An Essential Nonfiction Reading List for High School and Beyond

Recently, we took in a fascinating article entitled “What Should Children Read?” over at the Times‘ Opinionator. In it, Sara Mosle briefly outlines elements of the new Common Core State Standards, contentious national curriculum guidelines which will begin to be implemented in public schools in 2014, and takes a look at some of the arguments over the new standards, suggesting that part of the problem is that high school English curriculums are often lacking in good narrative nonfiction that appeals to teenagers. Inspired by this question of what high school kids should be reading, we’ve put together an essential reading list of narrative nonfiction and memoir, from the canonic to the contemporary, that we think would benefit anyone under (and let’s face it, over) the age of 18. Click through to see our picks, and since every high schooler, past or present, should read way more than ten nonfiction books in their lives, be sure to add your own favorites to our list in the comments.

Maus I & II, Art Spiegelman

You can keep your Anne Franks and your Nights — while those are excellent and canonical Holocaust texts, nothing brought the horror to life for us as teenagers better than Spiegelman’s postmodern graphic novel, which was, rather appropriately, the first graphic novel ever to win a Pulitzer prize. Part of the story’s power is that it isn’t limited to Nazi aggression and World War II, but focuses on the way families relate, Spiegelman’s relationship with his father in particular, showing trauma on both a minor and maximalist scale.