Interested in learning more about these issue areas? Or maybe you are looking for a new book to start? Check out our list of recommended novels by issue area!
All Things Bright and Beautiful, by James Herriot
Young James, now married and working as a small-town vet, encounters a cast of extraordinary characters as he makes his way through the Yorkshire countryside tending to sick cattle, pregnant ewes, ailing dogs-- and their eccentric owners.
The story is set in the Yukon during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush--a period when strong sled dogs were in high demand. The novel's central character is a dog named Buck, a domesticated dog living at a ranch in the Santa Clara valley of California as the story opens. Stolen from his home and sold into the brutal existence of an Alaskan sled dog, he reverts to atavistic traits. Buck is forced to adjust to, and survive, cruel treatments and fight to dominate other dogs in a harsh climate.
Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls
A loving threesome, they ranged the dark hills and river bottoms of Cherokee country. Old Dan had the brawn, Little Ann had the brains -- and Billy had the will to train them to be the finest hunting team in the valley. Glory and victory were coming to them, but sadness waited too. And close by was the strange and wonderful power that's only found. An exciting tale of love and adventure you'll never forget.
It happens every year before homecoming -- the list is posted all over school. Two girls are picked from each grade. One is named the prettiest, one the ugliest. The girls who aren't picked are quickly forgotten. The girls who are become the center of attention, and each reacts differently to the experience. With THE LIST, Siobhan Vivian deftly takes you into the lives of eight very different girls struggling with issues of identity, self-esteem, and the judgments of their peers. Prettiest or ugliest, once you're on the list, you'll never be the same.
Openly Straight, Bill Konigsberg
Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He's won skiing prizes. He likes to write. And, oh yeah, he's gay. He's been out since 8th grade, and he isn't teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that's important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time. So when he transfers to an all-boys' boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret -- not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate break down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben . . . who doesn't even know that love is possible.This witty, smart, coming-out-again story will appeal to gay and straight kids alike as they watch Rafe navigate feeling different, fitting in, and what it means to be himself.
It's 1964, and Sunny's town is being invaded. Or at least that's what the adults of Greenwood, Mississippi, are saying. All Sunny knows is that people from up north are coming to help people register to vote. They're calling it Freedom Summer.Meanwhile, Sunny can't help but feel like her house is being invaded, too. She has a new stepmother, a new brother, and a new sister crowding her life, giving her little room to breathe. And things get even trickier when Sunny and her brother are caught sneaking into the local swimming pool -- where they bump into a mystery boy whose life is going to become tangled up in theirs.
I am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she became a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist-books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.
Ashfall, by Mike Mullin
For Alex, being left alone for the weekend means having the freedom to play computer games and hang out with his friends without hassle from his mother. Then the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, plunging his hometown into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence. Alex begins a harrowing trek to seach for his family and finds help in Darla, a travel partner he meets along the way. Together they must find the strength and skills to survive and outlast an epic disaster.
Trapped, by Michael Northrop
Scotty and his friends Pete and Jason are among the last seven kids at their high school waiting to get picked up that day, and they soon realize that no one is coming for them. Still, it doesn't seem so bad to spend the night at school, especially when distractingly hot Krista and Julie are sleeping just down the hall. But then the power goes out, then the heat. The pipes freeze, and the roof shudders. As the days add up, the snow piles higher, and the empty halls grow colder and darker, the mounting pressure forces a devastating decision. . .
Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina, by Rodman Philbrick
Zane Dupree is a charismatic 12-year-old boy of mixed race visiting a relative in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hits. Unexpectedly separated from all family, Zane and his dog experience the terror of Katrina's wind, rain, and horrific flooding. Facing death, they are rescued from an attic air vent by a kind, elderly musician and a scrappy young girl--both African American. The chaos that ensues as storm water drowns the city, shelter and food vanish, and police contribute to a dangerous, frightening atmosphere, creates a page-turning tale that completely engrosses the reader. Based on the facts of the worst hurricane disaster in U.S. history, Philbrick includes the lawlessness and lack of government support during the disaster as well as the generosity and courage of those who risked their lives and safety to help others.
Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in fragile bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the thinnest. But then Cassie suffers the ultimate loss-her life-and Lia is left behind, haunted by her friend's memory and racked with guilt for not being able to help save her. In her most powerfully moving novel since Speak, award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia's struggle, her painful path to recovery, and her desperate attempts to hold on to the most important thing of all: hope.
Blink and Caution, by Tim Wynne-Jones
Boy, did Blink get off on the wrong floor. All he wanted was to steal some breakfast for his empty belly, but instead he stumbled upon a fake kidnapping and a cell phone dropped by an "abducted" CEO, giving Blink a link to his perfect blonde daughter. Now Blink is on the run, but it's OK as long as he's smart enough to stay in the game and keep Captain Panic locked in his hold. Enter a girl named Caution. As in "Caution: Toxic." As in "Caution: Watch Your Step." She's also on the run, from a skeezy drug-dealer boyfriend and from a nightmare in her past that won't let her go. When she spies Blink at the train station, Caution can see he's an easy mark. But there's something about this naive, skinny street punk, whom she only wanted to rob, that tugs at her heart, a heart she thought deserved not to feel.
No and Me, by Delphine de Vigan
Parisian teenager Lou has an IQ of 160, OCD tendencies, and a mother who has suffered from depression for years. But Lou is about to change her life--and that of her parents--all because of a school project about homeless teens. While doing research, Lou meets No, a teenage girl living on the streets. As their friendship grows, Lou bravely asks her parents if No can live with them, and is astonished when they agree. No's presence forces Lou's family to come to terms with a secret tragedy. But can this shaky, newfound family continue to live together when No's own past comes back to haunt her?
The Orange Houses, by Paul Griffin
Tamika Sykes, AKA Mik, is hearing impaired and way too smart for her West Bronx high school. She copes by reading lips and selling homework answers, and looks forward to the time each day when she can be alone in her room drawing. She's a tough girl who mostly keeps to herself and can shut anyone out with the click of her hearing aid. But then she meets Fatima, a teenage refugee who sells newspapers, and Jimmi, a homeless vet who is shunned by the rest of the community, and her life takes an unexpected turn.
A Dream so Big: Our Unlikely Journey to End the Tears of Hunger, by Steve Peifer
Steve and his wife, Nancy, were enjoying a successful management career with one of America's high tech corporate giants during the dot-com boom of the 1990's when, in 1997, he and his wife Nancy discovered they were pregnant with their third child. Tragically, doctors said a chromosomal condition left their baby "incompatible with life." The Peifers only spent 8 days with baby Stephen before he died.Seeking to flee the pain, Steve and Nancy began a pilgrimage that thrust them into a third-world setting where daily life was often defined by tragedy--drought, disease, poverty, hunger, and death. They didn't arrive in the service of any divine calling, but the truth of their surroundings spoke to their troubled hearts. A short-term, 12-month mission assignment as dorm parents for a Kenyan boarding school turned this ordinary man into the most unlikely internationally recognized hero, and his story will inspire you to pursue similar lives of service.
When Private Matt Duffy wakes up in an army hospital in Iraq, he's honored with a Purple Heart. But he doesn't feel like a hero. There's a memory that haunts him: an image of a young Iraqi boy as a bullet hits his chest. Matt can't shake the feeling that he was somehow involved in his death. But because of a head injury he sustained just moments after the boy was shot, Matt can't quite put all the pieces together. Eventually Matt is sent back into combat with his squad--Justin, Wolf, and Charlene--the soldiers who have become his family during his time in Iraq. He just wants to go back to being the soldier he once was. But he sees potential threats everywhere and lives in fear of not being able to pull the trigger when the time comes. In combat there is no black-and-white, and Matt soon discovers that the notion of who is guilty is very complicated indeed.
Something Like Normal, by Trish Doller
When Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother's stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he's haunted by nightmares of his best friend's death. It's not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he's had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis's dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero.
The Impossible Knife of Memory, by Laurie Halse Anderson
For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own. Will being back home help Andy's PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over?
Peace and Kindness
Congo is a dangerous place, even for people who are trying to do good. When Sophie has to visit her mother at her sanctuary for bonobos, she's not thrilled to be there. Then Otto, an infant bonobo, comes into her life, and for the first time she feels responsible for another creature. But peace does not last long for Sophie and Otto. When an armed revolution breaks out in the country, the sanctuary is attacked, and the two of them must escape unprepared into the jungle. Caught in the crosshairs of a lethal conflict, they must struggle to keep safe, to eat, and to live.
Sources of Light, by Margaret McMullan
It's 1962, a year after the death of Sam's father--he was a war hero--and Sam and her mother must move, along with their very liberal views, to Jackson, Mississippi, her father's conservative hometown. Needless to say, they don't quite fit in. People like the McLemores fear that Sam, her mother, and her mother's artist friend, Perry, are in the South to "agitate" and to shake up the dividing lines between black and white and blur it all to grey. As racial injustices ensue--sit-ins and run-ins with secret white supremacists--Sam learns to focus with her camera lens to bring forth the social injustice out of the darkness and into the light.
The Rock and the River, by Kekla Magoon
In 1968 Chicago, it's not easy for thirteen-year-old Sam to be the son of known civil rights activist Roland Childs. Especially when his older brother, Stick, starts keeping to himself. Then, one day, Sam finds something under Stick's bed that changes everything: literature about the Black Panthers. Suddenly, nothing feels certain anymore. And when Dr. King is shot and killed, Sam's father's words are no longer enough to make him believe in change....This moving, coming-of-age story gracefully encompasses the scope of the struggle between the civil rights and black power movements through an intimate and relatable lens.