The most recommended nonfiction books for teens

Who picked these books? Meet our 355 experts.

355 authors created a book list with a nonfiction book for teens, and here are their favorites.

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Book cover of Swipe Right for Murder

Katie Jane Gallagher Author Of Specter

From my list on young adult for spooks and thrills.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved stories with a horror/thriller focus ever since I can remember. Yes, I was that creepy kid who read all of Goosebumps, as well as checked out a copy of Dracula from the library at the tender age of eleven, much to the chagrin of the elderly librarian. My own books are multi-genre, but tend to include a thriller or horror element—it’s such fun to write a page-turner that ends with a bang. I truly hope you enjoy these picks as much as I did. They are some of my very favorites!

Katie's book list on young adult for spooks and thrills

Katie Jane Gallagher Why did Katie love this book?

Swipe Right for Murder is a thriller with LGBT themes that will gobble up every moment you can spare for reading. Set in 2019, the book nonetheless has a raucous, cyberpunk feel. Main character Aidan, through the use of a Grindr-style hook-up app on his senior Spring Break, stumbles into an unfortunate series of events that lead him into close contact with a domestic terrorist organization bent on killing homophobes. Swipe Right for Murder is a page-turner if there ever was one, and it’s fucking funny. Seriously, there are some legit laugh-out-loud moments in this book—generally a tough order for a written medium. If you’re looking for a smart thriller that is turned up to eleven at all points, then this book is an absolute must-read.

By Derek Milman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Swipe Right for Murder as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

An epic case of mistaken identity puts a teen looking for a hookup on the run from both the FBI and a murderous cult in this compulsively readable thriller.

Finding himself alone in a posh New York City hotel room for the night, Aidan does what any red-blooded seventeen-year-old would do--tries to hook up with someone new. But that lapse in judgement leads him to a room with a dead guy and a mysterious flash drive...two things that spark an epic case of mistaken identity that puts Aidan on the run--from the authorities, his friends, his family, the people who…


Book cover of Threads of Peace: How Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Changed the World

Tina Athaide Author Of Orange for the Sunsets

From my list on historical events unfolding.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a child, I loved escaping into my character’s world—solving mysteries with Nancy Drew, getting into trouble like Anne from Anne of Green Gables, and diving into adventures with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. But I never saw anyone like myself in those books. A girl with black hair and coffee-colored skin, who licked the last samosa crumb off her fingers. That's one of the reasons I write and read historical fiction. It allows you to take a ride with a person from that place and time, and the first rule of time travel is that you cannot change the past. But when you finish reading you may discover that the past has changed you. 

Tina's book list on historical events unfolding

Tina Athaide Why did Tina love this book?

I greatly admire Mohandas Gandhi and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., so I was intrigued when I heard about this book that looked at the common threads between two amazing historical figures who shared a goal of social reform. Being South Asian, I am very familiar with Mohandas Gandhi, and after moving to the United States, I learned a lot about the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and this book revealed what led these two men down the path of peace. Even today, it saddens me that both Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. met their end to life by assassinations. I have only recently added this book to my classroom library, but anticipate it will be a popular choice among my students.

By Uma Krishnaswami,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Threads of Peace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

"Inviting and original." -Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Mohandas Gandhi and Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. both shook and changed the world in their quest for peace among all people, but what threads connected these great activists together in their shared goal of social revolution?

A lawyer and activist, tiny of stature with giant ideas, in British-ruled India at the beginning of the 20th century.

A minister from Georgia with a thunderous voice and hopes for peace at the height of the civil rights movement in America.

Born more than a half-century apart, with seemingly little in common except one shared…


Book cover of Roving Pack

Hal Schrieve Author Of How to Get over the End of the World

From my list on realest queer YA about living in community.

Why am I passionate about this?

Queer community means what we make it mean—but in the end, we mostly have each other, with our varied histories and problems and capacity to care for our peers and harm them. Intergenerational community is a model for young people that the problems they’re facing aren’t new. I grew up in LGBT youth groups, in a generational moment just before gay marriage, PrEP, and increased access to healthcare for trans people transformed our sense of what “activism” and “solidarity” meant. As the political pendulum swings in the other direction, I think some of the best stories we can tell are ones where we aren’t individuals or couples in our own narrative bubbles. 

Hal's book list on realest queer YA about living in community

Hal Schrieve Why did Hal love this book?

I don’t know if most librarians would understand or shelve this as YA, but Lowrey’s cast of eighteen-year-old trans punks and squatters have more in common with most trans kids, in 2006 or the present day, than many YA-marketed idyllic stories about teens with accepting families and limited substance use issues.

From nonprofits where suburban children pick fights with homeless teens to squats where young punks pressure each other into conforming to their own specific dysfunctional microculture in Portland, Oregon, this book resonates for me as tracking a moment in history—the youth of all the trans people who were in their twenties when I came out in my early teens, and were trying to devote themselves to the same community projects they had benefited from when they were runaways and train-hoppers.

By Sassafras Lowrey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Roving Pack as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

Click, a straight-edge transgender kid, is searching for hir place within a pack of newly sober gender rebels in the dilapidated punk houses of Portland, Oregon circa 2002. Ze embarks on a dizzying whirlwind of leather, sex, hormones, house parties, and protests until hir gender fluidity takes an unexpected turn and the pack is sent reeling.


Book cover of When Can We Go Back to America? Voices of Japanese American Incarceration During WWII

Stephanie Hinnershitz Author Of Japanese American Incarceration: The Camps and Coerced Labor During World War II

From my list on Japanese American incarceration.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in central Pennsylvania, I learned little about Japanese American incarceration beyond the brief mention in textbooks. It wasn’t until I came across documents about incarceration camps in Arkansas that I wanted to learn more and spent the next five years exploring this subject. What I took away from my research is that even though confinement in camps only directly affected Japanese Americans, understanding how this tragedy happened is important for all Americans who value democracy. I’m a Senior Historian at the National WWII Museum and work hard to make sure that Japanese American incarceration is included in the larger history of the American home front during the war.

Stephanie's book list on Japanese American incarceration

Stephanie Hinnershitz Why did Stephanie love this book?

If you want to delve into first-hand accounts of what life was like in the incarceration camps, you’ll find a lot of books for that, but you could be overwhelmed in the process. What I like about Kamei’s recent book is that it is a handy compilation of over a hundred engaging, heartbreaking, and inspiring descriptions of incarceration from those who directly experienced and fought against the prejudice that created it. Best of all, you can use this book as a jumping-off point for learning more about any of the individuals you encounter here. 

By Susan H. Kamei,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When Can We Go Back to America? Voices of Japanese American Incarceration During WWII as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

In this dramatic and page-turning narrative history of Japanese Americans before, during, and after their World War II incarceration, Susan H. Kamei weaves the voices of over 130 individuals who lived through this tragic episode, most of them as young adults.

It's difficult to believe it happened here, in the Land of the Free: After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States government forcibly removed more than 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from the Pacific Coast and imprisoned them in desolate detention camps until the end of World War II just because of their race.

In what…


Book cover of Smoke Signals

Don Dupay Author Of Behind the Badge in River City: A Portland Police Memoir

From my list on getting people thinking about the bigger picture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a longtime writer and author, who basically learned the craft of writing from over 17 years with the Portland Police Bureau. Some of the best writers are working and retired police officers because, when you write those daily reports or detailed investigative reports, you learn how to write. I've written six books, two of which have been published by Oregon Greystone Press, the Indie Publishing company operated by my wife, Theresa. I graduated from Portland State University in 2017 and was listed in the commencement program as “the oldest PSU graduate” of that year. I was 80. I live in Portland with my wife, Theresa, also a writer and author. 

Don's book list on getting people thinking about the bigger picture

Don Dupay Why did Don love this book?

This is a book that shares intimate glimpses into the lives of a handful of Native Americans living on an Indian Reservation in the late 20th century. The book is full of humor, irony, and wit and was later made into a popular film. There are moments that are amusing and funny, but loneliness and a sense of apathy make their way into the storyline as well, as Victor, the lead character, tries to navigate the unpredictable family life he finds himself in. As a small boy he witnesses the damaging effects of alcoholism and what it does to his father and other family members, much like Sherman Alexie did himself. Victor is deeply resentful of his father’s abandonment when he was a child, and resents his friend Thomas for admiring his father for things like eating 15 pieces of fry bread in one sitting.

Victor struggles to find his…

By Sherman Alexie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Smoke Signals as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Book by Alexie, Sherman


Book cover of I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced: A Memoir

Robert Uttaro Author Of To The Survivors: One Man's Journey as a Rape Crisis Counselor with True Stories of Sexual Violence

From my list on sexual violence, hope and healing.

Why am I passionate about this?

God gave me a life-long calling to help anyone affected by sexual violence. Words often fail when I try to describe the pain that results from sexual abuse and what it truly means to me to make a positive difference in the lives of survivors. My heart and soul break for those who are suffering from evil crimes, and yet I continuously see people disclosing, expressing, growing, and healing. From my many years working as a counselor and advocate, I've learned that very often people just need someone to be with them and listen. I'm committed to supporting others in this area for as long as I can be helpful.

Robert's book list on sexual violence, hope and healing

Robert Uttaro Why did Robert love this book?

Where does one begin to write about forced child marriage and childhood sexual abuse?

In her own words, Nujood writes, “I’m a simple village girl who has always obeyed the orders of my father and brothers. Since forever, I have learned to say yes to everything. Today I have decided to say no.

Nujood Ali was sold by her family to a man who married her and continuously raped her before she even hit puberty. It is truly disturbing to read about the hell that Nujood endured, yet it is also astonishing and inspirational to see that she escaped and became Yemen’s first child bride to win a divorce. Nujood continues to be an international activist for Yemen and young girls all over the world, spreading light over evil. 

By Nujood Ali, Delphine Minoui, Linda Coverdale (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

“I’m a simple village girl who has always obeyed the orders of my father and brothers. Since forever, I have learned to say yes to everything. Today I have decided to say no.”
 
Nujood Ali's childhood came to an abrupt end in 2008 when her father arranged for her to be married to a man three times her age. With harrowing directness, Nujood tells of abuse at her husband's hands and of her daring escape. With the help of local advocates and the press, Nujood obtained her freedom—an extraordinary achievement in Yemen, where almost half of all girls are married…


Book cover of The Center Cannot Hold

Mona Simpson Author Of Commitment

From my list on books that tell a story of life with mental illness.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m Mona Simpson, the author of seven novels. I grew up with a mentally ill parent who struggled to support me, her only child, as a single mother. I saw firsthand the toll living in the world cost her. One of my first experiences of adulthood was a sense of relief in discovering that staying above water was manageable, even easy. Walking home from my first real job, seeing all the other people’s backs and legs hurry ahead of me, I liked being one of the many. I wondered if my mother could have ever felt that ease if there had been an alternative.

Mona's book list on books that tell a story of life with mental illness

Mona Simpson Why did Mona love this book?

This is the Horatio Alger story for talented young women who develop schizophrenia. Elyn Saks, a law professor at USC, tells a story of descent into a kind of madness that has a truly happy ending. Not the kind of happy ending literary novels offer us, in which contentment is laced with sadness. Elyn conquers her demons like a superhero.

By Elyn R. Saks,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Center Cannot Hold as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Elyn Saks is Professor of Law and Psychiatry at University of Southern California Law School. She's the author of several books. Happily married. And - a schizophrenic. Saks lifts the veil on schizophrenia with her startling and honest account of how she learned to live with this debilitating disease. With a coolly clear, measured tone she talks about her condition, the stigma attached and the deadening effects of medication. Her controlled narrative is disrupted by interjections from the part of her mind she has learned to suppress. Delusions, hallucinations and threatening voices cut into her reality and Saks, in a…


Book cover of Gender Queer: A Memoir

Zoë Bossiere Author Of Cactus Country: A Boyhood Memoir

From my list on coming of age memoirs about trans kids actually written by trans people.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a kid, I didn’t identify with the gender I was assigned at birth. Even without the language to describe who I really was, I was always on the lookout for stories about other people who felt like I did—for stories, in other words, like the ones on this list. But I never found them. As the books below beautifully illustrate, the spectrum of transgender experience, and our childhoods in particular, are so rich and diverse. My hope is for these and other books like Cactus Country to encourage more trans and queer people to tell their stories so that kids like us can find characters that represent them. 

Zoë's book list on coming of age memoirs about trans kids actually written by trans people

Zoë Bossiere Why did Zoë love this book?

Maia Kobabe’s book is the book I wish I could’ve read growing up. I was struck so many times by the similarities Kobabe’s story shared with mine, as a kid with many of the same questions and feelings about my gender that e did.

With immersive and evocative illustrations that I couldn’t help but linger over, Kobabe’s graphic memoir took me on a refreshingly frank gender journey that was never afraid to delve into the uncomfortable.

It is also the most challenged and banned book in the country at the moment, which I think speaks volumes about the story’s capacity to change lives.

By Maia Kobabe,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Gender Queer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia's intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears. Started as a way to explain to eir family…


Book cover of Truth & Beauty: A Friendship

Patti Miller Author Of True Friends

From my list on the wonders and challenges of friendship.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a full-time writer of creative non-fiction, I am passionately interested in what makes us human. Like most people. I have always been fascinated by friendship and have had many friends throughout my life. I decided to write about friendship when a good friend 'pruned' me, that is, ended our friendship. I was bewildered and hurt and wanted to understand what had happened, which led me to write True Friends. When I discussed the topic with others, it turned out that most people had also experienced a friend break-up, but it was not much written about—until now!

Patti's book list on the wonders and challenges of friendship

Patti Miller Why did Patti love this book?

Ann Patchett is a successful American novelist, and Truth and Beauty is her memoir about her friendship with the poet, Lucy Grealy. She writes beautifully about Grealy, her talent and her warm, engaging personality, but also about her struggles and eventual death. Patchett conveys the depth of a passionate friendship by letting the reader see all her thoughts and feelings, courageously looking at how we can love someone, but how they can also try us to our limits. It is a book for those who love literature and are fascinated by the depth and intricacy of a creative connection between humans.

By Ann Patchett,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Truth & Beauty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

From the bestselling author of The Dutch House, Commonwealth and Bel Canto, Winner of The Women's Prize for Fiction and the Pen/Faulkner Award.

When Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy met in college they began a friendship that would define their lives. Lucy Grealy lost part of her jaw to childhood cancer, and a large part of her life to chemotherapy and endless reconstructive surgeries. Stoic but vulnerable, damaged by bullying but fascinated by fame, Lucy had an incandescent personality that illuminated those around her.

In this tender, brutal book, Ann Patchett describes Lucy's life and her own platonic love for…


Book cover of The Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder

James Phelps Author Of Australia's Most Infamous Jail: Inside the walls of Pentridge Prison

From my list on getting any writer started in the industry.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am passionate about this book list because it helped me get where I am today, a multiple-times bestselling author and an award-winning senior reporter. I began working as an overnight police round reporter before moving into sports, where I became one of Australia's best news-breaking rugby league journalists. I was then appointed News Corp Australia's Chief National Motorsports Writer and traveled the world chasing Formula 1 story, as well as covering Australia's V8 Supercar races. Everyone has to start somewhere, and for me, this list of books helped me begin and continue to grow to reach the level of success that I have.

James' book list on getting any writer started in the industry

James Phelps Why did James love this book?

So, if builders go to Bunnings to find their tools and I go to Rogets for mine, well then, Merriam-Webster is just another brand of hardware store for writers. But let’s call this one Mitre Ten.

This is a staple of a home office when writing. Have it sitting there in plain sight all day long while you write.

By Merriam-Webster (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

The perfect book for expanding your working vocabulary and an indispensable tool for students preparing for standardized tests.

250 Greek and Latin roots aid in the learning of 1,000 words along with over 2,000 closely related terms Features helpful usage examples and quizzes to test your memory Organized by Greek and Latin roots– the building blocks of English vocabulary Perfect for students prepping for standardized tests including SAT, ACT, TOEFL, and TOEIC

*BOOK COVER DESIGNS MAY VARY: We recently redesigned the Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder book cover so some customers may receive the original design and others may receive the new…