Engaging Nonfiction Titles for High School Students

Summer is a reading marathon for me. Each year, as I prepare to go back to my high school library, I take stock of titles I’ve read that might engage my students. I’m not always successful at motivating resistant teenage readers but with the right content (narrative nonfiction seems to be a favorite genre) I stand a better chance of creating interest. Here are four books I think high school students will enjoy:

The Man Who Could Move Clouds by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

Heartbreaking, uplifting, mystical. . .a unique memoir that transports readers to the mountains, forests, rivers, and communities of Colombia. Contreras traces her family’s history and their connection to ghosts, dreams, and the power of healing. She and her mother both suffered from amnesia many years apart and through this shared experience she explores memory and its relationship to the way we make sense of life and death. The memoir has many of the same magical elements as her novel Fruit of the Drunken Tree.

Never Simple by Liz Scheier

With her honest, funny, New-York-sarcastic tone, author Liz Scheier writes about her complicated life growing up in Manhattan with a single mother whose mental illness was a mystery to her until she was an adult herself. Not knowing the identity of her father is the catalyst for all kinds of soul searching by Scheier; she learns intriguing and unexpected details about her family’s past. Incredible writing, impeccable editing, and a joy to read. 

Bookends by Zibby Owens

She’s become known in literary circles as a famous bookfluencer. Zibby Owens not only has a thriving podcast, Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, but she published a children’s book and wrote this personable, page-turning memoir. In it, she recounts formative times of her life, the most poignant being when her best friend and college roommate died in 9/11. Her writing is just like her interviews: open, honest, and not afraid to tackle the deep questions that keep her up at night. At the same time, she’s quick to laugh and adds humor to the pages.

The Ravine: A Family, A Photograph, A Holocaust Massacre Revealed by Wendy Lower

One Photo. A young mother in a polka dot dress. Holding her toddler’s hand. Hugging another child close to her. It could be any picture of a mother and her children taken in 1941. Except that it isn’t. This mother was forced to flee her home with her family on October 13, 1941 and was brought through the forest behind her hometown of Miropol, Ukraine to a ravine where she was brutally shot while holding her children. In this devastating, important, well-researched book, Wendy Lower investigates this photograph, which she came across at the United States Holocaust Museum, to uncover information about the victims and their perpetrators. Six million lives lost. Lower reminds us that every single death was connected to a person who had relationships and plans for a future. 


Author: Karin Greenberg

Karin Greenberg is the librarian at Manhasset High School in Manhasset, New York. She is a former English teacher and writes book reviews for School Library Journal. In addition to reading, she enjoys animals, walking, hiking, and spending time with her family. Follow her book account on Instagram @bookswithkg.

Categories: Literacy

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