12 Engaging Reads for Students in Life’s Classroom

The beginning of a new school year always brings so much promise and possibility—cracking open the spines of new books to challenge you, engage you, take you to new worlds. In honor of back-to-school season, here are twelve eye-opening, thought-provoking books for a master class of your own.

Bird by Bird
by Anne Lamott

Perfect for writers and non-writers alike, Anne Lamott explores the rewarding and often agonizing art of crafting your own stories. Laugh-out-loud funny, relatable, and whip-smart, BIRD BY BIRD offers so much more than just advice on writing; it also provides excellent guidance on the universal ups and downs of modern living.

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States
by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

The much-needed and long-awaited history of the United States from the perspective of its indigenous peoples challenges long-held myths and prejudices. Dunbar-Ortiz’s careful research spans more than 400 years and articulates the colonialist attempts to completely remove the once 15 million Native people who called this country home.

Stiff
by Mary Roach

STIFF is a hilarious and compelling tale of the afterlife that explores the active lives of human bodies postmortem. Throughout human history, cadavers have been appropriated for scientific experiments, medicinal research, and more. While not exactly for the faint of heart, STIFF is an oddly human tale that will change the way you look at our bodies.

Men Explain Things To Me
by Rebecca Solnit

Fierce, funny, and feminist, Rebecca Solnit crafts several brilliant—often scathing—essays on gender politics, violence against women, and her own personal encounters with men who felt the need to explain things to her. MEN EXPLAIN THINGS TO ME breathes new life into the feminist movement for the twenty-first century.

Destiny of the Republic
by Candice Millard

One of the most beautifully written, heartbreaking, and haunting books about a president, DESTINY OF THE REPUBLIC follows the senseless assassination of President Garfield, the unstable man who committed the crime, and the efforts of Alexander Graham Bell to save the dying president.

Americanah
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This powerful, gripping love story follows two young Nigerians as they struggle to escape their military-ruled country and find fulfillment in the United States and Great Britain. Delving into the fraught issues of race, identity, and being an outsider in a strange country, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delivers a provocative social commentary.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by Rebecca Skloot

This landmark book of modern science is also an exploration of race, poverty, consent, and ethics. In 1951, when Henrietta Lacks, a poor black tobacco farmer, had her cells taken without her knowledge, she had no idea the cancer that was killing her would provide the groundwork for the very first immortal human cell line and a multibillion dollar industry.

Persepolis
by Marjane Satrapi

A coming-of-age tale unlike any other, PERSEPOLIS is the memoir of a young Iranian girl as she lives through the 1979 Islamic revolution. Personal, political, funny, and heartbreaking, Marjane Satrapi’s unique graphic depiction of adolescence demonstrates the human cost of war.

This Changes Everything
by Naomi Klein

This gripping, eye-opening text successfully argues that in order to combat climate change, a restructuring of the global economy is required. Naomi Klein demonstrates—in comprehensible language—that by reducing our greenhouse emissions, we can not only help the planet but also improve our political and economic systems.

Going Clear
by Lawrence Wright

With years of research, dozens of interviews, and writing as rousing as the best thrillers, GOING CLEAR is the astonishing tale of Scientology and its fraught relationship with Hollywood, the IRS, and its own members. Compelling and thought-provoking, Lawrence Wright asks us to evaluate just what constitutes a religion and how faith works in our modern times.

The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is the most expansive volume of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s evocative short stories, including his masterpieces—such as “Babylon Revisited” and “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz”—and lesser-known works from his turbulent years in Hollywood. Heartbreaking and haunting, Fitzgerald’s short fiction solidifies his reputation as arguably the greatest American author of the twentieth century.

Salt
by Mark Kurlansky

Never has something so commonplace been so fascinating. Mark Kurlansky crafts a captivating history of salt, which has irrevocably shaped mankind, been used as currency, founded trade routes, and helped direct wars and empires. SALT will make you reconsider how vital this household item is to our history.