Alongside required reading paired with schoolwork, it is valuable for our young intellectuals to engage in leisure reading to spark curiosity and introduce diverse perspectives and worldviews. Below are some recommendations for our growing global citizens looking to dive into a good read.


For the identity curious teen: I Was Their American Dream by Malaka Gharib (graphic memoir)

This graphic novel is ideal for a teen considering their place in the world.

Written and illustrated by Malaka Gharib, an artist and journalist at NPR, I Was Their American Dream is an engaging and quickly-paced narrative describing growing up in America, as the daughter of an Egyptian immigrant father and a Philipino immigrant mother. Young Gharib cannot figure out where she fits in in this country - with Egyptians? With Philipinos? With other immigrants? The narrative of the evocatively-drawn graphic novel follows life’s formative events: her parents’ divorce, her high school years, leaving California to go to college in New York, moving to D.C. and getting married, with details that provide a delightful sense of self: Gharib’s music tastes, emotions, and favorite foods (and even a few recipes!).

This is a heartfelt coming-of-age story; if you begin to flip through Gharib’s captivating panels, you’ll absolutely end up reading the entire book.


For the activist curious teen: We Are All Greta: Be Inspired to Change the World by Valentina Giannella  (non-fiction)

September’s Global Climate Strike proved to the country that teenagers are committed to taking a stand against climate change. Support the activist-teenager in your life by suggesting this non-fiction text that explains what climate change is and how to combat it, with back material including credible sources, graphs, glossary, and a list of authoritative websites. The layout is simple and beautiful, illustrated and sparse. 

When so much of the current writing and reporting on climate change feels overwhelming and devastating, this book manages to strike the right chord for teenagers; it is action-oriented and hopeful. The book outlines tangible ways for a country to make an environmental difference, with sections on sustainable development, fossil fuels, clean renewable energy, diet, and ends with 10 Small Things We Can Do to Make a Difference.

Just don’t be surprised if, after reading, your teen bans all single-use plastic from your home.


For the science curious teen: Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like an Inventor by Temple Grandin (non-fiction)

Temple Grandin, celebrated scientist, inventor, animal behavioral specialist and spokesperson about living with autism, has written her first book for young people. How to Think and Create Like an Inventor will inspire teens to start taking things apart and putting them back together again.

The book is a hodgepodge of content, including personal stories of Grandin’s youth, drawings, diagrams, photographs, and profiles of other inventors throughout history. It will embolden teens to toss their screens away, roll up their sleeves, and start tinkering. In each section, Grandin offers a DIY project, with materials that can be assembled from items found in a kitchen junk drawer, basement, or garage.

From making homemade stilts to a marionette, these projects will busy and excite your teen on any snow day.


For the cooking curious teen: United Tastes of America: An Atlas of Food Facts & Recipes from Everywhere by Gabrielle Langholtz

United Tastes of America is the perfect winter treat; a coffee-table-esque book that attempts to answer the question “What IS American Food?” The 200+ page book includes beautiful drawings, recipes, and photographs of State Favorite recipes. The descriptions are so delectable that you will devour the text.

With a preface that outlines cooking tips, nine terms to know, and cooking how-tos, you should feel comfortable letting your teens have access to your knives after long as you stay as close as possible, perhaps on call with a mug of hot chocolate in the living room. The supportive Level of Difficulty ratings, along with preparation time estimates, will help you to coach them on what recipe they should attempt their first try. Begin on familiar turf with your home state (Cobb Salad for California) or pick a more adventurous (Bison Burgers for Wyoming or Green Jell-O Salad for Utah!).


For the romance curious teen: Color Outside the Lines edited by Sangu Mandanna (Short story collection)

Color Outside the Lines is a revelatory short story collection on interracial love. It is the first of its kind and includes diverse representation beyond racial lines: focusing on love across culture, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Each story radiates with teenage angst, devotion, excitement, flirtation, high hopes and crushing realities. Featuring Young Adult heavyweight authors like Adam Silvera and Sara Ahmed, and a variety of newer voices, the collection celebrates and normalizes romantic difference.

This is a book for any teen who may be anxious that the love they seek is outside of society’s expectations.

5Recommend one, or recommend them all! Each of these titles are sure to feed the budding curiosity of your teen.