Share 13 Timely Books to Read During Banned Books Week

13 Timely Books to Read During Banned Books Week

Sarah Jane Abbott is an assistant editor for Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books, imprints of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.  She grew up having NANCY DREW books read to her by her father, and is now an avid reader of mystery, thriller, and horror, along with everything from literary fiction to poetry to personal essays.  She graduated from Bucknell University with a degree in English and a concentration in creative writing.  Sarah Jane is an advocate of quasi-destructive book love—her best-loved volumes are highlighted, scribbled in, dog-eared, and wavy from being dropped in the bath tub.  

Growing up, I discovered some of the most formative and thought-provoking books I’ve ever read on the Banned Books Week displays at my local library, from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE to THE HANDMAID’S TALE. The freedom to read books that challenge us, that open windows into the experiences of others, and that reflect the issues of our times, is crucially important. Every Banned Books Week is an opportunity to celebrate these books and to reaffirm our commitment to keeping them on the shelves.  If you’ve read the incredible banned books on our 2015 and 2016 Banned Books Week lists, here are some more banned and challenged books to read this year to mark the occasion.


The House on Mango Street
by Sandra Cisneros
Told in a series of vignettes—sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous—THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET is the remarkable story of Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago and inventing for herself who and what she will become.
The House on Mango Street
Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street is the remarkable story of Esperanza Cordero. Told in a series of vignettes – sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous – it is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become.

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A Thousand Acres
by Jane Smiley
When Larry Cook, the aging patriarch of a rich, thriving farm in Iowa, decides to retire, he offers his land to his three daughters. Both Ginny and Rose, who live on the farm, gratefully accept, but the youngest, Caroline, a Des Moines lawyer, flatly rejects the idea, and in anger her father cuts her out—setting off an explosive series of events that will leave none of them unchanged.
A Thousand Acres
Jane Smiley

An ambitious reimagining of Shakespeare’s King Lear cast upon a typical American community in the late twentieth century, this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel takes on themes of truth, justice, love, and pride, and reveals the beautiful yet treacherous topography of humanity.

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Running With Scissors
by Augusten Burroughs

The true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist. At age 12, Augusten Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor’s bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The harrowing and surprisingly funny account of an ordinary boy’s survival under the most extraordinary circumstances.

Read the full review of RUNNING WITH SCISSORS.

Running With Scissors
Augusten Burroughs

Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. So at the age of twelve, Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor’s bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things got dull an electroshock- therapy machine could provide entertainment. The funny, harrowing and bestselling account of an ordinary boy’s survival under the most extraordinary circumstances.

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Different Seasons
by Stephen King

A gripping collection of four novellas, including “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” the moving story of an unjustly imprisoned convict with a secret plan, and “The Body,” about four rambunctious young boys who plunge through the façade of a small town and come face-to-face with life, death, and intimations of their own mortality.

Read the full review of DIFFERENT SEASONS.

Different Seasons
Stephen King

“You’ll find the themes of hope and innocence weaved throughout the four novellas that comprise Stephen King’s DIFFERENT SEASONS, warped and broken as they may seem. The ways in which they’re tested, sustained, mangled, or transformed are often uncomfortable but always captivating.”

Read the full review by Amar Deol here.

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Native Son
by Richard Wright
Set in Chicago in the 1930s, NATIVE SON tells the story of Bigger Thomas, a young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Richard Wright's powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on what it means to be black in America.
Native Son
Richard Wright

Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Wright's powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.

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The House of the Spirits
by Isabel Allende

A luminous portrait of three generations of the Trueba family beginning with patriarch Esteban, whose wild desires and political machinations are tempered only by his love for his ethereal wife, Clara. Their daughter Blanca’s love for a man Esteban has deemed unworthy infuriates her father, yet will produce his greatest joy: his granddaughter Alba, a beautiful, ambitious girl who will lead the family and their country into a revolutionary future.

Read the full review of THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS.

The House of the Spirits
Isabel Allende

“It was an enormous pleasure for me to reread this book three decades after it first made its mark on me. I found myself still enraptured by the words of these women, still dazzled by the magic potion that is Isabel Allende’s gift for storytelling. And as I reached the final page, I smiled in wonderment at the forces that led me to where I am today, and was thankful for the reminder that our future is written in the stars.”

Read Johanna Castillo’s review here.

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Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe
Okonkwo is a wealthy and fearless warrior in his village in Nigeria. THINGS FALL APART traces his fall from grace in the tribal world in which he lives, as well as his futile resistance to the devaluing of his culture by British political and religious forces and his despair as his community capitulates to the powerful new order.
Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe’s legendary novel encompasses the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul. It is an illuminating monument to modern Africa as seen from within.

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Neverwhere
by Neil Gaiman
A single act of kindness catapults Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre: a city under the streets of London inhabited by monsters and saints, murderers and angels—a city of the people who have fallen between the cracks. A strange destiny awaits him down there, in the Neverwhere.
Neverwhere
Neil Gaiman

For the adult Harry Potter fan

When a young London businessman stops to help a bleeding girl, that simple act of kindness leads him to discover another reality. Neverwhere is a subterranean labyrinth, a London of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels. But the only way that he can return to the London Above is if he helps the girl save her strange underworld kingdom from an evil agent.

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George
by Alex Gino
George has a secret: she knows she's a girl, even though everyone thinks she is a boy. When her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web, George really wants to play Charlotte, even though it’s a girl part. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte—but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

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Blankets
by Craig Thompson
Wrapped in the landscape of a blustery Wisconsin winter, this graphic novel explores the sibling rivalry of two brothers growing up in the isolated country, and the budding romance of two coming-of-age lovers. This is a tale of security and discovery, of playfulness and tragedy, of a fall from grace and the origins of faith.
Blankets
Craig Thompson

Wrapped in the landscape of a blustery Wisconsin winter, this profound and utterly beautiful memoir explores the sibling rivalry of two brothers growing up in the isolated country, and the budding romance of two coming-of-age lovers.

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All American Boys
by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Rashad, a 16-year-old African American boy, is brutally beaten by a police officer while buying a bag of chips at a corner bodega. His white classmate Quinn witnesses the attack, perpetrated by the man who raised him after his father’s death. Both boys must grapple with the repercussions of the act of violence that leaves their school and their community simmering with tensions that threaten to explode.
All American Boys
Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

In this Coretta Scott King Honor Award–winning novel, 2 teens—one black, and one white—grapple with the repercussions of an act of police brutality. Caught on camera, the violence sends shock waves throughout their school, their community, and ultimately the entire country. It’s a heartbreaking novel that seems ripped from the headlines.

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Fight Club
by Chuck Palahniuk
Every weekend, young men fight each other barehanded in basements and parking lots across the country. Then, they go back to their white-collar jobs with blackened eyes and the sense that they can handle anything. FIGHT CLUB is the invention of dark, anarchic genius Tyler Durden, who seeks revenge on a world where cancer support groups have the corner on human warmth.
Fight Club
Chuck Palahniuk

The first rule about FIGHT CLUB is you can never get sick of quoting FIGHT CLUB. A cultural touchstone that’s equally funny, absurd, and deliciously dark, Chuck Palahniuk’s debut follows an unnamed insomniac narrator who falls under the thrall of charismatic loose cannon Tyler Durden. If you’re after some mid-nineties nostalgia, a crash course in making explosives, or a truly unique twist on crazy, it’s time to go bare knuckle.

Crazy like: That introverted guy in the next cubicle . . . with the weird bruises.

Best crazy moment: Remember who Tyler Durden really is?

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Song of Solomon
by Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison audaciously transfigures the coming-of-age story as she follows Milkman Dead from his rust-belt city to the place of his family’s origins. SONG OF SOLOMON introduces an entire cast of strivers and seers, liars and assassins, the inhabitants of a fully realized black world.
Song of Solomon
Toni Morrison

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