Swords and Spaceships

Interplanetary Adventure Epics, Destiny-Breaking Romance, and Other New Releases

Happy Tuesday, shipmates! Here we are at the last Tuesday in November, and here’s Alex coming at you with the last round of new releases. The end of November is apparently home to a lot of sequels–and to the final book in one of our modern space opera epics! To all those in the US, I hope you had a lovely holiday weekend–and to those not, I hope you had a lovely week regardless. Stay safe out there, space pirates, and I’ll see you on Friday.

We’re hiring an Advertising Sales Manager! Do you like books and comics? Does helping advertisers reach an enthusiastic community of book and comics lovers intrigue you? This might be your job. Apply by December 5, 2021.

Let’s make the world a better place, together. Here’s somewhere to start: NDN Collective and Jane’s Due Process

New Releases

Cover of Leviathan Falls by James SA Corey

Leviathan Falls by James S. A. Corey

The ninth and final book of The Expanse has arrived at last. Thirteen hundred solar systems have been freed by the fall of the Laconian Empire, but the ancient enemy that destroyed the gate builders has returned, ready to start a new war. With the annihilation of all of humanity on the table, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante struggle to find a new future for themselves and find a way to unite humanity in a galactic civilization that will be free of wars.

A Swift and Savage Tide by Chloe Neill

Captain Kit Brightling is invaluable to Queen Charlotte of the Saxon Isles because she is Aligned to the magic of the sea. And her magic and determination are about to be put to the test; Gerard Rousseau, the former Gallic emperor, has escaped the island he was imprisoned on and is gearing up for a new war of conquest against the continent–using whatever dark magic he can find to his advantage. Kit’s quest to serve queen and country will take her and her crew across the seas and into a clash with an old enemy who has thrown his lot in with Gerard.

Cover of Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee

Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee

Everyone in the world wants to get their hands on jade and the supernatural power it provides. As this struggle for power between such disparate groups as governments, mafiosos, and athletes grows more deadly, the Kaul family will never be the same. As more and more enemies descend on their country, the clan must figure out how to stop fighting amongst itself and discern enemy from ally if they want to protect their nation and their way of life.

Hælend’s Ballad by Ian V. Conrey

A young orphan who died by drowning has come back to life in a strange land; everyone he meets will die because of him. But rumors are already spreading that the entire world is dying. And a set of strangers–a young man who signs on to a failing militia, an abused teenage girl who craves what she despises, a childless mother who has been convicted of murder–will find their fates intertwined with his.

Cover of Girls and Fate and Fury by Natasha Ngan

Girls of Fate and Fury by Natasha Ngan

The last Lei saw of Wren, the girl she loves, was her facing down an entire army in a battle to the death. And now Lei is being taken back to the Hidden Palace and its sadistic king, the very last place on earth she wants to go. Lei and Wren must find a way to escape their perilous fates and find each other again… even if they have to break destiny to do it.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at with a free trial!

News and Views

The Kids Aren’t Alright: The Race Essentialism of Sci-fi Hybrids

4 Types of Literary Horror That Hold Up

Neverending Stories, Or: The Best Books I’ve Never Actually Finished

Tolkien estate blocks ‘JRR Token’ cryptocurrency

NPR shares its 2021 ‘Books We Love’

Jacqueline Carey: Writing With Food

Kim Stanley Robinson on Science Fiction and Reclaiming Science for the Left

Mermaids Monthly is crowdfunding for its second year

Games Workshop has issued a statement about not wanting hate groups at their events

On Book Riot

15 lovers-to-enemies books: when breakups go apocalyptically bad

Getting back to work with Alanna of Trebond

The TTRPG you should play next, based on your reading habits

Saga, then and now

The weirdest literary conspiracy theories people really believe

A history of the Cinderella fairytale

Don’t forget to check out our new podcast Adaptation Nation, all about TV and film adaptations of your favorite books!

This month you can win a selection of spicy sequels and a $200 Barnes and Noble gift card, a $100 Amazon gift card and a Radish swag bag, and a $250 Barnes and Noble gift card.

See you, space pirates. If you’d like to know more about my secret plans to dominate the seas and skies, you can catch me over at my personal site.

New Books

Hooray, It’s Time for New Books!

Happy Tuesday, readers! Thank you for joining me for more book talk. It’s another small new release day because of the holidays, but there are still a few great books out. At the top of my list of books to pick up are Pilot Impostor by James Hannaham and Dava Shastri’s Last Day by Kirthana Ramisetti. I’m wildly curious about Sex Cult Nun by Faith Jones and for you Brené Brown fans, Atlas of the Heart is now available.

And speaking of today’s great books, for this week’s episode of All the Books! Patricia and I discussed Goliath, Memphis, A House Between Earth and the Moon, and more books that we are excited about that are coming in 2022.

Today, in honor of my guest spot on Read or Dead, I am going to tell you about three of my favorite mysteries of the year. But before I talk about books: We’re hiring an Advertising Sales Manager! If you like books and comics, and enjoy helping advertisers reach an enthusiastic community of book and comics lovers, this might be the job for you. Apply by December 5, 2021!

And now, it’s time for everyone’s favorite gameshow: AHHHHHH MY TBR! Here are today’s contestants:

Book Cover for All her little secrets by wanda morris, red-tinted photo close up of a Black woman wearing sunglasses

All Her Little Secrets by Wanda M. Morris

First: an excellent debut! When most people find a dead body, they call the authorities—but not Ellice Littlejohn. She’s too worried about her secrets. Ellice is a Black woman at a mostly white law firm, she’s having a secret affair with her boss, and she has even more secrets from her past that she is hiding. So when she finds her boss dead, she backs out of the room and pretends she was never there. But soon she finds herself promoted to his position, and suddenly she’s wrapped up in what very well may be the case that got him killed. Can she unravel the mystery and keep her secrets before the murderer gets to her too? (CW for infidelity, racism, sexism, violence, murder.)

Backlist bump: Pleasantville by Attica Locke

cover image of the collective by alison gaylin, featuring silhouettes of several women against a red sky

The Collective by Alison Gaylin

What if you could get revenge on murderers and never get caught? It’s an offer Camille can’t refuse. Five years ago, her teenage daughter died, and the boy responsible for her death walked away free. After years of grief and rage, Camille is approached by an anonymous internet group that claims they can get her the revenge she seeks, in return for a few small favors. But when Camille realizes those favors lead to the deaths of other people, she wonders if she can extract herself from her deadly new friends—or is she too far gone to care? This one is unrelenting in the thrills! (CW for child murder, suicide, sexual assault, and bullying; loss of a child, car accident and death by car, murder, drowning, chemical use and abuse and overdose, medical negligence, grief, trauma, falling death.)

Backlist bump: Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

cover image of the body scout by lincoln michel, featuring several body parts arranged like pieces of a model car to be assembled

The Body Scout by Lincoln Michel

And last, but not least, a futuristic tale about a former pro baseball player with outdated cybernetic parts named Kobo. He now works as a scout for the Big Pharma-owned teams and spends his free time dodging loan sharks. When his own brother, a baseball superstar, dies at the plate, Kobo goes on a quest for answers. But his search reveals more questions and a conspiracy that goes to the top. This one is like if Raymond Chandler wrote Blade Runner. I love a down-on-their-luck private investigator. (CW for violence, chemical use and abuse, murder.)

Backlist bump: Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at with a free trial!

More great 2021 mysteries I loved: Dead Dead Girls by by Nekesa Afia, Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke, All These Bodies by Kendare Blake, and For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing.

an orange cat sitting in a silver bowl in the sin

This week: I am currently reading A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw and The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan. Outside of books, I’ve started rewatching Psych after checking out the new movie (which I thought was much better than the first two), and the song stuck in my head is Sour Times by Portishead. (Something about winter always makes me want to listen to Portishead. Or maybe it’s just my SAD.) And as promised, here is a cat picture! I spent my Thanksgiving filling up on books, while Zevon spent his Thanksgiving filling up on sunshine. ❤️

Thank you, as always, for joining me each week as I rave about books! I am wishing the best for all of you in whatever situation you find yourself in now. And yay, books! – XO, Liberty ❤️

The Kids Are All Right

New Children’s Book Releases for November 30, 2021

Hey readers! Another week, another batch of new kids books!

Little Messy Marcy Su by Cherie Fu and Julie Kwon

In this playful picture book, Marcy can’t help but create messes wherever she goes. But with her grandparents visiting, Marcy’s mama is determined to get her room clean, and Marcy knows just what to do.

Uni the Unicorn in the Real World by Paris Rosenthal and Brigette Barrager

In a tribute to the late Amy Krouse Rosenthal, her daughter Paris pens this newest Uni the Unicorn installment. Uni, the only unicorn who knows kids exist, finally visits the real world with her best friend. But no one else can see Uni, until they too start to believe in magic.

Fox: A Circle of Life Story by Isabel Thomas and Daniel Egnéus

In this lovely picture book that’s also a sensitive portrayal of death and dying, readers follow the life of a fox. First we watch as the fox teaches her cubs how to survive in the wild. Eventually the fox dies, but her death is more than an ending, it’s also a beginning.

Stuntboy, In the Meantime by Jason Reynolds and Raúl the Third

In this fun novel, Portico is secretly Stuntboy, who protects the other residents of his apartment building, including his parents. Despite Stuntboy’s efforts, he can’t keep his parents from fighting or stop the anxious worries that come with it.

Living With Viola by Rosena Fung

In this graphic novel, Livy struggles to fit in at her new school. Her only companion is Viola, the shadowy manifestation of Livy’s anxiety. When Livy starts making friends, it seems like Viola may not be around much longer, but new stresses make Viola more prominent than ever. To learn how to live with her, Livy will have to finally ask for help.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at with a free trial!

Good news! We’re hiring for an Advertising Sales Manager. Do you like books and comics? Does helping advertisers reach an enthusiastic community of book and comics lovers intrigue you? This might be your job. Apply by December 5, 2021

Until next week!


In Reading Color

More Native American Authors By Genre

Welcome to In Reading Color, a space where we focus on literature by and about people of color.

I wanted to close out the month with some more books by Native American authors, this time highlighting a few from specific genres/age categories. One thing I’ve noticed with some science fiction and fantasy books written by Native American authors is that a lot of them are dystopian, with themes of displacement, colonialism, and environmental destruction. It’s not surprising, but I’ve somehow just recently come to realize how close to home dystopian novels hit for people of color. Some of the plots could easily be mistaken for real life events.


cover of I Sang You Down from the Stars by Tasha Spillett-Sumner

I Sang You Down from the Stars by  Tasha Spillett-Sumner, illustrated by Michaela Goade

While making manifest her love for her future child, a mother gathers gifts—of sage and white feathers— to make a sacred bundle. I Sang You Down From the Stars is a beautifully illustrated children’s book that is as much an ode to the bond between mother and child as it is a tribute to Native American culture.

Young Adult

cover of the marrow thieves

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

In the future The Marrow Thieves paints, white people are hunting down Native Americans to harvest them for their bone marrow. The marrow is thought to be the key to returning dreams to the dreamless in a world that has been ravaged by global warming and all its trappings. Now, people indigenous to North America live on the run in order to avoid becoming unwilling sacrifices to cure white people of their ills by way of being sent to “schools,” which are similar to the Indian schools that existed in North America. The schools in the book seek to extract a component essential to their living in the form of bone marrow, while the schools in real life were meant to harness another thing essential to them: their identity.


cover of Taking on the Billionaire by Robin Covington

Taking on the Billionaire by Robin Covington

Adam Redhawk reenlists the investigator that helped him find his Cherokee family. The task Adam requires of Tess Lynch this time is to help him find exactly who seeks his business’s downfall. Tess, meanwhile, has stakes in this all her own, and is seeking revenge against his adoptive father. And, obviously, things get super steamy.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at with a free trial!


cover of heartberries by Terese Marie Mailhot

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

When we’re first introduced to Mailhot, she’s writing in the notebook given to her during her stay in a psychiatric hospital while being treated for PTSD and bipolar II disorder. Her words weave connecting threads through all facets of her life: her upbringing on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest, a teenage marriage and subsequent loss of custody of her first son, disastrous relationships with men, and traumatic memories and the imagination that tries to shield her from them. Mailhot’s writing is poetic, raw, urgent, and hums with the traditional storytelling of her mountain women ancestors. This short memoir packs a wallop, let me tell you.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

cover of Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice

Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice

Isolated from the outside world as a result of a winter storm, a small Anishinaabe community in the north starts to panic. Supplies diminish as leaders struggle to maintain order amidst the chaos. When someone new to town shows up unexpectedly, he is given shelter despite the community’s meager offerings. The man has come from south of the community where the world has been falling apart. Soon, more like him arrive and start to manipulate people’s emotions. In order to overcome this, some in the Anishinaabe community realize they must return to the old ways to confront present day issues.


Winter Counts cover image

Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

The American justice systems isn’t exactly just. Neither is the tribal council, which is where Virgil Wounded Horse comes in. He’s an enforcer for the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota and metes out retribution as he’s paid to. When his nephew becomes involved with the newly arrived heroin problem, Virgil sets out with his ex-girlfriend to put a stop to it. The investigation leads them to drug cartels, new tribal initiatives, and a realization Virgil has about his heritage and identity.

A Little Sumn Extra

Good news! We’re hiring for an Advertising Sales Manager. Do you like books and comics? Does helping advertisers reach an enthusiastic community of book and comics lovers intrigue you? This might be your job. Apply by December 5, 2021

School Police Have Black Lives Matter Posters Censored, Students Protest

An interesting read on two seemingly unrelated topics: books about dinosaurs and religion

How becoming a penpal can help incarcerated people

A quiz that tests if you’re pronouncing authors’ names correctly

Thanks for reading; it’s been cute! If you want to reach out and connect, email me at or tweet at me @erica_eze_. You can find me on the Hey YA podcast with the fab Tirzah Price, as well as in the In The Club newsletter.

Until next week


Today In Books

Nathan Harris’ Sophomore Novel to be Published by Little, Brown: Today in Books

Shortlists for the Costa Book Awards Announced

The shortlists for the Costa Book Awards, sponsored by the U.K. coffee chain Costa, have been announced. Among the finalists are Elif Shafak for the novel The Island of Missing Trees, which was recently named this month’s pick for Reese Witherspoon’s book club. Claire Fuller was also named a finalist for her fourth novel Unsettled Ground. The Costa Book Awards were established in 1971. Previous winners include Jeanette Winterson for Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses, and Sally Rooney for Normal People. You can see the full list of finalists here. The winners will be announced on January 4th, 2022.

Little, Brown Buys the Rights to Nathan Harris’ Sophomore Novel

Little, Brown has purchased the world rights to Nathan Harris’s sophomore novel, The Rose of Jericho. Harris’s debut novel The Sweetness of Water was an Oprah Book Club pick and a New York Times bestseller. It was also longlisted for the Booker Prize. The publisher describes Harris’ new novel as “a sweeping saga following siblings Coleman and June three years after they have been freed from slavery.” The Rose of Jericho is set in 1868 and loosely based on the fact that some Confederate supporters fled to Mexico after the Civil War.

Anchor Reveals Inaugural Hardcover Titles

Anchor has announced the four titles—three of which are debut novels—that will make up the publisher’s list of inaugural hardcover titles. “Expanding our paperback publishing program with a carefully curated hardcover list is a very exciting opportunity,” Suzanne Herz, publisher of Vintage and Anchor, said. The list’s lead title, which is slated for a February 1st release, is Brendan Slocumb’s debut novel The Violin Conspiracy. Next up is Taylor Hahn’s debut novel, The Lifestyle, which is described as “the most fun retelling of Emma since Clueless.” Then the publisher will release The Lost Kings, a psychological thriller from Tyrell Johnson, in August 2022. Finally, slated for a May 2022 release is Amy McCulloch’s debut thriller, Breathless.

5 Ways to Support Booksellers This Holiday Shopping Season

Booksellers are going through a lot this season, between a pandemic, supply chain issues, and the seasonal holiday rush. But as a customer, you can help! Here’s how.

Check Your Shelf

Lovers-to-Enemies and Enemies-to-Lovers

Welcome to Check Your Shelf. Last week was a bit of a slow one as far as book-related news goes, so you get a shorter newsletter this week! Use your extra free time wisely.

Small correction to Friday’s newsletter: under the Banned and Challenged books section, the Victoria County where residents submitted requests to reevaluate LBGTQ books is in Texas, not Virginia.

Collection Development Corner

Publishing News

Publishers accuse the Internet Archive of “stonewalling” discovery in the closely-watched copyright lawsuit.

New & Upcoming Titles

A new book on The Art of Goosebumps will spotlight all of the OG (that’s “original Goosebumps”) book covers!

Trump is allegedly publishing a photo book of his time in office.

Weekly book picks from Crime Reads, New York Times, and USA Today.

The most anticipated YA books to read in December.

Best books of 2021 from Bookpage (romance), Kirkus (nonfiction), New York Times, NPR, Oprah Daily, and Washington Post (general, fiction, mysteries/thrillers, sci-fi/fantasy/horror).

What Your Patrons Are Hearing About

These Precious Days – Ann Patchett (NPR, USA Today, Washington Post)

The Ballerinas – Rachel Kapelke-Dale (New York Times)

The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth – Sam Quinones (Washington Post)

On the Riot

Fall 2021 new releases in translation.

Weekly new releases to TBR.

Reading the rainbow: books and lessons learned from an LGBTQ-inclusive book club for teachers.

What makes a good food memoir?

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at with a free trial!

All Things Comics

The comic book industry’s next page turner: union organizing.

On the Riot

The tangled web of Spider-Man movies.

True crime comics that aren’t about serial killers.

Saga: then and now.


Nonfiction audiobooks to listen to this winter.

On the Riot

6 memoirs on audio read by their authors.

Book Lists, Book Lists, Book Lists


8 picture books about food and fellowship.

12 YA books with the enemies-to-friends trope.

Messy, complicated YA novels for readers who need to feed their drama llama.

16 YA BookTok recommendations.


17 Indigenous SFF books to read for Native American Heritage Month.

10 beautifully complex stories about multigenerational families.

80 reader-approved humorous books.

9 books about love, loss, and belonging set in the Caribbean.

5 books about American revolutionaries.

6 genre-breaking mysteries.

On the Riot

24 cuddly cloth books for babies.

8 great children’s books about money.

10 YA books with zero romance.

15 lovers-to-enemies books: when breakups go apocalyptically bad.

11 perfect queer books without romance.

The best nonfiction books about sustainable living.

8 family drama-filled books to help you avoid socializing during the holidays.

Check out our new podcast, Adaptation Nation!

Level Up (Library Reads)

Do you take part in Library Reads, the monthly list of best books selected by librarians only? We’ve made it easy for you to find eligible diverse titles to nominate. Kelly Jensen created a database of upcoming diverse books that anyone can edit, and Nora Rawlins of Early Word is doing the same, as well as including information about series, vendors, and publisher buzz.

Don’t forget Book Riot is hiring for an Advertising Sales Manager — deadline is December 5th. Catch you on Friday!

—Katie McLain Horner, @kt_librarylady on Twitter.

Riot Rundown


Highly Engaged


Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that should absolutely be put at the top of your TBR pile. Recommended books will vary across genre and age category and include shiny new books, older books you may have missed, and some classics I suggest finally getting around to. Make space for another pile of books on your floor!

A few announcements first: check out our new podcast Adaptation Nation, all about TV and film adaptations of your favorite books! We’re also hiring an Advertising Sales Manager! Do you like books and comics? Does helping advertisers reach an enthusiastic community of book and comics lovers intrigue you? This might be your job. Apply by December 5, 2021.

Today’s pick is new nonfiction that has a bit of something for everyone.

Read This to Get Smarter About Race, Class, Gender, Disability, and More by Blair Imani

Read This to Get Smarter: about Race, Class, Gender, Disability, and More by Blair Imani

Blair Imani is a Black, bisexual, and Muslim educator, historian, and internet influencer who makes great videos under the series name Smarter in Seconds. These videos are often under a minute long and will give concise explanations of anything from online harassment to how to apologize to gaslighting to bisexuality. This book is almost like a bunch of those little videos all together in book form. She tackles a lot of big subjects and supplies readers with enough information that we can walk away knowing basic definitions and also ideas about where we need to dive deeper. A single chapter in a book is in no way enough to tackle something like gender but it’s maybe enough to give an overview to a relative who has perhaps not thought deeply about it.

The author starts with the self and focuses on identity from name pronunciation to gender and deadnames and last names and pronouns and more. Then she moves on to relationships like family structures, intimate partnerships, abusive relationships, boundaries, and things like how to be accountable to your circles and how to apologize.

One of my favorite sections is about class where she answers questions like “What is capitalism? and “What is socialism?” We already have socialist programs, like the postal service and the library! “What do people mean when they talk about wealth hoarding?” There are also great sections on race and racism and disability and so much more.

This book is a really phenomenal resource for folks who are new to thinking about all of these topics. I see it as not only a good personal read, but also a good gift for anyone from a young adult to an older relative who has not done any deliberate learning since they were in high school. You know the ones. The ones that respond to everything remotely new with, “Well, that’s not what I was taught.” What I like most about this book is that the subjects felt bite-sized. It was clear and concise and laid a lot of basic groundwork for further learning.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at with a free trial!

That’s it for now, book-lovers!


Find me on Book Riot, the All the Books podcast, and Twitter.

Find more books by subscribing to Book Riot Newsletters.

What's Up in YA

Essential YA Nonfiction: A Guide to Reading Widely

Hey YA Readers!

I debated what kind of nonfiction focused newsletter to draft to wrap up a month long celebration of YA nonfiction . . . especially given that I try to include YA nonfiction within these newsletters all the time. Certainly, we know YA nonfiction isn’t as popular as YA fiction for a host of reasons and I’ve written here numerous times about how it’s often forgotten or left off lists of “the best” or “most influential” YA titles.

YA nonfiction, even if it’s not as easy to “sell” to a reader with a simple pitch, is popular with teens. I only wish it could get the same recognition from adult readers and advocates. Award-winning titles don’t see the same level of love as fiction does, and even the fantastic range of Young Reader Editions made available now are often overlooked as “just” simplified versions of the adult texts.

And though I think a lot of the reasons mentioned over the last few years of exploring about this are true, another component might be much simpler: where do you start with YA nonfiction? For readers who haven’t been invested in it or picked it up readily, it can be intimidating to begin. Children’s nonfiction writer Melissa Stewart is one of my favorites to point to for helping navigate youth nonfiction and specifically, her guide to understanding the five types of nonfiction. I always saw nonfiction in two categories, narrative and nonfiction, but I think the identification and explanation of five categories makes perfect sense. Those categories, as Stewart explains, really solidified over the last 25 or so years as nonfiction itself expanded.

It’d be unfair and disingenuous to try to compile “essential” guide to YA nonfiction. But instead, what’s possible to do is offer a roadmap for navigating the other side of YA, with some ideas of what’s within these categories, to better discover exciting, compelling, and fun reads — as well as books that may “simply” be the kinds of books readers turn to for writing a report or learning a new skill (“simply” because they’re both anything but and because the days of being stuck with just a handful of pricey educational tomes that cost a lot of money are long gone!).

Let’s take a look at the five categories Stewart offers and how they apply to YA nonfiction. Once you’re able to see the different styles of nonfiction, it becomes easier to see what it is that might interest you as a reader or how you can better book talk or create displays of these books for young readers.


The idea behind the traditional nonfiction is that it serves as a tool to offer as much information about a topic as possible and includes an excellent appendix of references and primary sources. It likely has a narrative to it, but it’s not required to be driven by that narrative. In YA this is a little more tricky to explain than it is in children’s nonfiction.

Stewart, in the above-linked piece, showcases a book about rain as an example of a traditional nonfiction book: it’s as comprehensive as possible about the who, what, where, when, why, and how of rain. It’s the kind of book you’d pick up if you want as large a scope on a topic as possible, and it’s the kind of a book you might hand a teen reader who has a report to write or who wants to know as much about something as possible.

revolution in our time book cover

While it’s true many teens would head straight to adult nonfiction for their report needs, there are plenty of excellent traditional nonfiction titles for young adult readers. We’ve seen a few really solid ones this year alone, including Revolution In Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon and Black Birds in the Sky: The Story and Legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre by Brandy Colbert. These make for outstanding introductions to a large topic, and in the case of both of these books, they’re noteworthy explorations specifically designed for teenagers to become intrigued, knowledgable, and eager to act upon that knowledge by applying it to today’s world. Both of these books have a strong narrative to them, but the narrative isn’t as specific as will be seen in later examples. Rather, the traditional nonfiction looks big, even if it’s within a tight timeframe or topic.

Something exciting about the traditional form is how it’s shifting in YA. For years when working in libraries, I had to buy pricey texts for teen readers on a topic that were often short — they’d hit the necessary page number for a report requirement for a class assignment — and the writing itself would be serviceable at best. It made far more sense at that point to send teens to the adult books, which offered more comprehensive options with better writing.

It’s clear now with better offerings how weak this area was for a long time. Keep an eye here because it’s only going to get more exciting and dynamic and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is where more adults turn to learn about a topic first because the writing is tight, well-researched, and offered in a compelling, engaging manner.

Other traditional nonfiction examples:


girlhood book cover

Browsable nonfiction can take a number of forms, but this is the kind of quick hit literature that readers can pick up and put down without losing anything. They’re often — though not always — image heavy, and while they might offer a wide view of a topic like traditional nonfiction does, they’re not interested in being as comprehensive as possible.

Stewart offers the DK books as an example in children’s nonfiction. But what about in YA nonfiction?

One that comes to mind immediately is the fantastic Girlhood: Teens Around the World in Their Own Voices by Masuma Ahuja. This book features short narratives about girls around the world who are sharing their daily lives through journal entries, photos, and other scrapbook-style elements.

Likewise, the growth in collective biographies in YA nonfiction fall perfectly into the browsable category, too. Rachel Ignotofsky’s Women in Science, Women in Art, and similar titles engage readers through lively illustrations and one or two page entries about individual women who’ve contributed to their fields. While some readers will absolutely read these books cover to cover, the books are, by nature, welcoming to short bursts.

Books about “taboo” topics in nonfiction do especially well in the browsable style, particularly in libraries. “Taboo” in quotes because there’s nothing shameful or taboo about gender, sex, or sexuality, but for teen readers, there may be shame or guilt they feel in seeking out these texts. This is where the browsable format can be so great — they’re able to peruse at their leisure, perhaps at a library or bookstore, when they feel safe to do so.

Other browsable nonfiction examples:

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at with a free trial!


Readers who are most tentative about nonfiction would likely find narrative nonfiction to be the ideal place to begin. These books have a structure that’s similar to fiction, in that there’s a lot of fluid movement in the text and often an arc similar to fiction with rising and falling action throughout.

undefeated book cover

Narrative nonfiction includes memoirs, can include biographies, and includes the kinds of stories which compel a reader to keep going. In YA, a lot of these are books that home in on a single story within a bigger event, such as The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix, Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman, and the array of fantastic books by Steve Sheinkin, including The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights, Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, and Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team.

Where some might argue the books mentioned in the traditional category might fit better here, Stewart explains the distinction best: “The scenes, which give readers an intimate look at the world and people being described, are linked by transitional text that provides necessary background while condensing parts of the true story that aren’t relevant to the author’s purpose.” In other words, in a book like Hendrix’s, we get the background off World War II and the context to Bonhoeffer’s moment in time, without that becoming the story. These are more narrow than broad, even within a tight time frame.

Further examples of narrative nonfiction (this list could be the bulk of this look at nonfiction in YA!):


The expository category is a little trickier to explain without context, which Stewart offers in her guide. With the rise of great information websites, the need for straightforward traditional nonfiction shifted and with it, the rise of expository nonfiction that explores a topic with delight and information. As it relates to YA nonfiction, there’s certainly some overlap with narrative, but there are a number of great examples of expository nonfiction — and indeed, a lot of these fall in that zone of nonfiction perfect for older middle grade and younger YA readers.

bubonic panic book cover

Gail Jarrow does this well with Bubonic Panic: When Plague Invaded America (among many of her other nonfiction books), as does the team of Mark Aronson and Marina Budhos with Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science. Both are STEM-forward titles, which is one of the strengths in expository nonfiction — it’s a place to put science and technology in context of history and modernity in clever and compelling ways. You’ll see below, too, some true crime focused stories that allow a reader to zoom outward to today’s world.

Further examples of expository nonfiction:


It’s tempting to call this the “fun” nonfiction and in a lot of ways, it is. This is where you have your how-to books, your cookbooks, your guides to getting creative and learning new skills. But equally important in active books are activism books — guides to getting involved in politics, in climate justice, in racial justice, gender justice, and more.

taking on the plastics crisis book cover

The active nonfiction category in YA continues to grow, thanks to books like Feminist AF: A Guide to Crushing Girlhood by Brittney Cooper, Chanel Craft Tanner, and Susana M. Morris, Rise Up: How You Can Join The Fight Against White Supremacy by Crystal Marie Fleming, and Taking on the Plastic Crisis by Hanna Testa (along with various other books in the “Pocket Change” collective series).

Other active nonfiction for teens include books like:

While not all nonfiction fit neatly into a single category — a great example might be Disability Visibility: Young Reader Edition edited by Alice Wong, which is a series of narrative essays about disability, falling both into narrative and browsable, as well as even into expository — knowing the distinctions can be super helpful in approaching these books. Once you’re able to discover what it is you like about nonfiction, the easier it becomes to find similar styles.

Thanks as always for hanging out. We’ll see you on Thursday for your YA news and new books roundup.

Happy Reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.