Life Stories Reading List for Teens

oo!I was asked to create a reading list for a grade 12 class of highly appealing, short, non-fiction life stories. There are so many good ones out there! Using NoveList I was able to construct many searches, using terms like  “Adult Books for Young Aduts” and “Life Stories.” I divided the list up by category to help them browse to find a good match: Outstanding Individuals from Around the World, Inspirational North American Women, Overcoming Illness, War Stories, Environmental Activism, Racial Issues, True Crime and Matters of the Law.

Outstanding Individuals From Around the World

  • I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
  • Three cups of tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
  • Stones into schools: promoting peace with books, not bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Greg Mortenson
  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
  • Behind the beautiful forevers by Katherine Boo
  • The dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Inspirational North American Women

  • Soul surfer: a true story of faith, family, and fighting to get back on the board by Bethany Hamilton
  • Three little words: a memoir by Ashley Rhodes-Courter
  • #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso
  • The lost girls: three friends, four continents, one unconventional detour around the world by Jennifer Baggett
  • Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
  • Breaking night: a memoir of forgiveness, survival, and my journey from homeless to Harvard by Liz Murray
  • Orange is the New Black: my year in a women’s prison by Piper Kerman
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Overcoming Illness

  • This star won’t go out : the life and words of Esther Grace Earl by Esther Earl with Lori and Wayne Earl; introduction by John Green
  • Quicksand: HIV/AIDS in our lives by Anonymous
  • Tweak: (growing up on methamphetamines) by Nic Sheff
  • The burn journals by Brent Runyon
  • Brain on fire: my month of madness by Susannah Cahalan
  • We should hang out sometime: embarrassingly, a true story by Josh Sundquist
  • Breaking Free by Herschel Walker

War Stories

  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  • Escape from Camp 14: one man’s remarkable odyssey from North Korea to freedom in the West by Blaine Harden
  • Four perfect pebbles: a Holocaust story by Lila Perl and Marion Blumenthal Lazan
  • Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine
  • In my hands: memories of a Holocaust rescuer by Irene Gut Opdyke

Environmental Activism

  • My life with the chimpanzees by Jane Goodall
  • The omnivore’s dilemma: a natural history of four meals by Michael Pollan
  • The Devil’s Teeth by Susan Casey

Racial Issues

  • Between the world and me by Coates Ta-Nehisi
  • Life in motion: an unlikely ballerina by Misty Copeland
  • The short and tragic life of Robert Peace: a brilliant young man who left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs

True Crime and Matters of the Law

  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
  • Missoula: rape and the justice system in a college town by Jon Krakauer
  • No angel: my harrowing undercover journey to the inner circle of the Hells Angels by Jay Dobyns
  • Hope: a memoir of survival in Cleveland by Amanda Berry

What books would you include on a YA Life Stories Reading list? What are your favourite biographies and memoirs?

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