Banned Books Week

It’s Banned Books Week, the yearly event always sneaks up on me! This year, I failed to intentionally choose a specific banned book with which to celebrate the week in time. Instead, I decided to revisit the lists the ALA has on their website of banned and challenged books and take another tally of how many I’d read. No matter how many times I look at the list, I’m sure to discover more titles on there that leave me stunned. Some of those books have been amongst my favorites of all time, and I cannot imagine being told I can’t read them.

So, I decided to put together my top five favorite banned books (so far)! I still have many more to read, but I’ve already discovered some wonderful gems.

  1. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: This one is a beautiful coming of age story with which I absolutely fell in love. I’ve read it twice to date (that’s a lot for me!) and plan to read it many more times.
  2. Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden: I listened to Rebecca Lowman read this book about two teenage girls who fall in love at a time when such things were rarely done and was swept away in the story.
  3. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: I love this series for its creativity, its characters, its magical world, and its lessons. I also think it’s brought people to reading who may not otherwise have picked up a book.
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: I recently revisited this classic novel on audio, as read by Sissy Spacek. I’ve been lending my copy to the members of my book group, and everyone has raved about it. If you’ve yet to experience this book, do yourself a favor and find a copy!
  5. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: Yes, the premise of this one is creepy, but the novel is so spectacularly executed that it deserves the place among great literature it’s attained. Next time I pick this one up, it will be on audio!

What’s your favorite banned book?

BAND: Non-fiction Audiobooks

Switching gears a bit, I decided to participate in BAND’s monthly discussion for the first time! What is BAND, you might ask? Why, it’s the Bloggers’ Alliance of Non-Fiction Devotees, a joint effort between some fantastic bloggers whose goal is to “advocate non-fiction as a non-chore.”

Now, I’m not very good at non-fiction. I wouldn’t say reading it feels like a chore, but I also don’t gravitate toward it when it’s time to choose my next book. I’m hoping participating in BAND will inspire me to do a better job balancing my reading.

This month’s topic, hosted by Cass, is about non-fiction audiobooks. Cass asks:

“If you’ve listened to non-fiction audio books before: What did you enjoy most about the experience? What’s your favorite non-fiction audio book?”

I like this topic, because audiobooks make me happy. I have listened to some non-fiction audiobooks and, overall, enjoyed them. Actually, in looking back at my recent reading, most of my non-fiction has been in audio format.

I think there are two reasons I tend to shy away from non-fiction:

  1. Let’s be honest…some (not all!) of it can be dry. When there’s an enticing novel waiting just a few shelves away, I’m loath to pick up the less exciting option.
  2. It often takes me longer to read non-fiction, which means I really have to want to read such a book to be willing to devote extra time to it.

What’s so neat about audiobooks is that they can (though don’t always) solve both problems. The right narrator can enliven even drier non-fiction, making it more exciting to experience. And with someone else reading, I don’t have to settle for my slow pace yet never find myself struggling to keep up. So, to answer Cass’s question, my favorite part of listening to non-fiction on audio is how the format allows me to overcome the usual hurdles that stand between me and all those non-fiction books!

As for a favorite non-fiction audiobook, most of the ones I’ve listened to have been excellent. I think I’ll have to choose The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (read by Cassandra Campbell) as my top favorite, but The Professor and the Madman by (and read by) Simon Winchester was really good as well.

What about you? Do you listen to non-fiction audiobooks? If so, do you have a favorite? If not, do you think you’d ever give them a try?

Join the Conversation


  1. GREAT pics for Banned Books week! I haven’t read Annie on my Mind, but the other are fantastic. I really need to read To Kill a Mockingbird again. I last read it in Middle School and I don’t think I got as much out of it as I could have.

    I also prefer to read nonfiction in audio. I discovered that in the last year. Some of my favorite nonfiction audio experiences have been The Lost City of Z and both of the Michael Pollan books I’ve listened to (The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food). I don’t remember who read Z but Scott Brick read the other two and does a great job with them.

    1. Annie on My Mind is wonderful on audio, if you can get a hold of it. I really enjoyed it. OOH! And Sissy Spacek’s newer recording of To Kill a Mockingbird is exquisite! I’d read it in middle school, too, and just listened to it last year. I definitely liked it better as an adult.

      I have The Lost City of Z on audio on my list…probably from you! I read both of Pollan’s books in print, but I definitely plan to reread them at some point and will keep the audiobooks in mind. I STILL have not listened to anything read by Scott Brick. I need to do that. Thanks for the recs!

    1. I love going through the banned books lists every year. Without fail, there’s a new book (or several) on there that I’ve read since I last checked that I cannot believe was banned or challenged.

  2. I am listening to Henrietta Lacks on audio right now! I am having such a positive experience with it, and am loving the book a lot. I tend not to read many nonfiction books on audio because sometimes it gives me information overload, but this one is perfect!

    1. Ooh, I’m glad you’re enjoying Henrietta Lacks! I can definitely understand the information overload feeling. I can’t do heavy books or books that are fact-intensive, so the slightly lighter narrative nonfiction titles are great. I love it when you hit upon a nonfiction audiobook that’s just perfect!

  3. One of my favourite banned books is Timothy Findley’s The Wars, the banning of which is, coincidentally, discussed briefly in Suzette Mayr’s terrific novel, Monoceros, which I just fell good and hard for earlier this week.

    I’ve adjusted quite happily to listening to novels on audio, but I still can’t do non-fiction; when I read it, I tend to flip back to re-read sections quite often, and I’m better at flipping pages than I am in repositioning my audio stream, so I’m sticking with actual books when it comes to non-fiction. (Although I did enjoy the Winchester on audio, now that you mention it!)

    1. I haven’t heard of either of those! Where do you find your reading material?? Everything you find both is new to me and sounds fascinating.

      I do get frustrated at times wanting to take notes while listening to audiobooks, but that actually happens to me with fiction, too. I definitely have to concentrate more to follow nonfiction on audio, since I find if I get lost, I lose the trail more quickly and have a harder time picking it back up again than in most fiction. I’ve heard Winchester’s others are good on audio, too!

      1. That’s true: I do have the problem with fiction too, but I can make a note of the chapter and keep listening and then find the “real” book and make the note later. But with non-fiction, I feel like it completely halts my listening, because I’ve missed some key fact/idea on which understanding the rest of the work depends. Perhaps it’s merely that I’m still getting comfy with the idea of reading non-ficton; maybe if I read more of it in book form, I’ll become a better listener to it?

        1. I can see that. Actually, I end up listening to books I already own frequently. I sometimes find myself checking the print copy to make notes. That doesn’t really happen with nonfiction, but maybe I should try that approach. I’m still getting more comfortable with non-fiction, too, as I don’t read much either. I think that’s why I prefer narrative nonfiction, where often if you miss a fact here and there, it’s still ok!

    1. The audio of Immortal Life is great! Since we’re talking audiobooks and all… 🙂 I’ve heard a lot of Winchester’s books on audio are good. I keep meaning to try another.

  4. It just kills me that Harry Potter is a banned book(s)!

    And I LOVE LOVE LOVE non-fiction. I’ve found so many fun and interesting non-fiction reads … many on audio. Right now I’m listening to Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw. You might want to check out Mike Brown’s How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming. totally delightful and educational. Or how about some Sarah Vowell? The choices are endless!

    1. I know!!!

      Ok, I guess I know who to turn to for my audiobook nonfiction reviews! Thanks!! I’m not sure I’d love Bourdain…he strikes me as being a bit rough. But the Pluto one sounds really fun, and I’ve been meaning to try some Sarah Vowell anyway!

  5. I love your Banned Book choices. I haven’t read Annie on My Mind but it sounds ike a good one. Fahrenheit 451 and Slaughterhouse-Five are two of my favorite Banned Books.

    I still haven’t listened to any audiobooks although I have some and just need to make the leap. I think it’s great you’re participating in Band. The idea of non-fiction audiobooks is intriguing. Depnding on the book, it might be better in audio!

    1. Oh, Fahrenheit 451 is another good one! I listened to it last year and really enjoyed it. Slaughterhouse Five is on my TBR list. I can’t believe I still haven’t read it.

      It took me forever to get into audiobooks. I spent a long time feeling like listening to a book was somehow “cheating.” Plus, I’d only listened to bad narrations (ones I could find for free) of books I wasn’t ready to try (classics). When you do try, give yourself a few chances with different narrators/genres/styles before you give up 🙂 I’ve definitely found having someone read lighter nonfiction to me instead of reading it myself can make it a more enjoyable experience for me.

  6. It’s hard to pick one favorite banned book…but I loved To Kill a Mockingbird! I also loved The Handmaid’s Tale, and I’m rereading it.

    I’m thinking that, if I love a book, there’s a good chance it was or is on the list…LOL

    1. Oh, yes, Handmaid’s Tale is excellent. I really need to read that one again. It was my first Atwood, years ago, and deserves to be revisited. I’m always amazed by how many of my favorites are on those darned lists!

    1. I think I might have put Atlantic on my audiobook TBR list because of your review! I’ve been hesitating because it’s kind of long and I’ve been on a fiction kick, but thank you for the reminder!

  7. God of Small Things was banned in India! Man, I still can’t get over that book.

    Re nonfiction: You should read Black Lamb and Gray Falcon. :p

    1. Seriously?? Now I want to see the India Banned Books list. I need to reread God of Small Things. I read it probably 6 years ago and only vaguely remember it.

      Re: Black Lamb & Gray Falcon, I have added it to my shiny new Goodreads TBR. You should come back to GR so I can cite you as the recommender of all these books I’m adding (just added If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler too!).

      1. AAAAH. I actually bought back my goodreads over the summer, and totally forgot to add you! Brb.

        Paula Deen and I have been working so hard on Letters to a Young Sauerkraut so hard that I forget everything.

        1. Oh well thanks a LOT for letting me know! This Letters to a Young Sauerkraut had better be extremely good.

      2. Oh, and I was being a little facetious about Black Lamb. It is an incredible book, but at 1200 pages of utterly depressing material, it’s not for everyone.

        1. It actually looks good to me, so I might at some point check it out. The worst that happens is I hate it and stop reading, eh?

    1. I know, me too! My pleasure 🙂 It’s amazing how many books I’ve read or want to read have been banned or challenged.

    1. I currently spend a lot of time alone doing things like cleaning, cooking, and busing to class, so I go through a fair number of audiobooks. I figure at some point I’ll have less time for them, and then I know I’ll miss them!

  8. Ok, Twin! I have read Professor and the Madman and it’s not on my goodreads list! so thank you for that.
    And I must read Annie on my Mind because I’ve never heard of it.

    1. Hey, that’s another part of a percentage point we have in common 🙂 I hadn’t heard of Annie on My Mind until other bloggers pointed it out to me, and I ended up really liking it. Hope you do too!

  9. I didn’t realize Lolita was banned! Really? Strange! The HP series are my very favorite books and I hate to see the books on the banned list every year!

    1. I know, right? I guess the premise is creepy. I’m always surprised to see what ends up on those lists. It seems like no book is safe.

  10. Great basnned picks! I am with you on HP & TKAM. I also think that Lolita gets a bad wrap. I used to be a bit embarrassed to say it was one of my favorite books, oh wait, I still am embarrassed! 🙂

    1. Ha! I know the feeling. It wasn’t until I started finding out other people loved it, too, that I felt ok admitting I liked it. I’d love to reread it, or maybe listen to the audiobook (which I’ve heard is excellent!).

  11. I’m not good at picking favorites, but many of the books I loved most growing up (including many my mom bought for me, and even a couple I got from the children’s library at church!) have at some point in time been challenged and/or banned: Julie of the Wolves, A Wrinkle in Time, Bridge to Terabithia. More recent reads/favorites include the Harry Potter series, Of Mice and Men, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Apparently the best books are banned…!

    1. I never read Julie of the Wolves, but A Wrinkle in Time and Bridge to Terabithia I read within the past couple of years and loved. I don’t understand why kids can’t read those books. You’re so right — all the best books are banned or challenged! You’re pretty much guaranteed to hit on a great read if you pick it from the banned lists.

    1. Yeah, that seems to be a common reaction. I might not have stuck with it if I hadn’t been reading it for a class! I finally read Catcher in the Rye last year. The other two are on my TBR-soon list, so I’m excited to hear they’re favorites!

    1. Ooh, so they’re all good? I’ve only listened to the one, and I’ve heard Atlantic is good (but it’s so long!), but I like his style and would definitely listen to others.

      1. I think Simon Winchester can make any subject fascinating. I’ve only listened to the audio for Professor and the Madman, The Meaning of Everything (loved it far more than Professor and the Madman but they overlap a lot. It is more of the dictionary history, which I”m all geeky about) and then Krakatoa. I have fond thoughts of Krakatoa after that book. How I wish I were driving so I could do the map one, or Atlantic!

        I don’t think I’ve read any of his books in paper, come to think of it…I wonder if I’ll still like them that way 🙂

        1. With such great audios, who needs paper books? 🙂 I enjoyed Professor and the Madman and would enjoy more on the topic, so maybe I’ll check out The Meaning of Everything. Thanks!

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