Stocking your classroom or home library with nonfiction titles is a great way to keep tweens reading. High-quality nonfiction books for tweens can inform, entertain, or provide fresh perspectives to readers—often all at once! I frequently recommend nonfiction titles to both voracious and reluctant readers due to their blend of complex ideas and vocabulary with engaging visuals and creative presentations.
Nonfiction encompasses a wide spectrum of sub-genres. For this list of book recommendations, I considered the “5 Kinds of Nonfiction,” a classification system developed by Melissa Stewart, an award-winning nonfiction author. Her five categories are Traditional, Browseable, Active, Narrative, and Expository. While not every book fits neatly into one of these categories, I find the general concepts serve as a useful guide when I help young readers select nonfiction books they want to read.
Each of the 16 books in this list has been highly recommended by teachers or young readers on Bookopolis, a free ed-tech platform that is like “Goodreads for tweens.”
Traditional Nonfiction Books for Tweens
These are the books that you might give a student when they are doing a research project on a specific topic. They provide an engaging overview and basic facts and may spark their interest to dig even deeper through other books or research.
Volcanoes (Smithsonian Science series) by Seymour Simon
This picture book series by an award-winning science writer provides a fascinating look at how volcanoes are formed and the important role they play in our ecosystem. Each book in this series explores a fascinating aspect of the natural world. The shorter length of these books makes them accessible to younger readers, but they are still engaging and informative to older tweens.
Buy it: Volcanoes (Smithsonian Science series) on Amazon
Who Was?, What Was? & Where Was? by various authors
This classic series is beloved by kids of all ages for good reason. These chapter books provide interesting information about some of the most famous people, things, and places in the world. From Who Is Zendaya? and Who Is Dolly Parton? to What Is the World Series? and Where Is the Great Barrier Reef?, there is a subject matter that interests nearly every kid. They continue to add new books every year that are increasingly more diverse.
Buy it: Who Was?, What Was? & Where Was? on Amazon
History Smashers by Kate Messner and various illustrators
This series of highly illustrated books takes on well-known times and topics in U.S. history, from the Underground Railroad to the American Revolution to the Mayflower, and smashes popular myths and misconceptions. These engaging books bring history to life in a fresh way and can spark good debates between kids and adults.
Buy it: History Smashers on Amazon
Browseable Nonfiction Books for Tweens
These are books that kids can randomly pick up and turn to any page to learn something interesting, funny, or new. Having these around your home or classroom is a great way to make reading fun and approachable for all kids.
Wow in the World: Wow in the Wild by Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas
Based on the podcast Wow in the World, every page in this book contains wild information about various animals that makes you go “Wow!” Kids won’t even realize how much they are learning as they enjoy the jokes, quizzes, illustrations, and facts.
Buy it: Wow in the World: Wow in the Wild on Amazon
Guinness World Records by Guinness World Records
All types of young readers love these books that are chock-full of random records that run the gamut from gross to silly to awe-inspiring. Want to know who is the strongest, hairiest, or fastest on the planet? Or who ate the most hot dogs? Or how far away the Webb telescope can look? These books can tell you those answers and more!
Buy it: Guinness World Records on Amazon
Who Would Win? by Jerry Pallotta and Rob Bolster
For kids who have ever wondered who would win in a battle between a killer whale and a great white shark or a Tyrannosaurus rex and a velociraptor, this is the series for them. In addition to fostering funny conversations, young readers learn tons about each animal.
Buy it: Who Would Win? on Amazon
Active Nonfiction Books for Tweens
These books are great for tweens with specific interests (or potential interests) who like hands-on learning. This type of nonfiction lets them experiment with something new or practice a skill.
Coding Games in Scratch by Jon Woodcock
An excellent introduction to coding that encourages kids to practice problem-solving, creativity, and communication. The Minecraft-style graphics in this book are particularly appealing to young gamers.
Buy it: Coding Games in Scratch on Amazon
Chop Chop: The Kids’ Guide to Cooking Real Food With Your Family by Sally Sampson
For budding chefs and food lovers, this is an excellent resource with essential cooking tips, beautiful photographs, and over 100 recipes that are healthy and ethnically diverse. Kids rave about everything in here, from the burgers to the fajitas to breakfast items and the molasses cookies.
Buy it: Chop Chop: The Kids’ Guide to Cooking Real Food With Your Family on Amazon
The Everything Kids’ Science Experiments Book by Tom Robinson
Written by a high school science teacher, this book details dozens of experiments that kids can do with everyday household items to develop curiosity and expand their understanding of chemistry, physics, and how things work.
Buy it: The Everything Kids’ Science Experiments Book on Amazon
Narrative Nonfiction Books for Tweens
Books in this category use a narrative storytelling arc to provide an in-depth look at the lives and experiences of fascinating people, places, or events. It can include longer-form text or shorter picture books.
A Sporting Chance: How Ludwig Guttmann Created the Paralympic Games by Lori Alexander
The inspiring story of young doctor Ludwig Guttmann, who believed movement was the key to healing for paraplegics to live a full life. This insight led him to create the Paralympic Games. The combination of emotional stories of para-athletes and illustrations and photos makes it a very engaging read.
Buy it: A Sporting Chance: How Ludwig Guttmann Created the Paralympic Games on Amazon
Race to the Bottom of the Earth: Surviving Antarctica by Rebecca E.F. Barone
A fast-paced, nail-biting account of two perilous competitions—one in 1910 and the other in 2018—as four intrepid explorers race to reach the South Pole and Antarctica. Perfect for fans of gripping stories who are interested in science, survival skills, and unfamiliar lands.
Buy it: Race to the Bottom of the Earth: Surviving Antarctica on Amazon
All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat
Even if readers know the ending of the harrowing and miraculous rescue of the 13 boys stuck in a cave in Thailand for 18 days, this is an enthralling read. This Newbery Honor-winning book is masterfully told through pictures and text and captures the incredible courage and bravery of the boys, their coaches, and everyone involved in this memorable event.
Buy it: All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team on Amazon
Free Lunch by Rex Ogle
This award-winning autobiography provides a very personal view of poverty in America through the eyes of a sixth grader. Living in government-subsidized housing, the author is one of a few kids in the free lunch program in a wealthy school district. It’s an emotional journey with moments of heartbreak and hope that could serve as a “window” or a “mirror” book for tweens and teens.
Buy it: Free Lunch on Amazon
Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy
Who knew that the history of something so ordinary could be this engaging? This picture book biography about Walter Diemer, the inventor of Dubble Bubble, shares the early origins of gum and how he came to create the modern phenomenon of bubble gum. (Warning: Reading this will make you want to chew bubble gum!)
Buy it: Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum on Amazon
Expository Nonfiction Books for Tweens
In contrast to “traditional” nonfiction that provides an overview of a big topic, this group of books typically goes deeper into an explanation of a more specific topic or idea in a creative way.
Unstoppable Us: How Humans Took Over the World by Yuval Noah Harari
From the bestselling author of Sapiens, this book provides an overview of early human history and how we evolved to become the dominant species on Earth. It is a fascinating and thought-provoking read told through text, maps, timelines, and illustrations.
Buy it: Unstoppable Us: How Humans Took Over the World on Amazon
Rotten! Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Nature’s Other Decomposers by Anita Sanchez
This book breaks down (pun intended) the topic of decomposition. It uses facts, pictures, and a healthy dose of humor to teach kids how this natural process is happening everywhere all the time, from forests to oceans to our stomachs.
Buy it: Rotten! Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Nature’s Other Decomposers on Amazon