10 Nonfiction Books for Teens That Are Total Page-Turners

by Iva-Marie Palmer

In their world of sometimes-dull textbooks and term papers on often pre-assigned topics, it’s natural for teens to flock to fiction in their spare time. But they would be remiss to overlook some of the amazing nonfiction works that are equally captivating, thought-provoking, and even worldview-affecting. Here are 10 extra-compelling nonfiction books for teens that span all kinds of interests and curiosities.

  • We Should All Be Feminists

    by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    In December 2015, it was announced that every 16-year-old in Sweden would be given a copy of this book. Adapted from Adichie’s award-winning TEDx Talk of the same name (which blew up after Beyoncé sampled it), the book is a great stepping stone for discussions on gender roles and equity. Drawing from Adichie’s own experiences, it’s a key read for young women and men as they navigate the future together.

  • Do You Know Who You Are?

    by DK

    Step away from the online quizzes! However you want to slice it, there’s something much more telling about digging into your true self when you do it in pen and ink. A great book for would-be journalers whose efforts never quite get off the ground, this hybrid quiz/self-help/activity book is filled with questionnaires, creative activities, and wisdom (imparted by both the professional psychologist who helped create it and the reader who does the exercises). Whatever the case, it’s a worthwhile pursuit.

  • We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a True Story

    by Josh Sundquist

    The teen years can be awkward. But sometimes the early adult years continue to be awkward. Such is the case with Sundquist who realized at 25 that he’d never had a real girlfriend. So began his quest to review his dating (or non-dating) life since middle school by tracking down every girl he ever liked and asking her, “What went wrong?” The results are hilarious and relatable. Plus, Sundquist wrote it while in a relationship, so even the most hopelessly misguided teen dater will finish the read with some hope.

  • The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia

    by Candace Fleming

    If truth is stranger than fiction, the Romanovs still get some kind of prize. Any teen who claims history is boring should get their hands on this book. (Adults should, too!) Fleming writes about Russia’s last royal family and its downfall in a gripping way, covering every spot of doom in its gilded halls (while also tending to the lives of the poor Russian masses). Fans of reality show drama will hold today’s camera-ready families to a much higher drama standard after reading this book.

  • Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound

    by Andrea Davis Pinkney

    Pinkney’s book delivers a great glimpse into Berry Gordy’s founding of Motown in 1959, while also painting a picture of the social climate of the time. Any teen with an interest in music — no matter what genre they prefer — should get their hands on this history, just for the look at the way Gordy’s early efforts shaped the music teens love today.

  • Honor Girl

    by Maggie Thrash

    The best memoirs are those that make you feel like the writer is a potential friend, even if their story is one that’s unfamiliar. In the case of Thrash’s graphic novel — a romantic, honest, and funny account of her falling hard for her female summer-camp counselor — the story is one that goes one better than making you want to be one of Thrash’s friends. It makes you want to have under-the-stars big conversations with the ones you already have.

  • Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way)

    by Sue Macy

    Never knock the noble bicycle. Susan B. Anthony once said that the bike “has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world." This lively look at bicycles takes a scrapbook-style approach to celebrating how the invention and its availability to females helped grant women freedom of mobility and aided the women’s liberation movement. The read is as fluid as pedaling on smooth streets, portraying the bicycle’s story through news clippings, advertisements, and vintage photographs — not to mention the occasional (and laughable) objection to women having the right to bike. Bonus: This read might even make car-less teens appreciate the wheels they do have.

  • The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century

    by Sarah Miller

    There’s a reason why true crime is a genre that’s always popular: It’s addictive and thought-provoking. Miller does her homework, and tries to separate fact from fiction (news stories on Borden’s 1892 double murder trial were highly sensationalized). Readers won’t feel like they’re just gawking at a crime scene; they’ll actually learn something about the legal process in this fascinating account of an unsolved crime that’s hard to put down.

  • The Movie Book

    by DK

    Part of DK’s Big Ideas, Simply Explained series, The Movie Book is a do-it-all compendium of movie history and look at how films have fit into society. Examining 100 films from the silent era onward (and spanning all genres, from “The Wizard of Oz” to “Vertigo” to “Pulp Fiction”), the book’s profiles include great lines, historical significance, and mini-biographies of key industry players. Any teen movie buff will be drawn instantly to the must-see content and — in this age of streaming — may be inclined to seek out older, harder-to-get fare for a true picture of movie-making’s multifaceted history.

  • Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

    by Sebastian Junger

    While technically an adult book, Junger’s work — which spends a lot of its pages on the return of soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to their former lives — makes frequent appearances on high school reading lists. And it should, because Junger’s writing is compelling and he approaches anthropology with a great deal of empathy. In Tribe, Junger learns that it’s not a veteran’s failure to “get back in” to society, but often society’s failure to re-assimilate vets, and he looks at what tribal societies can teach ours about loyalty and belonging. The book is a must-read for any civic-minded teen who’s thoughtfully approaching how they might make a difference in the world.