Nonfiction Books for Fiction Lovers

Most people who have a favorite genre of literature tend to stay within those friendly, familiar confines when choosing new books to read. From romances to murder mysteries to science fiction, the opportunities to get lost in a great novel are endless. The most popular genres, however, are often fiction, and many people don’t want to give nonfiction literature the time of day. Considered “boring” and “dry,” nonfiction books have gotten a bad rap for years. Things have certainly changed though. Nonfiction books are just as bright, colorful, and engaging as fiction now! Ranging from beautifully illustrated picture books to fast-paced novel-like biographies, nonfiction reads can delight even the most dedicated lover of fiction.

To find more entertaining nonfiction books, please search our online catalog using subject terms like “nonfiction” and “juvenile” or “biographies” and “juvenile.” We have an amazingly vast collection of engaging and informative books sure to spark your interest.

Corey, Shana.
The Secret Subway. 2016.
It’s 1860s New York City and the city that never sleeps has a problem: the streets are constantly jammed with people, buggies and animals. It’s dangerous to even try to cross Broadway Street! One brilliant inventor, Alfred Ely Beach, concocts a plan to build an underground train system that runs on air pressure — the first ever “subway.” Though his plan doesn’t come to full fruition, Beach’s “railroad of the future” delights and inspires New York citizens.
[SSHEL S-Collection Q. S.388.42097471 C8129se]

Heiligman, Deborah.
Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers. 2017.
Immerse yourself in the fiercely loyal, exciting, and loving relationship the famous Van Gogh brothers shared. Based on 658 letters that Vincent wrote Theo throughout their lives, this story of brotherly love (and struggle) reads with all the gravitas of a classic dramatic novel. At over 400 pages, this book might seem overwhelming, but the fascinating lives of Theo, the art dealer, and Vincent, the famous Post-Impressionist artist, are sure to captivate readers.
[SSHEL S-Collection S.759.9492 H3636v]

Lewis, John.
March: Book One. 2013.
In the first installment of this gripping graphic novel trilogy, Congressman John Lewis recounts his childhood and the events that led to his courageous involvement in the start of the Civil Rights Movement. From a life-changing meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the creation of the Nashville Student Movement to the famous nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, this novel poignantly details the incredible strength and resilience of so many people involved in the fight for equality in America.
[SSHEL S-Collection S.741.5973 L5873m]

Orgill, Roxane.
Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph. 2016.
In 1958 when Esquire magazine decided to publish an issue that would be a “salute to American jazz,” graphic designer Art Kane concocted a plan to gather as many famous jazz musicians as he could and photograph them together in front of a Harlem brownstone. Kane didn’t have a great camera, an organized plan, or any idea if anyone would actually show up. Thanks to his tireless efforts and perhaps a bit of luck, he captured one of the most famous images of America’s “jazz greats.” Told through a collection of poems that lead to a full page, pull-out spread of Kane’s actual photograph.
[SSHEL S-Collection Q. S.811 Or398j]

Sheinkin, Steve.
The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights. 2014.
During World War II at a Navy base called Port Chicago in San Francisco Bay, young African American men risked their lives transporting ammunition and massive bombs to and from U.S. military ships. Every single day they worked these men lived in fear of making one wrong movement and blowing up the entire Navy base. Then one day, tragedy struck. Check out this book for a thoroughly-researched and emotionally evocative telling of one of the most crucial civil rights struggles in America’s military history.
[SSHEL S-Collection S.940.545308996 Sh42p]

Stanley, Diance.
Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer. 2016.
Ada Byron, daughter of famous poet Lord Byron, always let her imagination take her on wonderful adventures. As a young girl, she created an instruction manual to help humans create their own wings to fly. As she got older, she continued to use her brilliance (which flourished as she received a “world-class scientific education”) to help Charles Babbage create the first ever computer program in the 1840s.
[SSHEL S-Collection Q. SB. L898s]

Steptoe, Javaka.
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. 2016.
As a young child, Jean-Michel Basquiat spent most of his time admiring the beauty and the art of the world that surrounded him. The son of warm, creative parents who nurtured his inner artist, Jean-Michel spent his tragically short life doing what he loved most: creating unique paintings and art pieces that expressed who he was and how he interpreted his surroundings. Illustrations that echo Basquiat’s personal style perfectly complement this biography of an incredibly talented young man.
[SSHEL S-Collection SB. B316s]

Stone, Tanya Lee.
Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream. 2009.
It’s 1960s America and the fight for women’s rights and gender equality doesn’t just apply to land anymore. When Randy Lovelace, a chairman at NASA, starts the Woman in Space program to prove that women are equally as capable of becoming successful astronauts as men, 13 courageous women rise to the immensely difficult social, physical, and mental challenges that are required to break the ultimate glass ceiling. Constantly faced with extreme backlash from beloved American heroes, fellow females in the field, and even the President of the United States, these women never let their spirits falter as they strive to change the world.
[SSHEL S-Collection S.629.450092 St724a]

Sweet, Melissa.
Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White. 2016.
Illustrated and formatted as a colorful scrapbook, this book tells the exciting story of author Elwyn Brooks (E. B.) White’s life using copies of White’s own personal letters, pictures, and ephemera. With an idyllic childhood and supportive parents, E. B.’s creative mind flourished during his annual family trips to Belgrade Lakes, Maine where he realized he wanted to dedicate his life to writing. Follow White on his journey from being a journalist for the New Yorker to an acclaimed children’s author.
[SSHEL S-Collection SB. W583sw]

Turner, Pamela S.
Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune. 2016.
Learn about the utterly thrilling life of young Samurai warrior Minamoto Yoshitsune in this epic novel-like biography. As a young boy, Minamoto is separated from his family and ordered to live in a monastery. He is small, skinny, and hasn’t had any martial arts training, but Minamoto doesn’t let this hold him back from escaping the monastery, battling bitter rivals, becoming a famous war hero, and experiencing fatal love.
[SSHEL S-Collection SB. M6634t]

Weatherford, Carole Boston.
Freedom in Congo Square. 2016.
Written in poetic couplets, this breathtaking picture book depicts enslaved Africans counting down the gruesome weekdays until they can congregate in New Orleans’ Congo Square on Sundays. As Sundays were the only day New Orleans slaves were allowed to take time off, many ventured to an open space called Congo Square to sing, dance, play music, sell goods, and socialize with friends.
[SSHEL S-Collection Q. S.976.335 W3784f]

Little Kids can do Big Things: Children and Young Adults Who Changed the World

History class can seem boring to kids and teenagers in the K-12 system — who wants to hear about a bunch of dead guys? The SSHEL S-Collection holds biographies of and books about young people who made a real impact on their world. These resources can be used in a classroom setting to spice up a history lesson or recommended to a student who prefers relatable informational texts. Books about real kids and young adults who changed the world may inspire students to make their own mark.

To find books about your favorite historical kid or teen, try their name as a keyword search — either first and last names, or even last name then first name. This combined with a subject search of “juvenile” to limit resources to juvenile literature should provide plenty of reading for the ambitious mind!

Books for Beginning Readers

Coles, Robert.
The Story of Ruby Bridges. 1995.
Ruby Bridges was the first African-American to enter first grade in an all-white Louisiana school in 1960. Because of the courage of kids like Ruby, American school systems became more diverse and accepting.
[SSHEL S COLLECTION S. 370.19342 C679s]

Tutankhamun. 2009.
King Tut, “The Boy King” of Egypt, might be best known for the discovery of his tomb by a British archaeologist. However, Tutankhamun lived an extraordinary life, ascending to the throne as a child and restoring religious freedom to Egypt.
[SSHEL S COLLECTION S. 932.014 D3952t]

Hazell, Rebecca.
The Barefoot Book of Heroic Children. 2000.
Hazell tells short, easy-to-read stories about real children whose innovations and creativity made them movers and shakers.

Lamadrid, Enrique R.
Amadito and the Hero Children/Amadito y los niños heroes. 2011.
Although a fictionalized retelling, Amadito and the Hero Children tells the true story of the young boys who bravely smuggled the smallpox vaccine from Mexico to New Mexico in 1805. Amadito (Jose Amado Dominguez) later became one of the first nuevomexicano physicians. Lamadrid tells this story in both English and Spanish.
[SSHEL Q. S. L162a]

Stabler, David.
Kid Presidents: True Tales of Childhood from America’s Presidents. 2014.
The President of the United States is one of the most powerful people in the world, so what were our presidents like as children? This book tells true stories about the men we’ve read about in history books.
[SSHEL S COLLECTION S. 973.099 St118k]

Books for Intermediate Readers

Frank, Anne.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. 1958.
Anne Frank is one of the world’s most famous voices from the Holocaust. As a young Jewish woman in hiding, Anne wrote a diary that has changed the way students learn about genocide, war, intolerance, and courage. This school edition was edited by M.H. Lewittes.

Lewis, Barbara A.
Kids with Courage: True Stories about Young People Making a Difference. 1992.
While many of the books in this bibliography deal with historical kids, Kids with Courage focuses on 20th century young people who stood up for causes they believed in.
[SSHEL S COLLECTION S. 920.0083 L585k]

McLeese, Don.
Pocahontas. 2004.
Many people have seen her in the Disney film, but McLeese’s book gives an accurate portrayal of Pocahontas’s life and friendship with John Smith. Includes references and an index for curious researchers and readers.

McCann, Michelle Roehm.
Boys Who Rocked the World. 2012.
This edited book of true tales gives readers insight into the lives of men who changed the world — and started when they were teenagers or even younger. Boys Who Rocked the World gives the young men of today positive role models from history, including Mozart, Crazy Horse, and Steve Jobs.

McCann, Michelle Roehm.
Girls Who Rocked the World. 2012.
The companion to Boys Who Rocked the World, this collection of stories tells the incredible true backgrounds of some of history’s most amazing women — from Harriet Tubman to Coco Chanel.
[SSHEL S COLLECTION S. 920.72 G4437]

Wilkinson, Philip.
Joan of Arc: The Teenager Who Saved Her Nation. 2007.
Joan of Arc was only thirteen when she first heard the voice of God telling her to save France from the English. Wilkinson’s detailed look at the life, victories, and tragic death of the young Joan reveal the power teenagers have to change the course of history.

Books for Advanced Readers

Lang Lang.
Lang Lang: Playing with Flying Keys. 2008.
Lang Lang began playing the piano in China when he was only three years old. By the time he was 13, he was performing in national concert halls. Today, he is one of the best known and most talented pianists in the world.

Lowery, Linda Blackman.
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March. 2015.
Linda Lowery Blackman tells her story of participating in the Selma marches when she was only 15 years old; Blackman’s perspective emphasizes the role of the young in this important American event that contributed to civil rights discussion.
[SSHEL S COLLECTION S.323.1196073076145 L3597t]

Hoose, Philip.
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club. 2015.
15-year-old Danish Knud Pedersen formed the Churchill Club during the second World War with one purpose in mind: sabotage the Nazis. His group of brave young men inspired the entire country of Denmark to join the resistance against Hitler.
[SSHEL S COLLECTION S. 973.099 St118k]

Nelson, Marilyn.
Carver: A Life in Poems. 2001.
George Washington Carver is sometimes known as the “Peanut Scientist,” but at 8 years old, his neighbors were already calling him the “Plant Doctor.” Carver was a scientist and inventor who revolutionized agriculture in America — and who started when he was “just a kid.” Nelson’s biography tells his story in verse.

Yousafzai, Malala.
I am Malala: How One Girl Stood up for Education and Changed the World. 2014.
Malala Yousafzai became history’s youngest Nobel Prize laureate at age 17 after she took a stand for women’s education against the Taliban in her home country, Pakistan. The Taliban tried to silence her with violence, but Malala has continued to speak out about issues concerning women, education, and personal freedoms across the world.