Best Winter Reads: Book Recommendations from the Facing History Library
Whatever the reason and wherever the location, winter is a great time to curl up with a good book. Hit the library, stop by the independent bookstore on the corner, toss a few items in your Amazon shopping cart, or start downloading to your e-reader – these titles, hand-picked by the Director of Facing History and Ourselves’ library Tracy O’Brien, are guaranteed to transport, challenge, and inspire readers of all ages.
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
This graphic novel, appropriate for teens or adults, presents three poignant and sometimes humorous interrelated stories of young, first generation Chinese Americans as they explore their identities in relation to mainstream American culture. A 2006 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature, American Born Chinese was a 2007 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year award-winner.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
This engaging novel tells the story of twin boys born in a small hospital on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The book follows the brothers across continents and generations, exploring issues of brokenness and repair in our medical and cultural worlds. Cutting for Stone is a powerful story of love, compassion, and redemption that asks difficult questions about our “universe of obligation.” Older high school students or adult readers will enjoy this book.
Son by Lois Lowry
The latest from celebrated author Lois Lowry, Son concludes the dystopian series that started with The Giver and continued with – Gathering Blue, and Messenger. This thrilling – and long-awaited – series finale is appropriate for grades 5 and up and follows one young woman’s fight against her community as she tries to find her son. Interested in teaching The Giver in your classroom? Download Facing History’s free study guide to the book today!
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
In this story about the perils of popularity, the courage of nonconformity, and the thrill of first love, an eccentric student named Stargirl changes Mica High School forever. A good read from a Newbury Medalist for grades 5 and up.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This Pulitzer Prize-winning classic from author Harper Lee explores racism in the fictional "tired old town" of Maycomb, Alabama, through the eyes of six-year-old Scout Finch. As her lawyer father, Atticus, defends a black man accused of rape, Scout and her friends learn about the unjust treatment of African-Americans — and their mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley. Appropriate for readers grades 8 and up, this is a great book to read for the first time or revisit again and again.
Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality by Patricia S. Churchland
Pioneering neurophilosopher Patricia S. Churchland explores morality and empathy by taking a look at their roots in biology. This provocative read challenges arguments that religion, reasoning, or absolute rules are the basis for morality.
The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate by Janice Cohn
This beautifully-illustrated children’s book (great for readers in grades 1 and up) describes how the community of Billings, Montana, joined together to fight a series of hate crimes. Interested in free teaching resources and strategies for bringing this piece of recent history to your classroom? Check out Facing History’s teaching tips and download free readings and digital content today!
How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough
In How Children Succeed, Tough makes a case not often heard: success in later life depends on childhood mastery of traits like grit, conscientiousness, curiosity, and optimism. Tough, who has served as an editor at both The New York Times and This American Life, spent two years interviewing students, teachers, and experts from the fields of neuroscience, economics, and character education. A great read for adults interested in school reform, character development, and issues of poverty in the world today.
Paths to Peace: People who Changed the World by Jane Breskin Zalben
This handsome volume highlights 16 individuals from around the world who have worked to improve conditions for others through their words and actions. Included are writers, philosophers, civil rights advocates, and politicians, many of whom are Nobel Peace Prize recipients. Appropriate for grades 4 and up.
Painted in Words, by Samuel Bak
In Painted in Words, internationally renowned artist and Holocaust survivor Samuel Bak sets aside his brushes to narrate the stories of his life – as a child in Nazi-occupied Poland, as a youth in European refugee camps, and as a maturing artist in Israel, France, Italy, Switzerland, and the United States. Also included in this beautifully-produced book are historical photographs and reproductions of Bak's evocative paintings. View Bak’s works and find free lesson plans for bringing the art of the Holocaust into your classroom today.
Explore other works of fiction and non-fiction in Facing History’s Literature Resource Collection.
Facing History's Julia Rappaport edited this article. For questions or tips on what Facing History is doing in your community, email her at Julia_Rappaport@facing.org .