Freedom to Read

Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community in a celebration of our freedom to read. This year it will be held September 23-29 with the theme “Banning Books Silences Stories.”

Books and the stories in them provide us with lenses through which we can view the world. So what are we saying if we make certain books unavailable?

Banning books says that certain stories should not be told. And often, those stories are examining issues of race, sex, politics, and religion–topics that are highly polarizing and often lead to conflict.

Here’s the thing: our world is already full of conflict. Books don’t create conflict. They just hold up the mirror, so we can all see more clearly the world that we’re living in.

Reading and listening to stories–uplifting stories, horrifying stories, sad stories, funny stories, ALL stories–allows us to see the world in a new way. And hopefully when we read and understand, we do our part to improve the world.

Here are some of the titles from the Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2017 and why they were challenged.

Thirteen Reasons Why

by Jay Asher

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Challenged because it discusses suicide.

And Tango Makes Three

by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell

In the zoo there are all kinds of animal families. But Tango’s family is not like any of the others.

Challenged because it features a same-sex relationship.

The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Challenged because it includes drug use, profanity, and offensive language.


by Alex Gino

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

Challenged because it includes a transgender child.

The Kite Runner

by Khaled Hosseini

Taking us from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the present, The Kite Runner is the unforgettable and beautifully told story of the friendship between two boys growing up in Kabul. Raised in the same household and sharing the same wet nurse, Amir and Hassan grow up in different worlds: Amir is the son of a prominent and wealthy man, while Hassan, the son of Amir’s father’s servant, is a Hazara — a shunned ethnic minority.

Challenged because it includes depictions of sexual violence and deals with religious themes.

Our full Banned Books Playlist collects some of the most challenged books in the United States in one place, so you can choose to listen freely.



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