She Blinded Me With Science Books!

Every year, for over 40 years, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has published its list of Outstanding Science Trade Books, considered the best science, engineering and design books for students in grades K-12.

These titles would be great choices for science teachers interested in hosting literature circles — “a popular reading strategy that emphasizes student interest and conversation” — in their classrooms. Learn more here: “Literature Circles For Science” (William Straits and Sherry Nichols, NSTA, 30 October 2006).

Here are some highlighted recommendations for high school students (all are available in the CA Library collection):

Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartoletti — What happens when a person’s reputation has been forever damaged? With archival photographs and text among other primary sources, this riveting biography of Mary Mallon looks beyond the tabloid scandal of Mary’s controversial life. “Expertly weaving together both historical background and contemporary knowledge about disease and public health, Bartoletti enlivens Mallon’s story with engrossing anecdotes and provocative critical inquiry while debunking misconceptions” (Booklist starred review).

A Global Warming Primer by Jeffrey Bennett — Is human-induced global warming a real threat to our future? Most people will express an opinion on this question, but relatively few can back their opinions with solid evidence. But the truth is, the basic science is not that difficult. “Without moralizing, Bennett offers strong evidence for the effects of global warming and urges cooperation and action across political party and international lines to prevent a calamitous future” (School Library Journal).

The Story of Seeds: From Mendel’s Garden To Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less To Eat Around the World by Nancy Castaldo — With a global cast of men and women, scientists and laypeople, and photographic documentation, Castaldo chronicles where our food comes from, and more importantly, where it is going as she digs deeper into the importance of seeds in our world. “This stellar interdisciplinary resource may need hand-selling to get readers beyond its plain packaging, but be prepared to satisfy readers’ thirst for more information about, for instance, protecting Russia’s international seed vaults during WWII, finding Glass Gem corn, and fighting biopiracy. A terrific, engrossing resource” (Booklist starred review).

Radioactive!: How Irène Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World by Winifred Conkling — Shares the story of how the daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie discovered artificial radioactivity and won a Nobel Prize in spite of being denied an advanced education, inspiring physicist Lise Meitner to make a vital discovery about nuclear fission. “Black-and-white period photos, scientific asides and diagrams, and a time line enhance the well-cited text. A thorough and engaging study of two female scientists worth their weight in radium” (Booklist starred review).

Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines by Paul Fleischman — A summary of today’s environmental challenges also counsels teens on how to decode conflicting information, explaining the role of vested interests while identifying the sources behind different opinions, helping teens make informed choices. “The presentation of facts and the author’s positive message are what shine here. An excellent and thought-provoking take on a well-worn subject” (School Library Journal).

Chocolate: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets of the World’s Favorite Treat by Kay Frydenborg — A fascinating account for teen readers that captures the history, science, and economic and cultural implications of the harvesting of cacao and creation of chocolate. Readers of Chew On This and The Omnivore’s Dilemma will savor this rich exposé. “Covering controversy over labor laws, the chemical makeup of chocolate, and recent attempts to map the cacao genome, Frydenborg offers a wealth of information that will likely encourage students to think critically about the ecological and human cost of their favorite candies and maybe even prompt them to choose sustainable alternatives” (Booklist).

Steve Jobs: Insanely Great, A Graphic Biography by Jessie Hartland — Told through a combination of black-and-white illustrations and handwritten text, this fast-paced and entertaining biography in graphic format presents the story of the ultimate American entrepreneur, the man who brought us Apple Computer, Pixar, Macs, iPods, iPhones, and more. “Luddites and iFans alike should find this volume an illuminating introduction to Jobs’s life and the recent history of consumer electronics” (School Library Journal).

Bubonic Panic: When Plague Invaded America by Gail Jarrow — Traces the efforts of doctors to halt the spread of the plague during the 1900 outbreak in San Francisco, discussing how political leaders tried to keep the epidemic from being publicized and the scientists working to unlock the secrets of the disease. “The intertwined themes of prejudice against Asian Americans, public health officials hampered by politicians, and mistrust of scientific research (which indicated that fleas carried plague from rodents to humans) make the story complex, revealing a good deal about human nature as well as the period and the disease itself” (Booklist).

Magnificent Minds: 16 Pioneering Women in Science and Medicine by Pendred E. Noyce —  Introduces readers to the lives, sayings, and dreams of sixteen women over four centuries and chronicles their contributions to mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, computer science, and medicine. “A wonderful collection of stories…[Noyce provides] explanation and context of both a scientific and a geopolitical nature” (Shirley Malcolm, head of Education and Human Resources, American Association for the Advancement of Science).

Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse by Catherine Reef — This riveting biography explores the exceptional life of a woman who defied the stifling conventions of Victorian society to pursue what was considered an undesirable vocation. “Budding scientists will enjoy seeing the changing theories about contagion, such as the later-debunked miasma theory, of which Florence was a staunch believer. A captivating and inspiring study of one woman’s perseverance and the good that came from it” (Booklist starred review).

Best Adult Books For Teens

In addition to the Best Books for Young Adults lists we follow here on the CA Library blog, we also track lists of adult books that have teen appeal, notably from School Library Journal and Booklist. Here are some of the best adult books recommended for teens from 2017 (all are in the CA Library collection):


The Power by Naomi Alderman — A rich Nigerian boy; a foster kid whose religious parents hide their true nature; an ambitious American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. When a vital new force takes root and flourishes, their lives converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls and women now have immense physical power– they can cause agonizing pain and even death. “[A] novel that is both wildly entertaining and utterly absorbing…makes for an instant classic, bound to elicit discussion and admiration in equal measure” (Booklist starred review).

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden — Winter lasts most of the year at the edge of the Russian wilderness, and in the long nights, Vasilisa and her siblings love to gather by the fire to listen to their nurse’s fairy tales. When Vasya’s widowed father brings home a new wife from Moscow, the new stepmother forbids her family from honoring their household spirits, but Vasya fears what this may bring. “Arden’s lyrical writing will draw teens in and refuse to let them go. A spellbinding story that will linger with most readers far beyond the final page” (School Library Journal).

Setting Free The Kites by Alex George — For Robert Carter, life in his coastal Maine hometown is comfortably predictable. But in 1976, on his first day of eighth grade, he meets Nathan Tilly — confident, fearless, impetuous — who changes everything. Their budding friendship is forged in the crucible of two family tragedies as the boys struggle to come to terms with loss. “An eloquent meditation on loss and the necessary action of letting go” (Booklist).

Bookburners by Max Gladstone et al — Magic is real, and hungry. It’s trapped in ancient texts and artifacts, and only a few who discover it survive to fight back. When Detective Sal Brooks joins a Vatican-backed black-ops anti-magic squad, together they stand between humanity and the magical apocalypse. “This collection (and the series as a whole) is recommended for those looking for a breezy, entertaining, and exciting fantasy read” (Booklist).

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig — Ginny, and autistic teen, has finally found her ‘forever home’– a safe place with parents who will love and nurture her. But Ginny has other plans. She’ll steal and lie and exploit the good intentions of those who love her — anything it takes to get back what’s missing in her life. “Ludwig’s triumphant achievement is borne from his own experience as the adoptive parent of a teen with autism, and his gorgeous, wrenching portrayal of Ginny’s ability to communicate what she needs is perfection” (Library Journal).

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng — In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned — and no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren — an enigmatic artist and single mother — who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. “Ng explores the complexities of adoption, surrogacy, abortion, privacy, and class, questioning all the while who earns, who claims, and who loses the right to be called a mother” (Publishers Weekly).

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak — Until May 1987, fourteen-year-old Billy Marvin of Wetbridge, New Jersey, is a nerd, but a decidedly happy nerd. Then Playboy magazine publishes photos of Wheel of Fortune hostess Vanna White, Billy meets expert programmer Mary Zelinsky, and everything changes. This is a love letter to the 1980s, to the dawn of the computer age, and to adolescence — a time when anything feels possible. “Strongly recommended for fans of nerd culture and 1980s throwbacks such as Stranger Things, though Billy’s wry narration and the novel’s crazy shenanigans may draw in a broader audience of readers looking for irreverent humor” (School Library Journal).

The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen — In Yolen’s first story collection in more than ten years, readers will discover new and uncollected tales of beloved characters, literary legends, and much more. “These highly entertaining retellings are perfect for teen fans of fairy tales and classic literature, though they are easily enjoyed without any background knowledge” (School Library Journal).


Girl Up: Kick Ass, Claim Your Woman Card, and Crush Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates — This empowering survival guide provides no-nonsense advice on sex, social media, mental health, and sexism that young women face in their everyday life — from one of the emerging leaders in the feminist movement. “Girl Up is an intimate, laugh-out-loud funny, and adorably illustrated call to arms for the next generation of warrior women” (Booklist starred review).

Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey by Ila Jane Borders and Jean Hastings Ardell — The autobiography of Ila Jane Borders, who despite formidable obstacles became a Little League prodigy, MVP of her otherwise all-male middle school and high school teams, the first woman awarded a baseball scholarship, and the first to pitch and win a complete men’s collegiate game, and the first woman in the modern era to win a professional ball game. “Thoroughly readable and engaging, this inspiring autobiography deserves a spot on all sports shelves and, with Title IX in the news lately, serves as a timely memoir about gender equity in sports” (School Library Journal).

We Have No Idea: A Guide To The Unknown Universe by Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson — PHD Comics creator Jorge Cham and particle physicist Daniel Whiteson have teamed up to explore everything we don’t know about the universe: the enormous holes in our knowledge of the cosmos. Armed with their popular infographics, cartoons, and unusually entertaining and lucid explanations of science, they give us the best answers currently available for a lot of questions that are still perplexing scientists. “[The] irreverent sensibility, clearheaded writing, and optimistic outlook make this a great read for reluctant science readers and even for young adults interested in the big ideas on the scientific horizon” (Booklist).

Rest In Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin — This portrait of Trayvon Martin shares previously untold insights into the movement he inspired from the perspectives of his parents, who also describe their efforts to bring meaning to his short life through the movement’s pursuit of redemption and justice. “A well-told and gripping portrayal of the killing of a son and the subsequent legal process, with all its twists and turns” (School Library Journal).

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman — Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, son of a giant, blood brother to Odin, and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. “A spectacularly entertaining and elucidating collection of stories with wide crossover appeal” (Library Journal).

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith — From a top scientist and the creator of the hugely popular web comic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, a hilariously illustrated investigation into future technologies — from how to fling a ship into deep space on the cheap to 3D organ printing. “With infectious enthusiasm, the Weinersmiths serve up the perfect combination for curious, critical minds. Popular-science writing has rarely been so whip-smart, captivating, or hilarious” (Booklist starred review).

Best YA Books of 2017

With much fanfare, here it is — CA Library’s Best YA Books of 2017! With so many great books out there, it can be a daunting task to pick out the best of the best. After spending a few weeks compiling titles from various sources, I came up with the books that appear on the most lists.

This year, I again tried to include as many reputable best books lists as I could find. I go to my usual sources of book reviews (School Library Journal, Booklist, etc.), then check out a few other media outlets that have year-end reviews as well. Here are my Top 24 Best Books list sources of 2017…

Each list is a little different — some include just fiction or nonfiction, some include both, and some include books for all ages, from which I pick the ones written for teens and young adults (again, it’s a daunting task!)

This year, from the 24 lists I drew from, one title showed up on an amazing 22 of them: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. One book was on 15 best-of lists: Turtles All The Way Down by John Green. One book appeared on 13 lists: The Gentleman’s Guide to Virtue and Vice by Mackenzi Lee. Three titles were on 11 lists: American Street by Ibi Zoboi, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds and The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman. Far From the Tree by Robin Benway, Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor and Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi each appeared on 9 best-of lists. Two titles made it onto 8 best-of YA lists, three books were on 7, and one was on 6. Those 15 books make up the CA Library Best YA Books of 2017 Superlist!

The Best of the Best…

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas — Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. “An inarguably important book that demands the widest possible readership” (Booklist starred review).

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green — Aza Holmes is a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. “In an age where troubling events happen almost weekly, this deeply empathetic novel about learning to live with demons and love one’s imperfect self is timely and important” (Publishers Weekly starred review).

The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee — In this 18th-century romantic adventure for the modern age, a young bisexual British lord embarks on an unforgettable Grand Tour of Europe with his best friend/secret crush. “A witty, romantic, and exceedingly smart look at discovering one’s place in the world” (School Library Journal starred review).

American Street by Ibi Zoboi — When Fabiola’s mother is detained upon their arrival to the United States, Fabiola must navigate her loud American cousins, the grittiness of Detroit’s west side, a new school, and a surprising romance all on her own. “Filling her pages with magic, humanity, tragedy, and hope, Zoboi builds up, takes apart, and then rebuilds an unforgettable story” (Kirkus starred review).

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds — As Will, fifteen, sets out to avenge his brother Shawn’s fatal shooting, seven ghosts who knew Shawn board the elevator and reveal truths Will needs to know. “In this all-too-real portrait of survival, Reynolds goes toe-to-toe with where, or even if, love and choice are allowed to exist” (Booklist starred review).

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman — Pullman returns to the parallel world of his groundbreaking novel The Golden Compass. When Malcolm finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust, he finds himself embroiled in a tale of intrigue featuring enforcement agents from the Magisterium, a woman with an evil monkey daemon, and a baby named Lyra. “Luminous prose, heady philosophical questions, and a lovable protagonist combine with a gripping plot sure to enchant fans and newcomers alike” (School Library Journal starred review).

…and the Rest of the Best!

Far From The Tree by Robin Benway

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Landscape With Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Warcross by Marie Lu

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli