Good Nonfiction Books For Teens
Prepared by Keith Barlog, August 2010
Adventure and Travel
F5: Devastation, Survival and the Most Violent Tornado Outbreak of the 20th Century by Mark Levine - 2007, 307 p.
Deadly storms of unprecedented ferocity wreak devastation and an emotional toll on a small Alabama community. Levine zeroes in on the rural hamlets hit by at least 148 tornadoes over 16 states in April, 1974, six of which attained the rare “F5” category.
Snake Charmer: A Life and Death in Pursuit of Knowledge by Jamie James - 2008, 260 p.
An absorbing account of the life and career of a celebrated young herpetologist whose reckless fascination with venomous snakes ended with his slow death.
Lady and the Panda: The True Adventures of the First
American Explorer to Bring Back China's Most Exotic
Animal by Vicki Constantine Croke - 2005, 372p.
One woman's adventurous trek through Tibet to capture
a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston - 2004,
Ralston recounts the harrowing story of his near death
and self-amputation alone on a canyon wall in Utah.
or High Water: Surviving Tibet's Tsangpo River by Peter Heller - 2004, 278p.
There are dangers both on and off the water for a kayaking
expedition to one of the world's most remote whitewater
of Salt: Crossing the Sahara on the Caravan of White Gold by Michael Benanav - 2006, 220p.
A perilous journey across the desert leads to a glimpse
at a vanishing way of life in the ancient salt trade.
on My Moustache: The Arctic Exploits of a Lord and a Loafer by Tim Moore - 2000, 280p.
Travels across Iceland by boat and mountain bike retrace
the steps of a once famous explorer in this darkly humorous
Lost Pet Chronicles: Adventures of a K–9 Cop
Turned Pet Detective by Kat Albrecht - 2004, 243p.
A fascinating peek into the life of a cop turned pet
detective and the lives she helped save.
Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo by Lawrence Anthony - 2007, 248 p.
Terrific tale about how Iraqis, a South African conservationist and American soldiers saved the animals of the Baghdad Zoo in April 2003 after the Baghdad Zoo was bombed during the opening days of the Iraq war.
Zamba by Ralph Helfer - 2005, 258p.
The inventor of "affection training" for
screen animals tells of his relationship with a lion cub.
Nim Chimpksy: The Chimp Who Would Be Human by Elizabeth Hess - 2008, 369 p.
Hess tells the story of Nim Chimpsky, who in the 1970s was the subject of an experiment to find out whether a chimp could learn American Sign Language – and thus refute Noam Chomsky’s influential thesis that language is inherent only in humans.
Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood by Sy Montgomery - 2006, 228p.
A 750-pound friend can make the whole neighborhood feel
What the Dog Did: Tales from a Formerly Reluctant Dog Owner by Emily Yoffe - 2005, 258 p.
Yielding to pressure from her husband and young daughter, Yoffe finds herself the main caretaker of a high-maintenance, rescued beagle, Sasha.
Flim-Flam Man: A True Family History by Jennifer Vogel - 2004, 213 p.
An absorbing memoir of the author’s beloved father who also happened to be a liar and criminal.
The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece by Edward Dolnick - 2005, 270 p.
When Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream was stolen in 1994, it took the ingenuity of one man to retrieve it.
364.36 SAL Also in Bridge PB YA Fiction SAL
True Notebooks: A Writer’s Year at Juvenile Hall by Mark Salzman - 2003, 330 p.
These thoughts of teens behind bars are full of insight and emotion.
Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA by Tim Junkin - 2004, 294 p.
Kirk Bloodsworth was wrongly convicted of murder and spent 9 years battling death row until advances in DNA testing set him free.
YA 364.1523 CRO Also in J 364.1523 CRO
Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case by Chris Crowe - 2003, 128 p.
A bold and honest look at how young Emmett Till’s murder ignited the spark of America’s civil rights movement.
YA 364.66 KUK
No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row by Susan Kuklin - 2008, 212 p.
Inmates sentenced to death as teenagers give firsthand accounts of life on Death Row and relatives of both victims and prisoners share their experiences in this collection of interviews.
Einstein's Refrigerator: And Other Stories from the
Flip Side of History by Steve Silverman - 2001,
Off-beat stories from the annals of science history.
See more at his website, uselessinformation.org.
Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the
Screw by Witold Rybczynski - 2000, 173p.
The most useful tool of the last thousand years gets its
turn in this enlightening history.
Lost Fleet: The Discovery of a Sunken Armada from the Golden
Age of Piracy by Barry Clifford - 2002,
Diver Clifford explores a naval catastrophe in 1678 and
the wild, seafaring world of pirates.
to Treasure Island and the Search for Captain Kidd by Barry Clifford - 2003, 278p.
Find out how a respected Englishman came to be wanted as
a murderous pirate.
in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII's Forgotten Heroes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 2004, 302p.
Abdul-Jabbar chronicles the bravery of Patton's all-black
tank battalion and its 183 days on the front lines at the
Battle of the Bulge.
940.5451 KUR - Also in PB NF KUR and Bridge YA
Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked
Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of
World War II by Robert Kurson - 2004, 397p.
Two deep-sea divers risk their lives to discover the identity
of a sunken German submarine.
War by Sebastian Junger - 2010, 287p.
In this riveting combat narrative Junger spends 14 months in 2007–2008 intermittently embedded with a platoon of the 173rd Airborne brigade in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, one of the bloodiest corners of the conflict.
of Destruction: The Stories of Four Families and History's
Deadliest Tsunami by Erich Krauss - 2006, 244p.
Families from a Thai village devastated by the tsunami
of December 26, 2004 tell their compelling stories.
We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Phillip Gourevitch - 1999, 355p.
In Rwanda, after 800,000 ethnic Hutus are murdered in 100 days the survivors try to rebuild their lives while awaiting the slow-moving justice system.
Biography MATHABANE, M. - Also in YA Biography
Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming
of Age in Apartheid South Africa by Mark Mathabane - 1986, 354p.
Mathabane's hopeless life in Johannesburg is full
of violence and poverty, but he is determined to get out.
Biography UNG, C.
Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister
She Left Behind by Loung Ung - 2005, 268p.
Alternating chapters tell the stories of two sisters, one
a refugee in America, the other left in war-torn Cambodia.
The sequel to First They Killed My Father.
YA Biography LOBEL, A.
Pretty Pictures: A Child of War by Anita Lobel - 2000, 193p.
A piercing account of surviving the Holocaust by a famous
children's author and illustrator.
IN NF KUBERT
Fax from Sarajevo: A Story of Survival by Joe Kubert - 1996, 207 p.
This dramatic account tells how the Rustemagic family survives the deadly siege of their homeland.
IN NF SACCO
Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco - 2000, 227 p.
About war in the former Yugoslavia, immersing you in the human side of life during wartime.
IN NF SATRAPI
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi - 2003, 153 p.
Satrapi’s autobiography is a timely and timeless story of a young girl’s life under the Islamic Revolution.
IN NF SMALL
Stiches by David Small - 2009, 329 p.
With excruciating and exhilarating precision, small uses spare words and haunting imagery to tell the story of his troubled upbringing in this artistically cathartic memoir.
IN NF ZINN
A People’s History of American Empire by Howard Zinn, Mike Konopacki, and Paul Buhle - 2008, 273 p.
A study of empire-building by established politicians and big businesses from the 1890 Massacre at Wounded Knee through the current Iraq war.
IN Biography BECHDEL, A.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel - 2006, 232 p.
This autobiography by the author of the long-running strip deals with her childhood with a closeted gay father.
IN Biography RIEL, L.
Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography by Chester Brown - 2003, 272 p.
Exploration of the life of a 19th-century Canadian revolutionary.
Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music by Greg Kot - 2009, 262 p.
Chicago critic Kot reports on the changes within the music industry over the last 30 years with the decline of big record labels and MTV’s influence, to the birth of digital music and bands reaching fans through the web.
781. 66 EKE
Swedish Death Metal by Daniel Ekeroth - 2008, 447 p.
Death Metal musician Ekeroth provides an oral history/band index, chock-full of photographs and comic illustrations, detailing the roaring music scene that emerged from Sweden in the ‘80s and early ‘90s.
From the Velvets to the Voidoids: the Birth of American Punk Rock by Clinton Heylin - 2005, 354 p.
A journey from the punk scene’s roots in the mid-1960s to the arrival of “new wave” in the early 1980s, covering such bands and artists as Patti Smith, Pere Ubu, Television, Blondie, the Ramones, the MC5, the Stooges, Talking Heads, and the Dead Boys.
Coldplay: Look at the Stars by Gary Spivack - 2004, 133 p.
Written by an insider who has toured extensively with the band this book covers the rise of Coldplay into rock superstars.
Staring at Sound: The True Story of Oklahoma’s Fabulous Flaming Lips by Jim DeRogatis - 2006, 251 p.
Chicago music critic DeRogatis chronicles the Flaming Lips’ 23-year trip from local oddball musicians to nationally famous stars.
Nobody Likes You: Inside the Turbulent Life, Times, and Music of Green Day by Marc Spitz - 2006, 224 p.
A chronicle of the band after their initial success with the “Dookie” album, then the critical disdain that branded them with the label of “punk poseurs,” until their return to superstardom with the massive hit album “American Idiot.”
781.66092 KOT - Also in YA 781.66 KOT
Learning How to Die by Greg Kot - 2004,
The story of Jeff Tweedy and the backstage life of the
YA 781.66 KIL
Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders
the Classics - 2004, 304p.
"Classic" rock albums are analyzed by a new generation
of music critics.
Real Life Stories
Born on a Blue Day: A Memoir: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant by Daniel Tammet - 2007, 226 p.
Recounting his long struggle to emotionally connect with others, Tammet vividly describes his childhood and adolescence as an autistic savant.
in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood by Jennifer Traig - 2004, 246p.
In this humorous memoir, the author recalls her experiences
as a child with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Fire: The Making of an Accidental Fireman by Zac
Unger - 2004, 262p.
This action-packed story of life as a firefighter tells
it from the inside.
Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga by Hunter S. Thompson - 1999, 265 p.
A detailed description of one’s affiliation with the motorcycle outlaws, the Hell’s Angels.
Maze: Timothy Treadwell's Fatal Obsession
with Alaskan Bears by Nick Jans - 2005, 274p.
A fascinating glimpse into the life of a man who chose
to live in the middle of grizzly territory, and then paid
Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream by Sampson Davis - 2002, 248p.
Three black high school students who vow to finish college
together must rely on each other to keep from returning
to the streets.
Mr. Gatling’s Terrible Marvel: The Gun That Changed Everything and the Misunderstood Genius Who Invented It by Julia Keller - 2008, 294 p.
Both a biography of Richard J. Gatling and an analysis of how his invention permanently changed warfare. It created a blueprint for future rapid-fire weapons and contributed to American military success, yet it also produced unprecedented carnage that forever changed the way people looked at war.
The Full Burn: On the Set, at the Bar, Behind the Wheel, and Over the Edge with Hollywood Stuntmen by Kevin Conley - 2008, 218 p.
Conley visited the sets of action films to talk with Hollywood stuntmen and women.
War Is… Soldiers, Survivors, and Storytellers Talk about War by Marc Aronson - 2008, 200 p.
A balanced collection of contemporary and historical writings including interviews, stories, memoirs, and a miliblog addresses the experience of enlisting, serving, and surviving war from a variety of perspectives.
Clara’s War: One Girl’s Story of Survival by Clara Kramer - 2009, 339 p.
Chronicling the 18 months she spent as a teen hiding with other polish Jews under Nazi occupation.
Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran by Ruya Hakakian - 2004, 245 p.
A haunting story of being a Jewish teenager in Tehran as civil rights are stripped away.
Comes Home by Rinker Buck - 2005, 272p.
The moving story of the first American killed in the Iraq
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah - 2007, 229 p.
A former child soldier in Sierra Leone recalls the heart-wrenching experiences that transformed him from an innocent 12-year-old into a cold-blooded killer.
Biography GILMAN, S.J.
in a Pouffy White Dress: Tales of Growing Up Groovy and
Clueless by Susan Jane Gilman - 2005,
Growing up in the '70s had its ups and downs as
retold in this comic memoir.
Biography HAMILTON, B. - Also in YA 797.32 HAM
Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to
Get Back on the Board by Bethany Hamilton - 2004,
Could you return to the water after losing an arm in a
shark attack? Hamilton did.
Biography McLAIN, P.
Family: Growing Up in Other People's Houses:
A Memoir by Paula McLain - 2003, 260p.
Growing up shuffled between foster homes, the author records
the wretched conditions she and her sisters endured.
Biography WALLS, J.
Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls - 2005,
This unusual memoir of making it on your own while living
with your parents is full of the "adventures" of
YA 616.8582 GRE
The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood by Julie Gregory - 2003, 244p.
This astounding story describes a life crippled by an insidious
form of child abuse, and the struggle to move beyond it.
YA 616.8526 HOR
A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher - 1999, 298p.
A graphic look at how believing in the "ideal
female body" almost cost Hornbacher her life.
YA Biography GANTOS, J.
in My Life by Jack Gantos - 2002, 199p.
Gantos tells a true and gripping tale about his teenage
years in jail for trafficking drugs.
YA Biography CRUTCHER, C.
of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography by Chris Crutcher - 2003, 260p.
With his signature combination of hilarity and thoughtfulness,
author Crutcher recounts his younger years.
Evidence: 40 True Crimes and How Forensic Science Helped
Solve Them by David Owen - 2000, 240p.
The world of forensic crime fights for justice with the
Snow: The Slow Poisoning of the Arctic by Marla
Cone - 2005, 246p.
A wake up call to change our thinking and behavior to salvage
our Arctic environment.
Down: Six Kids Vie for Glory at the World's
Toughest Math Competition by Steve Olson - 2004,
This story of the 2001 Math Olympiad and its U.S. team
shows that math is not just for nerds.
The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe by Theodore Gray - 2009, 240 p.
The 118 elements of the periodic table are photographed and described with humor, style and authority.
Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero by Robert
Kaplan - 2000, 225p.
It's amazing how interesting a book about nothing
Spix’s Macaw: The Race to Save the World's
Rarest Bird by Tony Juniper - 2003, 287p.
Rare parrots sold on the black market can go for $40,000.
There is only one Spix's macaw left in the wild—can
598.72 HOO Also in J 598.7 HOO
Race to Save the Lord God Bird by Phillip Hoose - 2004, 196p.
This is the suspenseful story of America's first
endangered species, the Ivory-billed woodpecker, and of
the world's awakening to our power to destroy life.
Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's
Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan -
From the disgusting morsels rats love best to the way they
altered the politics of New York, enticing ratty details
fill this intriguing history.
The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach - 2003, 303p.
For anyone interested in what happens when you donate your
body to science, this humorously macabre work shines some
light on the bizarre details of your entrails.
Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His
Backyard Nuclear Reactor by Ken Silverstein - 2004, 209p.
Quiet David Hahn sidesteps his dysfunctional family to
create a dangerously effective reactor in the middle of
his suburban neighborhood.
Dreams: One Unlikely Team of Kids and the Race to Build
the Car of the Future by Caroline Kettlewell - 2004, 290p.
This true tale of a high school competition to convert
an automobile into an electric vehicle is full of characters
and will leave you "shocked."
Road: My Story of the 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship
and How One Team Triumphed Against the Odds and Changed
America Forever by Don Haskins - 2006, 254p.
Haskins changed the face of college basketball by introducing
great players who were black.
Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams by Darcy Frey - 1996, 230p.
Frey followed four star players, including Stephon Marbury, from Lincoln High’s basketball team in New York. When you’re a talented basketball player from the projects, there are a million things that can go wrong, and only one thing that can go right.
Jump: Sebastian Telfair and the High Stakes Business of
High School Ball by Ian O'Connor - 2005,
If you were a high school basketball player in a gang-ridden
neighborhood and the NBA wanted you in the draft, would
you make the jump?
Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Journey into the Heart of Fan Mania by Warren St. John - 2004, 275p.
Following the Crimson Tide reveals the crazy world of fans
whose lives revolve around football.
Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four
Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb - 2004,322p.
Breaking the four-minute mile had never been done, but
in 1954 three men were determined to be the first to do
Summit of Achievement - 2003, 252p.
Photos and words come together to describe the allure of
climbing the world's highest mountain.
Blood in the Cage: Pat Miletich and the Furious Rise of the UFC by Jon L. Wertheim - 2009, 251 p.
A look into the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and its rival organizations and its rise into the mainstream. Focuses on Pat Miletich, who runs the most famous MMA training school in the world.
Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and
the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team by Wayne Coffey - 2005, 272p.
This unbelievable Cinderella story about a great coach
and a great team is retold with excitement and heart.
YA 796.815 POL
American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China by Matthew Polly - 2007, 366 p.
On a quest to transform himself from a scrawny weakling into a kung-fu master, Polly drops out of Princeton and journeys to the legendary Shaolin Temple.
YA Biography HAWK, T.
Boardslides and Burnout: My Notes from the Road by Tony Hawk - 2002, 169p.
The skateboarding superstar's competitive travels
and adventures in words and pictures.