Announcing the 2012 Non-Fiction Nerdies by Mindi Rench

Growing up, I was not a fan of non-fiction books.  I loved romance.  I loved sweeping sagas of families facing hardship.  I loved books about girls in itchy dresses.  I did NOT love books about the habitat of parrots or how to build a garden in my backyard.  In a pinch, I would read the encyclopedia if I had nothing else to read, but I didn’t necessarily like it.  This is due, in part, to the types of non-fiction books that were available to me in the late seventies and early eighties when I was developing my love of reading.  They often were something like this:

(Photo from  If you haven’t checked out this blog… do so soon!)

Lately, though, as I’ve pushed myself to read more non-fiction written for kids and teens, I’m seeing that things have changed!  The books are engaging… they’re well written… they’re fun to read.  Good thing, too, with the new emphasis on non-fiction that’s come about with the Common Core State Standards.  Luckily for us, some amazing non-fiction books were released in 2012, and here are five of the best, as voted by Nerdy Book Club Readers like yourself.

Here they are… the 2012 NON-FICTION NERDIE WINNERS!

Temple Grandin:  How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery

In this book, Sy Montgomery describes Grandin’s childhood and shows readers how it was because of, not in spite of, Grandin’s autism that she was able to empathize with the livestock she loves and discover new, more humane ways for handling livestock.  The book includes blueprints from several of Grandin’s projects as well as great photography.  Montgomery is one of my favorite non-fiction authors, and this book did not disappoint.

Bomb:  The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
With Bomb, Sheinkin opens the door on a piece of US history often glossed over in textbooks.  His fascinating explanation of the development of the first atomic bombs and the spies who were stealing the plans, would be a great addition to any US history course that covers World War II.  It’s a book that takes a complex issue and breaks it down so that middle school readers can understand just what was at stake and the lasting effects in our world today.

Titanic:  Voices From the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

2012 marked the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster, and there was no shortage of books on the topic. Among the best was this one by Deborah Hopkinson.  Using the voices of the victims and survivors themselves, Hopkinson brings the reader right onto the ship.  I felt as if I were there on that fateful April night, and I couldn’t put the book down, even though I knew how the story would end.  This book is a testament to the power of primary sources.

Guy-Write:  What Every Guy Writer Needs to Know by Ralph Fletcher
Ralph Fletcher hits another home run with this book targeted at, but not just for, boys.  Fletcher emphasizes the power of choice in this guide to writing, encouraging young writers to write about things they are interested in or are important to them, even if the grown-ups in their lives might not agree with the topics.  Like Fletcher’s other books for young writers, the voice in this book is approachable and engaging for middle grade readers.

Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: The Story of an American Friendship by Russell Freedman
Russell Freedman is another of my favorite non-fiction authors.  His ability to combine photographs and other artwork with words to create a compelling story that draws the reader in is unparallelled. In his latest work, Freedman takes on the friendship between President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass. He shows how similar these two men really were and how their meetings changed the course of United States history.  This one, also, has a place in US history classrooms.

So there they are… five amazing books, all worthy of space in classroom libraries and all great books for young teens AND adults!  If you haven’t read them, go get them.  I’ll wait for you, and then we can share our thoughts!

Mindi Rench spreads the Nerdy Book Club love as a junior high literacy coach at Northbrook Junior High in Northbrook, Illinois, and as mom to two members of the Junior Nerdy Book Club.  You can find her on Twitter as @mindi_r and read her blog at