Banned Books Week is an annual celebration of the freedom to read what you please. The event was started in 1982, when the number of challenges to books assigned in schools or kept on the shelves of public libraries soared. The week brings together the entire community of book lovers—librarians, booksellers, teachers, readers, and publishers—in support of freedom of expression. This year the celebration is happening next week, from Sept. 22 to 28. The theme is “Censorship Leaves Us in the Dark” and highlights the importance of making diverse stories available to all.
For 186 years, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has been providing stories of all kinds to readers everywhere. During that time, more than a few of our books have been challenged or outright banned in some schools and communities.
It’s interesting to note that only two of the books mentioned below were actually published in the 21st century, which means overall the books' popularity has remained steady for years despite the many challenges they’ve received. This proves that good storytelling is important and that offering a wide variety of stories to children and teenagers helps them learn and succeed in the world. At HMH, we believe in the power of reading and imagination and that everyone should have the freedom to choose what they read.
The oldest HMH “banned book” is The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (pictured below, left), which was published in 1850 and was challenged because it includes scenes of adultery without remorse. The most recent book to be challenged is 2017’s Gutless by Carl Dueker, for scenes portraying bullying.