Free Books

The number of demands to censor books in libraries nearly doubled last year, according to the American Library Association (ALA). “A record 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship, a 38% increase from the 1,858 unique titles targeted for censorship in 2021. Of those titles, the vast majority were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color.” The Top 13 Most Challenged Books of 2022 according to the ALA included Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, and Flamer by Mike Curato among others. The most cited reason for a challenge to these books was that they were either claimed to be sexually explicit or that they contained LGBTQIA+ content.

It is patently absurd to ban books. If we say we’re a country that cherishes the right to free speech, banning a book should be seen as one of the gravest violations of that sovereign right. Unfortunately for me, I live in ground zero for book bannings, and because the Florida state government is currently filled with dipshits, bored Moms for Liberty Karens and unhinged Fox-news pickled preppers will continue their tirade against history, minority existence, and uncomfortable information mostly unabated. To make things worse, this addled mind virus seems to be spreading to other states as well. I swear there’s nothing more American than American hypocrisy. Let’s add that to the Bill of Rights!

Nevertheless, you aren’t powerless, and neither am I. So, here is what we’re going to do for now until I come up with a better plan. Below is a list of resources for accessing banned books. Distribute it wherever you see fit: the bus, the coffee shop, the library, the restaurant, wherever! Spread the word about free banned books. If we work together, no ban can stop an activated citizenry.

  1. The Internet Archive has a collection of thousands of banned books that can be read on their website or downloaded with a free account. This collection does include some of the books on the Top 13 Most Challenged Books List. Check out the collection here.

  2. The Brooklyn Public Library has taken steps to offer a free virtual library card to any teen (ages 13-21) in the county. If you go to their website here, you’ll see a box on the right that highlights how to get a National Teen BPL eCard. In short, if you are a student in need of one, email, and they will hook you up. From there visit their list of “unbanned” books here, and pick which ones interest you most.

  3. Here is a list of older books that have been banned over the years. Each book’s title is a link that leads to a version of the book that you can read on the website, in the Google Read app, or download as a PDF to be read offline.

  4. Scribd has a website here that’s regularly updated with books that are being banned or challenged currently. Each book whether it’s an ebook or in audio format, comes with a 30-day free trial, which is plenty of time to check a few of these banned books off your reading list.

  5. ManyBooks has a page with a list of banned books here. Each of them can be downloaded after making a free account.

  6. Here, via OnlineBooks, several of the more recent banned books are listed as well as ways to borrow them virtually from online libraries across the world.

  7. The Seattle Public Library has begun offering a similar program to the Brooklyn Public Library, offering young people 13-26 across the United States a virtual library card that grants access to a fantastic collection that includes many banned books as well as tons of others. You can check out the collection, and fill out an application for a library card here.

I will continue to add to this list as more initiatives crop up and periodically check the ones listed to ensure they are still up. I know every year libraries go all out for Banned Books Week, which I will certainly cover, but here I want to focus on programs that are happening all year round.

If you know of any that I am missing, please let me know.