The best books about homeless people

1 authors have picked their favorite books about homeless people and why they recommend each book.

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I See You

By Michael Genhart, Joanne Lew-Vriethoff (illustrator),

Book cover of I See You

Although this picture book has no words, its message of caring and compassion is clear and powerful. A small boy becomes aware of a homeless woman and simply, gently, acknowledges her. This innocent and kind book serves may serve as an opening to talk to children about homelessness. It also may help us all to remember not to ignore those less fortunate.

Who am I?

I have always loved children. I love tiny babies just discovering the world around them. I love elementary-age kids who are taking pride in developing new skills and learning how to deal with challenges. I love teens who are questioning and rethinking the things they thought they knew. I also love the science and practice of psychology (my profession for over thirty years) and, I love books. To date, I have written nine books. My audience ranges from preschool to high school and topics include strategies to understand and cope with problems as well as psychology as a topic of study.

I wrote...

Yes I Can!: A Girl and Her Wheelchair

By Kendra J. Barrett, Jacqueline B. Toner, Claire A. B. Freeland, Violet Lemay (illustrator)

Book cover of Yes I Can!: A Girl and Her Wheelchair

What is my book about?

Carolyn is a happy, energetic, first-grader who just happens to be in a wheelchair. She’s excited to start her new year of school and make new friends. Yes I Can! follows Carolyn on a typical day at home, at school, and even on a field trip. She can do most of the things the other kids do, even if sometimes she has to do it a little differently.

Written by a physical therapist and two psychologists, this picture book includes a note to parents, caregivers, and teachers with more information about discussing disabilities with children and helping them to build positive empathic relationships.


By Louis Sachar,

Book cover of Holes

It’s a near-perfect story. Was required reading in elementary school, and of course, became a major motion picture distributed by the Walt Disney company. It’s a truly timeless book that craftily exposits the not-so happenstance events in life that may seem awful at the time, but are actually a blessing in disguise. I may re-read this someday.

Who am I?

My primary industry is filmmaking. For over ten years, I worked as a VFX Supervisor and Generalist on various Hollywood productions, some of them for major brands and networks, such as Sketchers USA, Rio Vista Universal, and the SyFy Channel. As someone with a passion for creative storytelling and a desire to relate richly visual images, I began to write original content—charged with the sights and sounds one may experience in a theater. 

I wrote...


By Daniel M. Ross,

Book cover of Rosette

What is my book about?

Tomorrow is yesterday.™ Babylon, 2171. As the fabric of time begins to unravel, the man responsible must wrestle his darkest demons in order to thread the world back together again. Unlock Infinit’s Cinematic Reading™ experience via the attached Screenplay Reading Guide.

#1 bestseller in time travel science fiction. "Completely smashed all my expectations... I am already re-reading it to take it all in." - William Conrad, author of Interviewing Immortality

The Bridge Home

By Padma Venkatraman,

Book cover of The Bridge Home

I’ve been to India three times and I love to share books that show its complex, beautiful, and sometimes brutal culture. When sisters Viji and Rukku leave home to escape their abusive father, readers are given a detailed look at what living on the streets of India is like for many children. It’s a realistic lesson on the caste system and abject poverty, all wrapped in a compelling story; and I am always a fan of books that show siblings that care deeply for one another. I also hope it sparks an interest in that amazing country and its inhabitants.

Who am I?

I am the author of two middle grade books, and I love writing about kids who may not have much materially but abound in heart and courage. I grew up in a small southern town and my childhood was just like that—low on income but full of love, hope, and friendship. I want kids to know that despite their circumstances there is hope for a better life. Like Wavie’s mom tells her in my book, Hope In The Holler, “You’ve got as much right to a good life as anybody. So go find it!”

I wrote...

Hope in the Holler

By Lisa Lewis Tyre,

Book cover of Hope in the Holler

What is my book about?

Before Wavie's mother died, she gave Wavie a list of instructions to help her find her way in life, including: Be brave, Wavie B! You got as much right to a good life as anybody, so find it! But little did Wavie's mom know that events would bring Wavie back to Conley Hollow, the Appalachian hometown her mother left behind. Now Wavie's back in the Holler—in the clutches of her Aunt Samantha Rose. Life with Samantha Rose is no picnic, but there's real pleasure in making friends with the funny, easygoing kids her aunt calls the "neighborhood-no-accounts." With their help, Wavie just might be able to prevent her aunt from becoming her legal guardian and find her courage and place in the world. 


By Katherine Applegate,

Book cover of Crenshaw

I normally avoid reading books with an element of fantasy, but I loved this one by Katherine Applegate. Jackson has an imaginary friend named Crenshaw who is a giant cat. He hasn’t seen Crenshaw in a while but one day Crenshaw reappears to help him through a difficult time. Even though I knew Crenshaw wasn’t real, Applegate’s writing makes him come alive. This book will make you believe in magic and the power of friendship.

Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by the intensity of friendships, whether they last a few months or a lifetime. For me, unlikely friendships have always been the most interesting, whether it be differences in class, age, hobbies, etc. I think all people can find common ground if they just listen to one another and talk for a minute. I love books featuring unlikely duos and almost always include them in my own novels. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I do, and they remind you of the best friends you’ve ever had.

I wrote...

One Night

By Deanna Cabinian,

Book cover of One Night

What is my book about?

One Night is a contemporary YA romance novel about teen angst, unrequited love, and self-discovery set to the beat of Elvis Presley's music.

Thompson is miserable. Even though Caroline broke his heart, he wants her back. With his mind on her, his life takes an unexpected turn. Johnny Lee Young, Hawaii’s Favorite Elvis Impersonator, gives him a job. Thompson knows nothing about celebrity impersonators, but he does know social media. Will he get Caroline back and find his true love? One Night is a delightful coming-of-age tale perfect for fans of John Green and Maureen Johnson. It’s an unforgettable story of friendship and finding yourself, of heartache and healing, and of the remarkable turns a life can take in One Night.

Another Bullshit Night in Suck City

By Nick Flynn,

Book cover of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City: A Memoir

There are many useful, informative books about mental health, but I love a beautifully written story—the kind that pulls you into the world of real people and the ways that their mental health challenges shape their lives. Such is the case with this creative, experimental memoir, which follows a son into adulthood as he witnesses his father’s addiction and homelessness while also developing his own addiction problems, bringing their warped reality to life by warping the narrative itself. With chapters written in wildly different forms and approaches, it slowly builds into a story of self-discovery and tentative acceptance. Full of grit, pathos, and harsh beauty, it captures a pervasive quality of mental chaos while also finding a clear path through it.

Who am I?

I grew up in the shadow of my mother’s untreated and very damaging mental illness, and despite how much I loved her, I struggled with having few ways to articulate or even understand how it shaped our lives. I went on to study biology and writing, and I now often weave psychology and neuroscience into my literary essays and memoir. I write to fill the gaps between my own experiences and the ways I have seen mental illness represented—or more often, misrepresented—in our culture. I write to explore mental health as it exists in real families and communities, and to tell nuanced, loving stories that fight against stigma.

I wrote...

The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia

By Marin Sardy,

Book cover of The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia

What is my book about?

Against the starkly beautiful backdrop of Anchorage, Alaska, where the author grew up, Marin Sardy weaves a fearless account of the shapeless thief—the schizophrenia—that kept her mother immersed in a world of private delusion and later manifested in her brother, ultimately claiming his life.

Composed of exquisite, self-contained chapters that take us through three generations of this adventurous, artistic, and often haunted family, The Edge of Every Day draws in topics from neuroscience and evolution to the mythology and art-rock to shape its brilliant inquiry into how the mind works. In the process, Sardy casts new light on the treatment of the mentally ill in our society. Through it all runs her blazing compassion and relentless curiosity, as her meditations take us to the very edge of love and loss—and invite us to look at what comes after.


By Alexander Masters,

Book cover of Stuart: A Life Backwards

“Middle-class academic writes nonfiction about homeless substance abuser” – that sounds like a recipe for overweening earnestness at best, or at worst an exploitative catastrophe. But right from the first line of this astonishing book you know that the author isn’t entirely in control, that the subject, his troubled friend Stuart Shorter, has agency in these pages in a way he seldom did elsewhere in life. It’s a gut-crunchingly sad story, but also often very funny – which, you get the feeling, is exactly how Stuart would have wanted it.

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by nonfiction since my teens, by the idea of books about things that really happened. Fiction gets all the kudos, all the big prizes, all the respect. But as far as I’m concerned, trying to wrestle the unruly matter of reality onto the page is much more challenging – imaginatively, technically, ethically – than simply making things up! My book The Travel Writing Tribe is all about those challenges – and about the people, the well-known travel writers, who have to confront them every time they put pen to paper.

I wrote...

The Travel Writing Tribe: Journeys in Search of a Genre

By Tim Hannigan,

Book cover of The Travel Writing Tribe: Journeys in Search of a Genre

What is my book about?

Where can travel writing go in the twenty-first century? Author and lifelong travel writing aficionado Tim Hannigan sets out in search of this most venerable of genres, hunting down its legendary practitioners and confronting its greatest controversies. Is it ever okay for travel writers to make things up, and just where does the frontier between fact and fiction lie? What actually is travel writing, and is it just a genre dominated by posh white men? What of travel writing’s queasy colonial connections?

Travelling from Monaco to Eton, from wintry Scotland to sun-scorched Greek hillsides, Hannigan swills beer with the indomitable Dervla Murphy, sips tea with the doyen of British explorers, delves into the diaries of Wilfred Thesiger and Patrick Leigh Fermor, and gains unexpected insights from Colin Thubron, Samanth Subramanian, Kapka Kassabova, William Dalrymple and many others. But along the way he realises how much is at stake: can his own love of travel writing survive this journey?

Learning to Breathe

By Janice Lynn Mather,

Book cover of Learning to Breathe

Learning to Breathe tells such an important side of the #MeToo Movement, with sixteen-year-old Indira (Indy), a Black Bahamian girl who struggles to find her place in the aftermath of an assault that leads to an unwanted pregnancy. Set in the Bahamas, a place so often portrayed in Western culture as idyllic, it depicts a very different gritty and authentic lived reality for the main character. This heart-rending, yet empowering novel is enlightening on so many levels. Not only does it offer the unique and all-too-often overlooked point of view of a young person of color, but it also deals with complex family issues, homelessness, and a young woman’s path to claiming power over her own body and future. 

Who am I?

I began writing The Way I Used to Be back in 2010. For me, it started simply as a place to work through my own private thoughts and feelings about sexual violence. I was writing as a survivor myself, but also as someone who has known, loved, and cared for so many others who have experienced violence and abuse. By the time I finished, I realized my novel had evolved into something much bigger: a story I hoped could contribute something meaningful to the larger dialogue. These powerful books on this list are all a part of that dialogue, each based in a richly diverse, yet shared reality. Readers will learn, grow, heal, and find hope in these pages.

I wrote...

The Way I Used to Be

By Amber Smith,

Book cover of The Way I Used to Be

What is my book about?

Eden was always good at being good. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, everything changes. What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved, she now hates. What she thought was true…now lies. She knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So, she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—this provocative novel reveals the deep cuts of trauma. But it also demonstrates one young woman’s strength as she navigates the disappointment and pains of adolescence, of first love and first heartbreak, of friendships broken and rebuilt, all while learning to embrace a power of survival she never knew she had.


By Katherine Rundell, Terry Fan (illustrator),

Book cover of Rooftoppers

“On the morning of its first birthday, a baby was found floating in a cello case in the English Channel.” From the opening line this is a story you will fall in love with!  Sofie, the orphaned baby in the cello case, is rescued from a shipwreck by an elderly gentleman called Charles who decides to raise her himself. He does an excellent job and I adore Sofie’s bravery, her love of knowledge, and her passion for adventure. Certain that her mother is still alive, Sofie and Charles set off for Paris to look for her, believing that you “never ignore a possible.” This is a fabulous book about pursuing your dreams and the power of hope. Plus the writing is just gorgeous!  

Who am I?

I write books about feisty girls who follow their dreams and don’t let fear stand in their way. Growing up in London I was an extremely shy child with a full-blown fantasy life, but at eighteen decided it was time to channel my inner “feisty girl”, take charge of my destiny, and travel to America to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Now, many years later I am the proud author of five middle-grade novels, and the mother of four amazing children who are all off following their own dreams. When I’m not writing books about feisty girls, I’m reading other people's. Here are some of my favorites.

I wrote...

The Courage of Cat Campbell (Poppy Pendle)

By Natasha Lowe,

Book cover of The Courage of Cat Campbell (Poppy Pendle)

What is my book about?

The one thing Cat Campbell wants more than anything is the one thing she can’t have – magic. That is until the day Cat discovers she has indeed inherited her mother’s magic gene. But as a ‘late bloomer’ witch Cat’s magic is difficult to control and not only does she have to battle with spells going wrong, she also has to face the disapproval of her mother, who gave up magic long ago and wants nothing to do with it. When the town of Potts Bottom is turned upside down after the notorious witch Madeline Reynolds escapes from prison, Cat grabs at the chance to prove herself, her magic, and to help her family and town by setting off on the riskiest adventure of her life.


By Coe Booth,

Book cover of Tyrell

Booth is an extraordinary writer and Tyrell is her signature story. Tyrell is a young man living under incredible pressure with a family that needs him to have both feet on the ground. But he's always on the verge of going the wrong way. Will the need for fast money put him in prison like his father? Booth is in complete command of her characters, story and pacing here. A marvelous book that will make you grateful for your own choices in life.

Who am I?

I spent 16 years teaching in NYC public schools, six of them on Rikers Island the world's biggest jail where I helped incarcerated teens improve their reading and writing skills. That experience helped to launch me on my own writing career. The job of the author? To hold up a mirror to society and reflect upon the page what the reader may not have experienced yet or missed seeing in the world outside the borders of a book.

I wrote...

The Great G.O.A.T. Debate: The Best of the Best in Everything from Sports to Science

By Paul Volponi,

Book cover of The Great G.O.A.T. Debate: The Best of the Best in Everything from Sports to Science

What is my book about?

I’m so incredibly proud of my 15th book for young adults. The idea behind it is very simple. In every school I visit, I hear students debating one another — Who’s the greatest basketball player of all time? Greatest rapper? Greatest video game? Greatest sci-fi franchise? Greatest rock band? So I wrote a book that lets students debate those topics. But, while those students are investigating their favorite categories, they’ll also be exposed to these unexpected debates —Who’s the greatest scientist of all time? Greatest architect? Greatest philosopher? Greatest mathematician? Greatest chess player? Greatest jazz soloist? Greatest composer? Greatest writer? Oh, yes, it also teaches students the basic strategies of debate and how to put forth a strong argument for their candidate as the G.O.A.T. of a particular category.

The Marvellous Equations of the Dread

By Marcia Douglas,

Book cover of The Marvellous Equations of the Dread: A Novel in Bass Riddim

Douglass is the kind of writer many of us are jealous of. Her skill with a pen is a marvel. Reading her sentences, I often wonder how she chose these words, how she came to think in this way, and how I could write less like myself and more like her. All of her books are worth reading, but this one’s tale of reincarnation and of life on the margins helped me see that the world is so much more magical than I often take it to be.

Who am I?

As a Jamaican migrant, I often read Jamaican fiction to feel recognized, but I struggle with the word “best,” so consider this an exceedingly tentative ranking. I read each of these texts to learn about what it means to be a part of the Jamaican diaspora and to write a Jamaican novel, and each one elicited in me something that I often did not know about myself. Their attention to gender, to migration, to family, and more are as enlightening as they are captivating. And if that is not enough, then come for the plots, all of which are gripping, and the prose, all of which delights.

I wrote...

All the Water I've Seen Is Running

By Elias Rodriques,

Book cover of All the Water I've Seen Is Running

What is my book about?

Along the Intracoastal waterways of North Florida, Daniel and Aubrey navigated adolescence with the electric intensity that radiates from young people defined by otherness: Aubrey, a self-identified "Southern cracker" and Daniel, the mixed-race son of Jamaican immigrants. When the news of Aubrey’s death reaches Daniel in New York, years after they’d lost contact, he is left to grapple with the legacy of his precious and imperfect love for her. 

Buoyed by his teenage track-team buddies―Twig, a long-distance runner; Desmond, a sprinter; Egypt, Des’s girlfriend; and Jess, a chef―Daniel begins a frantic search for meaning in Aubrey’s death. Sensitive to the complexities of class, race, and sexuality both in the American South and in Jamaica, All the Water I’ve Seen Is Running is a novel of uncommon tenderness, grief, and joy.

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