The Best Nonfiction Books for Teens

When teens want to read about life as it’s lived, or see their experiences and their concerns reflected beyond the pages of their favorite fiction, they can turn to great nonfiction reads. These books will inspire young readers, make them laugh, make them cry, and cast a light on the different ways they might live their own lives. They might even help them to find their own voices and live their own best story. Here are some books young readers should try when they need a break from apocalypse and romance.

Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation), by Laura Hillenbrand
Olympic athlete turned World War II pilot Louis Zamperini survived more than a month spent boiling and starving in a life raft after he crashed into the Pacific ocean, only to be taken as a prisoner of war when he finally reached land. Hillenbrand’s breathtaking book of survival and perseverance sold in the millions and is coming to movie theaters Christmas Day—and now it’s available to teen readers in an adaptation that loses none of the original’s punch.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, by Sean Covey
When teens won’t listen to parental advice (because at some point, all teens are gonna roll their eyes at parental advice), it’s time for a neutral third party to step in. Covey’s book offers a smart perspective on everything teen, from self-image to social media, and all the pitfalls and pleasures of finding your way during the most fun and difficult years of your life so far. The book is an invaluable read for parents, too, who may have forgotten exactly what their teen is facing when he gets up and goes to high school every day.

Penny Chic: How to Be Stylish on a Real Girl’s Budget, by Shauna Miller
Armed with the belief that “budget is nothing more than a fun style challenge,” blogger Miller launched Penny Chic, the blog-turned-book designed to show you how to out-Kardashian the Kardashians (or just look polished at work) without auctioning off your furniture. Penny Chic offers timeless advice on how to shop the big-box stores for expensive looks, and how to work with what you’ve already got in your closet. For those of us who don’t even know what our personal style is, Miller’s got you covered on that, too, with a guide to discovering what looks and style inspirations make you tick.

Rookie Yearbook Three, by Tavi Gevinson
Teenaged Tavi Gevinson, a self-made fashion guru and, most recently, Broadway star, launched online teen magazine Rookie in 2011. It has the look and dreamy feel of a smart girl’s journal, full of collaged images, playlists, mellow fashion shoots, interviews with female icons (Kim Gordon, Greta Gerwig), and essays on friendship, love, pop culture, and identity, written by other smart girls and accomplished women around the world. The magazine’s yearbook, now in its third edition, pulls the best of the year into an inspiring volume you can hold onto and flip through, and for a whipsmart young reader, it’s the perfect introduction to Tavi’s eternally teenaged world of friend crushes and late-night musings and unexpected beauty in all its forms.

Staying Strong: A Journal (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Demi Lovato
Singer and actress Lovato is the rare child star to build a thriving adult career, and her story has inspired millions of fans. A companion piece to her bestselling Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year, which provided daily affirmations on physical and mental well-being, this B&N exclusive-edition journal is enhanced with more inspirational quotes and provides readers with a chance to tell their own stories in its pages.

Laughing at My Nightmare, by Shane Burcaw
Twentysomething Burcaw lives with spinal muscular atrophy, a progressive condition that has put him into a wheelchair and made even the most mundane activities difficult or impossible without assistance. First through his Tumblr and now through this book, Burcaw brings his Teflon-coated sense of humor to bear on discussions of how his condition shapes his life, from sex to schooling to using the bathroom. His story stands as an incredible testament to the power of learning to laugh it off.

Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina, by Michaela DePrince and Elaine DePrince
Michaela DePrince was a Sierra Leonean war orphan, targeted for mistreatment because of a skin condition, when she was adopted at age four by American parents. An early affinity for dance, inspired by a photo of a ballerina she saw in a refugee camp, bloomed when her adoptive parents signed her up for dance lessons. She’s since performed with the Dance Theatre of Harlem and is now a junior member of the Dutch National Ballet. DePrince’s journey will inspire anyone who has ever faced long odds or dreamed of a life in the arts.

This Star Won’t Go Out, by Esther Earl, with Lori & Wayne Earl, introduction by John Green
This book collects the stories, journal entries, letters, and drawings of Esther Earl, an inspiration for John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. She passed away at age 16 of thyroid cancer but left behind a legacy in the form of this moving and lovely book, as well as the work her parents now do in her name, including the founding of nonprofit This Star Won’t Go Out, dedicated to helping families of children with cancer.

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