If you have (or have been) a teenager, you're probably familiar with the all-or-nothing obsessions that characterize those years. They either want to talk just about The Beatles and how they changed the game or they think you're a real square for loving an old band.
With so many kids and teens stuck at home, there's no time like now to reach out with books that they'll love—and you'll feel good about them reading. These nonfiction books for teens explore some of the subjects that capture the interest of young people while broadening their horizons past the current obsession.
Whether you've got a music lover, a growing scientist, or a burgeoning social justice warrior, these books are fascinating enough to keep teens reading and educational enough to satisfy parents and grandparents.
Atlantis and the Silver City
Atlantis: the lost civilization that's simultaneously ancient and advanced, depicted in countless ways since the first myths were solidified in Greece over two thousand years ago. But what if there's some validity to the stories? After all, Plato himself hinted at the location with cryptic acknowledgments. Peter Daughtrey's examination of legend, geography, and historical accounts explores the multitude of possible locations and explanations for its mysterious calamity.
The Feminist Utopia Project
Feminist movements of the past century have had wildly diverse and even conflicting views and voices. Many adults don't even fully understand the complex history that shapes the modern narrative around issues of gender and equality. This playful yet detailed collection will help your teen discover their roots in feminism—and where they see room for our society and feminist collectives to continue to grow.
10 Women Who Changed Science and the World
While we look towards a feminist future, we should also remember the women who have helped us get this far. Some of the most important leaps in scientific fields may have come decades later if it were not for these astronomers, physicists, chemists, doctors, and more. These ten women continually asked "why?" in regards to the world around them, and provided the answers time after time.
A Secret History of Brands
Advertising floods our lives, to the point we often don't notice when someone is trying to sell us something. As your teen is starting to make their own purchases and to realize the degree to which ads permeate our daily existence, this absorbing read will guide them through some of the truly naughty methods brands have used to get ahead. From Coca-Cola to Henry Ford, they'll soon be recognizing the controversies and the cleverness behind getting attention—whatever it takes.
Upstairs at the White House
As the White House chief usher of nearly 30 years, J.B. West dictated the schedules of presidential families and staffers, nearly planning their entire lives as they occupied 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. There are few others with as much insight of the most powerful leaders and their closest friends, family, and advisors. The anecdotes and tales in this book are illuminating for readers of any age.
A Boy I Once Knew
Your reader will be discovering a real story that would make a 19th century romantic proud. The boy Elizabeth once knew was a student of hers. Vincent left Elizabeth his diaries in his will over two decades since they last saw one another after he passed away from complications caused by AIDS. This empathetic journey shows how adults perceive the teens in their lives and how people are growing up all the time—not just during adolescence.
A Visitor's Guide to Jane Austen's England
For the young literary enthusiast in your life, historical nonfiction can enhance the fiction they love. Sue Wilkes examines the life and times of 18th and 19th century England, exploring the themes of Jane Austen's novels to scrutinize their validity, and see just what the now classic author was emphasizing and what was merely fact. From social status, to fashion and manners, and expectations for relationships, this historical exposé is a magnifying glass for one of the most valued writers in the English language.
The Private Lives of the Tudors
Is your teen weirdly into Henry VIII? One of the most widely known European royal families, the six monarchs of the Tudor family ranged from Henry VII to the infamous "Virgin Queen" Elizabeth I. Made infamous in the modern day by rather imaginative historical fiction like Philippa Gregory's oeuvre and The Tudors, The Private Life of the Tudors shows that the Tudor court got up to hijinks nearly as scandalous as those portrayed in fiction, and certainly more interesting machinations than can be shown in a Showtime series.
Anatomy of a Song
Whether your teen can't stop listening to the latest Megan thee Stallion bop or won't stop telling you about the super cool song by The Clash that they just discovered, there's nothing like tunes to light up their eyes. Music historian Marc Myers shares that same enthusiasm, paired with extensive knowledge of the songs that shaped the cultural scene throughout the decades. Your budding musician will walk away with a brand new playlist and an improved understanding of how a song gets made.
Cecelia and Fanny
There are plenty of books about slavery that will help your teen wrap their minds around America's original sin, but this tale about an escaped slave and her correspondence with her former owner illuminates a personal tale. Cecelia escaped across the Niagara River into Canada during a family trip in 1846. Her young mistress, Frances Thrusting Ballard, returned to Kentucky. Years later, the pair began writing to each other. They maintained a correspondence for the rest of their lives, giving historian Brad Asher a valuable look into the emotional and mental lives of two very different women in the mid-to-late 19th century.
1967 was a year defined by urban unrest, excessive enforcing by the police, and increasing disillusionment concerning the Vietnam War. Counterculture was fed an endless deluge of corruption to rally against, and Detroit was a key city in the evolution of the punk and psychedelic rock scene. This crucial year will ring many a bell for your teen, and help them see history in conversation with modern discussion and protests, along with a peek at the music and culture that exemplified the 60s.
John Lewis was beaten and assaulted by violent bobs, arrested dozens of times, and overall dismissed for his peaceful protests of racial discrimination. Years after marching with MLK Jr., he became a US Congressman. After his much-mourned death this year, there is no better time to introduce your teen to the vibrant man that led a movement, fostered young voices, and never forgot who he was fighting for. The first volume of the graphic novel version of his memoir is as vital as his contributions to our country.
The Family Romanov
Russia's aristocracy was as garish and vibrant as it was destined to fall, with the claimed mystic Rasputin facilitating that end. The story of Russia's last royal family is surrounded in just as much mythos as Rasputin himself, but the facts we do know of the Romanovs' extravagant lifestyles is brilliantly contrasted by the suffering of hungry masses during the time. This dive into Russian royalty is an engaging read for those with an interest in Soviet history or who are guilty of still re-watching Anastasia.
An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People
With recent calls for a more accurate representation of Christopher Columbus and his contemporaries, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's book is a valuable resource for younger readers looking for a fuller account of history. One of 2019's most beloved history books for young people, Dunbar-Ortiz situates Native communities in their historical context and shows how US policies and troops committed atrocities in the name of progress. She also describes the complex communities built by Natives long before the arrival of Westerners.
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