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23 Books Every American Teenager Should Read

Each 16-year-old in Sweden is being given a copy of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists. We reached out to writers and educators to find the books that they think every American teenager should read.

#1 Maharishi & Me by Susan Shumsky

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American teens today are fascinated by the counter-culture revolution of the 1960s. This book is relevant today, as teens are mesmerized by this time and the rock stars and hippies who participated in the spiritual revolution that changed the world. I was a part of it, and you can experience it yourself by reading this book.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Susan Shumsky from Skyhorse Publishing 

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#2 Searching for God in the Garbage by Bracha Goetz

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Amazon review from a teen: "The book is not just fantastic for people struggling with addiction, but also for anyone who wants to grow as a person. It was a powerful journey, and I was shocked at how much I had gained when I finished reading. I highly recommend reading this book, it is a true masterpiece, and it will change your life for the better, one page at a time. I am really glad I read it."

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Bracha Goetz from Bracha's Books

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  1. Exactly! Questions begin early and this book touches on all the subjects teens find hard to ask their parents. Bracha is a gift from God.

#3 The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach

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The title is a bit of a misnomer. It is not a Get Rich Quick book. Rather, it lays out the critical steps necessary for building long-term wealth. I received the book as a high school graduation present and it changed my life. There's a particular chart in the book that demonstrates the power of saving money early. The younger you start, the less you have to save to become a millionaire. It's incredibly simple. but so few young people understand what just a couple of bucks a day can mean for their future.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Jennifer Jolls from The Connor Group

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#4 Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

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Because it showed me how little things matter. I realized that I should focus on being present in my life and not focusing on things like social media attention or material things.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Alexa from HealthLabs

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#5 The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

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This novel is about culture clashing (societal and generational) and basically what immigrants go through in the U.S. at times. It taught me to have more patience with not only other cultures but even with my really traditional Mexican parents. It gave me perspective.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Alexa from HealthLabs

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#6 The New Collar Workforce by Sarah Boisvert

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The world of work is going through a digital transformation and jobs right out of science fiction are readily available to anyone with New Collar job skills. The New Collar Workforce explores the engaging jobs available today in robotics, 3D Printing, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and more! Many of these jobs do not require a 4-year, or even a 2-year degree and are well-paying careers. New Collar Jobs have created innovative training programs such as digital badges that are affordable, short, skill-specific certifications. The New Collar Workforce clearly shows a path for young people’s career choices.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Sarah Boisvert from Fab Lab Hub, LLC

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  1. As a high school teacher who has read the book, I can say it opens our minds to the possibilities for careers that don’t require a degree! Engaging and easy to read, despite a strong emphasis on explaining technology. Must read for young people!

#7 The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey

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The first thing the book discusses is the paradigm shift that leads you to stop seeing yourself as a victim. The book also gives you help in developing these habits.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Maryna Shkvorets from Maryna Shkvorets Consulting

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#8 Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

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A collection of essays, poems and images dealing with racism in today's America. Having won many awards for this work, Claudia Rankine has compiled a snapshot of the world we live in, demanding the question: how can we call ourselves post racist? This book serves as a starting block for the next generation. You cannot fix a problem you don't acknowledge. Through Citizen, teens are able to approach heavy racial issues, and hopefully make informed choices on their position in the future of American society.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Caleb Backe from Maple Holistics

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#9 I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

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The title says it all. If this story weren't true it would make an incredible parable. A child in a foreign regime, standing up for rights that her country doesn't award her. The story of Malala not only highlights the importance of education and freedom of speech, but it also serves as a point of reference. It is easy for us to get caught up in homegrown issues, and vilifying the idea of 'the other'. Malala serves as a hero from the other side of the world, unfettered by age or position, fighting only against injustice.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Caleb Backe from Maple Holistics

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#10 Every Day by David Levithan

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From the author of Nick and Nora's Infinite playlist, the witty and wise David Levithan brings the story of a soul that wakes up every day in a different body. This soul only wakes up in the body of 16 year olds, living their life for a day before moving on. Everything is different, except for it's love for a girl. The book explores the transcendental nature of love, beyond gender and circumstance. The book allows young readers to step back from the idea of a romance novel and instead be immersed in the concept of love itself.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Caleb Backe from Maple Holistics

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#11 We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie expands on her renowned ted talk of the same name. Through personal experience and brilliantly articulated observation, We Should All Be Feminists paints a picture of women today and acts as a call to action for a society where everyone identifies as feminist. This book inspires a generation and will continue to inspire generations to come. It shapes our view of what it is to be a woman, and how we are each responsible for each other. This book motivates its reader to see each other as part of a movement that can one day simply be called society.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Caleb Backe from Maple Holistics

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#12 The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

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An absolutely overwhelming amalgamation of identity, home, race, poverty, tradition, and hope packaged with a cultural freshness. It answers so many unasked questions.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Ishwar Mukherjee from 33Birds

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#13 Wonder by R.J. Palacio

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A bold and brilliant book. Explores the boundaries of sympathy, acceptance, and “being different.” When you see someone sitting alone at lunch in the middle school cafeteria, think of Wonder.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Ishwar Mukherjee from 33Birds

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#14 A Separate Peace by John Knowles

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A coming of age novel that defines the ups and downs in friendship. Explores “true” forgiveness and guilt unlike any other.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Ishwar Mukherjee from 33Birds

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#15 Choose Happy by Jill Liberman

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The teenage years are full of challenges. Teens worry about fitting in, social pressures, their school grades and so many things. Choose Happy helps them learn how to live a happy life every day. When you’re happy, you can do anything. Happiness impacts your sleep, your health, and the choices you make. It is the most important thing a person can do for him/herself. The book is a reminder that happiness is a choice. Most teenagers don’t like to read. Choose Happy is an easy read. It is whimsical but powerful. It is as a go-to-guide that they will read again and again and refer back to often. Happiness is so empowering- it encompasses knowing who you are and being true to that person.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Jill Liberman from Choose Happy 

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#16 Manners That Matter Most by June Eding

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Etiquette is one of the most valuable assets a person can Possess: knowing how best to present yourself, and how to deal with others in a direct, effective manner, is paramount in all personal, professional, and social relationships. Manners That Matter Most, is a part of the Little book, Big Ideas series, which was created to provide everyday people with useful wisdom to improve their lives, seeking to resurrect the custom of good manners and graceful style; all while updating and applying them to the modern age.

Covering topics from introductions, greetings and thank-you's, to the etiquette of modern technology (including the appropriate places and times to call and text message), Manners That Matter Most is a valuable resource and much-needed guide for our fast-paced world. Suitable for readers in every social situation, Manners That Matter Most contains both the information and the support you need to gain and give more consideration in your social encounters.

With an emphasis on graciousness and chivalry that lends the book its authoritative tone, Manners That Matter Most is the essential companion for anyone looking to put their best foot forward. The book also includes inspirational quotes on the importance of courtesy, respect and dignity; 25 essential lessons everyone should learn to cultivate better manners; and tips for more effective interaction with family, friends and co-workers. Taking an old subject and presenting it in a fresh and accessible way, Manners That Matter Most reminds us why good practice in etiquette not only makes the practitioner look good but enhances society as a whole.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Norah Lawlor from Lawlor Media Group

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#17 Laugh, Love, Lick Chocolate Frosting by Zakiyya Rosebelle

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Zakiyya Rosebelle’s Laugh, Love, Lick Chocolate Frosting is a book that will warm your heart and soothe your soul any time you read it. Within the pages of the book, you will uncover kind words, beautiful thoughts, and sweet voyages that will show you how to face life’s challenges with optimism and strength through simple, delightful tips and practices.

The book echoes the voice of a true friend, always reminding you that you are a beautiful part of this world. Laugh, Love, Lick Chocolate Frosting is a modern-day fairytale with self-love, adventure, and you as the main character. It is about learning to love yourself, following your dreams, and beautifying your life so you can discover true happiness from within.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Zakiyya Rosebelle from Happy Rosy Day & Sweet Little Luxuries 

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#18 Wild World by Peter S. Rush

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Older students have an interest now in political change and are sometimes even eager for conversations with older people who were activists in their day. I'm recommending Wild World, by Peter S. Rush, because it's fiction; it's a mystery story and a love story set in the days of student protests following the shootings at Kent State.  Because it's fiction, there is nothing heavy here but it's a very good narrative, which may be useful in spurring family discussions and reactions to police brutality, gun violence, racism,  women's rights and the consequences of even peaceful protests.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Mia Kravitz from West Side Community Garden (New York) 

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#19 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

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Nobel Prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s description of one day in the Soviet Gulag. Much lighter reading than it may sound. Most high school age kids will find this Solzhenitsyn classic both readable and thought-provoking.

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Contributors: Dan Nygaard from Star Readers

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#20 The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis

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For 50 years C.S. Lewis’ books have transcended the fantasy genre, becoming part of the canon of classic literature. Each of the seven books is a masterpiece, drawing the reader into a land where magic meets reality, and the result is a fictional world whose scope and message has mesmerized generations.

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Contributors: Dan Nygaard from Star Readers

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#21 Of Blood and Hope by Samuel Pisar

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Wisdom from Samuel Pisar, who as a teenager survived years in a Nazi concentration camp then went on to serve in the Kennedy Administration.

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Contributors: Dan Nygaard from Star Readers

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#22 Days of Grace by Arthur Ashe

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Tennis champion Arthur Ashe tells his own story of success and suffering as a victim of HIV-Aids.

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Contributors: Dan Nygaard from Star Readers

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#23 Secret Scouts by Mr & Mrs kind

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It’s a new fact-fiction Middle Grade/YA novel with the most amazing trailer ever. FYI; it’s about educational storytelling; The Goonies meets the Da Vinci Code, meets time travel!

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Contributors: Dennis Kind from House of Sprouts

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