Nonfiction for Personal Growth in the High School Library

Reading Nonfiction

Coming from a corporate background, I enjoy business-related nonfiction. This past summer, my selections included several recommendations from KQ bloggers. I started the summer with a recommendation by Kelly Hincks, Backable: The Surprising Truth Behind What Makes People Take a Chance on You by Suneel Gupta. Then, I read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, recommended by Renee Bowman.

The section in Essentialism titled “Shattering the Sleep Stigma” alludes to the much-touted 10,000-hour rule study. This reference led me on a quest for more information about this research and its implications for educators.

10,000-Hour Rule

Malcolm Gladwell was one of the first authors to write about the 10,000-hour rule in his 2008 book Outliers. In the second chapter, Gladwell focuses on a 1990s study conducted by psychologist K. Anders Ericsson in conjunction with colleagues at the Academy of Music in Berlin. Gladwell concludes with this study and other facts that the practice time needed for “the magic number for true expertise” is ten thousand hours of practice. The idea is that world-class performers do not succeed with purely natural talent but with an incredible amount of practice.

Many authors, including Essentialism‘s McKeown, have since pointed out that ten thousand hours of practice is only a tiny piece of the Ericsson research. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, the author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, emphasizes that the study revealed that these top performers logged 10,000 hours of practice and 12,500 hours of rest and about 30,000 hours of sleep.

Connecting Our Students with Nonfiction for Personal Growth

School librarians have become experts at reading and recommending YA and children’s fiction for our students. Many have also worked with classroom teachers to align the library nonfiction resources with the curriculum. But do school librarians connect students with nonfiction for personal growth?

Coaches likely use the concept of the 10,000-hour rule to inspire students to practice if they want to perform at the next level. However, teens could also benefit from knowing the other parts of the Ericcson study about rest and sleep. For our library’s opening book display, we decided to focus on the books that cite this research. Since our school is grades 6-12, and the average school year is one hundred and eighty days, we pointed out that students would be in our school for approximately 10,000 hours. We also provided an article for the benefit of our teachers that stated the “researcher behind ‘10,000-hour rule’ says good teaching matters, not just practice.”

For more nonfiction books on this topic that are worth adding to a high school collection, check out this list:


Author: Hannah Byrd Little

Hello, I am the Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle. I use my past experience in college and university libraries to help my current students in school libraries transition into college, career, and life. I am currently the lead Senior Class Adviser for the Capstone Project. I also served at the state level with the Tennessee Association of School Librarians executive board from 2009-2013 and was the TASL president in 2012. I am certified as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, have a BS in Communications with a concentration in Advertising and Public Relations, a BS in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Education and Information Systems and a Masters in Library and Information Science.

Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development

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