Saturday, September 27, 2014

14 Banned Books That Are Free Online

For local communities, banning books means removing them from the shelves of local libraries, schools, and bookstores. As a result, physical copies of these books can no longer be accessed by those in the community who want to read them.
Slaughterhouse-Five, one of many banned books available for free online.
Image via

What if you're a member of the community, and you still want to read these banned books? What if the libraries, schools, or bookstores in your area never carried these books to begin with? What if there are no bookstores where you live, or the local library was closed for good because of a lack of funding? What if you're physically unable to go to the library or bookstore because of an illness or disability? That's where the Internet comes in.

Many banned books are available for you to read, absolutely free, on the Internet. On the occasion of this year's Banned Books Week, the people at listed fourteen of these books; offered explanations for why each of these fourteen books were challenged, banned, or even burned; and provided links leading you to where you can read these books for free online.

Included among the fourteen books that OpenCulture reveals are available for free online are The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald ("It did see a 1987 challenge at the Baptist College in Charleston, South Carolina, for 'language' and 'sexual references'); 1984 by George Orwell ("The novel was challenged in Jackson County, Florida, in 1981 for its supposedly 'pro-communist' message, in addition to its 'explicit sexual matter'); In Cold Blood by Truman Capote ("This true crime classic was banned, then reinstated, at Savannah, Georgia's Windsor Forest High School in 2000 after a parent 'complained about sex, violence, and profanity'); and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut ("It's been removed from a sophomore reading list at the Coventry, Rhode Island, high school in 2000; challenged by an organization called LOVE (Livingstone Organization for Values in Education) in Howell, Michigan, in 2007; and challenged, but retained, along with eight other books, in Arlington Heights, Illinois, in 2006").

For these banned books, provides links to electronic versions that are compatible with Kindle e-readers, iPads, and iPhones. Some are links to audiobooks of these titles. Other links are to online versions of these books that can be read in HTML and Plain Text formats. All of these books are free for you to read online, at your leisure, and away from the prying eyes of the busybodies in your local community.

To see all fourteen of these banned titles - and for links to the free, electronic versions of these books - see the article "Read 14 Great Banned & Censored Novels Free Online: For Banned Books Week 2014" at THIS LINK.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Stan Lee Speaks Out in Video for Banned Books Week

Lately, I've been all about Marvel films. It started with Thor, the 2011 superhero movie starring Chris Hemsworth as the hammer-wielding title character. 

Stan Lee (left) with Chris Hemsworth, star of the 2011 Marvel film Thor.
Image via the interwebs

After watching Thor, I offered my none-too-favorable opinion of the film through a social media outlet. Almost immediately, friends whom I didn't know were comic book geeks chimed in, saying I had to watch the Marvel films in a certain order in order to fully understand and appreciate each one. Two of these friends even presented the chronological output of these films so that I could watch them in the order that they were released. From that point, there was no turning back.

Of course, there would be no Marvel films without Marvel Comics, the publishing powerhouse that releases comic books featuring Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, X-Men, and other now-iconic characters that were co-created by Stan Lee. Lee is undeniably the face of Marvel Comics, appearing at comic conventions and making cameos in films based on Marvel comic books, among other acts of publicity.

Lee is, not surprisingly, a huge proponent of the comic book as a medium. He sees comic books as integral to fostering a love of reading in children, who for decades have been engaged by comics' stunning visuals, larger-than-life characters, and gripping storylines. Lee also supports the freedom to read comic books, poo-pooing pushes throughout the years to ban them.

In a video produced by the American Library Association (ALA) and the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), Stan Lee speaks out against the banning of comic books, just in time for Banned Books Week. You can watch the video at THIS LINK.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Best Film Adaptations of Banned Books

When I sat down to watch the French animated film Persepolis, released in the United States in 2007, I had no idea the emotional journey it would take me on. 
A scene from the excellent 2007 film adaption of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis.
Image via

This adaptation of Marjane Satrapi's comic on coming of age during the Iranian Revolution had me riveted from start to finish, and it evoked a range of feelings. As the end credits rolled, I was so moved that I bought the books Persepolis and Persepolis 2, eager to devour the source material.

I'm sure Persepolis is one of the rare films adapted from books that has exceeded the expectations of fans of the books. The Persepolis comic series has also been routinely challenged or banned based on its content, which makes its translation to the big screen all the more daring and important. However, it is just one of a number of banned books that have been successfully brought to the silver screen.

On the occasion of Banned Books Week, Kristin Fritz has recognized other banned titles that have been adapted into films with great success. In "Banned to the Big Screen: 10 Great Banned Books Adaptations," her article for Word & Film, she highlights the best of these cinematic translations. Among them is To Kill a Mockingbird, based on the 1960 novel by Harper Lee. "In spite of many efforts across the world to ban Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, it has sold more than thirty million copies," says Fritz. "The 1962 movie adaptation, starring Gregory Peck, Brock Peters, and Robert Duvall, won three Academy Awards and was nominated for an additional five." Indeed, To Kill a Mockingbird is an immensely powerful film that does the book great justice.

Fritz also calls attention to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which originated as the 1962 novel written by Ken Kesey. It focuses on a group of male patients at a psychiatric hospital in Oregon, and the story of their lives at the facility is told from the perspective of Chief Bromden, a fellow patient who is Native American and is assumed to be deaf and mute. The central character is Randall Jack Murphy, who is faking insanity to avoid a prison sentence. According to Fritz, the novel "has been called 'pornographic' and 'garbage.' Milos Forman brought the book to the screen in 1975 with an adaptation starring Jack Nicholson, Will Sampson, and Louise Fletcher. It won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Lead Actress, and Best Lead Actor." Having seen the film more than once, I can say that it definitely merits all of the accolades.

In addition to To Kill a Mockingbird and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Fritz mentions other stellar movies based on banned books, including Where the Wild Things Are, the 2009 film adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic 1963 children's picture book; The Lord of the Rings movies, first brought to the big screen in 2001 and based on the epic fantasy trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien; and Easy A, the 2010 film whose inspiration was The Scarlet Letter, the 1850 novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

For a complete list and detailed description of each of the banned books that Kristin Fritz recognizes as being deftly adapted to the big screen, see her article "Banned to the Big Screen: 10 Great Banned Books Adaptations," at THIS LINK.

Defending Banned Comics During Banned Books Week

While browsing Powell's recently, I came across a book by David Hajdu. It was The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America.
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Smartly positioned on an end display in the comics section of the bookstore, Hajdu's book documents the rise in popularity of comic books after World War II and the subsequent backlash at the local and national levels against their supposedly lurid content and corruptible influence on American youth. This backlash reached a fever pitch in the mid-1950s, with congressional hearings, book burnings, and the censorship of comic books and their artists and writers.

Today, comic books are still at the center of censorship battles. The fight to keep titles such as Maus by Art Spiegelman out of schools and libraries is ongoing, due to parents or other local figures deeming their content unsuitable for children. However, these books continue to be available (as they should be), thus ensuring they will continue to be challenged by "concerned" parties in the future.

In addition to Maus, a number of other comic books have been challenged because of their content. Robert Tutton lists just a few of these comic books in his Paste Magazine article, titled "In Defense of Banned Comics: 10 of Our Favorite Challenged Works." Spiegelman's Maus is among them. "The simple fact is that Maus is important — not just as a great comic, but as a cultural artifact," Tutton says. "Maus paints an eternally compelling portrait of the toll the Holocaust took on those who endure it. If the image of a gestapo officer bashing children into a brick wall is unsettling, that's because it's supposed to be." I didn't read Maus until I was in college; maybe that's when educators thought we could handle the book.

Image via

Other comic books that Tutton mentions are Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland; Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley; Bone by Jeff Smith; Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (congrats to Bechdel for being one of this year's recipients of the MacArthur Foundation genius grant); Tank Girl by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett; Stuck in the Middle by Ariel Schrag; Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse; Ice Haven (formerly Eightball #22) by Daniel Clowes; and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.  

Persepolis happens to be one of my all-time favorites; I'll admit to reading it after having watched the award-winning 2007 film adaptation, directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud. Initially, I read Persepolis during my morning and evening commutes. But then I got so wrapped up in the story of Satrapi's coming of age during the revolution in Iran that I continued to read it in any spare moment I got. I didn't expect to be as moved by the story as I was, and there are certain parts that I can't forget. Yes, the story isn't pretty, but neither is revolution. "The people who challenged Persepolis were right," says Tutton in his Paste article. "There is violence in this book, and it's there for a reason. The image of a theater full of people set on fire is meant to be haunting. This is a war-time memoir at its most candid."

For more of Robert Tutton's straightforward "Defense of Banned Comics," you can read the Paste Magazine article by clicking on THIS LINK.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Manicure for Banned Books Week

Image via; for the tutorial, go HERE.

It's Banned Books Week!

The freedom to read whatever we want is something many of us take for granted. That's why there is an annual awareness campaign called Banned Books Week. 
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Begun in 1982 by Judith Krug, a First Amendment and library activist, Banned Books Week takes place every September and is sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA). The campaign goes beyond libraries, however. It also promotes the freedom to read in schools and bookstores all across the country.

"By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship," according to the ALA website. "While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available."

Books tend to be banned because someone in the local community, often the parent of a school-aged child, objects to their presence in a school or library because of their content, which this person deems inappropriate for children. Objectionable content often has to do with language, sexual references or imagery, representations of homosexuality, allusions to witchcraft, and more.

However, before a book is banned, it is first challenged. In response to librarians facing book or material challenges, the Intellectual Freedom Committee stated in 1986 that challenges can come in the form of 1) an expression of concern; 2) an oral complaint; 3) a written complaint; 4) a public attack; or 5) outright censorship, all because someone objects to the book's content.

Books challenged on the basis of their content have included The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; The Color Purple by Alice Walker; Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey; And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnel; the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; and Forever by Judy Blume.

Despite the opposition to these books' content, they have continued to remain available. "This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read," according to the ALA on its website.

Banned Books Week is September 21 to 27, 2014. On the occasion of this year's celebration, express your freedom to read by proudly reading a banned book.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Librarians Talk Future of Libraries on Reddit

In library school, a professor shared with the class a conversation he had with his son. "Dad," his son said, "here's why we no longer need libraries. G-O-O-G-L-E."

Many believe that with the rise of Google and increasing accessibility to digital sources of information, libraries and librarians are becoming obsolete. Indeed, this belief is common enough that it was addressed during a Reddit AMA chat with four library and information professionals.

Titled "We are librarians and information professionals interested in scholarly communication. Want to know more about the future of libraries and digital information? Ask us anything!," the Reddit chat featured Rick Anderson, associate dean for scholarly resources and collections at the University of Utah's J. Willard Marriott Library; Amy Buckland, e-scholarship, e-publishing, and digitization coordinator at McGill University Library; Michael Levine-Clark, associate dean for scholarly communication and collections services at the University of Denver Libraries; and Catherine Mitchell, director of the eScholarship Publishing Group at the California Digital Library.

These library and information professionals were inevitably asked: "With digital information, why do we still need libraries?" Buckland replied, "Because libraries aren't just book warehouses. Librarians can help you find the right digital information from all the tons of junk that's out there. We also work to ensure access to information for our communities, and figure out ways to make sure that you can get to the quality stuff that you want." In response to Buckland's answer, Reddit user trashaccount12345 asked, "Doesn't Google Scholar do that? I've never had a librarian help much more than typing search terms into a database query for me." Fellow Redditer Hanmertime addressed trashaccount12345's question:

"I would say you're not necessarily going to get access to everything that's out there through Google Scholar. Libraries can give you access to certain databases they subscribe to, or work with you through ILL or some other method to get your hands on an article that you may not otherwise have access to. Also, don't forget about the digital divide. There seems to be this attitude more and more lately of, 'I have access to what I need, so everyone must have access to what they need, too.' Lots of people - regardless of what's available online - are still dependent on libraries for help. And to go even further, it's not as though librarians are only helping people find research information. They are a community hub. They could be giving someone directions to somewhere local, offering tech help to someone else, helping a high school student figure out how to apply to colleges, and so on."

Good answer, Hanmertime! I would like to add that today's libraries are also art galleries, makerspacescrafts centers, punk and zine archives, and much more.

In the same chat, the library and information professionals also talked about CIPA (Children's Internet Protection Act), strategies used for data loss prevention, ILL (interlibrary loan) as it pertains to e-books and digital subscriptions, government budget cuts' effect on libraries, the value of an MLS (Master of Library Science) degree, and how well today's library schools are preparing students for the real world of library work. For the professionals' opinions on these topics and more, see the complete Reddit AMA chat at THIS LINK.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

WPA Posters on Books and Libraries

Who doesn't like a cool poster? During the Great Depression, artists hired by the government produced many great posters, some promoting books and libraries.  
Poster for WPA Statewide Library Project in Chicago, Illinois.
Image via

During the Great Depression (1929-1939) in the United States, millions of people across the country found themselves unemployed, including thousands of artists. These artists were put to work through the Federal Art Project. The Federal Art Project was part of the Work Projects Administration (WPA), an ambitious government effort initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to employ the masses of people who were jobless as a result of the Great Depression.
Poster for bookmobile service of the Chicago Public Library.
Image via 

Through the Federal Art Project, more than 5,000 artists were employed. Some of these artists were given the task of creating posters. According to the Library of Congress website, "The posters were designed to publicize exhibits, community activities, theatrical productions, and health and education programs in seventeen states and the District of Columbia, with the strongest representation from California, Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania."
Poster publicizing Book Week in North Carolina.
Image via Marchivist on

Quite a few of these posters publicized books, libraries, and a love of reading. These posters and others can be found in the Library of Congress collection, which consists of more than 900 of the 2,000 WPA posters that are known to exist.

All of the posters in the Library of Congress' Works Projects Administration (WPA) Poster Collection were produced between the years of 1936 and 1943. The posters are striking in color and clever in design, and their messages are both simple and direct. Many of the WPA posters can easily be considered works of art.
Poster promoting book clubs in Iowa.
Image via 

Want to see more WPA posters promoting books and libraries (and other topics)? You can do so online by going to the Library of Congress website for the Works Projects Administration Poster Collection at THIS LINK. At the link, you can also obtain copies of WPA posters that catch your eye. Enjoy, and be inspired!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Multnomah County Library Celebrates 150 Years

Last week, I moved from the East Coast of the United States to the West Coast, specifically to Portland, Oregon. Even though I've only been in Portland for a week, I've already come to appreciate many things about the city: its mild and sunny weather (no rain yet!), its cleanliness, and its people's love of books.
Portland, Oregon: A city whose people have an unabashed love of books.
Image by

This love of books is reflected in numerous aspects of life in Portland, from the pride in Powell's Books, which is the largest independent used and new bookstore not just in Portland but in the world; to the brouhaha surrounding the 30th birthday of Literary Arts, a lecture series that attracts a plethora of authors and thinkers to the Northwest and hosts workshops, seminars, and public high school programs; and to the fervent passion toward the public library, the Multnomah County Library, which has manifested itself in some patrons getting tattoos of the Multnomah County Library card.

Whether they have tattoos of the library card or not, lovers of the Multnomah County Library will have the chance this month to help the library celebrate its 150th anniversary. What began in 1864 as a members-only reading room in "a frontier town with frame buildings, muddy streets, and few sidewalks" has evolved into an expansive, 19-branch public library system serving a left-leaning, well-read populace in one of the most vibrant, cultured cities in the world. To mark the occasion of its anniversary, and to thank county residents for their dedicated patronage, the Multnomah County Library will be hosting a community celebration on Saturday, September 27, 2014.
The Multnomah County Library is celebrating its 150th anniversary this month.
Image via @MultCoLib on Twitter

On Saturday, September 27, the Central Library branch, located at 801 SW 10th Avenue, will present a variety of entertainment, speakers, and activities. From 11 AM to 5 PM, the Central Library has scheduled, according to its website:

Inside the Library
  • William Stafford Calligraphy Project exhibition and calligraphy demonstration
  • 150 Years of Library Memories collection of photos and stories
  • Symphony Storytime with the Oregon Symphony
  • Storytimes in English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Vietnamese
  • Cafe Banned Presents: To Cut or Not to Cut: A Conversation About Censorship
  • Honoring Babies, Kids, and Teens--Our Shining Stars of the Library!
  • Central Library and Eco-Roof Tours
  • John Wilson Special Collections Tour

On the Outdoor Stage
  • LoveBomb GoGo
  • Oregon Ballet Theatre
  • Portland Opera
  • Bollywood Dreams Entertainment
  • Aaron Nigel Smith Band
  • Bobby Torres Ensemble
  • Director of Libraries Vailey Oehlke
  • Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury
  • Author Mathew Dickman

Additional Fun Activities
  • Reading fortunes from My Librarian
  • Literary Arts presents Oregon Authors
  • Fear No Technology: Free eBooks! Free Music! Free Movies!
  • Design Your Library of the Future! Nitya Wakhlu Innovations
  • Crafts for kids and adults
  • 3-D printing with OpenFab PDX
  • Bike repair resources from Kerr Bikes

With all of this great stuff slated to go on, the Multnomah County Library 150th anniversary celebration promises to be an event you won't want to miss. For me, it will be an excellent opportunity to further explore what my new city has to offer. If you're in Portland as well -- whether you live here or are just passing through -- be sure to check out the festivities. For more information on the day's events, and on the Multnomah County Library, see THIS LINK.