Biographies: Books for Teens

Abu-Jaber, Diana. The Language of Baklava. 2005.
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The daughter of a Jordanian father and American mother tells how food reflected her mixed cultural heritage growing up, sometimes joyfully and sometimes with tension.
Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. 1971.
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Angelou's memoir focuses on segregated life in the South, social injustice, economic hardship, and racism. It ultimately chronicles the triumph of a young girl over all of these.
Armstrong, Lance. It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life. 2000.
The personal story of Lance Armstrong's life so far, from childhood through early success, nearly fatal cancer, recovery, survivorship, more triumph (victory in the 1999 Tour de France), marriage, and first-time fatherhood.
Beah, Ishmael. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. 2007.
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Child soldier in Sierra Leone tells of his experience and recovery from forced participation in the horrors of war.
Croke, Vicki Constantine. The Lady and the Panda: The True Adventures of the First American Explorer to Bring Back China’s Most Exotic Animal. 2005.
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In the 1930s Ruth Harkness became the first American to bring back a baby giant panda from China and establish the tradition of American zoos showcasing and protecting the animals. Little Su-Lin came to the Brookfield Zoo in the Chicago suburbs, with a frenzy of fanfare.
Crutcher, Chris. King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography. 2003.
Young adult author Chris Crutcher tells of growing up in Cascade, Idaho, and becoming a writer.  You'll laugh until you're in tears!
Dahl, Roal. Boy: Tales of Childhood. 1984.
Dahl writes about the sadistic and ritual beatings he endured from age 9 to 18 in English boarding schools.
Darznik, Jasmin. The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother’s Hidden Life. 2011.
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A daughter discovers the story of her mother’s early life in Iran and the difficult, repressive life she had during her first marriage.
Fleming, Candace. The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum. 2009.
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Today P. T. Barnum might host a reality show and grace the covers of celebrity magazines. Back in his day he promoted enormously successful circuses as popular entertainment. This biography explores the showman’s life and strategies for popular entertainment in mid-to-late 1800s America .
Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition. 1995.
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Contains material not published in the original including some further discussion of sexuality and strong opinions on the people in the annex.
Gillespie, Marcia. Maya Angelou: A Glorious Celebration. 2008.
Poet Maya Angelou comes to life in this biography that showcases her powerful triumph over adversity to become an accomplished poet, playwright and civil rights activist. Author Gillespie uses multiple photos and some of Angelou’s handwritten notes and personal reflections to enhance the biography.
Grealy, Lucy. The Autobiography of a Face. 1994.
Best-selling memoir by a woman who, as a child, recovered from a potentially terminal illness during which one third of her jaw was surgically removed. She then had to confront the tragedy of being deemed unacceptable in a world that worships physical beauty.
Greenberg, Jan and Sandra Jordan. Andy Warhol: Prince of Pop. 2007.
Warhol’s name is associated with “pop art,” originating in the 1960s, and his work is synonymous with images such as the Campbell’s soup can and repeating poster-like images of Marilyn Monroe. This biography captures Warhol’s spirit growing up, his personal struggles as an artist and his eventual fame.
Grennan, Conor. The Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Princes of Nepal. 2010.
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Author Grennan began a short volunteer stint in a Nepal orphanage until he realized the children were not orphans, but victims of child trafficking during political strife. He then began a mission to reunite the children to their families, a much longer and intense project that is told about here with passion and drama.
Hawk, Tony. How Did I Get Here? The Ascent of an Unlikely CEO. 2010.
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Uber Skateboarder Tony Hawk tells the story of his business promoting skateboarding, organizing charitable endeavors, and helping cities build skateboard parks for kids. This book about his adult life works as a good business “how to” and companion volume to the earlier Hawk: Occupation: Skateboarder.
Harris, Brayton. Admiral Nimitz: The Commander of the Pacific Ocean Theater. 2012.
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Nimitz, perhaps not as famous as other World War II leaders, began his military career designing submarine engines and rose up through the Navy ranks. Today he is viewed as one of the major architects of victory in the Pacific.
Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs. 2011.
Despite its longer than usual length, this inside story of Apple and its legendary leader Steve Jobs will fascinate interested readers who can’t imagine life without their “i” gadgets .
Krakauer, Jon. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster. 1997.
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The author describes his spring 1996 trek to Mt. Everest, an expedition that ended in disaster, claiming the lives of eight climbers, and explains why he survived, in a definitive, firsthand account of the tragedy.
Kramer, Clara and Stephen Glantz. Clara’s War: One Girl’s Story of Survival. 2009.
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Holocaust survivor Clara tells her story of terror and hiding in Poland during World War II, where she and others were hidden by righteous gentiles. Clara’s diary, the basis for this very dramatic telling, is now at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
Lang Lang with David Ritz. Journey of a Thousand Miles: My Story. 2008.
Brilliant young pianist Lang Lang tells of his early life in China as a musical prodigy and the high-stakes competitive gruel it took that catapulted him to the top of the classical music world today in the United States.
Lemmon, Gayle Tzemach. The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe. 2011.
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The story of a woman who “picked up a needle and thread and created a thriving business” under Taliban rule in Afghanistan when schooling and other opportunities were not available to her.
Levine, Ellen. Rachel Carson: A Twentieth Century Life. 2007.
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Scientist Rachel Carson’s work in the area of pesticides helped save the bald eagle from extinction. She was a pioneer of environmentalism. Levine tells of Carson’s life and career and the barriers she faced as a woman in the science field several decades ago.
Lewis, Michael. The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. 2009.
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Michael Oher was a young foster teen with steep odds against him who, with the help of a loving family who adopted him, began to succeed in school and excel at football as an offensive tackle—all the way to the NFL.
Lopez, Steve. The Soloist: A Lost Dream. 2008.
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Journalist Lopez discovered gifted violinist Nathaniel Ayres on the streets of Los Angeles, challenged by mental illness and homelessness. The story highlights the difficulty of finding support for brilliant musician Ayres.
McCourt, Frank. Angela's Ashes. 1996.
Frank McCourt, who was born in Brooklyn but grew up in the slums of Limerick, Ireland, conveys the constant pains and occasional joys of an impoverished childhood.
Mendell, David. Obama: From Promise to Power. 2007.
Chicago Tribune reporter Mendell portrays the 44th president’s life and early political career— through his U.S. Senate seat and first run for president in this insightful biography.
Murray, Liz. Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival and My Journey from Homelessness to Harvard. 2010.
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Murray escaped the horrors of a drug-abusing family to parlay her hard work and commitment to education into achievement.
Myers, Walter Dean. Bad Boy: A Memoir. 2001.
The very popular young adult author tells of growing up in Harlem in the 1940s, facing gang warfare, racism, and the dark secret his father kept for years.
Partridge, Elizabeth. John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth. 2005.
Lennon’s story , particularly the Beatles breakthrough and events leading up to it, is told here with a wealth of eye catching, high quality photos of the early Beatles.
Pelzer, David. A Child Called "It": One Child's Courage to Survive. 1995.
A horrifying account of the bizarre tortures inflicted on the author by his maniacal, alcoholic mother.
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. 1971.
Written as fiction, The Bell Jar presents only a lightly disguised account of the poet's descent into depression and mental illness, and her first suicide attempt at the age of twenty.
Quinones-Hinojosa, Alfredo and Mim Eichler Rivas. Becoming Dr. Q: My Journey from Migrant Farmworker to Brain Surgeon. 2011.
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Quinones-Hinojosa pursued legal status and the very highest educational achievement in medicine in this gripping story of pursuing success against huge odds.
Rapp, Emily. Poster Child. 2007.
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Emily really was the March of Dimes poster child. This spirited memoir tells of her life trying to take on challenges in spite of a leg amputation at an early age and the cruelty of other children’s reaction to her disability.
Reisen, Harriet. Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women. 2009.
Famed author Alcott sought to help her impoverished family through writing and other jobs, and also worked as a nurse during the Civil War. Her passion for writing eventually brought her breakthrough success at a time when respected women writers were few.
Runyon, Brent. The Burn Journals. 2004.
362.28092 R
Brent Runyon was fourteen years old when he set himself on fire. In this book he describes that suicide attempt and his recovery over the following year.
Santiago, Wilfred. 21: the Story of Roberto Clemente. 2011.
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Not just for baseball fans—this graphic biography captures the action of the game through the lively art along with Clemente’s acclaimed career with the Pittsburgh Pirates before his tragic death in a plane crash.
Stanton, Tom. Hank Aaron and the Home Run That Changed America. 2005.
796.357092 S PBK
Aaron’s life and his career in baseball, all leading up to the dramatic breaking of Babe Ruth’s home run record, take center field here in this spirited biography and portrait of American sports history.
Stubbs, David. Eminem: Cleaning Out My Closet: the Stories behind the Songs. 2003.
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This illustrated biography celebrates the uniquely provocative and complex rapper.
Tammet, Daniel. Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant. 2007.
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Tammet invented a web program for learning languages. He can do complex mathematical calculations in a blaze of speed. Becoming socially comfortable is much harder for him, though, as his personal story of life with autism tells.
Tran, G.B. Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey. 2010.
Teen Graphic Novel 973.O49597 T
Born and raised in the United states, author Tran researches his family history in Vietnam , especially during the Vietnam War years, and tells of their life as immigrants to America in this vibrant graphic telling—some strong language.
Wiesel, Elie. Night. 1986.
Wiesel transformed his experiences into a story that conveys the horrors of the Holocaust.
Wolff, Misha. I’m Down: A Memoir. 2009.
Growing up white in a mostly black Seattle neighborhood, Mishna struggled with racial identity—at home, in her neighborhood and at school in this memoir told with poignancy, humor and thoughtfulness.
Zindel, Paul. The Pigman and Me. 1992.
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Zindel talks about growing up and those meaning-of-life questions that trouble everyone –- especially teenagers.