Books for the College Bound


*Bernier-Grand, Carmen. Frida: Viva la Vida! Long Live Life! 2007. Marshall Cavendish.

In twenty-six original, free-verse poems the author depicts the thoughts, feelings, and life events of Mexican self-portraitist Frida Kahlo. The poems are accompanied by twenty-four full-color reproductions of Kahlo’s paintings. Substantial background materials include a biographical sketch, chronology, and glossary.

*Bowker, John. World Religions: The Great Faiths Explored and Explained. 2006. DK.

This comprehensive work introduces the reader to faiths of the world through religious artifacts, paintings, architecture, and annotations of sacred texts. It includes a time line comparing significant events and people.

*Campbell, Joseph and Bill Moyers. The Power of Myth. 1988. Broadway Books/Doubleday.

A companion to the six part television documentary originally broadcast on PBS, this book covers such subjects as the role of mythology in the modern world, the journey inward, the hero’s adventure, and tales of love and marriage.

D’Orso, Michael. Eagle Blue: A Team, a Tribe, and a High School Basketball Season in Arctic Alaska. 2006. Bloomsbury.

This true story explores the tiny village of Fort Yukon, Alaska, its vanishing cultural heritage, and its relationship with mainstream American culture through its high school basketball team.

Follett, Ken. Pillars of the Earth. 2007. Penguin.

This best-selling epic tale of ambition, anarchy, and absolute power set against the canvas of twelfth-century England depicts fascinating characters and provides a spellbinding introduction to medieval religion, architecture, politics, and daily life.

*Greenberg, Jan. Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art. 2001. Harry N. Abrams.

Can a painting speak? This collection of lyrical responses to famous American works of art provides answers.

*Hemphill, Stephanie. Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath. 2007. Random House/Alfred A. Knopf.

Can a painting speak? This collection of lyrical responses to famous American works of art provides answers.

Jacobs, A.J. The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. 2007. Simon & Schuster.

A non-judgmental and humorous look at the twelve months Jacobs lived as closely as he could to literal compliance with biblical rules.

Landis, Deborah Nadoolman. Dressed: A Century of Hollywood Costume Design. 2007. HarperCollins.

Landis showcases 100 years of Hollywood’s most memorable costumes and the characters they helped bring to life as she reveals a behind-the-scenes look at the evolution of the costume designer’s art.

McGreevey , Tom and Joanne Yeck. Our Movie Heritage. 1997. Rutgers University Press.

This work provides over one hundred beautiful pictures of top stars, directors, and others in the film industry, but the focus is on film preservation and the race against time to salvage what is left of the large number of films that are currently deteriorating in our nation’s vaults, theaters, and private collections.

*Partridge, Elizabeth. This Land Was Made for You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie. 2002. Penguin/Viking.

Guthrie was a humbling figure, while at the same time a major catalyst of social change. This work provides insight into one of our most prolific and talented musicians, as well as the creation of his music.

*Sandler, Martin. Photography: An Illustrated History. 2002. Oxford University Press.

This work looks at photography as it evolved from daguerreotypes in the 1800’s to the respected art form that it is today. Numerous compelling black-and-white and color photographs document technological developments, the contributions of pioneers in the field, as well as the impact photography has had upon all aspects of society.

Blumenthal, Karen. Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX: The Law That Changed the Future of Girls in America. 2005. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum.

This nonfiction work looks at Title IX, the 1972 legislation mandating that schools receiving federal funds could not discriminate on the basis of gender, ensuring equal treatment and opportunity for girls in sports and education. Included are period photos, a time line, “then and now” commentary, extensive source notes, and suggested resources for further reading.

Bryson, Bill. Shakespeare: The World as Stage. 2007. HarperCollins.

Bryson hits the mark with his characteristic wit as he explores the world of Shakespeare and the mystery surrounding the man and his plays.

Diamant, Anita. The Red Tent: A Novel. 1998. Picador

This novel recreates the biblical life of Dinah, daughter of Leah and Jacob, from her birth in Mesopotamia through her death in Egypt.

*Engle, Margarita. The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano. 2006. Henry Holt.

Written in verse, this is a Pura Belpre Award winning portrait of Juan Francisco Manzano, the poet who was born a slave in Cuba in 1797.

*Freedman, Russell. The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights. 2004. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Clarion.

A Newbery Honor book that accounts the life and musical career of the great African American vocalist, Marion Anderson, in the context of the history of civil rights in the United States.

*Gruen, Sara. Water for Elephants: A Novel. 2007. Algonquin Books.

Gruen creates a story full of enchanting circus lore, mystery, trains, romance, and danger with no-holds-barred.

Howe, Peter. Shooting Under Fire: The World of the War Photographer. 2002. Artisan.

Ten leading combat photographers share their experiences of horror, humor, bravery, and daring while reporting from war-torn locations such as Vietnam, Haiti, Chechnya, El Salvador, Sarajevo, and Afghanistan. Over 150 black-and-white and color photographs provide a powerful and moving look at war and those who risk everything to document it.

King, Melissa. She’s Got Next: A Story of Getting In, Staying Open, and Taking a Shot. 2005. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Mariner Books.

Through pick-up basketball games and the people she meets on the streets of Chicago, the author learns valuable life lessons.

*Martin, Steve. Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life. 2008. Simon & Schuster/Scribner.

In a memoir full of humor and candor, Martin shares his personal itinerary as he negotiates the maze of honing his profession and the pitfalls he avoided.

*Partridge, Elizabeth. John Lennon: All I Want is the Truth. 2005. Penguin/Viking.

Partridge provides a wide-open view into the work and life of one of the most influential and complicated persons from the world’s musical heritage.

*Polly, Matthew. American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China. 2007. Penguin/Gotham Books.

The author reflects on the childhood dream that led him, as an adult, to take a break from Princeton and travel to China’s famed Shaolin Temple to study martial arts for two years.

Strickland, Carol. The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to Post-Modern. 2007. Andrews McMeel Publishing.

In an accessible format, this unique work provides a basic working knowledge of art and art history through short essays, sidebars, and photographs.

Weller, Sheila. Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon—And the Journey of a Generation. 2008. Simon & Schuster/Atria.

In three interwoven biographies, Weller chronicles the life and times of three tradition-breaking women singer-songwriters who came of age in the late 1960s.


Ahmad, Dohra, ed. Rotten English: A Literary Anthology. 2007. W.W. Norton.

Language is power and for the dizzying array of writers collected here, displaying an authentic voice is a means to reclaim what has been stolen, oppressed, or colonized. Rotten English collects the poetry, essays, short stories, and novels of the best in global vernacular writing from Mark Twain to Junot Diaz.

Bagdasarian, Adam. Forgotten Fire: A Novel. 2002. Random House/Laurel Leaf.

“Who will remember the Armenians?” Hitler asked, referencing the Armenian genocide as his inspiration for the final solution. This brutal hidden chapter of history is seen through the eyes of 12-year-old survivor Vahan Kendarian, whose world was shattered within a matter of days.

Chang, Iris. The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II. 1998. Penguin.

Barely a postscript in official Japanese history, the horrific torture and murder of hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens took place over the course of just seven weeks.

Delisle, Guy. Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea. 2007. Drawn and Quarterly.

The secretive world of Communst North Korea remains a mystery to French-Canadian cartoonist Delisle, even after spending two months inside its borders.

Diaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. 2007. Penguin/Riverhead.

“Ghetto nerd,” outcast, and anime-loving Oscar Wao is the latest in a long line of doomed generations to suffer the dreaded fuku curse of his native Dominican Republic. With humor and talent as his weapons, he perseveres, knowing “you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.”

Eggers, Dave. What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng: A Novel. 2007. Knopf/Vintage.

As a young boy Valentino witnessed Arab militia men destroy his village, hid from hungry lions, wandered through wasted, desert landscapes, and narrowly escaped fatal disease, capture, starvation, and enlistment. The will to survive displayed here is almost as miraculous as this Sudanese “Lost Boy’s” ability to recount the harrowing genocide of home and people with such thoughtfulness and grace.

Fleming, Anne Marie. The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam. 2007. Penguin/Riverhead.

In his day, Long Tack Sam was an acrobat, a magician, an entrepreneur, a world traveler, a celebrity, a father, a ladies man, and a husband. This graphic collage biography pairs narrative writing, handbills, photographs, and news clippings along with interviews, comics, and commentary to convey the inevitable effects of cultural shifts and global politics on individual lives.

Horwitz , Tony. A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World. 2008. Henry Holt.

Pulitzer prizing winning journalist Horwitz uses humor and candor to literally follow in the footsteps of the first American explorers—from the Vikings and French utopians to America’s first African-American trailblazer—whose discoveries took place hundreds of years before the mythical landing on Plymouth Rock.

Maltman, Thomas. The Night Birds: A Novel. 2008. Soho Press.

Three generations of settlers and native Dakota weave a dark tale of family secrets and brutal injustice in Civil War era America.

Saenz, Benjamin Alire. Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood. 2004. Cinco Puntos Press.

This Hollywood is a barrio in 1968 New Mexico, where the students at Las Cruces High School struggle through heartbreak, loss, and an entrenched racial divide to find their place in the world.

*Spiegelman, Art. The Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. 1996. Knopf/Pantheon.

A man struggles to come to terms with his parents’ brutal past at Auschwitz in this seminal graphic novel.

Weiner, Tim. Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA. 2008. Knopf/Anchor.

With considerable research and extensive interviews, Tim Weinershowsthe grave miscalculations that have plagued the Central Intelligence Agency since its inception.

*Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. 2007. Little, Brown.

Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, was born an outsider with water on his brain, lopsided eyes, and an IQ oppressed by extreme poverty and a mediocre reservation education. After switching to an all-white high school he realizes that though he’ll never easily fit in, self-determination and a solid personal identity will give him the chance to both succeed and transcend.

Chandrasekaran, Rajiv. Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone. 2007. Knopf/Vintage.

A journalist explores the pristine “Emerald City,” the American government’s enclave inthe middle of war-torn Baghdad.

*Chotjewitz , David. Doris Orgel (Translator). Daniel Half-Human: And the Good Nazi. 2004. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum.

From Hitler Youth to hunted “mischling,” Daniel’s world unravels when he discovers his mother’s hidden history “taints” him with Jewish blood and marks him for extermination.

Diamond, Jared. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. 2005. Penguin.

What do the lack of Icelandic fisherman, the 2008 Chinese Olympics, and Easter Island tree cutters all have in common? Much more than you might think. Collapse explores the political, technological, and ecological decisions which merge in order to sustain or destroy societies.

*Egan, Timothy. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. 2005. Houghton Mifflin.

Award winning New York Times reporter Egan tackles the great Dust Bowl phenomenon of the 1930’s and 40’s in this multi-tiered account. He shares incredible eye-witness accounts as well as the overwhelming convergences of failed agricultural practices, ill-fated government policies, and the costs of “get rich quick” schemes.

*Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. 1998. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

A Hmong refugee family in California clashes with the American medical system when they attribute their daughter’s grand mal seizures to a spiritual rather than physical problem.

Jones, Edward P. The Known World. 2003. HarperCollins/Amistad.

In this Pulitzer Prize winning novel Jones approaches a little explored chapter in antebellum history, that of African American slave owners. Set several decades before the beginning of the Civil War, this title skillfully weaves plot, time, and perspective amongst a diverse and powerful cast of characters in order to explore the moral complexities inherent to human freedom (or the lack thereof).

Larson, Erik. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. 2004. Knopf/Vintage.

The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair captured the imagination of the whole world, and also provided a playground for a cunning serial killer.

Roberts, Gene and Hank Klibanoff. The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation. 2007. Knopf/Vintage.

When Harry Reasoner thrust a microphone at an angry mob, and yelled “I don’t care what you’re going to do to me, but the whole world is going to know it!” he spoke for all the reporters and photographers, black and white, north and south, who played a critical role in bringing the reality of the Civil Rights movement into the living rooms and consciousness of the American public.

*Satrapi, Marjane. The Complete Persepolis. 2007. Knopf/Pantheon.

Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of her childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution is beautifully rendered in this graphic novel series.

*Ung, Loung. First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers. 2006. HarperCollins.

The perils of life under the brutal Pol Pot regime change a young woman’s life forever, as she and her family find themselves fugitives of war, without even their names to remind them of what they lost.

Williams, David. Bitterly Divided: The South’s Inner Civil War. 2008. The New Press.

The Civil War was lost long before the first shot was ever fired, thanks to deep and violent divisions of class and political allegiance that resulted in “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.”

Weller, Sheila. Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon—And the Journey of a Generation. 2008. Simon & Schuster/Atria.

In three interwoven biographies, Weller chronicles the life and times of three tradition-breaking women singer-songwriters who came of age in the late 1960s.