Elie Wiesel's Night and asked us for a few other suggestions for nonfiction books-- especially memoirs -- that could be used in her class. I used this opportunity to do some research into the most popular nonfiction books that we sell each year. Because of the new emphasis on informational texts in the Common Core and other standards, I thought I'd share what I found.
I've included our recommended grade levels for each, but please note that these are just suggestions. Every school has different ideas of what book should be taught at what grade.
Top 10 Best-Selling Nonfiction Paperbacks
1. Night by Elie Wiesel - No surprise here. Every year more and more teachers choose Night. Grade: 9/10
2. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer - The story of a young man who abandons everything and walks into the wilderness to die mysteriously has become a real classroom favorite. Grades 9/10
3. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass - The memoir of a man who was born a slave only to become one of the most influential Americans is a Common Core Exemplar text for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, but we feel that it would be appropriate in many high schools as well.
4- Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom - This short nonfiction book is an easy read and leads to fantastic classroom discussions. Grades 6/7/8
5- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote -The story of a murder in the mid-west has become the standard by which literary journalism and crime novels are judged.Grades 11/12
6- The Freedom Writer's Diary by Erin Gruwell - When a teacher takes a group of at risk students and teaches them a variety of memoirs like A Child's Life in Sarajevo and Anne Frank, she inspires all of them to graduate and go on to college. Grades 9/10
7- Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser- A personal favorite of mine, this examination of the entrenched place of fast food in our society is both intriguing and educating. Grades 10/11/12
8- Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt - The story of a poor boy growing up in Ireland won the Pulitzer. Grades 9/10. (If we ever meet, ask me about the time Doug Grudzina and I almost stole his limo.)
9- Freakonomics - This book takes a look at a variety of unusual subjects -- from cheating on tests to drug dealers -- using the tools of economics. Some of the topics are a bit controversial such as discussions of drugs and abortion, so it's not right for every school, but for the right class, this could be a very fun unit. Grade 10/11
10- The Color of Water by James McBride- The true story of an immigrant Russian Jew who married an African American was highly recommended by our Publishing Editor. Grade 9/10