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Call for Nonfiction

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This post was originally published on the HS Bits Blog, which was active from 2008-2013.

Jay Mathews wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post recently arguing that the lack of nonfiction in the English curriculum has created "a pathetic cycle. Students don’t know enough about the real world because they don’t read non-fiction and they can’t read non-fiction because they don’t know enough about the real world."

He sounded this call to action:

I think we can help. Post comments here, or send an email to, with non-fiction titles that would appeal to teens. I will discuss your choices in a future column.

I would like to share with you the list that I sent to Jay:

Long Way Gone: Memoir of a Boy Soldier, Ishmael Beah

Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan

The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan

Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer

Cod: The Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, Mark Kurlansky

Salt: A World History, Mark Kurlansky

Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich

Kaffir Boy, Mark Mathebane

Black Like Me, John Griffin

Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell

John Adams, David McCullough

Collapse, Jared Diamond

The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion

Blood Done Sign My Name, Timothy Tyson

The Selfish Cell, Richard Dawkins

Anatomy of a Face, Lucy Greely

A Sense of the World, How a Blind Man Became History’s Greatest Traveler, Jason Robert

The Secret Life of Lobsters, Trevor Corson

Enrique’s Journey, Sonia Nazario

The Soloist, Steve Lopez

The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, Thomas Lynch

Brother, I’m Dying, Edwidge Danticat

How to Talk about Books You Haven’t Read, Pierre Bayard

The Forever War, Dexter Filkins

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a man who would cure the world, Tracy Kidder

Strength in What Remains, Tracy Kidder

Zeitoun, Dave Eggers

Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? Michael J. Sandel