Columbia Journal Staff on Their Favorite Banned Books

Happy Banned Books Week!  Since 1982, this annual event has celebrated books that have been banned from and challenged in schools, bookstores, and libraries. To honor the freedom to read and express ideas, the Columbia Journal staff has compiled a list our favorite banned books. Join the conversation by following the #BannedBooksWeek hashtag on Twitter.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

My favorite book is Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. I was a little surprised to find that it was banned in various U.S. cities and burned in Nazi bonfires in the 1930s. Of course, there are truly objectionable parts in the book, but I return to this book again and again for its honesty about the state of the post-WWI world, Hemingway’s prose, and hope in creating our own purpose; we can’t escape ourselves, so we might as well get acquainted and have a few drinks. —Laura Hart, Columbia Journal Issue 57 Copyeditor

Image courtesy of Simon & Schuster

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Angelou’s debut has been banned around the country, despite also being nominated for a National Book Award and remaining on The New York Times paperback bestseller list for two years. This autobiography is important to me because it gives a raw, unflinching account of trauma and how to survive. —Liz von Klemperer, Online Fiction Editor

i know why the caged bird sings
Image courtesy of Ballantine Books

Boiled Angel by Mike Diana

Diana was the first U.S. artist to be jailed for his artwork, when he was convicted of publishing and distributing obscenity in his satirical zine Boiled Angel. I think this work is important because it creates conversation around censorship and what is obscene, turning the question around and asking if the jail and prison system are not the most obscene, rather than the art that lands people inside of them.  —Jacquelyn Marie Gallo, Print Managing Editor

boiled angel
Image courtesy of

Ulysses by James Joyce

My favorite banned book is Ulysses by James JoyceIt actually was never banned in Ireland, but it couldn’t be imported into the country so it may as well have been. It was banned in England and the U.S., among other places, though the U.S. was the first English-speaking country to allow the book to be available to purchase. It’s an important book to me for a lot of reasons: I studied it in Dublin as an undergraduate, it’s my father’s favorite book, but I also love it because it is such an incredible depiction of my home town of Dublin—Joyce even said that “if the city suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book.” I have a new appreciation of it as an immigrant here, as it’s a book that I can pick up and read a few pages of and it makes me feel like I am at home. —Ciara Ni Chuirc, Contributor

Image courtesy of Penguin Modern Classics

Howl by Allen Ginsberg

My favorite banned book is Howl by Allen Ginsberg. His words are of the time it was written but still manage to speak across generations; it is such an interesting poem and a great example of Americana. Not to mention Ginsberg was suspended from Columbia University. —Kelley Moncrief, Contributor

Image courtesy of City Lights

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

This book was challenged and removed in a school district in Illinois. The novel gives the reader an intimate view into the complex lives of several generations of an Indian family, addressing controversial and universal issues with equal grace and power. On a personal level, it reflected so much of my own family’s expansive reality, and I love that she dives in without flinching and without judgment. —Adrian Perez, Editor in Chief

god of small things
Image courtesy of Random House

Featured Photo Courtesy of Banned Books Week

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