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48 Best Banned Books Quotes To Inspire Change

Quote Graphic: Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. — Alfred Whitney Griswold

Banned Books: the phrase itself stirs curiosity and a sense of rebellion. 

Books are often banned for challenging the status quo, pushing boundaries, or questioning the prevailing social and cultural norms. 

While some may see these works as controversial, they’re often the very texts that open our minds, expand our horizons, and provoke meaningful dialogue. They remind us that to make a positive difference in society, one has to dare to think differently and challenge accepted beliefs.

Throughout history, many of the greatest thinkers and authors have found themselves in hot water for their ideas. Yet, it’s often these very books that become the cornerstones of intellectual growth and social progress. They inspire us to question, explore, and ignite change.

We’ve gathered some powerful quotes from and about banned books, which celebrate the invaluable role these works play in promoting critical thinking and fostering a more equitable society. 

Whether you’re an avid reader, a free-speech advocate, or simply someone curious about the world’s most debated texts, these quotes will make you appreciate the transformative power of challenging literature. 

Take a journey through these quotes and get inspired to explore the books that have been deemed too provocative, too radical, or too groundbreaking for their time.

You might also like: How To Help During Banned Books Week | Good Good Good Book Recommendations | Book Holidays & Months Calendar | Quotes About Books & Reading

The Best Quotes About Banned Books

“Banning books is just another form of bullying. It’s all about fear and an assumption of power. The key is to address the fear and deny the power.”
— James Howe

“Banning books is just another form of bullying. It’s all about fear and an assumption of power. The key is to address the fear and deny the power.” — James Howe‍

“A dangerous book will always be in danger from those it threatens with the demand that they question their assumptions. They’d rather hang on to the assumptions and ban the book.”
— Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader and the Imagination

“Today, some of the books that shaped my life and the lives of so many others — are being challenged by people who disagree with certain ideas or perspectives. And librarians are on the front lines, fighting every day to make the widest possible range of viewpoints, opinions, and ideas available to everyone.”
Barack Obama

“Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.”
— Judy Blume

“Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.” — Judy Blume

“Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.”
— Mark Twain

“We need to be teased, questioned, and disrupted. Our minds need to be stirred up.”
— Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”
— George R.R. Martin

“The thought that leads me to contemplate with dread the erasure of other voices, of unwritten novels, poems whispered or swallowed for fear of being overheard by the wrong people, outlawed languages flourishing underground, essayists’ questions challenging authority never being posed, unstaged plays, canceled films — that thought is a nightmare. As though a whole universe is being described in invisible ink.”
— Toni Morrison

“It’s emotionally taxing to have my book(s) banned. But not because they’re my books, but because all I can think about is the message it sends to the Black kids who see themselves in my books.
They deserve to have their stories told whether it makes you comfortable or not.”

— Angie Thomas, in a tweet

“It’s emotionally taxing to have my book(s) banned. But not because they’re my books, but because all I can think about is the message it sends to the Black kids who see themselves in my books. They deserve to have their stories told whether it makes you comfortable or not.” — Angie Thomas, in a tweet

“The important task of literature is to free man, not to censor him, and that is why Puritanism was the most destructive and evil force which ever oppressed people and their literature: it created hypocrisy, perversion, fears, sterility.”
— Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 4: 1944-1947

“The main issue I have with this is that these bannings and challenges send a clear message to queer kids and kids of color: We would rather not think about you, learn about you, or accept you. I grew up in a conservative district where bannings were common. As someone who was dealing with homophobia, racism, homelessness, and abuse as a child/teenager, it was horrifically isolating to see adults in my life say that we shouldn’t talk about those issues or that kids shouldn’t be exposed to them. These ‘issues’ weren’t things in a book to me; I couldn’t close the covers, put them back on the shelf, and forget them. It was my everyday life.”
— Mark Oshiro, in an interview

“The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.”
— Oscar Wilde

“The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.” — Oscar Wilde

“All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently, the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.”
— George Bernard Shaw, Mrs. Warren’s Profession

“There are no bad authors for children… because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories.”
— Neil Gaiman

“If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to all except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty.”
— John F. Kennedy

“Authors often get most of the attention when it comes to issues around book banning and intellectual freedom, but those who really deserve the plaudits and attention are the teachers and librarians and community members doing the work every day to keep books available.
They often take far greater risks than any author in defense of intellectual freedom. So the next time you see a teacher or librarian, please thank them on behalf of authors, readers, and the communities they serve.”

John Green, in a tweet

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
— Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

“He who destroys a good book kills reason itself.”
— John Milton

“He who destroys a good book kills reason itself.” — John Milton

“If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.”
— Benjamin Franklin

“I hate it that Americans are taught to fear some books and some ideas as though they were diseases.”
— Kurt Vonnegut

“I hate it that Americans are taught to fear some books and some ideas as though they were diseases.” — Kurt Vonnegut

“Although there are those who wish to ban my books because I have used language that is painful, I have chosen to use the language that was spoken during the period, for I refuse to whitewash history. The language was painful and life was painful for many African Americans, including my family. I remember the pain.”
— Mildred D. Taylor, The Land

“If there’s one American belief I hold above all others, it’s that those who would set themselves up in judgment on matters of what is ‘right’ and what is ‘best’ should be given no rest; that they should have to defend their behavior most stringently. As a nation, we’ve been through too many fights to preserve our rights of free thought to let them go just because some prude with a highlighter doesn’t approve of them.”
— Stephen King, in his blog

“If we want truth, every man ought to be free to say what he things without fear.”
— Erasmus

“Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail.”
— Alfred Whitney Griswold

“Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail.” — Alfred Whitney Griswold

“Books with heavy topics are not going to harm children. Children still have to exist in a world full of these heavy topics, and are going to be affected by them whether they read the book or not. Having a book though, gives them the tools, the language, the resources, and the education so that when they are having to deal with a heavy topic, they have a roadmap for how to handle it.”
— George M. Johnson

“Reading develops cognitive skills. It trains our minds to think critically and to question what you are told. This is why dictators censor or ban books. It’s why it was illegal to teach slaves to read. It’s why girls in developing countries have acid thrown in their faces when they walk to school.”
— Karin Slaughter

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
— Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

“Harmful literature is more useful than useful literature, for it is antientropic, it is a means of combating calcification… It is utopian, absurd… It is right 150 years later.”
— Yevgeny Zamyatin

“Harmful literature is more useful than useful literature, for it is antientropic, it is a means of combating calcification… It is utopian, absurd… It is right 150 years later.” — Yevgeny Zamyatin

“Having the freedom to read and the freedom to choose is one of the best gifts my parents ever gave me.”
— Judy Blume

“I’m always sorry that people ban my books. Many times I’ve been called the most banned. Many times my books are banned by people who never read two sentences.”
Maya Angelou

“The burning of a book is a sad, sad sight, for even though a book is nothing but ink and paper, it feels as if the ideas contained in the book are disappearing as the pages turn to ashes and the cover and binding — which is the term for the stitching and glue that holds the pages together — blacken and curl as the flames do their wicked work. When someone is burning a book, they are showing utter contempt for all of the thinking that produced its ideas, all of the labor that went into its words and sentences, and all of the trouble that befell the author.”
— Lemony Snicket,   A Series of Unfortunate Events #12: The Penultimate Peril

“Books and all forms of writing have always been objects of terror to those who seek to suppress truth.”
— Wole Soyinka, The Man Died: The Prison Notes

“Books and all forms of writing have always been objects of terror to those who seek to suppress truth.” — Wole Soyinka, The Man Died: The Prison Notes

“The dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book.”
— Walt Whitman

“I think there’s a certain amount of condescension toward teen readers in all of this — that somehow we must protect them because they don’t have the intellectual sophistication or nuance to understand what the point of a scene is and can only take everything literally. But that’s, of course, ludicrous. Kids do not read Animal Farm and think, ‘We really need to get rid of all these pigs, they’re revolutionaries.’ They think, ‘Ah, this is a metaphor.’”
John Green

“To be told your books can’t be on display or that your books are inappropriate because they simply reflect your life and experiences… it’s not only an act of censorship but an act of violence to the community.”
— Deborah Caldwell-Stone

“If a public school were to remove every book because it contains one word deemed objectionable to some parent, then there would be no books at all in our public libraries.”
— Peter Scheer

“If a public school were to remove every book because it contains one word deemed objectionable to some parent, then there would be no books at all in our public libraries.” — Peter Scheer

 “Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but unlike charity, it should end there.”
— Clare Booth Luce

“I take the side of young people, but I am also a realist; it is especially offensive to me when an uptight adult suggests that my stories are ‘inappropriate’ for young readers. I imagine, when I write, that I am writing for young readers — not for uptight adults.”
— John Irving

“Banning books gives us silence when we need speech. It closes our ears when we need to listen. It makes us blind when we need sight.”
— Stephen Chbosky

“Banning books gives us silence when we need speech. It closes our ears when we need to listen. It makes us blind when we need sight.” — Stephen Chbosky

“All these people talk so eloquently about getting back to good old-fashioned values. Well, as an old poop I can remember back to when we had those old-fashioned values, and I say let’s get back to the good old-fashioned First Amendment of the good old-fashioned Constitution of the United States — and to hell with the censors! Give me knowledge or give me death!”
— Kurt Vonnegut

“Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.”
— Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

“To reject the word is to reject the human search.”
— Max Lerner

“You know what they say: When people start burning books they’ll soon burn human beings.”
— Cornelia Funke

“Those most marginalized readers are being further marginalized, and their access is the access that has been limited the most, and I just don’t know that the people who are banning books, care about that — I wish they did.”
— Maia Kobabe

“Those most marginalized readers are being further marginalized, and their access is the access that has been limited the most, and I just don’t know that the people who are banning books, care about that — I wish they did.” — Maia Kobabe

“I feel personally there hasn’t been a word written or uttered that shouldn’t be published.”
— Barney Rosset

“Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself.”
— Potter Stewart

“Submitting to censorship is to enter the seductive world of ‘The Giver’: the world where there are no bad words and no bad deeds. But it is also the world where choice has been taken away and reality distorted. And that is the most dangerous world of all.”
— Lois Lowry

“Yes, books are dangerous. They should be dangerous — they contain ideas.”
— Pete Hautman

Quote Graphic: “Yes, books are dangerous. They should be dangerous — they contain ideas.” — Pete Hautman

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August 28, 2023 3:46 PM
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