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Special printable version of this list

The YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a November 1 – October 31 publishing year.

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AWARD WINNERS: Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults

The YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a November 1 – October 31 publishing year.


Popular : a memoir : vintage wisdom for a modern geek Teen Book Popular : a memoir : vintage wisdom for a modern geek

Wagenen, Maya van.
TEEN 155.533 WAGENEN

Maya Van Wagenen’s memoir, Popular, is one part 1950s popularity guidebook mixed with two parts courage and one truly modern geek girl. Van Wagenen takes on the social hierarchy of middle school and through the use of Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide manages to achieve acceptance and understanding. Her memoir is charming, funny, and shaped by the tools every ‘50s girl used to secure her standing in the social order—girdles, hats, makeup, diet, and a properly erect posture.

2015 Finalist



The Port Chicago 50 : disaster, mutiny, and the fight for civil rights Teen Book The Port Chicago 50 : disaster, mutiny, and the fight for civil rights

Sheinkin, Steve.
TEEN 940.5453 SHEINKI

As World War II escalated overseas, African American sailors at Port Chicago were under pressure to load bombs faster and faster onto waiting ships, until finally a horrific explosion killed hundreds. In the days that followed, 50 men refused to work under such unsafe conditions and were charged with mutiny. Sheinkin masterfully weaves interviews, court records, and other primary sources with his driving narrative to tell the complex and little-known history of the Port Chicago Disaster of 1944. Tightly written, this slim volume is rich in information about the history of a segregated military, the emerging civil rights movement, and the exceptional leaders and individuals of the time.

2015 Finalist



Laughing at my nightmare Teen Book Laughing at my nightmare

Burcaw, Shane, author.
TEEN BIO BURCAW BURCAW

In this focused, intelligent, and most of all hilarious memoir, Shane Burcaw recalls both the normal and deeply unique experiences he has endured living with spinal muscular atrophy. With a sharp wit, Burcaw is self-deprecating but never defeatist, even in the face of his terminal condition. His anecdotal essays are thought-provoking, and his whip-smart style puts him in a league with some of today’s best humorists. In his eminently readable and relatable memoir, Burcaw’s positive attitude is inspirational without being the least bit cloying.

2015 Finalist



The family Romanov : murder, rebellion & the fall of Imperial Russia Teen Book The family Romanov : murder, rebellion & the fall of Imperial Russia

Fleming, Candace, author.
TEEN 947.083 FLEMING

Fleming deftly illuminates the fascinating life of Czar Nicholas II; his wife, Alexandra; and their children, describing their ostentatiously privileged upbringing, the dramatic fall of the Russian Empire, and their tragic deaths in this moving and insightful biography of Russia’s Romanov family. She unflinchingly exposes the flawed but human side of the royal family while simultaneously interweaving details about the rich historical context, from Rasputin and Lenin to the narratives of the poor and working class, told in excerpts from the diaries and letters of Russia’s peasants, factory workers, and soldiers. With captivating photos, extensive primary sources, and recent research about the fate of the Romanov family, Fleming tells a gripping, comprehensive story of life in a pivotal period of Russian history.

2015 Finalist



Ida M. Tarbell : the woman who challenged big business--and won! Teen Book Ida M. Tarbell : the woman who challenged big business--and won!

McCully, Emily Arnold, author.
TEEN BIO TARBELL MCCULLY

Born before the Civil War and living in what was truly a man’s world, Ida Tarbell was one of the first practitioners of what we now call investigative journalism. Although she is not well known today, she made a name for herself in her own time by taking on the exploitative practices of John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company. In this fine biography that also serves as a social history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, McCully presents a readable and captivating account of this unusual woman, showing the reader her inconsistencies and faults as well as the grit, determination, and intellect that allowed Tarbell to support herself and her family with her writing.

2015 Finalist



The Nazi hunters : how a team of spies and survivors captured the world's most notorious Nazi book The Nazi hunters : how a team of spies and survivors captured the world's most notorious Nazi

Bascomb, Neal, author.
364.151 BASCOMB

At the end of World War II, Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi leader responsible for organizing the deportation and imprisonment of millions of Holocaust victims, went into hiding under an assumed identity. Eventually he fled to Argentina where he lived and worked under a false name for 10 years. Bascomb tells the story of Eichmann’s crimes, his years in hiding, and his eventual capture and trial with rich detail and riveting suspense. At the same time, Bascomb introduces readers to the courageous Israeli agents, Holocaust survivors, and their families who worked together to track down, capture, and bring Eichmann to justice.

2014 Winner



Go : a Kidd's guide to graphic design Juvenile Book Go : a Kidd's guide to graphic design

Kidd, Chip.
J 740 KIDD

This innovative book offers an introduction to the history and basic concepts of graphic design from one of the most successful designers working today. Using real world examples and rich visual aids, Kidd teaches readers how effective design can communicate ideas and messages, and he suggests ways to think critically about the design elements that infuse the media around us. Kidd invites readers to experiment with design themselves by ending the book with a series of 10 design challenges and offers a venue to share their work online.

2014 Finalist



Imprisoned : the betrayal of Japanese Americans during World War II Juvenile Book Imprisoned : the betrayal of Japanese Americans during World War II

Sandler, Martin W.
J 940.5317 SANDLER

After the Japanese military bombed Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, forcing the internment of over 100,000 Japanese-Americans. This detailed and compassionate chronicle of the internment years incorporates many first-hand accounts and photographs. Sandler skillfully provides context for the internment and also examines its lasting legacy by examining anti-Japanese sentiment in America before World War II and then the redress movement, which advocated for compensation and formal apologies for internees after the war.

2014 Finalist



Courage has no color : the true story of the Triple Nickles : America's first Black paratroopers Juvenile Book Courage has no color : the true story of the Triple Nickles : America's first Black paratroopers

Stone, Tanya Lee.
J 940.5412 STONE

“What is it like to jump out of an airplane? Imagine.” From these opening sentences, Stone chronicles the courage and persistence that were the hallmarks of the Triple Nickles, the African Americans who pushed through military barriers to become the first black paratroopers. Their individual efforts, the eventual recognition of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, and the broader issues of segregation during the war period are illustrated with a with a rich collection of interviews, letters, and photos. Stone’s afterword, the timeline, and the detailed source notes offer valuable insights into her research methods. Ashley Bryan’s foreword and artwork add personal insight and extend the power of this skillfully told story.

2014 Finalist



Teen Book

Swanson, James L., 1959-
TEEN 973.922 SWANSON

James Swanson takes readers back in time with a thoroughly researched and tightly written narrative of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Beginning with a succinct introduction to Kennedy’s early life and presidential administration, Swanson sets the scene for a detailed and engaging examination of the events before, during, and after November 22, 1963, when JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald crossed paths in Dallas with tragic results. The book brings events to life with extensive photographs, diagrams, and primary documents, and illuminates Swanson’s research and writing process with detailed source notes, an extensive bibliography, suggestions for further reading, and a comprehensive index.

2014 Finalist



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