Humanities and Classical Studies Librarian on his must-read selection for Banned Books Week


Banned Books Week: And Tango Makes Three

headshot of Deborah Bishov

“I recommend And Tango Makes Three. It’s a sweet book, based on true events, about two male penguins who hatch an egg and raise a chick together. Everyone should read it because penguins will make you happy. On a more serious note, children’s books with LGBTQ+ characters and themes disproportionately end up on these banned books lists. Professor Rachel Skrlac Lo in the Department of Education & Counseling, some of whose research looks at the representation of families in children’s literature, has written about the idea of epistemic justice– that not only is it important for children to see their own families represented in the books they read– but that having their classmates and communities be familiar with and welcoming of different family configurations means that they have equitable access to learning and social environments and experiences. See, for example,: Lo, R. S. (2016). On listening to children: Family variation in an after-school reading club. Language Arts, 94(2), 147.  Bonus penguin content:“—Deborah Bishov, Subject Librarian for Communication, Education & Counseling, and Russian Studies, on her must read selection for Banned Books Week



Banned Books Everyone Should Read: To Kill a Mockingbird

In honor of the American Library Association’s annual Banned Books Week, which condemns censorship and urges free access to information, we asked Falvey librarians and staff to pick a book from the list of the most frequently banned and challenged books and tell us why it’s a must read.

Robert LeBlanc reads To Kill a Mockingbird

“It is a brilliant book that, even though it is problematic because of the white perspective of the narrator, is indicative of the inherent racial disparity in the American justice system and a still relevant lesson in civics.” —Robert LeBlanc, First Year Experience & Humanities Librarian


Shawn Proctor Head shot

Shawn Proctor, MFA, is Communication and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Memorial Library. One of his favorite banned books is The Hate U Give.



Last Modified: September 23, 2019

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