Each of our top nonfiction titles provides a personal perspective on significant points in history. Most of these books are memoirs, and some fall into a category of their own, such as Persepolis, an autobiography in the form of a graphic novel. Students will be gripped by a chilling true crime account like In Cold Blood, or by the story of one man’s complete disconnect from the modern world in Into the Wild. Examine the horrors of Night, a first-hand recounting of life and death in a concentration camp during the Holocaust, or Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, the story of a former slave and his redemption. No matter which work of nonfiction you choose, your classes are sure to discover how powerful true stories can be.


The Holocaust is not only one of the most important events in the history of humanity, but also a critical topic for your classroom. Elie Wiesel’s powerful memoir chronicling his time in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps helps students explore moral issues such as the danger of remaining silent in the face of oppression. Exploring themes like violence, racism, and anti-Semitism, this text teaches students about social responsibility while keeping alive Wiesel’s message to never forget those whose lives were lost.

Into the Wild

In April 1992, a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. This book tells the unforgettable story of how McCandless came to die.

Tuesdays with Morrie

Acclaimed Detroit sportswriter Mitch Albom flies to Massachusetts every week to meet with his teacher, friend, and spiritual mentor, Morrie Schwartz. Over the months of their sessions, the terminally ill Morrie teaches Albom how to live. If you're trying to expand the nonfiction you teach, consider this book. It is an easy read, and the topics of Albom and Morrie's conversations supply ample material for class discussions and writing assignments.

The Glass Castle

Far from the security afforded by a traditional upbringing, Jeannette Walls’s nomadic childhood exposed her to the wonders of America—as well as to some of its harshest realities. Her memoir, The Glass Castle, recounts her experiences growing up with an alcoholic father and aloof artist mother who often seem more interested in finding the next adventure than in raising their young children. Strange but true, this nonfiction text is a spectacular choice for your classroom.

A Long Way Gone

As a teenager, Ishmael Beah was forced to fight in Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war. This is his story, told in his own words. Readers will be stunned by the speed at which war turns a joyful young boy into a soldier addicted to both gruesome violence and the drugs his army freely distributes. This chilling memoir will give students insight into one of the most important human rights issues in our world today.

In Cold Blood

With the publication of this book, Capote permanently ripped through the barrier separating crime reporting from serious literature. As he reconstructs the 1959 murder of a Kansas farm family and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, Capote generates suspense and empathy.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

This true story of a man who escapes slavery to become one of the most influential men of his time is understandably popular among students and teachers alike. Though it contains challenging vocabulary, this nonfiction multicultural text is very accessible for most readers. If you haven’t taught it before, you may want to consider using our Teaching Unit.

Nickel and Dimed

When a journalist with a PhD in biology decides to go undercover as a minimum–wage worker, she discovers just how challenging life is for millions of Americans. Ehrenreich’s stinging critique of welfare reform will make your students think about responsibility — of individuals and governments both — and it’s a great starting point for conversations about the causes and effects of income inequality.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

When Henrietta Lacks died from cancer in 1951, she had no idea that her cells would become the basis of medical breakthroughs for years to come. Skillfully examining the ethical and emotional consequences of the harvesting of human cells for research, this non-fiction selection is a perfect way to spark discussions in your classroom about medical ethics.


This graphic novel depicting the childhood of Marjane Satrapi during the turbulent years surrounding the Iranian Revolution is a powerful look at the overthrow of the Iranian government, the introduction of theocracy, and the ongoing war with Iraq. Your students will be enthralled as Satrapi, in these simple, yet poignant, black and white drawings, explores the changing political realities of Iran and the way they’ve affected her. Although there is less text than a traditional novel, Persepolis lends itself beautifully to studies of theme, characterization, and many other important literary elements.