Recommended Common Reads from FIRE and First Amendment Watch

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. 

Fiction

Banned Books

  • “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury (1953)
    Fahrenheit 451 cover
  • “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)

Nonfiction

Free Speech on Campus

  • “Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech” by Keith E. Whittington (2018)

Resource: So to Speak podcast episode, “‘Speak Freely’ with Professor Keith Whittington” 

  • “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)
    Hong Kong on the Brink cover
  • “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)

Resource: So to Speak podcast episode, “‘The Constitution of Knowledge’ with Jonathan Rauch

  • “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)

Resource: So to Speak podcast episode, “‘Burning the Books’ with Richard Ovenden

  • “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)

Resource: So to Speak podcast episode, “‘Lust on Trial’ with Amy Werbel

  • “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

  • “Mere Civility” by Teresa M. Bejan (2017)
  • “The Soul of the First Amendment” by Floyd Abrams (2017)
  • “Revolutionary Dissent: How the Founding Generation Created the Freedom of Speech” by Stephen D. Solomon (2016)
    “Revolutionary Dissent: How the Founding Generation Created the Freedom of Speech” cover

Resource: So to Speak podcast episode, “NYU Professor Stephen Solomon’s ‘Revolutionary Dissent’

  • “Liberty’s First Crisis” by Charles Slack (2015)
  • “The Great Dissent” by Thomas Healy (2013)

Resource: So to Speak podcast episode, “‘The Great Dissent’ with Professor Thomas Healy

  • “Defending My Enemy” by Aryeh Neier (1979)

Resource: So to Speak podcast episode, “Aryeh Neier on ‘Defending My Enemy’”

Tolerance and Censorship 

  • “Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All” by Suzanne Nossel (2020)

Resource: So to Speak podcast episode, ‘Dare to Speak’ with PEN America’s Suzanne Nossel

  • “HATE: Why We Should Resist it With Free Speech, Not Censorship” by Nadine Strossen (2018)

Resource: So to Speak podcast episode, “‘HATE’ with Nadine Strossen

  • “The Coddling of the American Mind” by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt (2018)

Resource: So to Speak podcast episode, “‘Coddling’ One Year Later

  • “Tyranny of Silence” by Flemming Rose (2016)

Resource: So to Speak podcast episode, “Flemming Rose and ‘The Tyranny of Silence’

  • “Freedom From Speech” by Greg Lukianoff (2014)
  • “On Tolerance” by Frank Furedi (2011)
  • “Kindly Inquisitors” by Jonathan Rauch (1993)

So to Speak podcast episode, “Jonathan Rauch’s ‘Kindly Inquisitors’

Historical Documents and Foundational Texts 

  • “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. (1968)
  • “Cato’s Letters” (1720-23) by John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon

Resource: First Amendment Watch’s “History Speaks” entry 

  • “The Report of 1800” by James Madison (1800)

Resource: First Amendment Watch’s “History Speaks” entry

  • “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill (1859)

Resource: “All Minus One: John Stuart Mill’s Ideas on Free Speech, Illustrated

  • Abrams v. United States (1919), Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, dissenting

Resource: First Amendment Watch’s “History Speaks” entry 

  • Whitney v. California (1927), Justice Louis Brandeis, concurring 

Resource: First Amendment Watch’s “History Speaks” entry

  • “Areopagitica” by John Milton (1644)

Resource: First Amendment Watch’s “History Speaks” entry

  • “Letter Concerning Toleration” by John Locke (1689)

Bonus: Sources for First Amendment News and Commentary