Saturday, September 10, 2011

Books for teens

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know I have rather eclectic taste in reading material. I tend to like anything that stretches my brain into new ways of thinking. Right now I'm enjoying Stumbling on Happiness, which I began after watching Dan Gilbert's fabulous TED video on how bad we are at knowing what will bring us happiness. And as it occurred to me that Eldest would enjoy this book, it occurred to me that over the years I have fed her a large number of books that have helped (I hope) to broaden her understanding of the world.

Hence a partial list of good books for teens, in no particular order. 

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard - Incredibly helpful stuff that will shift the way you think about how to approach problems.
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

How to Lie with Statistics - because people do.

The Numerati - or any other book on data mining. A current issue that also paints a picture of why it's worthwhile, career-wise, to be adept at math.

The Design of Everyday Things - This book changed my life. The surface topic is how and why certain objects are easier to use than others, but at heart it's about communication. Why do we push doors labelled PULL? Is there an intuitive way to communicate which switch on the stove lights which burner? Very thought-provoking.

The Design of Everyday Things

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World - incredibly inspirational story of a man who has truly made a difference.

Made You Look: How Advertising Works and Why You Should Know - or any other similar book that raises awareness of how the media manipulates us.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story - a great book about creating the plot in your life.
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story

A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative - a classic. Substitute another problem-solving/creativity book if you want (Edward de Bono has a bunch), but make sure there's one on your list.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success - the Carol Dweck manifesto, based on all her research about how what we think affects how much we grow and succeed. The classic Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life (Seligman) is also worth reading.

Non-Designer's Design Book - a friendly introduction to the basics of layout and typeface use. Since everyone ends up designing something at some time, this is both interesting and useful.

Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren't - a Christian perspective, but I'm sure that if you're looking for a secular one, there's a similar book.

On Writing the College Application Essay - a tedious title for a truly excellent book. Written by a former admissions officer, this has probably the best example of how to edit that I've ever seen in a book. Read it at the beginning of junior year.
On Writing the College Application Essay: The Key to Acceptance and the College of your Choice

The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World - a rather uneven book, but worth reading. The author ended up founding the Acumen Fund, a microfinance group that helps people in third-world nations.

If you've got more ideas (or comments on these), speak up!


  1. I don't remember reading any non-fiction books in my English classes in high school. Why wouldn't a teacher use at least one during the year, not only to teach that book, but to show how interesting and thought-provoking non-fiction can be?

    Thanks for this list! As a mom, I hope to put it to good use. (For myself, AND my kids.)

    ~ Dar in NY

  2. Changed your life, eh? Powerful stuff. I'll see if that's at my library...

  3. @Magpie, I probably should have said *subtly* changed my life. Definitely influenced (for the better) the way I write and communicate.