Non-fiction books can demystify complex subjects, bring dry facts to life, and foster a deeper understanding of the world.

Like a great teacher or a brilliant documentary film, a well-written non-fiction book can make arcane subjects fascinating and captivate readers of all levels and interests. Spanning a wide range of topics from epic biographies to scientific treatises to journalistic exposés of current events, the genre covers the full scope of human knowledge. 

The rich language that makes these books compelling and educational can also be unfamiliar to students, so it's helpful to prep them for the reading by explicitly teaching the challenging vocabulary they'll encounter in the text.

Vocabulary.com offers curated lists for popular and classic non-fiction selections that will appeal to the range of readers in your classroom.

Implementation Ideas

Prep students for closer reading with text-based vocab practice.

  1. Before students tackle their reading, search for the book in our List Library to pair the title with our curated vocabulary lists.
  2. Assign a Practice activity based on the list you selected. It's easy to create a series of assignments for an entire book and adjust the due dates.
  3. Have students independently complete the Practice assignment. They'll learn the most relevant vocabulary words from the book, presented in usage examples from the source text.

Encourage independent, self-selected reading. Our ready-made resources make it easy for you to support independent reading. Have students select their book choice from our recommended titles below, and then complete the Practice activity on Vocabulary.com.

Support genre-based book clubs. Genre study is a perfect match for student book clubs. Have students create their own vocabulary list to share with their group. Encourage them to note the words that they found the most challenging, intriguing, or relevant, and discuss their lists with their peers.

Recommended Reading

The following recommendations are a great place to start. Bear in mind that the titles below are just a sample of our non-fiction titles. Search our List library for thousands of other curated lists and collections.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
George Washington, Spymaster by Thomas B. Allen
Sugar Changed the World by Marc Aronson and Marina Tamar Budhos
The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb
Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger
Cleopatra: Egypt's Last and Greatest Queen by Susan Blackaby
Twelve Days in May by Larry Dane Brimner
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans by Don Brown
Tracking Trash by Loree Griffin Burns
Quiet Power by Susan Cain
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut's Story by Michael Collins
Votes for Women! by Winifred Conkling
NewJack: Guarding Sing Sing by Ted Conover
On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
The Best of Enemies by Osha Gray Davidson
Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois
An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis
Spies by Marc Favreau
The Big Thirst by Charles Fishman
Eyes Wide Open by Paul Fleischman
Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming
The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming
The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh by Candace Fleming
Out of Darkness: The Story of Louis Braille by Russell Freedman
The Voice that Challenged a Nation by Russell Freedman
The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell
First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
A Few Red Drops by Claire Hartfield
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman
Victor and Theo by Deborah Heiligman
The Faithful Spy by John Hendrix
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Big Science by Michael Hiltzik
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose
The Boys who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose
Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
The Inuit Thought of It by Alootook Ipellie
Spooked by Gail Jarrow
Our America by LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwama
Stamped by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Into Thin Air by JonKrakauer
World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The Most Beautiful Roof in the World by Kathryn Lasky
Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
The Plot to Kill Hitler by Patricia McCormick
While the World Watched by Carolyn Maull McKinstry
The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee
An American Plague by Jim Murphy
The Great Fire by Jim Murphy
The Greatest: Muhammad Ali by Walter Dean Myers
Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario
We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson
Lincoln's Last Days by Bill O'Reilly and Dwight Jon Zimmerman
Astronauts by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
Primates by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
Boots on the Ground: America's War in Vietnam by Elizabeth Partridge
Harriet Tubman by Ann Petry
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
The Hot Zone by Richard Preston
A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel
Promises to Keep by Sharon Robinson
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
Cosmos by Carl Sagan
1919: The Year that Changed America by Martin W. Sandler
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
Chew on This by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson
Bomb by Steve Sheinkin
Lincoln's Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin
Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin
The Girl Who Drew Butterflies by Joyce Sidman
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Drama High by Michael Sokolove
Outcasts United by Warren St. John
Sachiko by Caren Stelson
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson,
Class Matters by The New York Times
Little Rock Girl 1957 by Shelley Marie Tougas
First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung
The Other Side by Juan Pablo Villalobos
Written in Bone by Sally M. Walker
Surviving Hitler by Andrea Warren
The Double Helix by James D. Watson
A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

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