The list of books discussed in the Words Beyond Bars Project, a pilot program at the Limon Correctional Facility:
Cooked, by Jeff Henderson (2007). The true story of a cocaine dealer's transformation into a top chef in Las Vegas, after nine years of learning kitchen lore at a federal prison.
Somewhere in the Darkness, by Walter Dean Myers (1992). A young-adult novel about a fourteen-year-old Harlem youth who embarks on a cross-country adventure with his long-absent father, only to discover that Pops has just escaped from a prison hospital.
Words Beyond Bars Project
The Giver, by Lois Lowry (1993). Long before the Hunger Games vogue, Lowry's dark tale of a future society that prizes "sameness" and lack of pain stirred up controversy over whether children should be exposed to such bleak fare.
The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien (1990). A series of interconnected, semi-autobiographical stories about a combat platoon, widely regarded as one of the greatest works of fiction to emerge from the Vietnam War.
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Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck (1937). Adapted numerous times for the screen and stage, the saga of Lennie and George is an American classic — yet is still frequently challenged by censors for racially charged language.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1962). Set in a Soviet labor camp in the 1950s, the novel traces a single exhausting day in the protagonist's ten-year struggle to endure life in the gulag.
Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo (1862). A thief gets out of prison, steals again, and is hunted by an obsessed police inspector for years, through revolution and upheaval, on an epic scale worthy of musicals.
A Place to Stand, by Jimmy Santiago Baca (2002). Baca went into prison at age 21 as an illiterate drug dealer and troublemaker. He emerged five years later with a passion for poetry and language. His memoir deals with both his accomplishment and the pain and loss incurred by his crimes.