Summer Reading: 7 Best Nonfiction Books for College & High School Students

Tuesday, May 11, 2021
7 Best Nonfiction Books For College And High School Students

There are so many different books to choose from that you, as students, can read over the summer. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin!

But while some students opt for fiction during their summertime reading, nonfiction books can be just as entertaining and also educational. And what better way to learn than from real-life people and events?

Here are seven of the best nonfiction books, both recent titles and increasingly classic ones, for college and high school students to read over the summer. 

1. Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman 

Maus is a Pulitzer Prize-winning story within a story that takes readers on a journey through the experiences of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, and his son, who is coming to terms with the story through his cartoon retellings. 

In the cartoon within the story, the Nazis are portrayed as cats, and the Jews are portrayed as mice, offering a creative way for the author to grapple with his father’s stories of survival. 

Students reading Maus will not only learn more about the Holocaust and what people went through during that horrifying time in history but will also see this history humanized through themes of survival, guilt, and the complicated nature of a father-son relationship.

2. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

In The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, bestselling author Erik Larson tells the story of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago along with the tale of the serial killer who infamously used that fair to lure victims to their death. 

If you enjoy thrillers, this book does not disappoint. But you also have the chance to learn more about the historic World’s Fair and the impact it had on American history and society.

3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s first memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has become a modern classic and for good reason. This book is filled with pain but also hope and incredible insight, not to mention the beautiful poetry and expert use of words readers have come to expect from Maya Angelou.

If you choose to read this book over the summer, expect to learn about the horrors of racism and its effects on adults and children alike, the long-lasting effects of child abuse, and the lingering hope that keeps people going even in the toughest times. 

Readers who encounter Angelou’s memoir will certainly continue to grow and deepen their sense of empathy while devouring the words of a true legend.

4. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

In his bestselling Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer beautifully captures the lure of the American wilderness, the desire to adventure, and the effects of this desire on a young man exploring his country. 

Students reading this book will enjoy the woven story of a famed missing person mystery while also exploring themes of humanity’s connection with nature and the charged bond between father and son. 

5. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

This extended essay by Virginia Woolf, first published in 1929, is based on two lectures Woolf gave in 1928 at Newnham College and Girton College at the University of Cambridge. The essay is regarded as an important feminist text and one that teaches readers about Woolf’s argument for women taking up their own space, both literally and figuratively.

While reading this essay, you will learn not only about feminist arguments but will also get to follow Woolf’s metaphor linking a woman trying and failing to write without a space of her own to the overall problems women faced at this time in history, a time when men and a patriarchal society controlled so much of their lives and their ability to work.

6. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

In this memoir, famed prose author Joan Didion paints the portrait of America, and especially California, in the 1960s. 

Didion explores what it was like to grow up a girl in California, the famous culture of figures like John Wayne and Howard Hughes, the nature of good and evil, and the excitement of counterculture in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury.

If you read this book, you will be transported back to the 1960s and learn about history while also enjoying the beautiful literary ride on which Didion will inevitably take you.  

7. Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Glennon Doyle’s most recent memoir Untamed is a great read for all students who are looking for some inspiration. Doyle is an activist, speaker, and bestselling author, and in this book, she advises readers to trust their own voice and break free from the expectations of others to find their true selves.

Her stories are honest, heartfelt, and full of lessons students can learn as they venture into the journey of college and the rest of their lives.


So, read one or read all seven this summer and keep your reading, critical thinking, and interpretive analysis skills sharp. The most thrilling aspect of all of these titles is that they are at once entertaining and highly educational.

Enjoy your summer reading!