Banned Books Week is an annual celebration of the freedom to read. This year, the Banned Books Week Coalition chose the theme “Banning Books Silences Stories” to remind everyone of the importance of speaking out against censorship. In the spirit of celebrating banned and challenged books, our staff picks below are pulled from the Coalition’s lists of books that have been challenged in schools and libraries around the country over the years. For the most recently challenged titles, check out the Top Ten Most Challenged Books for 2017.
THE HATE U GIVE has been on The New York Times bestseller list for Young Adults since it came out — 81 weeks and counting — and has spent most of that time in the number one spot. The audiobook won the 2018 Odyssey Award, and Bahni Turpin’s beautiful and powerful narration also garnered Audie Awards for Best Female Narrator and Young Adult. In spite of these accolades, the book has been challenged for language and drug use. Angie Thomas’s story of standing up to police brutality inspired by true events is one that certainly should not be silenced. Start listening now so that you can see the movie adaptation on the big screen in October!
—Emily Connelly, Assistant Editor
Although an abridgment of Toni Morrison’s classic about a child who longs for the eye color she’s been told is the best, this Earphones Award-winning version of THE BLUEST EYE maintains all the authentic emotion and trenchant dialogue thanks to a narration by Ruby Dee and Nobel Laureate Morrison herself. The title has had a place on high school reading lists for more than 30 years—and receives frequent challenges from parents who want to “protect” their teens from its realistic portrayal of both social and family problems. Published in 1970, THE BLUEST EYE continues to be compelling and relevant.
—Francisca Goldsmith, Contributing Editor
GEORGE is full of heart and will have listeners rooting for the 10-year-old hero, who, no matter what everyone else thinks, is sure that she’s really a girl. Alex Gino’s middle-grade novel was one of the early books to address transgender issues for this audience. It won a 2016 Stonewall Book Award and is also notable because transgender actor Jamie Clayton (who viewers may know from Netflix’s “Sense8”) narrates the audiobook. GEORGE helped pave the way for what will hopefully be many more audiobooks for young listeners that sensitively and inclusively portray LGBTQ+ characters.
—Jenn Dowell, Managing Editor
THE GOLDEN COMPASS is forever burned into my ears as a tour de force. A complicated tale of family, fantasy and science, it captured both my husband and me. We cherished every moment in the car together, drawn into the story of a young girl and her polar bear guardian, amongst so many other memorable characters. The performances by a full cast flow seamlessly and portray the moments of tension beautifully. This is a title I’d love to share with every young person and every audio non-believer. Forget the movie adaption ever happened and spend your time listening!
—Michelle Cobb, Publisher