The Truth is Out There: Non-Fiction

The Truth is Out There: Teen Non-Fiction

Science & History

The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science, by Sean Connolly
What causes an avalanche? Find out when you make one. What's happening during a lunar eclipse? Recreate it in your living room and see. How is rocket fuel different from regular fuel? Find out when you build your rocket out of a soda bottle. How long will it take a pizza to be delivered? It doesn't matter once you've built a solar pizza cooker. You?ll find these experiments and explanations--and many others--in The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science.

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science, by John Fleischman
Phineas Gage was a railroad construction worker in 1848 when his career was tragically cut short by the blasting accident that sent a 13-pound iron rod through his head. He survived the accident and lived eleven more years, but his friends and family all said that Phineas wasn't the same after it. His one moment of inattention changed who he was, and also changed everything we knew and understood about brain science.

Lincoln's Flying Spies: Thaddeus Lowe and the Civil War Balloon Corps, by Gail Jarrow
The United States had an air force long before we had airplanes. Thaddeus Lowe's corps took to the air to monitor troop movement, count rebel soldiers, and gather information on the confederates to report back to the Union army--all from their hot-air balloons. Photographs and primary sources enrich this little-known chapter of Civil War history.

The Good, The Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll's History and her Impact on Us, by Tanya Lee Stone
In 1950, there were baby dolls and fashion dolls, but no dolls that could be used to tell stories. Then came Ruth Handler's idea of a doll with the shape of a teenager: Barbie was born. Love her or hate her, Barbie has been a canvas for girls'--and boys'--imaginations for more than half a century, serving as fashion model, career woman, crash dummy, and sometimes an all-around bad example. That's a lot of drama packed into an eleven-inch doll.


CandyFreak, by Steve Almond
Steve Almond loves candy. Not just loves it in the way of "oh, hey, a Snickers, I'll eat that," but reveres it, worships it, every aspect of candy.  Whether he's eating candy bars fresh off the production line or detailing the history of the Bit O'Honey bar, Almond's sweet tooth is not only obvious, but infectious. Just TRY reading his love letter to candy without reaching for a Milky Way.

Chew on This: Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food, by Eric Schlosser
How did the burger chains get started, and grow so big so fast? Where does all that food come from? What happens to your insides if you eat it every day? Are you sure you want to know? From the rise of McDonald's to the obesity epidemic, from your first after-school job to the making of a chicken nugget, you'll never look at a Happy Meal the same way again.

Honey Bees: Letters from the Hive, by Stephen Buckmann
Far more than "bee vomit," honey secured its place in human history very early on. From prehistoric cave paintings depicting honey-gathering straight through modern beekeeping, Honey Bees shows you life inside a hive, the origins of beekeeping, and the wide variety of health benefits of honey, from its healthy sweetness in cooking to its antiseptic properties.


I Can't Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs By Teens Famous and Obscure
A never-ending series of marvelous misadventures.
We are banned from Wal-Mart forever.
Super powers would make everything easier.
Honestly, I hate all my friends.
What you leave out of a story can be just as fascinating as what you put in.  What would your memoir say, if you only had six words to tell it?

Do Not Open: An Encyclopedia of the World's Best-Kept Secrets, by John Farndon
Blackbeard's treasure was buried near Keating Summit, Pennsylvania, and may still be there. The average toilet contains less bacteria than the average kitchen sink--but you send up a cloud of 10 billion bacteria and viruses every time you flush.  In Louisiana, you can be fined $500 for having a pizza (or anything else) delivered to someone without their permission.

Mischief Maker's Manual, by Sir John Hargrave
Pranks, practical jokes, stunts, and hoaxes: it's all covered, along with tips on when to prank, staying out of trouble, and most importantly, how to recover when a prank goes wrong. With recipes for fake vomit, sneezing powder, and more, no prankster can afford to be without this manual.

The Big Book of Gross Stuff, by Bart King
The grossest thing in your kitchen is probably the sponge.  Throughout history, the bathroom has been called a water closet, necessary house, and House of Easement. Your eyes are actually made out of a kind of jelly.  And there's plenty more where these facts came from.

Zombie Haiku, by Ryan Mecum
Little old ladies
Speed away in their wheelchairs,
Frightened meals on wheels.
Everything I thought
Tasted a lot like chicken
Really tastes like man.

Mountain Man Dance Moves: the McSweeney's Book of Lists
• Grandparent Smith apples
• Humanderin oranges
• Chef Childardee Ravioli
• Older Relative Jemima Syrup
This is just one of the many helpful lists you'll find inside.

...& Ends

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous, by Georgia Bragg
King Tut likely died of malaria; Edgar Allan Poe is suspected to have had rabies.  Beethoven and Galileo both met their ends due to lead poisoning. Fifteen other historical figures--world leaders, writers, scientists, and more--were felled by things as mundane as pneumonia and as unpredictable as angry mobs, and this book identifies which gruesome end each person came to.

Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius, by Colin Dickey
What makes a person a genius is usually what's in their heads. From the late-18th to the mid-19th century, some people were so interested in seeing what was in geniuses' heads that even death couldn't stop them: Beethoven, Mozart, Descartes, and many others had their skulls stolen right out of their graves. With so much to be learned from geniuses, it's no wonder their skulls were in such demand.

Is the End of the World Near?: From Crackpot Predictions to Scientific Scenarios, by Ron Miller
Most major religions have predictions about the end of the world; the Mayans may have provided a date. But many of the proposed end-of-the-world scenarios are unrealistic, or are at least are millions of years off.  Ron Miller separates the honest threats from pseudoscientific theory, and somehow both assuages our fears and gives us brand-new ones we'd never considered.

Official Underground 2012 Doomsday Survival Handbook, by W.H. Mumfrey
What do you do when an asteroid hits the earth? Die, most likely--unless you've followed Mumfrey's instructions and have a nearby cave all ready for move-in. How do you survive an alien invasion? You don't--unless you've followed Mumfrey's instructions and ran to an unpopulated area the instant you saw the ships overhead. When the internet is a memory and food is an occasional luxury, you'll be glad you read this book.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, by Mary Roach
A surprisingly not-gory look at what happens--or can happen, should you sign the necessary paperwork ahead of time--after death, including the religious and cultural histories of burial and the practical applications of cadavers. Anatomy classrooms, safety research, forensic testing, organ donation, even cannibalism--there are myriad ways to use a cadaver, and Mary Roach covers all of them. Entertaining, informative, engaging, and a strange combination of irreverent and respectful.

People & Places

Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing, by Ann Angel
In her 1950s high school, Janis tried to fit in by joining the Future Teachers of America and the Glee Club, but her opinions--her defense of school integration, her tastes in blues and folk music and beat poetry--still made her stand out. Music became her escape, and by 1967 she was stunning audiences, who had never heard anything like her before. Janis Joplin did not live her life quietly, but grabbed it with both hands.

Emperors of the Ice: A true story of disaster and survival in the Antarctic, 1910-13, by Richard Farr
Titus Oates was part of an ill-fated Antarctic expedition, in a group of five men who reached the South Pole and never returned.  Apsley Cherry-Garrard was part of a team sent to replenish their supplies. Many, many things went wrong, including an incompetent navigator, frostbite, injury, and the loss of a tent.  This is Cherry's story of Antarctic survival, against long odds and the worst weather.

The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West, by Sid Fleischman
"Mark Twain was born fully grown, with a cheap cigar clamped between his teeth." His life was wild even before that moment: he worked as a riverboat pilot and a prospector, a journalist and a typesetter. More than anything, he was a man with a story, though one about which his own mother remarked "I discount him ninety percent for embroidery, and what is left is perfect and priceless truth."

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith, by Deborah Heiligman
Charles Darwin believed in evolution, and pioneered the entire theory that science, not God, was behind how the natural world came to be. Charles Darwin also had a great love for his wife, Emma, even though she believed in God over science. Charles and Emma made their marriage work, and this is their personal story of how.

Ghosts of War: The True Story of a 19-Year-Old GI, by Ryan Smithson
Ryan was starting his junior year when planes hit the World Trade Center on September 11th. A year later, uncertain about college and wanting to serve his country, he enlisted in the Army Reserves, planning on putting in his one weekend a month and two weeks a year. But then the country officially went to war, and Ryan's unit was deployed to Iraq. What follows is the details--good, bad, ugly, unforgettable details--of one young soldier's tour of duty.

Arts & Crafts

The Pocket Paper Engineer: How to Make Pop-Ups Step-by-Step, by Carol Barton
This two-volume set will walk you through the basics of creating your own pop-up books, from the very first folds through advanced cutting and shaping techniques. Clear illustrations and writing make it easy to look like a pro.

Uber Origami, by Duy Nguyen
Folding the occasional crane is old news. Nguyen provides clear illustrations for base folds and flowers straight through stegosaurs and Elvis. Impress your friends with folded war machines or turn a dollar bill into a Klingon bird of prey: all the instructions you need are right here.

Ductigami: The Art of the Tape, by Joe Wilson
Do you need a new wallet? An apron? A hat? Good news: they're all easy to make, and they'll be pretty sturdy as long as you make them with duct tape. Joe Wilson gives step-by-step instructions for 18 useful things you can make out of a roll (or more) of tape.