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Recommended Common Reads from FIRE and First Amendment Watch

Research & Learn

Assigning readings with a strong emphasis on the value of free expression and the follies of censorship can go a long way in preparing incoming students to be intellectually curious when they arrive on campus. From banned books that warn against censorial regimes to international stories about fighting censorship to books chronicling the First Amendment’s role in America’s media landscape, this list has a book or document fit for any academic program. 


Banned Books

Fahrenheit 451 cover
  • “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury (1953)
  • “1984” by George Orwell (1949)
  • “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess (1962)
  • “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley (1932)
  • “The Satanic Verses” by Salman Rushdie (1988)
  • “We” by Yevgeny Zamyati (1924)


Free Speech on Campus

  • “Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech” by Keith E. Whittington (2018)
  • “Free Speech on Campus” by Erwin Chemerinsky and Howard Gillman (2017)
  • “Unlearning Liberty” by Greg Lukianoff (2012)

International Stories 

  • “Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink” by Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom (2020)
  • “Unfree Speech: The Threat to Global Democracy and Why We Must Act, Now” by Jason Y. Ng and Joshua Wong (2020)
  • “A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment” by Philipp Blom (2012)

Technology, the Internet, and Free Speech

  • “The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth” by Jonathan Rauch (2021)
  • “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” by Shoshana Zuboff (2018)
  • “#Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media” by Cass Sunstein (2017)

Press, the Media, and Free Speech

  • “An Aristocracy of Critics: Luce, Hutchins, Niebuhr, and the Committee That Redefined Freedom of the Press” by Stephen Bates (2020)
  • “Burning the Books: A History of the Deliberate Destruction of Knowledge” by Richard Ovenden (2020)
  • “The People vs. Ferlinghetti: The Fight to Publish Allen Ginsberg's Howl” by Ronald K. L. Collins and David M. Skover (2019)
The People v. Ferlinghetti cover
  • Resource: So to Speak podcast episode, “The Fight to Publish Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’
  • “Lust on Trial: Censorship and the Rise of American Obscenity in the Age of Anthony Comstock” by Amy Werbel (2018)
  • "Freedom of the Screen: Legal Challenges to State Film Censorship, 1915-1981" by Laura Wittern-Keller (2008)
  • “Make No Law” by Anthony Lewis (1991)

American History and Free Speech

Tolerance and Censorship 

Historical Documents and Foundational Texts 

Bonus: Sources for First Amendment News and Commentary