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Every year, during the last week of September, bookstores and libraries across the nation celebrate Banned Books Week. And as audio lovers – of books of all sorts – we’re joining in the celebration of our right to listen with some of the most contested books of the 21st century.


The list may surprise you. Culling from the American Library Association’s annual top 10 of most frequently challenged books, we found many of our favorites – and some required school reading – among the books named. Debuting at number five last year was a book that's currently topping Audible’s best seller list: Suzanne Collins’ YA sensation and soon-to-be movie, The Hunger Games. "I’ve read in passing that people were concerned about the level of violence in the [Hunger Games] books," said Collins. "That's not unreasonable. They are violent. It's a war trilogy." And when it comes to teen blockbusters, is a young woman falling in love with a 104-year-old vampire inappropriate? Yes, said objecting librarians of Stephenie Meyer’s mega best-selling Twilight, which they also deemed sexually explicit, irreligious, and violent.


But of the 348 challenges and 53 outright bans issued last year, it’s the contested classics which come as the most surprising – and revealing. Reflecting some of society’s own anxiety with antidepressants and artificial fertilization, Aldous Huxley’s dystopia Brave New World makes the list, as does Barbara Ehrenreich’s minimum wage tell-all Nickle and Dimed. "The closer books come to things that are really happening in a lot of lives, the more they become a reminder of what people don't like to think about," said ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom director Barbara M. Jones, adding that Ehrenreich's book "really hits hard what it's like to have a low paying job" (AP).


And for students back in school, you might recognize some more banned classics on your required reading list. Tom Sawyer’s timeless American tale, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, gets charged for yes, racism and offensive language for its 19th-century portrait of slavery (in the vernacular), while some of African American lit’s greatest female writers – Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Maya Angelou – have been banned for the uncensored nature of their depictions of black women's experiences in America. Going back years (or more like decades) in our schooling, Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War takes the cake as the top recurring audiobook to appear on this century’s lists—7 years out of 10. And the hard-partying The Perks of Being a Wallflower comes in a close second at five years, almost consecutively since 2004.


Did any of your favorites make this century's list? Read on for what's made these and more books some of the most controversial listens of our time.


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  • What My Mother Doesn't Know

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs)
    • By Sonya Sones
    • Narrated By Kate Reinders
    Overall
    (12)
    Performance
    (9)
    Story
    (9)

    My name is Sophie. This book is about me. It tells the heart-stoppingly riveting story of my first love. And also of my second. And, okay, my third love, too.

    Carole says: "Very strange book"
  • Gossip Girl

    • ABRIDGED (2 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Cecily von Ziegesar
    • Narrated By Christina Ricci
    Overall
    (52)
    Performance
    (17)
    Story
    (16)

    Introducing Gossip Girl, a wickedly funny and risqué original novel about the provocative lives of New York City's most prestigious private school young adults. Gossip Girl herself is an anonymous narrator with the ultimate insider scoop on the inner-workings of this privileged society because she's one of them. Sharp wit, intriguing characters, and high stakes melodrama drive the action of this addictive novel that will make Gossip Girl the lit world's new "it" girl.

  • The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Carolyn Mackler
    • Narrated By Johanna Parker
    Overall
    (27)
    Performance
    (15)
    Story
    (15)

    This irreverent, but touching tale is a 2004 Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book by acclaimed author Carolyn Mackler. 15 year old Virginia Shreves is overweight and doesn't have many friends, but wants to be like her family: picture perfect. What she knows about her family, however, slowly begins to change after one tragic phone call.

    Karen says: "All about taking charge!"
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Mildred D. Taylor
    • Narrated By Lynne Thigpen
    Overall
    (240)
    Performance
    (140)
    Story
    (146)

    Why is the land so important to Cassie's family? It takes the events of one turbulent year, the year of the night riders and the burnings, the year a white girl humiliates Cassie in public simply because she is black, to show Cassie that having a place of their own is the Logan family's lifeblood. It is the land that gives the Logans their courage and pride, for no matter how others may degrade them, the Logans possess something no one can take away.

    Cherie says: "Good story"
  • Bless Me, Ultima

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Rudolfo Anaya
    • Narrated By Robert Ramirez
    Overall
    (196)
    Performance
    (139)
    Story
    (138)

    As Tony follows his own path toward adulthood, he relies on the wisdom of Ultima, a magical healer, to forge his unique identity. With hundreds of thousands of copies in print, Bless Me, Ultima has been called the most widely read Mexican-American novel in the English language. Richly evocative, it has earned its place among the classics of modern literature, even drawing favorable comparisons to Herman Melville's legendary Moby Dick.

    Clodhopper says: "Mysticism, Catholicism, Naturalism"
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