Share 14 Back-to-School Reads for Life-Long Learners

14 Back-to-School Reads for Life-Long Learners

Kerry Fiallo is a New York native and copywriter at Simon & Schuster. A lifelong voracious reader, she has a particular fondness for ghost stories, history, and anything to do with Mary Shelley, Ada Lovelace, and the Brontë sisters. The only thing she may love more than books is black tea, but they do often go well together. You can find her as she navigates through literature and history on Twitter @ReadingInNYC and on Tumblr.

Summer’s officially ending, which means several things: days are getting shorter, stores are already stocking holiday decorations(!), and kids are back in school. We may not be kids anymore, but there’s still time to expand your mind and learn something new. Below we’ve listed some incredibly thought-provoking and eye-opening books—both fiction and nonfiction—to help you do just that.


1491
by Charles C. Mann
We are often taught that until Christopher Columbus arrived, the so-called New World was a vast, untapped wilderness. In this groundbreaking feat of research, you can learn how Native American tribes created large cities, had running water, and were more technologically advanced than previously thought. A brilliant and fascinating look at American history as never before.

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14 Back-to-School Reads for Life-Long Learners

By Kerry Fiallo | September 14, 2017

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So We Read On
by Maureen Corrigan
For some Americans, THE GREAT GATSBY is simply a book they read in high school. But in this fresh, witty, and engaging evaluation, critic Maureen Corrigan analyzes the history and significance of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. Compelling and passionate, this is a book for fans and those who want to become more familiar with the classic.
So We Read On
Maureen Corrigan

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14 Back-to-School Reads for Life-Long Learners

By Kerry Fiallo | September 14, 2017

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Playing Dead
by Elizabeth Greenwood
Books about death aren’t often witty or charming, but PLAYING DEAD isn’t an ordinary book about death. Elizabeth Greenwood conducts a lively investigation into how to fake one’s death in today’s modern, superconnected world. From consultants whose job it is to help you disappear to black market morgues, this is a captivating look at death fraud.
Playing Dead
Elizabeth Greenwood

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14 Back-to-School Reads for Life-Long Learners

By Kerry Fiallo | September 14, 2017

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Challenger Deep
by Neal Shusterman
A brilliantly touching depiction of mental illness, this award-winning novel follows teenage Caden as he grapples with schizoaffective disorder. Straddling two worlds—his high school life and his belief that he is on a voyage to the deepest trench of the Pacific Ocean—Caden’s story is an unforgettable and compassionate one that will move readers of all ages.
Challenger Deep
Neal Shusterman

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14 Back-to-School Reads for Life-Long Learners

By Kerry Fiallo | September 14, 2017

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The New Jim Crow
by Michelle Alexander
A timely and invaluable exploration of the evolution of racism in America’s modern age of so-called colorblindness. From the Jim Crow laws of the Reconstruction era to today’s mass incarceration of black men, this is an expertly researched, deeply engaging, and profoundly important call to action in the United States.
The New Jim Crow
Michelle Alexander

Once in a great while a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow—which argues that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it”—is such a book. By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the US criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. This is a must-read for all people of conscience.

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Why Geography Matters
by Harm de Blij
Though the world seems to change every day, the study of geography has unfortunately been overlooked by many. Yet, as Harm de Blij effortlessly explains, it is geography that helps us fully comprehend our global interconnectedness. With engaging and stimulating prose, de Blijshows us how geography continues to influence the complicated events in our world.
Why Geography Matters
Harm de Blij

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14 Back-to-School Reads for Life-Long Learners

By Kerry Fiallo | September 14, 2017

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The Gene
by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Few writers are as talented at making science as emotional, evocative, and alive as Siddhartha Mukherjee. In THE GENE, he explores how our understanding of heredity has developed over time. From Aristotle to the tragic eugenics movement and beyond, Mukherjee helps us understand our own humanity through the beauty of science.
The Gene
Siddhartha Mukherjee

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14 Back-to-School Reads for Life-Long Learners

By Kerry Fiallo | September 14, 2017

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The Glass Universe
by Dava Sobel
Discover the inspiring story of Harvard’s female calculators. Hired to make sense of their male counterparts’ telescopic observations, these women soon used their knowledge of photography to study the cosmos themselves. Starring a compelling group of women, THE GLASS UNIVERSE demonstrates the vital role played by women in helping us understand our place in the universe.
The Glass Universe
Dava Sobel

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as "human computers" to interpret the stellar observations made by their male counterparts. The “glass universe” that the group amassed over the following decades enabled the women to make extraordinary discoveries, and change the face of astronomy forever. 

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On Trails
by Robert Moor
Who knew that trails surround and influence us constantly? From the superhighway of the Internet to the winding paths across and between countries, Robert Moor effortlessly draws connections between humanity and the trails we blaze. An outstandingly insightful book that will help you reevaluate the journey of life, ON TRAILS is both passionate and enlightening.
On Trails
Robert Moor

For the outdoorsy type

From tiny ant trails to hiking paths that span continents, from interstate highways to the Internet, ON TRAILS explores how trails help us understand the world. Drawing on his own globe-trotting adventures and findings in science, history, philosophy, and nature writing, Robert Moor reveals how trails can shed new light on age-old questions about humanity.

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14 Back-to-School Reads for Life-Long Learners

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The Complete Maus
by Art Spiegelman
A Pulitzer Prize winner, THE COMPLETE MAUS is a graphic novel unlike any other. Interwoven with an account of his own tense relationship with his father, Art Spiegelman crafts a haunting portrayal of his father’s survival during the Holocaust. This is a moving, complicated work of art and historical testimony.
The Complete Maus
Art Spiegelman

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14 Back-to-School Reads for Life-Long Learners

By Kerry Fiallo | September 14, 2017

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Destiny Disrupted
by Tamim Ansary
From the time of Mohammed to today, DESTINY DISRUPTED challenges stereotypes, analyzes how our cultures evolved, and reveals an eye-opening view of global history through the Islamic perspective. Illuminating and expertly researched, this is a crucial book for people of all backgrounds.
Destiny Disrupted
Tamim Ansary

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14 Back-to-School Reads for Life-Long Learners

By Kerry Fiallo | September 14, 2017

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World War Z
by Max Brooks
You may think that a zombie book wouldn’t have much to teach you about humanity, but you’ve never read a zombie book like this. Enlightening and thoughtful, WORLD WAR Z explores multiple perspectives on the zombie apocalypse. Offering fresh perspectives on politics, greed, isolationism, and mass hysteria, this is a somber and moving novel for horror fans and non-fans alike.

King Leopold's Ghost
by Adam Hochschild
Few men have had such a bloody effect on Africa as King Leopold II of Belgium. In this powerful book, discover how this royal brutally plundered the Congo and changed the course of African history. KING LEOPOLD’S GHOST is a vital story that reveals how the effects of colonialism are still being felt in Africa today.
King Leopold's Ghost
Adam Hochschild

As European powers scrambled for Africa in the 1880s, King Leopold II of Belgium seized the vast territory surrounding the Congo River. Carrying out a genocidal plundering, he looted its natural resources and brutalized its people—reducing its population by ten million souls—all the while cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian.

MENTIONED IN:

14 Back-to-School Reads for Life-Long Learners

By Kerry Fiallo | September 14, 2017

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We Were Feminists Once
by Andi Zeisler
A fascinating and clear-eyed exploration of the commercialization of feminism, this social critique compels us to understand how a political movement can be appropriated by capitalism. By analyzing Beyoncé as well as Planned Parenthood and everything in between, Andi Zeisler effortlessly demonstrates the relevance of feminism and how we can reclaim it.
We Were Feminists Once
Andi Zeisler

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14 Back-to-School Reads for Life-Long Learners

By Kerry Fiallo | September 14, 2017

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