Grealy, Lucy. Autobiography of a Face. BIOGRAPHY. Grealy’s hard-hitting personal narrative about life as a teen with a face disfigured by cancer covers so much–from the definition of beauty to loneliness to acceptance. The author tells a moving and heroic story of her struggle for dignity.
Kimmel, Haven. A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana. BIOGRAPHY. In this lovingly-told memoir, Kimmel takes readers back in time to when small-town America was still trapped in the amber of the innocent post-war period—people help their neighbors, go to church, and keep barnyard animals in their backyards.
*for more mature readers
*Allison, Peter. Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: Confessions of a Botswana Safari Guide. While presenting tales from a safari guide about his encounters with big cats, elephants, hippos, and other unpredictable animals, the author’s infectious enthusiasm for both the African bush and his job showing its wonders to tourists is really apparent.
*Almond, Steve. Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America. The delicious and hilarious story of one man’s lifelong obsession with candy and his quest to discover its origins in America.
*Bellavia, David & John R. Bruning. House to House: An Epic Memoir of War. In November, 2004, a U.S. infantry squad in Fallujah plunged into one of the most sustained and savage urban battles in the history of American men at arms. Bringing to life the terrifying intimacy of hand-to-hand infantry combat, and populated by a well-drawn cast of characters, this is more than just another war story. The book develops the intensely close relationships that form between soldiers under fire, in a harrowing story of triumph, tragedy, and the resiliency of the human spirit. Graphic language and violence.
*Bryson, Bill. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. As Bryson and his friend Katz walk the 2,100 miles from Georgia to Maine, the reader is treated to both a very funny personal memoir and a delightful chronicle of the trail, the people who created it, and the places it passes through.
*Buzzell, Colby. My War: Killing Time in Iraq. A U.S. Army soldier who served in Iraq as a member of a Stryker Brigade Combat Team recounts his tour of duty in which he engaged in dangerous firefights and kept a blog describing his war experiences. Graphic language and violence.
*Croke, Vicki Constantine. The Lady and the Panda: The True Adventures of the First American
Explorer to Bring Back China’s Most Exotic Animal. Ruth Harkness, a dress-designing socialite, captured the first giant panda to be seen in the West. The adventure, strong writing, and fascinating personalities make a thrilling, deeply, satisfying story.
*De Blasi, Marlena. That Summer in Sicily: A Love Story. The author describes a summer in Sicily where she uncovered the story of Tosca, the daughter of a poor horse trader, who became the ward of the local prince and his family and eventually had a love affair with the prince.
*DeMeo, Albert & Mary Jane Ross. For the Sins of My Father: A Mafia Killer, His Son, and the Legacy of a Mob Life. The son of the head of the Gambino crime family’s squad of killers and thieves describes coming of age in the world of organized crime, the murder of his father when he was seventeen, and his determination to escape his father’s fate.
*Dugard, Jaycee. A Stolen Life: A Memoir. The author describes how she was held hostage for eighteen years by registered sex offender Phillip Garrido, who sexually abused her and fathered her two children, and how she was finally found by authorities.
*Eggers, Dave. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. At the age of 22, Eggers became both an orphan and a “single mother” when his parents died within five months of one another of unrelated cancers. Dave is appointed unofficial guardian of his eight-year-old brother, Christopher, as they struggle together to stay a family.
*Fick, Nathaniel.One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer. An ex-Marine captain shares his story of fighting in a recon battalion in both Afghanistan and Iraq, beginning with his training at Quantico and following his progress in the deadliest conflicts since the Vietnam War. Same Marines from Wright’s Generation Kill. Graphic language and violence.
*Finkel, David. The Good Soldiers. Combining the action of Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down with the literary tone of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, a reporter, embedded with Battalion 2-16, takes an unforgettable look at those in the surge, the heroes and the ruined, returning from the Iraq War. Graphic language and violence.
*Flynn, Sean Michael. The Fighting 69th: One Remarkable National Guard Unit’s Journey From Ground Zero to Baghdad. This book presents a dramatic comparison of the Fighting 69th Infantry before and after the September 11, 2001 attacks, describing how a unit of largely untrained and unequipped immigrants became a battle-hardened troop in one of Baghdad’s most dangerous regions. Graphic language and violence.
*Greenlaw, Linda. The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain’s Journey. Originally profiled in Sebastian Junger’s hugely popular The Perfect Storm (1997), Captain Greenlaw pens her account of one memorable fishing trip to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland aboard her sword-fishing ship the Hannah Boden.
*Hornbacher, Marya. Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia. Based on research and her own battle with anorexia and bulimia, which left her with permanent physical ailments that nearly killed her, Hornbacher’s book explores the mysterious and ruthless realm of self-starvation, which has its grip firmly around the minds and bodies of adolescents all across this country.
*Kamkwamba, William. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and
Hope. Young teen William, who taught himself enough physics and engineering to build a windmill and bring electricity to his drought-stricken village, discovered the magic of his Malawi homeland in the miracles of science.
*Krakauer, Jonathan. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster. In May 1996, the author participated in an ill-fated climb that resulted in the death of his climbing mates.
*Larson, Erik. The Devil in the White City. Written like a fictional thriller, this true story is a gripping tale about two men — one a creative genius, the other a mass murderer — who turned the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair into their playground.
*LeBleu, Joe. Long Rifle: One Man’s Deadly Sniper Missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Witty, passionate, and provocative, Long Rifle is both the first memoir by a U.S. Army sniper from the 9/11 generation and a stirring testament to the core values of American soldiers: integrity, honor, and courage. Also good companion to Buzzell’s My War on this list. Graphic language and violence.
*Luttrell, Marcus with Patrick Robinson. Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation
Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. The leader, and only survivor, of a team of U.S.
Navy SEALs sent to northern Afghanistan to capture a well-known al Qaeda leader chronicles
the events of the battle that killed his teammates and offers insight into the training of this elite
group of warriors. Graphic language and violence.
*Roach, Mary. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Living in the Void. Explores what it’s like to live in space from gross-out basics like bodily functions and puking in a space helmet to philosophical thoughts on what makes us human and how that changes away from earth.
*Salzman, Mark. True Notebooks: A Writer’s Year at Juvenile Hall. While teaching writing to seventeen-year-olds detained in Los Angeles Central Juvenile Hall, Salzman found himself surprised by the boys’ talent. The teens’ heartwarming, funny voices are included in this irresistible, provocative memoir.
*Sheff, David. Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction. The story of one teenager’s descent into methamphetamine addiction is told from his father’s point of view, describing how a varsity athlete and honor student became addicted to the dangerous drug and its impact on his family. His son Nic’s story is next on this list.
*Sheff, Nic. Tweak: (Growing up on Methamphetamines). The author details his immersion in a world of hardcore drugs, revealing the mental and physical depths of addiction, and the violent relapse one summer in California that forever changed his life, leading him down the road to recovery. Nic’s father’s story about Nic’s addiction is above this on this list.
*Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. True story of the Black woman whose cells were used to create polio vaccine and many other scientific breakthroughs. Reads like a fiction book—a compelling tale of how science intersects with life.
*Smithson, Ryan. Ghosts of War: A True Story of a 19-year-old G.I. (aka :My Tour of Duty). This gripping read recounts the author’s experiences as an Army engineer in the Iraq War. Good choice with LeBleu or Buzzell on this list. Graphic language and violence.
*Walls, Jeanette. The Glass Castle. Wall’s extraordinary memoir recounts her itinerant
childhood with two eccentric parents and the poverty and bullying that she endured. A graceful, candid, and sometimes shocking story.
*Weisman, Alan. The World Without Us. In this very accessible book about environmental science the author presents a study of what would happen to Earth if the human presence was removed. Weisberg examines our legacy for the planet, from the objects that would vanish without human intervention to those that would become long-lasting remnants of humankind.
*Wooten, Jim. We Are All the Same: The Story of a Boy’s Courage and a Mother’s Love. The extraordinary story of the little South African boy whose bravery and fierce determination to make a difference despite being born with AIDS has made him the human symbol of the world’s fight against the disease, told by the veteran American journalist whose life he changed.
*Wright, Evan. Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the New Face of American War. A narrative on the lives of twenty-three First Recon marines who led the attack on Iraq describes their training and the physical and psychological challenges they faced in skirmishes leading to the fall of Baghdad. Same Marines from Fick’s One Bullet Away on this list. Graphic language and violence.
*Zailckas, Koren. Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood. From earliest experimentation to habitual excess to full-blown abuse, 24-year-old Koren Zailckas leads us through her experience of a terrifying trend among young girls, exploring how binge drinking becomes routine, how it becomes “the usual.” She persuades us that her story is the story of thousands of girls like her who are not alcoholics—yet—but who use booze as a short cut to courage, a stand-in for good judgment, and a bludgeon for shyness, each of them failing to see how their emotional distress, unarticulated hostility, and depression are entangled with their socially condoned binging.