Best Winter Reads: Book Recommendations from the Facing History Library

Posted by Tracy O'Brien on December 22, 2014

Whatever the reason and wherever the location, winter is a great time to curl up with a good book. Hit the library, stop by the independent bookstore on the corner, toss a few items in your AmazonSmile shopping cart (when you do, a portion of your purchase can go directly to Facing History), or start downloading to your e-reader—these titles, hand-picked by the Director of Facing History and Ourselves’ library Tracy O’Brien, are guaranteed to transport, challenge, and inspire readers of all ages.


American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

This graphic novel, appropriate for teens or adults, presents three poignant and sometimes humorous interrelated stories of young, first generation Chinese Americans as they explore their identities in relation to mainstream American culture. A 2006 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature, American Born Chinese was a 2007 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year award-winner.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

This engaging novel tells the story of twin boys born in a small hospital on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The book follows the brothers across continents and generations, exploring issues of brokenness and repair in our medical and cultural worlds. Cutting for Stone is a powerful story of love, compassion, and redemption that asks difficult questions about our “universe of obligation.” Older high school students or adult readers will enjoy this book.

Son by Lois Lowry

The latest from celebrated author Lois Lowry, Son concludes the dystopian series that started with The Giver and continued with—Gathering Blue, and Messenger. This thrilling—and long-awaited—series finale is appropriate for grades 5 and up and follows one young woman’s fight against her community as she tries to find her son. Interested in teaching The Giver in your classroom? Download Facing History’s free study guide to the book today!

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

In this story about the perils of popularity, the courage of nonconformity, and the thrill of first love, an eccentric student named Stargirl changes Mica High School forever. A good read from a Newbury Medalist for grades 5 and up.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This Pulitzer Prize-winning classic from author Harper Lee explores racism in the fictional "tired old town" of Maycomb, Alabama, through the eyes of six-year-old Scout Finch. As her lawyer father, Atticus, defends a black man accused of rape, Scout and her friends learn about the unjust treatment of African-Americans—and their mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley. Appropriate for readers grades 8 and up, this is a great book to read for the first time or revisit again and again. Facing History's guide Teaching Mockingbird offers a fresh approach to using the book in the classroom.


Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality by Patricia S. Churchland

Pioneering neurophilosopher Patricia S. Churchland explores morality and empathy by taking a look at their roots in biology. This provocative read challenges arguments that religion, reasoning, or absolute rules are the basis for morality.

The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate by Janice Cohn

This beautifully-illustrated children’s book (great for readers in grades 1 and up) describes how the community of Billings, Montana, joined together to fight a series of hate crimes. Interested in free teaching resources and strategies for bringing this piece of recent history to your classroom? Check out Facing History’s teaching tips and download free readings and digital content today!

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough

In How Children Succeed, Tough makes a case not often heard: success in later life depends on childhood mastery of traits like grit, conscientiousness, curiosity, and optimism. Tough, who has served as an editor at both The New York Times and This American Life, spent two years interviewing students, teachers, and experts from the fields of neuroscience, economics, and character education. A great read for adults interested in school reform, character development, and issues of poverty in the world today.

Paths to Peace: People who Changed the World by Jane Breskin Zalben

This handsome volume highlights 16 individuals from around the world who have worked to improve conditions for others through their words and actions. Included are writers, philosophers, civil rights advocates, and politicians, many of whom are Nobel Peace Prize recipients. Appropriate for grades 4 and up.

Painted in Words, by Samuel Bak

In Painted in Words, internationally renowned artist and Holocaust survivor Samuel Bak sets aside his brushes to narrate the stories of his life – as a child in Nazi-occupied Poland, as a youth in European refugee camps, and as a maturing artist in Israel, France, Italy, Switzerland, and the United States. Also included in this beautifully-produced book are historical photographs and reproductions of Bak's evocative paintings. View Bak’s works and find free lesson plans for bringing the art of the Holocaust into your classroom today.

Explore other works of fiction and non-fiction in Facing History’s Literature Resource Collection.

Did you know that all members of the Facing History network get free access to these titles and more through our lending library? Browse today! Not a member of our networksign up here.

What are you reading this winter? Comment below!

Topics: To Kill a Mockingbird, Books, Facing History Resources, Memoir, Facing History and Ourselves, Survivor Testimony, Reading, Reading List

At Facing History and Ourselves, we value conversation—in classrooms, in our professional development for educators, and online. When you comment on Facing Today, you're engaging with our worldwide community of learners, so please take care that your contributions are constructive, civil, and advance the conversation.


Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

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