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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?