On July 4, the United States of American will celebrate Independence Day and spare a moment to appreciate the freedoms and civil liberties hard won by the blood, sweat, and tears of military and civilians alike. What many many not consider among the civil liberties to be celebrated is the freedom to read.

The written word influences human thought. Throughout the centuries, governments and religious institutions have sought to direct, guide, and restrict ideas to that which did not challenge their authority over those whom they governed. Books that challenged authority were banned. In some countries, many books remain banned.

The American Library Association publishes a list of banned and challenged books. The first 25 are listed below. Many are familiar classics.

1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
9. 1984, by George Orwell
11. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
12. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
15. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
23. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison

Wikipedia offers a list of books banned by governments. Good Reads has several lists of books banned for multiple reasons. Whether considered subversive, blasphemous, or lewd, the lists of banned books range from the Bible to modern literature. In short, these books were and are banned because they offer ideas that someone somewhere doesn’t want you see, they expose you to thoughts that someone somewhere fears will corrupt your mind.

The internet has greatly expanded access to banned and challenged literature. As stated, many are classics. Libraries, the first and often foremost bastion upholding the freedom to read, carry many–if not all–of these books. Those books which have passed into the public domain can also be obtained in digital format from the World Public Library and Project Gutenberg.

So, on this celebration of Independence Day, exercise your civil liberty and read.