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YALSA RECOMMENDATIONS: Outstanding Books for the College Bound: History & Cultures

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The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian

Alexie, Sherman, 1966-


Born with water on the brain, Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, transfers to an all-white school off his reservation. He knows he won’t easily fit in, but with self-determination and a solid personal identity, he has the chance to succeed.


Lawrence in Arabia : war, deceit, imperial folly and the making of the modern Middle East

Anderson, Scott, 1959-

940.4124 ANDERSO

Lawrence was a player in a thrilling game of territorial machinations filled with deceit, spy craft, and dubious treaties. From World War I through the modern day, cultural clashes and fallout from these double-dealings are illuminated in this engaging history that uses the famous adventurer as its linchpin.


The boys in the boat : nine Americans and their epic quest for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Brown, Daniel, 1951-

797.123 BROWN

Building to the suspense of a race won by seconds, this tale follows the nine young men who traveled from Seattle to Berlin to compete in crew at the spectacular and infamous Nazi Olympics.


At home : a short history of private life

Bryson, Bill.

643.1 BRYSON

Bill Bryson turns his eye for intriguing connections to exploring the history of the structure of the house from ancient times to recent innovations.


The rape of Nanking : the forgotten holocaust of World War II

Chang, Iris.

951.042 CHANG

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


Factory girls : from village to city in a changing China

Chang, Leslie T.

331.4095 CHANG

A compelling and eye-opening look at young women in China who make up a growing migrant population in the country’s largest cities.


Nothing to envy : ordinary lives in North Korea

Demick, Barbara.

306.0951 DEMICK

Get a glimpse of what life is like in this oppressive and secretive nation through the lives of some ordinary people who managed to escape.


The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao

Di?az, Junot, 1968-


A self-proclaimed “ghetto nerd,” outcast and animé-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 only humor and talent as his weapons, he perseveres, knowing “you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.”


The worst hard time : the untold story of those who survived the great American dust bowl

Egan, Timothy.

978.032 EGAN

In this layered account of the great dust bowl, Egan shares incredible eyewitness accounts and explores the convergence of failed agricultural practices, ill-fated government policies, and the costs of “get rich quick” schemes.


A continent for the taking : the tragedy and hope of Africa

French, Howard W.

967.032 FRENCH

To put it mildly, colonialism has not been kind to Africa. From rubber and diamonds to oil and coltan, it is a continent of fabulous natural resources that continues to be the focus of greed and exploitation. Part journalistic voyage, part memoir, this is an exploration of colonialism’s ongoing legacy.


King Leopold's ghost : a story of greed, terror, and heroism in Colonial Africa

Hochschild, Adam.

967.5102 HOCHSCH

History echoes across time, and nowhere is this clearer than in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa. The brutality of Belgium’s colonial occupation of the Congo is a surprisingly unknown and ugly historical interlude and resulted in the first ever human rights campaign.


Claudette Colvin : twice toward justice

Hoose, Phillip M., 1947-


Months before the landmark 1955 Montgomery bus boycott began, one fifteen-year-old girl refused to give up her seat and became a key part of the legal battle to overturn segregation.


Town of evening calm ; Country of cherry blossoms

Kono, Fumiyo, 1968-


A poignant and delicate look at the lingering effects during the weeks, years, and decades after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.


Salt : a world history

Kurlansky, Mark.

333.8563 KURLANS

War. Empire. Revolution. Currency. Table salt? Explore the history of the world through this surprisingly complex condiment that has enabled exploration, caused wars, and driven empires.


March. Book one

Lewis, John, 1940 February 21-

328.7309 LEWIS

This remarkable graphic memoir charts John Lewis’s progress from a young man preaching to his chickens to joining the nonviolent Civil Rights movement to his seat in the United States Congress.


Malcolm X : a life of reinvention

Marable, Manning, 1950-2011.


A nuanced and thoughtful examination of a complex man who was both a powerful advocate for social change in America and a controversial public figure shrouded in competing myths.


The Black Count : glory, revolution, betrayal, and the real Count of Monte Cristo

Reiss, Tom.


Everyone knows The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, but few realize the inspiration for these action-packed tales was Dumas’s own real-life hero: his father, a mixed-race soldier who rose to become a general in Napoleon’s army.


The notorious Benedict Arnold : a true story of adventure, heroism, & treachery

Sheinkin, Steve.


This action-packed story reveals how a Revolutionary War hero became the most famous traitor in American history.


Well-behaved women seldom make history

Ulrich, Laurel.

305.4209 ULRICH

The historian to whom this oft-quoted maxim is attributed provides intriguing examples of women’s contributions to history.


Triangle : the fire that changed America

Von Drehle, Dave.

974.7104 VON DRE

In 1911 New York, a fire in a shirtwaist factory staffed mostly by women trapped and killed 123 working there. Von Drehle uses this disaster as the focal point for a history of the rise of unions in the U.S. during this era.


Turn me loose : the unghosting of Medgar Evers : poems

Walker, Frank X., 1961- author.

811.6 WALKER

The tragedy of Evers’s death is revealed through poems in the voice of his widow, brother, the wives of his killer, and the killer himself.


Code name Verity

Wein, Elizabeth.


The Nazis catch a female spy during World War II in occupied France. To save her life, she slowly reveals her mission and in the process discloses the story of the relationship between herself and her best friend, whose life and mission become entwined with hers in the strong bonds of friendship and trust.


Alif the unseen

Wilson, G. Willow, 1982-


In an unnamed Middle Eastern country, computer hacker Alif falls for the wrong girl and runs afoul of her fiancé, the vicious head of state security. The bigger problem is there is only one ally who can save him: a deadly world-weary jinni.


The watch that ends the night : voices from the Titanic

Wolf, Allan.


A retelling of the tragedy of the sinking of the Titanic, from many points of view, including all classes of people on the ship, telegraph messages, and even the iceberg itself.


A people's history of the United States, 1492-present

Zinn, Howard, 1922-2010.

973 ZINN

A comprehensive history of the United States, from the impact of Columbus’s and others’ arrival in the New World through modern times. This is the history that is usually not told, about America’s misuses of African Americans, Native Americans, and other traditionally disenfranchised groups.


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