I recently reviewed lists of the most frequently challenged books of the 21st century. As I perused the lists, I saw names that feel like old friends to me. Some spoke to me of my own life while others challenged my thinking. Some were downright funny while others tore so deep that reading them made me experience loss. They all made me feel.
I’ve chosen three books from those lists that I recommend you checking out. These three aren’t necessarily my favorites, but they are three that I believe will elicit a response and that have interesting stylistic choices.
1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
The story of Arnold/Junior, who leaves the reservation in order to search for hope at an all-white high school, is an amazing read. Enriched by cartoons drawn by the protagonist, the book is hilarious and poignant, often simultaneously. Even though I am not Native American, Arnold/Junior’s experience of being a teenage boy living in an impoverished community mirrored much of my own experiences growing up.
2. Brave New World
Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel eerily reflects much of our world today. Society is divided into five castes, each represented by Greek letters (Alphas, Betas, etc.). The lowest caste, whose role is to serve others, is offered little to no education. In fact, as infants, they are electronically shocked when they see books, which creates a Pavlovian aversion to literacy. Consumerism, promiscuity, and a mind-numbing drug called soma (meaning “the body”) are the pathways to happiness. The book shows how control can be established by controlling knowledge and shifting people’s focus from relationships to items.
Kristina,the protagonist, slips into the addiction of methamphetimine initially to impress a boy. It’s a slippery slope that profoundly affects the outcomes of Kristina’s life. Crank is written as a series of poems, a style that vicariously translates Kristina’s emotional states throughout addiction. Often challenged for its adult content, the book is a stylistic achievement. In addition, it serves as a warning to those who have never used drugs while also offering a theme of hope for others who might be in the midst of addiction.