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Banned Books Are Leading to Banned Book Clubs and Increased Sales

Recently, several conservative local and state officials have targeted specific book titles and categories of books to be banned. Whilst attempts to remove these books from library shelves or classrooms haven’t gone as planned, the efforts themselves have generated interest in banned books from readers across the country. 

Here are a few examples:

  • A Missouri school board reversed its decision to remove a Toni Morrison book from school shelves just days after two students filed a lawsuit. The book is about an impoverished and abused Black girl who is fixated on White standards of beauty and longs for blue eyes.
  • In Pennsylvania, a school district banned and later decided to reverse its decision about anti-racism books, after student protests.
  • The Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel "Maus" about Holocaust survivors was recently banned by a Tennessee school board, has made the Amazon best-seller list.
The American Library Association (ALA) recorded 729 challenges to library, school and university materials and services in 2021, the most since ALA began tracking those attempts in 2000.

With all these efforts to ban books, Reclamation Ventures, started a project called Banned Books Book club. According to the company's CEO, Nicole Cardoza, readers had been inquiring how they might engage with books being targeted for removal. The club, which launched in early April, plans on monthly virtual meeting and is reading “The Hate U Give” as its first pick. The club has a list of 20 or so books that it want to read over the next two years.

Other banned book clubs are also doing similar things. The Banned Book Club at Firefly Bookstore read George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” as its first pick. The Banned Book Club at King’s Books in Tacoma has been around for more than a decade and meet on a monthly basis.

To support reading, The New York Public Library has launched an effort to make some banned books available for free. The initiative called Books for All, allows readers aged 13 or over, to access commonly banned books through the library's app until the end of May. The Brooklyn Public Library has also announced initiatives called Books Unbanned, for those aged 13-21.