|AP English Language and Composition Nonfiction Reading List 2016
A NOTE ABOUT THE DESCRIPTIONS: Some descriptions of the books below are not properly documented largely because this list is the compilation of random notes I collected here and there over time and from other teachers without a particular intent to publish the list. Some descriptions are lifted from the back covers or from brief reviews on amazon.com. You are encouraged to investigate the books further to see what your level of interest is regarding each. On Thursday, have 2 titles selected that you may want to sign-up to read. If there is a non-fiction book that you are interested in that is not on this list, make sure to still have an additional choice from this list for Thursday.
Ambrose, Stephen. Undaunted Courage. Follows the Lewis and Clark expedition from Thomas Jefferson‘s hope of finding a waterway to the Pacific, through the heart- stopping moments of the actual trip, to Lewis‘s lonely demise on the Natchez Trace. For readers who love detailed history.
Barber, Benjamin. Jihad vs. Mc World: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Reshaping the World. A groundbreaking work…analysis of the central conflict of our times: consumerist capitalism versus religious and tribal fundamentalism.
Barry, John M. The Great Influenza. A detailed description of the scourge of the "Spanish flu" of 1918 with interesting elements of the practice of medicine and medical school in those days. Especially appealing for students who are science oriented.
Rising Tide. An account of the flood of the Mississippi River in 1927. Elements are remarkably similar to the Katrina disaster. Students whose bent is engineering will find the fight of man vs. nature interesting. Connects well to American history, politics.
Bernstein, Carl and Bob Woodward. All the President's Men. This landmark book details all the events of the biggest political scandal in the history of this nation--Watergate. Woodward and Bernstein kept the headlines coming, delivering revelation after amazing revelation to a shocked public. Black-and-white photograph section.
Brown, Dee. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is Dee Brown's eloquent, fully documented account of the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the second half of the nineteenth century. A national bestseller in hardcover for more than a year after its initial publication, it has sold almost four million copies and has been translated into seventeen languages.
Cain, Susan. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society--from Van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.
Calahan, Susannah. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness: One day, I woke up in a strange hospital room, strapped to my bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. My medical records—from a month-long hospital stay of which I have no memory—showed psychosis, violence, and dangerous instability. Yet, only weeks earlier I had been a healthy twenty-four year old, six months into my first serious relationship and beginning a career as a cub reporter at the New York Post.
Capote, Truman. In Cold Blood. On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues. As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.
Collins, Larry and Dominique Lapierre. Is Paris Burning: How Paris Miraculously Escaped Adolf Hitler‘s Sentence of Death in August, 1944. The dramatic story of the liberation of Paris…exciting, emotionally charged history, impeccably researched and written.
Dineson, Isak. Out of Africa. Out of Africa is Isak Dinesen's memoir of her years in Africa, from 1914 to 1931, on a four-thousand-acre coffee plantation in the hills near Nairobi. She had come to Kenya from Denmark with her husband, and when they separated she stayed on to manage the farm by herself, visited frequently by her lover, the big-game hunter Denys Finch-Hatton, for whom she would make up stories like “Scheherazade." In Africa, "I learned how to tell tales," she recalled many years later. "The natives have an ear still. I told stories constantly to them, all kinds." Her account of her African adventures, written after she had lost her beloved farm and returned to Denmark, is that of a master storyteller, a woman whom John Updike called "one of the most picturesque and flamboyant literary personalities of the century."
Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. A classic of undercover reporting…journalist works for a year as a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing home aide, and Wal-Mart salesperson.
Foer, Franklin. How Soccer Explains the World. Soccer is much more than a game, or even a
way of life. It is a perfect window into the cross-currents of today‘s world, with all its joys and…sorrows…a wide-ranging work of reportage…a surprising tour through the world of soccer, shining a spotlight on the clash of civilizations, the international economy, and just about everything in between…an utterly original book that makes sense of our troubled times.
Friedman, Thomas. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century.
Hot, Flat, and Crowded. From Beirut to Jerusalem. Important books by one of today‘s leading journalists, New York Times writer, Thomas Friedman.
Gilbert, Daniel. Stumbling on Happiness. Why are lovers quicker to forgive their partners for infidelity than for leaving dirty dishes in the sink? Why will sighted people pay more to avoid going blind than blind people will pay to regain their sight? Why can't we remember one song while listening to another? In this brilliant, witty, and accessible book, renowned Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert describes the foibles of imagination and illusions of foresight…Vividly bringing to life the latest scientific research in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, and behavioral economics, Gilbert reveals what scientists have discovered about the uniquely human ability to imagine the future, and about our capacity to predict how much we will like it when we get there.
Gladwell, Malcolm. Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Explores the tipping point phenomenon—what causes a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate.
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. A book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant...that aren‘t as simple as they seem…cutting edge neuroscience and psychology
Outliers: The Story of Success. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants. Gladwell’s newest bestseller.
Hawking, Stephen. A Brief History of Time. From the time of the ancient Greeks through the present time, this historical overview of cosmology is told by one of the most famous and fascinating scientists today. In the ten years since its publication in 1988, Stephen Hawking's book has become a landmark volume in scientific writing, with more than nine million copies sold worldwide.
Hemingway, Ernest. A Moveable Feast. "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” ~Ernest Hemingway, to a friend, 1950. Published posthumously in 1964, A Moveable Feast remains one of Ernest Hemingway's most beloved works. It is his classic memoir of Paris in the 1920s, filled with irreverent portraits of other expatriate luminaries such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein; tender memories of his first wife, Hadley; and insightful recollections of his own early experiments with his craft. It captures the mood of Paris after World War I and the youthful spirit, unbridled creativity, and unquenchable enthusiasm that Hemingway himself epitomized.
Junger, Sebastian. The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men against the Sea. Back cover description: In 1991, as Halloween nears, a cold front moves south from Canada, a hurricane swirls over Bermuda, and an intense storm builds over the Great Lakes…forces converge to create…a 100-year tempest that catches the North Atlantic fishing fleet off guard and unprotected. Readers weigh anchor with sailors struggling against the elements; they follow meteorologists, who watch helplessly as the storm builds; and, by helicopter and boat, they navigate 100-foot seas and 120-mph winds to attempt rescue against harrowing odds. Waaaay better than the movie! Alex Award book*
King, Martin Luther. Why We Can’t Wait. Martin Luther King’s Classic Exploration of the events and forces behind the Civil Rights Movement.
King, Stephen. On Writing. King gives his hints for becoming a better writer…discusses revisions and inspirations. Students who have an interest in being published find this book very readable and useful.
Kotlowitz, Alex. There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in The Other America. Recounts two boys growing up in the housing projects of the big city.
Krakauer, Jon. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt Everest Disaster. ―A harrowing tale of the perils of high-altitude climbing, a story of bad luck and worse judgment and heart-breaking heroism‖ (People) The stuff of classic adventure tales…
Into the Wild. Engrossing tale of a young man‘s search for nature and his essential self. If you like Transcendentalism there are plenty of Emerson, Thoreau, and Tolstoy.
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town. From bestselling author Jon Krakauer, a stark, powerful, meticulously reported narrative about a series of sexual assaults at the University of Montana — stories that illuminate the human drama behind the national plague of campus rape
Kurson, Robert. Shadow Divers. Underwater investigation of WWII mystery U-boat shipwreck.
Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird. ―A warm, generous and hilarious guide through the writer‘s world and its treacherous swamps. (Los Angeles Times) ―Superb writing advice…hilarious, helpful, and provocative. (New York Times Book Review). A great read for anyone interested in maybe, just maybe, becoming a writer someday. All you future writers….read this book!!!!
Larson, Erik. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. Tale of early 20th Century Chicago World‘s Fair.
Levitt, Steven D. and Stephen J. Dubner. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the
Hidden Side of Everything. Highly acclaimed, this book won numerous, highly prestigious prizes…considered readable, interesting, ground-breaking, and ―dazzling by critics.
Maclean, Norman. Young Men and Fire. Unforgettable story of fifteen of the United States Forest Service‘s elite airborne firefighters, the Smokejumpers, in the 1949 Mann Gulch tragedy in the Montana wilderness.
Manchester, William. A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age. For the student who loves history or wants to know more about it!
Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. Back cover description: ―Television has habituated us to visual entertainment measured out in spoonful’s of time. But what happens when we come to expect the same things from our politics and public discourse? What happens to journalism, education, and religion when they too become forms of show business? Twenty years ago, Neil Postman‘s lively polemic was the first book to consider the way that electronic media were reshaping our culture. Now, with TV joined by the internet, cell phones, cable, and DVDs [the book] carries even greater significance. Elegant, incisive, and terrifically readable…a compelling take on our addiction to entertainment.
Read, Piers Paul. Alive. ―Sixteen Men, Seventy-two Days, and Insurmountable Odds—The Classic Adventure of Survival in the Andes.
Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. Fast food has hastened the malling of our landscape, widened the chasm between rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity, and propelled American cultural imperialism abroad. That's a lengthy list of charges, but Eric Schlosser makes them stick with an artful mix of first-rate reportage, wry wit, and careful reasoning.
Shepard, Adam W. Scratch Beginnings: Me $25, and the Search for the American Dream. Suggested as an alternate view and good companion piece to Nickel and Dimed.
Stanton, Doug. Into Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors. Best-selling account of WW II naval disaster, (Japanese submarine torpedo‘s US ship in 1945)…a classic tale of war, survival, and extraordinary courage.
Strayed, Cheryl. Wild. At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
Terkel, Studs. Working. A classic.
Twenge, Jean M. Generation Me: Why Today‘s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—And More Miserable Than Ever Before
The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement
White, E.B and Strunk. The Elements of Style. This is The Elements of Style, the classic style manual, now in a fourth edition. A new Foreword by Roger Angell reminds readers that the advice of Strunk & White is as valuable today as when it was first offered. This book's unique tone, wit and charm have conveyed the principles of English style to millions of readers. Use the fourth edition of "the little book" to make a big impact with writing.
Wolf, Naomi. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women. The bestselling classic that redefined our view of the relationship between beauty and female identity. In today's world, women have more power, legal recognition, and professional success than ever before. Alongside the evident progress of the women's movement, however, writer and journalist Naomi Wolf is troubled by a different kind of social control, which, she argues, may prove just as restrictive as the traditional image of homemaker and wife. It's the beauty myth, an obsession with physical perfection that traps the modern woman in an endless spiral of hope, self-consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fulfill society's impossible definition of "the flawless beauty."
Wolfe, Tom. The Right Stuff. History of the first Americans in space…heroic, epic stuff!
Zakaria, Fareed. Post-America World. An important book by one of today‘s most influential journalists.
Zinsser, William. On Writing Well: An informal guide to writing nonfiction. A classic in its
field, praised for the helpfulness of its advice and the warmth of its style…widely used in America‘s homes, colleges, school, newspapers offices and corporations. A great choice for someone who wants to become a better writer. Writing to Learn: How to Write—and Think—Clearly about any Subject at All. Zinsser, writer, editor, teacher (Yale University), is an acknowledged master in his field.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY, BIOGRAPHY AND MEMOIR
Alexander, Caroline. The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition. Back cover description: The Imperial Transatlantic Expedition, Sir Ernest Shackleton's daring but ill-fated attempt to cross the South Pole, comes to life in pictures…and in the words of the men who lived the extraordinary Antarctic adventure…an exhilarating account of one of the greatest episodes in the history of polar exploration…one of history's all-time great survival stories. Alex Award book*
Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Arana, Marie. American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood. Memoir
Bragg, Rick. All Over but the Shoutin'. [This] Pulitzer Prize–winning correspondent… recalls
this personal journey in a rags-to-riches memoir, which begins in 1959 in Alabama… by turns comic and affecting, he recalls growing up white and poor in the South, his difficult relationship with his abusive, alcoholic father, and his love for his courageous mother, who raised him and taught him what really mattered. Alex Award book.*
Chen, Da. Colors of the Mountain. ―I was born in Southern China in 1962, in the tiny town of Yellow Stone…‖
Conroy, Pat. The Water Is Wide: A Memoir
Conway, Jill Ker. The Road from Coorain. Autobiography…from girlhood on an isolated
sheepfarm in the grasslands of Australia to the presidency of one of America‘s elite women’s colleges.
Dillard, Annie. An American Childhood. Autobiography of 1950s childhood in Pittsburgh…‖combines the child‘s sense of wonder with adult‘s intelligence and is written in some of the finest prose that exists in contemporary American writing…a joyous ode to [Dillard‘s] childhood‖ (Newark Star-Ledger). Beautiful and evocative of the era.
Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search for Meaning. Psychiatrist‘s memoir of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Has sold more than 10 million copies in twenty-four languages…listed in a Library of Congress survey as among the ten most influential books in America as ―a book that made a difference in your life.‖ May be of special interest to students who liked Elie Wiesel‘s Night. I read this book as a senior in high school, loved it, and have never forgotten it.
Gates, Louis Henry. Colored People. Rich memoir of celebrated contemporary African American scholar and writer.
Greenlaw, Linda. The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain's Journey. Greenlaw, captain of
the Hanna Boden, sister ship to the Andrea Gail, whose loss was portrayed in…The Perfect Storm… tells a different but equally fascinating story of life at sea…a record of a typical month-long swordfishing trip--the backbreaking work, the danger, the uncertainty of the weather, and the thrill of a gritty job that makes the sea a home. "Writing has proven to be hard work, often painful," she says. "I can honestly say I'd rather be fishing." Alex Award book*
Hillenbrand, Laura. Seabiscuit. Sports biography of a great American race horse in Depression era America. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. Hailed as the top nonfiction book of the year by Time magazine • Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for biography and the Indies Choice Adult Nonfiction Book of the Year award.
Kennedy, Caroline. Profiles in Courage for our Time. From Publishers Weekly: ―In 1990, the Kennedy family resurrected the concept and established the Profiles in Courage Award for selfless public service. Now, in this expertly packaged anthology, Caroline Kennedy and over a dozen prominent writers bring the sacrifices of those award winners to life…a stirring look at people who rarely thought about what they could do for themselves, but always about what they could do for their country.
Kennedy, John F. Profiles in Courage. ―This is a book about the most admirable of human virtues—courage. ‗Grace under pressure, Ernest Hemingway defined it. And these are the stories of the pressures experienced by eight United States senators and the grace with which they endured them.‖ (Kennedy). Pulitzer Prize, 1957. Of special interest to students interested in politics, public life…about the kind of courage America needs— moral courage, the courage of personal integrity.
Kercheval, Jesse Lee. Space. A memoir so beautifully and seamlessly written [you] will think it is fiction. Kercheval tells her own story, beginning when, at age 10, she moved with her family to a home in Cocoa Beach, Florida, in view of Cape Kennedy. Set against the promise implicit in the launching of Apollo, her touching recollection of her youth and teenage years--her strange, unhappy parents, her difficulties fitting into a new school, and her first love--speaks to universal concerns about growing up and resurrects a pivotal episode of American history and culture for a new generation. Alex Award book*
Markham, Beryl. West With the Night. Moving memoir of early 20th Century woman aviator in East Africa.
Moehringer, J.R. The Tender Bar. ―A memoir about coming of age in, of all unlikely places, a great American bar…both joyous and triumphant.
Mooney, Jonathan. The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal. Memoir. ―Labeled dyslexic and profoundly disabled,‘ Jonathan Mooney was a short-bus rider—a derogatory term used for kids in special education.‖
Nafisi, Azar. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books.
Reichl, Ruth. Tender at the Bone. Funny and fascinating childhood memoir of one of the world‘s leading food writers.
Wolff, Tobias. This Boy’s Life. Memoir of boyhood in the 1950s… a boy‘s fight for identity
and self-respect against the unrelenting hostility of a new stepfather…recreates the frustrations, cruelties, and joys of adolescence.
Yousafzai, Malala. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize. I am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.