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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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  • The Hunger Games

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Suzanne Collins
    • Narrated By Carolyn McCormick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (46562)
    Performance
    (36275)
    Story
    (36708)

    Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don't live to see the morning? In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by 12 outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

    Jim "The Impatient" says: "I liked it"
  • Twilight: The Twilight Saga, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Stephenie Meyer
    • Narrated By Ilyana Kadushin
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (10973)
    Performance
    (6047)
    Story
    (6096)

    About three things I was certain. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him, and I didn't know how dominant that part might be, that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

    Bryan J. Peterson says: "A waste of my time this wasn't."
  • Brave New World

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Aldous Huxley
    • Narrated By Michael York
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (8344)
    Performance
    (7073)
    Story
    (7103)

    When Lenina and Bernard visit a savage reservation, we experience how Utopia can destroy humanity.

    Cloning, feel-good drugs, anti-aging programs, and total social control through politics, programming, and media: has Aldous Huxley accurately predicted our future? With a storyteller's genius, he weaves these ethical controversies in a compelling narrative that dawns in the year 632 A.F. (After Ford, the deity). When Lenina and Bernard visit a savage reservation, we experience how Utopia can destroy humanity.

    Jefferson says: "“Oh, Ford, Ford Ford, I Wish I Had My Soma!”"
  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Barbara Ehrenreich
    • Narrated By Cristine McMurdo-Wallis
    Overall
    (888)
    Performance
    (415)
    Story
    (411)

    This engrossing piece of undercover reportage has been a fixture on the New York Times best seller list since its publication. With nearly a million copies in print, Nickel and Dimed is a modern classic that deftly portrays the plight of America's working-class poor.

    Melissa says: "of COURSE she has an agenda..."
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: A Signature Performance by Elijah Wood

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Mark Twain
    • Narrated By Elijah Wood
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5436)
    Performance
    (4660)
    Story
    (4636)

    A Signature Performance: Elijah Wood becomes the first narrator to bring a youthful voice and energy to the story, perhaps making it the closest interpretation to Twain’s original intent.

    The Supreme Galooty says: "Masterful Narration"
  • The Bluest Eye

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Toni Morrison
    • Narrated By Toni Morrison
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (632)
    Performance
    (566)
    Story
    (568)

    It is the story of 11-year-old Pecola Breedlove--a black girl in an America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all others--who prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful, so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different. This is the story of the nightmare at the heart of her yearning and the tragedy of its fulfillment.

    MerryJovialL says: "Excellent but not an easy story."
  • Beloved

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Toni Morrison
    • Narrated By Toni Morrison
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1169)
    Performance
    (874)
    Story
    (867)

    Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but 18 years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe's new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.

    Cathy says: "Perhaps best read on paper"
  • The Color Purple

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Alice Walker
    • Narrated By Alice Walker
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3894)
    Performance
    (3214)
    Story
    (3212)

    Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 - when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate - and continuing over the course of her marriage to "Mister", a brutal man who terrorizes her.

    Nothing really matters says: "What a story!"
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Maya Angelou
    • Narrated By Maya Angelou
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2003)
    Performance
    (1798)
    Story
    (1802)

    Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age - and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. But years later, she learns about love for herself and the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors.

    Amazon Customer says: "a much loved book"
  • The Chocolate War

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Robert Cormier
    • Narrated By Frank Muller
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (184)
    Performance
    (115)
    Story
    (113)

    Jerry Renault ponders the question on the poster in his locker: Do I dare disturb the universe? Refusing to sell chocolates in the annual Trinity school fund-raiser may not seem like a radical thing to do. But when Jerry challenges a secret school society called The Vigils, his defiant act turns into an all-out war. Now the only question is: Who will survive? First published in 1974, Robert Cormier's groundbreaking novel, an unflinching portrait of corruption and cruelty, has become a modern classic.

    Rod Morgan says: "Superb in every way"
  • The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Philip Pullman
    • Narrated By Philip Pullman, full cast
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (9095)
    Performance
    (5275)
    Story
    (5298)

    When Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon decide to spy on a presentation her uncle, the commanding Lord Asriel, is making to the elders of Jordan College they have no idea that they will become witnesses to an attempted murder, and even less that they are taking the first steps in a journey that will lead them into danger and adventure unlike anything Lyra's unfettered imagination has conjured up.

    Bev says: "More for adults than kids..."
  • Of Mice and Men

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By John Steinbeck
    • Narrated By Gary Sinese
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3509)
    Performance
    (3087)
    Story
    (3079)

    While the powerlessness of the laboring class is a recurring theme in Steinbeck’s work of the late 1930s, he narrowed his focus when composing Of Mice and Men (1937), creating an intimate portrait of two men facing a world marked by petty tyranny, misunderstanding, jealousy, and callousness. But though the scope is narrow, the theme is universal: a friendship and shared dream that make an individual’s existence meaningful.

    Jim "The Impatient" says: "KETCHUP"
  • Go Ask Alice

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By Anonymous
    • Narrated By Christina Moore
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (390)
    Performance
    (275)
    Story
    (276)

    Life at 15 isn't easy for a girl if she's shy and hates the way she looks. Each day is heaven or hell, depending on who talks to her, or who doesn't. So when she's finally accepted by a group, she doesn't refuse their party games, even if it means taking LSD. Soon she's taking little pills to wake up and others to go to sleep, and the days begin to blur. Based on a 15-year-old's diary, Go Ask Alice is the intimate account of one girl's fatal journey into the world of drug addiction.

    Sharron says: "WE WERE ALL LIED TO. THIS IS FICTION PEOPLE!!!"
  • Bridge to Terabithia

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Katherine Paterson
    • Narrated By Robert Sean Leonard
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (476)
    Performance
    (402)
    Story
    (401)

    Jess Aarons' greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in his grade. He's been practicing all summer and can't wait to see his classmates' faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new girl boldly crosses over to the boys' side and outruns everyone.That's not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. Together, they create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen.

    Karen M. Bovenmyer says: "Don't wait to discover this classic"
  • The Kite Runner

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Khaled Hosseini
    • Narrated By Khaled Hosseini
    Overall
    (10836)
    Performance
    (5730)
    Story
    (5764)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: Never before has an author’s narration of his fiction been so important to fully grasping the book’s impact and global implications. Taking us from Afghanistan in the final days of its monarchy to the present, The Kite Runner is the unforgettable story of the friendship between two boys growing up in Kabul. Their intertwined lives, and their fates, reflect the eventual tragedy of the world around them.

    Andrew Covington says: "My Goodness, What a Audiobook!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
  • Olive's Ocean

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Kevin Henkes
    • Narrated By Blair Brown
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (79)
    Performance
    (25)
    Story
    (25)

    "Olive Barstow was dead. She'd been hit by a car on Monroe Street while riding her bicycle weeks ago. That was about all Martha knew."

    Elizabeth says: "Terrific Book!!"
  • Crank

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Ellen Hopkins
    • Narrated By Laura Flanagan
    Overall
    (507)
    Performance
    (417)
    Story
    (412)

    Kristina Georgia Snow is the perfect daughter: gifted high school junior, quiet, never any trouble. But on a trip to visit her absentee father, she meets a boy who introduces her to crank. At first she finds it freeing, but soon Kristina's personality disappears inside the drug. What began as a wild, ecstatic ride turns into a struggle through hell for her mind, her soul, and her life.

    Amanda M. says: "horrible narrator"
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