Best Young Adult Nonfiction Books

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The young adult publishing market continues to present timely, interesting nonfiction geared to an audience of an age that wonders how the world works and where they fit in it. Young adults are curious about everything, but they might feel so overwhelmed by school assignments and after-school activities that it can be difficult to find time to read. However, studies show that reading for entertainment increases language skills.

Outside of the classroom, if a teen decides they are no longer interested in the book or topic they chose, they can stop reading that book, even in the middle of a sentence. The books your young adult chooses to read for fun are not books that must be read and discussed. Declining a book because of difficulty is likewise fine. Teens will read more accessible books until they are ready to pick up a more difficult text.

Young adults’ reading interests vary as much as older adults’: some enjoy nonfiction and others fiction. Teens who are not particularly interested in nonfiction might be drawn to read books on topics of interest whether it's a sport like soccer or a celebrity they emulate. Thankfully, nonfiction has many different subjects parents can look to in encouraging their young adult’s book habit.

Five Types of Nonfiction

Not all nonfiction is the same or serves the same purpose. Think about the books you pick up at the library and the motivation behind your choices. Perhaps you want to learn how to install a deck; that book will be a very different reading experience than a biography of a historical figure. Melissa Stewart, a children’s book author, created five categories of nonfiction books that can help parents and caregivers understand the ever-expanding nonfiction market. The five categories are

  • Traditional Nonfiction – standard textbooks that use expository language to describe broad topics
  • Browsable Nonfiction – fun fact-filled books with lots of illustrations
  • Expository Literature – these books are defined by their well-researched facts, strong voice, point of view, and creativity (examples here)
  • Active Nonfiction – how-to books
  • Narrative Nonfiction – includes memoirs or biographies that feature a unique, strong storytelling voice

Activism and social issues are a current trend in the young adult nonfiction world. Publishers have noticed teens are “very involved and are interacting with what is going on” in their communities. Many of these books can lead to discussions with teens about climate change, gender identity, disability, culture, inclusion, and more. Parents can get an idea of the latest teen topics by browsing the new-book shelf at the local library, scanning book reviews online, or talking to their teen’s teacher. For the most up-to-date award-winning teen nonfiction titles follow the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

Recommended Reads

Young adult nonfiction is not only for teens; parents and caregivers can enjoy it, too. Adaptations of adult nonfiction to teen titles is a current trend. If you’ve enjoyed a new nonfiction book, there’s a good chance it is or will be adapted for younger audiences. Shared reading experiences between parents and teens encourages communication and helps children navigate the road to adulthood.

About the Author


V.Kulikow Montessori Life Blog Author

V. Kulikow is a former Montessori teacher and youth services librarian. She currently works as a UX designer and enjoys content creation both with words and images. On weekends you can find her gardening, taking nature photos, and working on her garden design certification through the Native Plant Trust.

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