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Memoirs for the Summer

Authored By: 
Ian Rusten, History Teacher

Summer reading does not have to be a compensatory list of books that students dread reading and save for the last possible second.  Summer can (and should be!) the perfect time to explore new genres or to revel in old favorite genres. Some of my favorite genres to read are memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies. I particularly love reading about people who have left a lasting impact on the world. Sometimes, like Darwin, these figures are well known, but I also love to read about lesser known people like Irena Sendler and Bryan Stevenson. I have compiled a list of a few memoirs, autobiographies, and biographies that I thought you might enjoy reading over the summer.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (there is a version that is adapted for young adults) by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Meale

This biography is the story of a boy who figured out how to bring electricity and running water to his drought ravaged village in Malawi. It is a riveting story of a boy who used innovative methods to make a huge difference in his community.

Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

At a time when science is at the forefront of the political discourse, this book explores the life and research of the brilliant scientist Charles Darwin. It explores the tension and debate around the intersection of science and religion and how it impacted his research and relationship with his religious wife.

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson

This nail-biting, in-depth account of the twelve-day manhunt for John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln’s infamous killer, will keep readers on the edge of their seat.

Educated  by Tara Westover

"Educated" is powerful memoir about the life of a young girl raised off the grid by survivalists in Idaho. Despite never having attended school, Tara Westover’s desire for knowledge led her on a quest to become educated.

Irena’s Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto by Tilar J. Mazzeo 

Irena Sendler took extraordinary risks to save the lives of 2,500 children living in the Warsaw Ghetto from the Nazis. This powerful biography tells the story of how the bravery of one young woman changed the lives of so many.

Just Mercy: A True Story of the Fight for Justice (There is a version that is adapted for young adults) by Bryan Stevenson

"Just Mercy" tells the story of Bryan Stevenson, an idealistic, young lawyer who defends marginalized people trapped in the criminal justice system.

March Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

This graphic novel trilogy tells the story of the civil rights movement through the eyes of one of its most powerful leaders, John Lewis.

Unbroken: An Olympian's Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive by Laura Hillenbrand (there is a version that is adapted for young adults)

Olympic hero turned airman Louis Zamperini was flying during WWII when his plane went down over the Pacific Ocean. This biography tells the story of his remarkable survival first on a raft and then in Japanese prison camps.