100 books like Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults)

By Bryan Stevenson,

Here are 100 books that Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults) fans have personally recommended if you like Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults). Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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By John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (illustrator)

Book cover of March: Book One

Conrad Wesselhoeft Author Of Adios, Nirvana

From the list on memoir-based graphic novels.

Who am I?

I’ve worked as a tugboat hand in Singapore and Peace Corps Volunteer in Polynesia. I’ve served on the editorial staffs of five newspapers, from a small-town daily in New Mexico to The New York Times. I’m also the author of contemporary novels for young adults. Like the writers of these five great graphic novels, I choose themes that are important to me. Foremost are hope, healing, family, and friendship. These are themes I’d like my own children to embrace. Life can be hard, so as a writer I choose to send out that “ripple of hope” on the chance it may be heard or felt, and so make a difference.

Conrad's book list on memoir-based graphic novels

Why did Conrad love this book?

This is the stunning opening salvo of John Lewis’ brilliant trilogy tracking his lifelong struggle for civil and human rights. We follow Lewis’ upbringing in rural Alabama during which young John honed his preaching skills before an audience of barnyard chickens, his transformative meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the birth of the Nashville Student Movement. In shedding light on our country’s racist history, Lewis rakes you raw, holds no punches, and yet offers hope. 

By John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked March as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper's farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award…


By Michelle Obama,

Book cover of Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers

Marsha Hayles Author Of Breathing Room

From the list on when illness touches a young person's life.

Who am I?

I am an author fortunate to be alive because of emergency medical treatments I received as an infant, treatments not available to one of my older sisters who died as a result. That I grew up in Rochester Minnesota—home to the world-famous Mayo Clinic where my father worked as a pediatric endocrinologist—also may have increased my awareness of how illness and its medical treatments can affect a young person’s life. 

Marsha's book list on when illness touches a young person's life

Why did Marsha love this book?

I greatly admire Michelle Obama and thought I knew her story. I didn’t. In this version of her memoir Becoming, adapted for young readers and full of engaging photos, she shares how her father’s multiple sclerosis marked her life: she was a young child when he first needed a cane, a freshman in college when he needed two, and a young professional in love with a man named Barack Obama when her father died. Though he never wanted his multiple sclerosis to limit his children’s lives—and it didn’t—her father’s illness may also explain Michelle Obama’s remarkable strength in the face of adversity and her genuine compassion and concern for others. 

By Michelle Obama,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Becoming as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Michelle Obama’s worldwide bestselling memoir, Becoming, is now adapted for young readers.

Michelle Robinson was born on the South Side of Chicago. From her modest beginnings, she would become Michelle Obama, the inspiring and powerful First Lady of the United States, when her husband, Barack Obama, was elected the forty-fourth president. They would be the first Black First Family in the White House and serve the country for two terms.
Growing up, Michelle and her older brother, Craig, shared a bedroom in their family’s upstairs apartment in her great-aunt’s house. Her parents, Fraser and…

Claudette Colvin

By Phillip Hoose,

Book cover of Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

Robert H. Mayer Author Of In the Name of Emmett Till: How the Children of the Mississippi Freedom Struggle Showed Us Tomorrow

From the list on history that engage and even excite young readers.

Who am I?

First a memory from my twelve years as a high school teacher: One day one of my ninth-grade history students remarked, “You are a nice guy Mr. Mayer. You can’t help it if you teach a boring subject.” That comment energized me, pushing me to show my students just how exciting the discipline of history was. I wanted my students to come to know historical actors, to hear their voices, and to feel their humanity. I then took that same project into my twenty-nine years as a teacher educator and finally into my life as a writer of historical non-fiction for young people. 

Robert's book list on history that engage and even excite young readers

Why did Robert love this book?

In my writing I love to relate the stories of important historical actors that are unknown. Especially young actors.

Phillip Hoose apparently shares those loves. He gives us the story of Claudette Colvin who, at fifteen, refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus to a White person. This was nine months before Rosa Parks’ famous stand. Through Hoose’s beautifully-rendered narrative, we are on the bus with Colvin that day and we are later in the courtroom when she bravely tells her story. 

As I said previously, I love to use the actual words historical actors spoke in my books. Hoose seems to share that passion as well. The author carried out fourteen interviews with Ms. Colvin. Through her own voice, we come to know this amazing young woman.

By Phillip Hoose,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Claudette Colvin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"When it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can't sugarcoat it. You have to take a stand and say, 'This is not right.'" - Claudette Colvin
On March 2, 1955, an impassioned teenager, fed up with the daily injustices of Jim Crow segregation, refused to give her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Instead of being celebrated as Rosa Parks would be just nine months later, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin found herself shunned by her classmates and dismissed by community leaders. Undaunted, a year later she dared to challenge…

Notorious RBG

By Irin Carmon, Shana Knizhnik,

Book cover of Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Fern Schumer Chapman Author Of Is It Night or Day?: A Novel of Immigration and Survival, 1938-1942

From the list on making “good trouble”.

Who am I?

I am an award-winning author who has written books for all ages and genres – a Young Adult historical novel, several works of non-fiction for middle school students, two picture books for children, an adult work of non-fiction, and an adult memoir. I love a great story, and, for each book, I target the audience I believe is best suited to my narrative. Several of my books were inspired by my mother’s story of childhood immigration as she fled Nazi Germany for America and the emotional legacy of that experience.

Fern's book list on making “good trouble”

Why did Fern love this book?

An inspiring and lively biography that captures the courage of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a cultural icon who made good trouble by changing gender equality laws and breaking down the patriarchy one case at a time during her long, honorable, legendary life. Through the book’s illustrated timelines, archival photos and documents, annotated dissents, and text, the reader comes to know RBG’s drive, ethics, and personal story. I picked this book because it is a wonderful introduction to legal history, gender equality, and civil rights for young people.

By Irin Carmon, Shana Knizhnik,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Notorious RBG as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that does more than catalog her achievements; it conveys her spirit, one that will leave readers in awe."*

This New York Times bestselling version of the acclaimed biography Notorious RBG is an excellent way to share with middle grade readers just why Justice Ginsburg was such a powerful role model. This entertaining and insightful full-color 200-page young readers' edition mixes pop culture, humor, and expert analysis for a remarkable account of the indomitable Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Heroine. Trailblazer. Pioneer.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an icon to millions. Her tireless fight…

Just Mercy

By Bryan Stevenson,

Book cover of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Artika Tyner Author Of The Untold Story of John P. Parker: Underground Railroad Conductor

From the list on champions for racial justice.

Who am I?

I’m a civil rights attorney, author, and lifelong educator. My work has focused on addressing racial disparities in education and criminal justice. I worked on the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice and created restorative justice programs in schools. As a leadership scholar, I read books on remarkable sheroes and heroes. This provides me with keen insights into the leadership characteristics of changemakers while developing the tools to better understand how to build and sustain social change.

Artika's book list on champions for racial justice

Why did Artika love this book?

Distinguished human rights attorney, Bryan Stevenson provides a blueprint for getting proximate to the injustices surrounding us.

It is an invitation to create meaningful change. Stevenson draws upon his experience in representing poor and disenfranchised clients. Through these experiences, he demonstrates how to seek justice and love mercy with the hopes of not only transforming the legal system but also transforming our communities.

By Bryan Stevenson,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Just Mercy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



A #1 New York Times bestseller, this is a powerful, true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix America's broken justice system, as seen in the HBO documentary True Justice.

The US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. One in every 15 people born there today is expected to go to prison. For black men this figure rises to one…


By Emily Bazelon,

Book cover of Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration

Joanna Schwartz Author Of Shielded: How the Police Became Untouchable

From the list on the human toll of the criminal justice system.

Who am I?

Stories of people impacted by the criminal justice system have been key to my understanding of the system and my efforts to reform it. I knew I wanted to be a civil rights lawyer when, in law school, I represented a woman who was raped by a corrections officer in a federal prison in Connecticut. My experiences suing the police and corrections officers as a young lawyer in New York inspired 15+ years researching the realities of civil rights litigation and barriers to achieve justice. I believe that the best way to understand the realities of the criminal justice system is through the experiences of people trying to make their way through it.

Joanna's book list on the human toll of the criminal justice system

Why did Joanna love this book?

Charged reveals criminal prosecutors’ massive power and discretion.

And Emily Bazelon makes the stakes and consequences of this massive power and discretion come alive by telling the stories of two people charged with two different crimes by two different prosecutors.

By tracking every step of each case—from arrest to charging to trial to sentencing—she shows the harms the overzealous prosecutors can impose, as well as the mercy prosecutors can show. And she traces the work of progressive prosecutors across the country, offering an alternative path forward. 

By Emily Bazelon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Charged as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A renowned journalist and legal commentator exposes the unchecked power of the prosecutor as a driving force in America’s mass incarceration crisis—and charts a way out.

“An important, thoughtful, and thorough examination of criminal justice in America that speaks directly to how we reduce mass incarceration.”—Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy

“This harrowing, often enraging book is a hopeful one, as well, profiling innovative new approaches and the frontline advocates who champion them.”—Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted


The Prosecutor

By Nazir Afzal,

Book cover of The Prosecutor

Ravinder Randhawa Author Of The Coral Strand

From the list on by writers of colour.

Who am I?

I’ve always loved books and reading, so it’s no surprise I’m an author and blogger. However, feeling strongly about justice and truth, I’ve also been active in the feminist and anti-racist movements. Additionally, I founded The Asian Women Writers Workshop (later known as the Asian Women Writers Collective), whose work has been archived by South Asian Diaspora Arts Archive (SADAA). I’ve been a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at several British universities and am a member of PEN International. As a writer of colour (South-Asian heritage), I'm intrigued by the work of diverse writers, their interpretation and focus.  

Ravinder's book list on by writers of colour

Why did Ravinder love this book?

We’ve all seen those movies about courtroom battles and a determined prosecutor, speaking up for innocent victims. In Nazir Afzal we have the real deal. Coming from a working-class, migrant family, he knows what it’s like for the powerless. As Chief Prosecutor he won milestone cases involving criminals, honour killings, domestic violence, human trafficking, and many others. This engrossing book takes us behind the scenes. Nazir Afzal is recognised as a man who changed British justice for the better. 

By Nazir Afzal,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Prosecutor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The outsider who transformed our justice system

Nazir Afzal knows a thing or two about justice. As a Chief Prosecutor, it was his job to make sure the most complex, violent and harrowing crimes made it to court, and that their perpetrators were convicted. From the Rochdale sex ring to the earliest prosecutions for honour killing and modern slavery, Nazir was at the forefront of the British legal system for decades.

But his story begins in Birmingham, in the sixties, as a young boy facing racist violence and the tragic death of a young family member - and it's this…

Until I Could Be Sure

By George H. Ryan,

Book cover of Until I Could Be Sure: How I Stopped the Death Penalty in Illinois

Maurice Possley Author Of Hitler in the Crosshairs: A GI's Story of Courage and Faith

From the list on true stories with meaning and power.

Who am I?

I am a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has worked for the past 10 years as the senior researcher for the National Registry of Exonerations. In that capacity, I have written nearly 2,500 individual accounts of men and women and teenagers who were wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit. Some of them were sentenced to death. I have seen and written about these tragedies firsthand.

Maurice's book list on true stories with meaning and power

Why did Maurice love this book?

This is the true first person account of Illinois Governor George Ryan’s courageous and unprecedented decision to suspend the death penalty and empty death row in 2003. He oversaw the state’s last execution, an experience that was seared in his brain. In 2000, he became the first governor (and a Republican at that) to impose a moratorium on the death penalty. I was there as a journalist and I helped him write this powerful memoir.

By George H. Ryan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Until I Could Be Sure as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In January 2000, Illinois Governor George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions-the first such action by any governor in the history of the United States.

Despite a long history as a death penalty proponent, Ryan was emotionally moved after allowing an execution in 1999. He was also profoundly disturbed by the state's history-12 men had been executed and 13 had been exonerated since the return of the death penalty in Illinois in 1977. More had been proven innocent than had been executed.

Three years later, in 2003, Ryan pardoned four death row inmates based on their actual innocence and then…

Book cover of I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself

Jennifer Savran Kelly Author Of Endpapers

From the list on queer people on the edge.

Who am I?

I’m endlessly fascinated by people’s resilience—how we hold onto life and find meaning in it when everything seems to be falling apart. As a queer and genderqueer author, I especially love to see stories about queer characters in all of their human messiness, characters who aren’t forced to be models of perfection in order to earn readers’ empathy, stories that show us queer people don’t deserve dignity because we’re perfect; we deserve it because we’re human. These five novels have affected me deeply because they don’t shy away from the complexities of grief, love, parenting, trauma, sex, social justice, gender identity, and more. 

Jennifer's book list on queer people on the edge

Why did Jennifer love this book?

Against the backdrop of a speculative future in which extra shadows have become the alternative to prison and cameras watch our every move, I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself takes a raw, honest look at grief, family, queerness, and how we survive.

Kris has lost her wife Beau and gained an extra shadow—along with a child who also has an extra shadow. As she navigates her new reality, Kris can either sink deeper into her grief, accepting a life of surveillance and oppression for herself and her kid, or she can choose love and hope.

Crane’s approach to storytelling, open and vulnerable and using small fragments and pop quizzes, allowed me deep into Kris’s heart, and I rooted for her as she forged a life against all odds.   

By Marisa Crane,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dept. of Speculation meets Black Mirror in this lyrical, speculative debut about a queer mother raising her daughter in an unjust surveillance state

In a United States not so unlike our own, the Department of Balance has adopted a radical new form of law enforcement: rather than incarceration, wrongdoers are given a second (and sometimes, third, fourth, and fifth) shadow as a reminder of their crime—and a warning to those they encounter. Within the Department, corruption and prejudice run rampant, giving rise to an underclass of so-called Shadesters who are disenfranchised, publicly shamed, and deprived of civil rights protections.


Book cover of The Costs of Crime and Justice

Brian Forst Author Of Errors of Justice: Nature, Sources and Remedies

From the list on the economics of crime and justice.

Who am I?

Throughout my academic career, my chief scholarly interest has been to assess public policy using coherent theory and rigorous empirical method. The economics of crime and justice offers a powerful framework for achieving these ends.

Brian's book list on the economics of crime and justice

Why did Brian love this book?

Cohen offers a comprehensive sweep of the financial and non-financial consequences of criminal behavior, crime prevention, and society’s response to crime, public and private.  

Crime costs are far-reaching, including medical costs, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and reduced quality of life for victims and the public at large, as well as public expenditures on police, courts, and prisons, and the costs borne by offenders and their families, who often suffer consequences apart from the punishments they receive for committing crime. 

By Mark A. Cohen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Costs of Crime and Justice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book presents a comprehensive view of the financial and non-financial consequences of criminal behavior, crime prevention, and society's response to crime. Crime costs are far-reaching, including medical costs, lost wages, property damage and pain, suffering, and reduced quality of life for victims and the public at large; police, courts, and prisons; and offenders and their families who may suffer consequences incidental to any punishment they receive for committing crime.

The book provides a comprehensive economic framework and overview of the empirical methodologies used to estimate costs of crime. It provides an assessment of what is known and where the…

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