Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: 5 of the Best Books I’ve Read in 2020, Nonfiction Edition

I personally tend to read far more fiction than I do nonfiction, though that it something that I am personally working on changing. And as you may have heard, TLT has decided to make the intentional effort to highlight and review more nonfiction in 2021 as part of our #FactsMatter project.

You Too? 25 Voices Shares Their #MeToo Stories by Janet Gurtler

Publisher’s Book Description:

A timely and heartfelt collection of essays inspired by the #MeToo movement, edited by acclaimed young adult and middle-grade author Janet Gurtler. Featuring Beth Revis, Mackenzi Lee, Ellen Hopkins, Saundra Mitchell, Jennifer Brown, Cheryl Rainfield and many more.

When #MeToo went viral, Janet Gurtler was among the millions of people who began to reflect on her past experiences. Things she had reluctantly accepted—male classmates groping her at recess, harassment at work—came back to her in startling clarity. She needed teens to know what she had not: that no young person should be subject to sexual assault, or made to feel unsafe, less than or degraded.

You Too? was born out of that need. By turns thoughtful and explosive, these personal stories encompass a wide range of experiences and will resonate with every reader who has wondered, “Why is this happening to me?” or secretly felt that their own mistreatment or abuse is somehow their fault—it’s not. Candid and empowering, You Too? is written for teens, but also an essential resource for the adults in their lives—an urgent, compassionate call to listen and create change.

Karen’s Thoughts: This is a difficult but important read for teens and anyone else who lives in this world. Here 25 people, including teens authors like Beth Revis and Cheryl Rainfield share their personal experiences with sexual harassment, abuse and assault. As each person shares their personal stories, we learn more about the truth of this issue in our world and how to navigate these painful conversations to help change the world for future generations.

Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds

Publisher’s Book Description:

Stamped traces the history of racism and the many political, literary, and philosophical narratives that have been used to justify slavery, oppression, and genocide. Framed through the ideologies and thoughts of segregationists, assimilationists, and antiracists throughout history, the book demonstrates that the “construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, whether financially or politically,” and that this power has been used to systemically and systematically oppress Black people in the United States for more than four hundred years.

Karen’s Thoughts: I remember learning about racism and the Civil Rights movement more than 30 years ago when I was in high school, and this year we have seen both a rise in violent hate crimes that are racially motivated and in a new growing movement that boldly proclaims that Black Lives Matter and we need to keep doing the work of breaking down systemic racism in all areas of our world. Here Ibram X. Kendi taps prolific YA author Jason Reynolds to make his more scholarly work on racism in America accessible to a younger audience. Each section of the book is divided into historical time periods and takes a deep look at issues that kids today may not know about. It’s another uneasy but necessary read, and in the more than capable hands of Jason Reynolds it’s an amazing nonfiction work for our times.

Super Sleuths: Solve This! Forensics by Kate Messner

Publisher’s Book Description:

C.S.I. meets National Geographic in this forensics-filled adventure. Examine the evidence and consider the suspects to put your crime-solving skills to the test.

Calling all budding sleuths! Solve your way through each entertaining, imaginary G-rated mystery to explore the forensic science of investigating and analyzing evidence. You’ll study smudges on a computer keyboard, dust for fingerprints, examine bite marks on a discarded snack, analyze toxicology tests on blood samples, and much, much more. Piece together the clues to see if you can solve each case.

Fans of true crime dramas, escape rooms, mysteries, and preeminent author Kate Messner will love this introduction to forensic science.

Karen’s Thoughts: Regular readers know that my teenage daughter is in the process of applying to college to major in forensic science, which means that my house if full of books about murder, serial killers, poisons and more. This is a fun little look at forensic science that helps us share the older kids passion with the younger sibling with less . . . graphic details. It explains the science and has fun puzzles to solve. Plus, it’s Kate Messner, who can always be trusted to do her due diligence when it comes to researching and writing juvenile nonfiction.

True or False: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News by Cindy Otis

Publisher’s Book Description:

“If I could pick one book to hand to every teen—and adult—on earth, this is the one. True or False is accessible, thorough, and searingly honest, and we desperately needed it.” —Becky Albertalli, author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

A former CIA analyst unveils the true history of fake news and gives readers tips on how to avoid falling victim to it in this highly designed informative YA nonfiction title.

“Fake news” is a term you’ve probably heard a lot in the last few years, but it’s not a new phenomenon. From the ancient Egyptians to the French Revolution to Jack the Ripper and the founding fathers, fake news has been around as long as human civilization. But that doesn’t mean that we should just give up on the idea of finding the truth.

In True or False, former CIA analyst Cindy Otis will take readers through the history and impact of misinformation over the centuries, sharing stories from the past and insights that readers today can gain from them. Then, she shares lessons learned in over a decade working for the CIA, including actionable tips on how to spot fake news, how to make sense of the information we receive each day, and, perhaps most importantly, how to understand and see past our own information biases, so that we can think critically about important issues and put events happening around us into context.

True or False includes a wealth of photo illustrations, informative inserts, and sidebars containing interesting facts and trivia sure to engage readers in critical thinking and analysis.

Karen’s Thoughts: This book chilled me to the bones. Cindy Otis takes a deep dive into the history of fake news and propaganda, both past and current. There are lots of important tips for how to analyze your news sources included. One of the chilling facts you will learn is that Americans and outside agitators purposefully create and use fake news websites to destabilize our country, but in the case of some of the American websites it’s really just college kids with lots of student debt creating websites to make lots of money quick and easy. I also learned that fake news websites were shared far more than real new websites in the 2016 election and that although both parties engage in the creation of fake news and propaganda, the conservative party tends to do so at a much higher rate than more liberal parties. Like You Too? and Stamped, this is a profoundly important and vital work of nonfiction designed to help us navigate one of the most pressing issues of our time.

Pocket Change Collectives: Various topics and authors

These are a collection of short, compact books on a wide variety of topics. I am including them together because it’s hard to emphasize one when part of their appeal is the format and size. You can read Amanda MacGregor’s review on these books here.

So these are my favorite nonfiction books for the year, which means I have now shared 10 of my top 20 reads of 2020. You can read my first Top 5 list for 2020 here. Join us next Monday for my next batch of 5. And tell me in the comments, what’s your favorite nonfiction of 2020?