The Alex Awards are granted by the American Library Association to 10 books each year written for adults that also appeal to young adults ages 12 to 18.
These books can be found in the adult fiction and non-fiction sections of the library, in order by call number.
Almond, Steve. Candyfreak. 338.4 ALMON
Almond’s obsession with candy blends family memoir, reporting, and travelogue in a hilarious, unflinching examination of the world of sweets.
Bodanis, David. The Secret Family. 612 BODAN
By following the activities of a family—mom, dad, baby, young son, and teenage daughter—through a typical day, from breakfast to bedtime, Bodanis makes readers active partners in a mysterious and fascinating science adventure. If teens are shocked to discover that there’s embalming fluid on postage stamps, just wait till they find out what’s floating around the local mall.
Bradley, James. Flags of Our Fathers. 923.5 BRADL
James Bradley’s father was one of the six men who raised the famous flag on Iwo Jima during World War II. Bradley investigated to learn more about the men and the event.
Codell, Esme Raji. Educating Esme: Diary of a Teacher’s First Year 372.11 CODEL
Fifth-grader Melanie instinctively knows what Codell finds out when she begins as a 24-year-old first-year teacher in an inner-city Chicago school: “You got to know everything.” And that doesn’t mean just what the textbooks say. As Codell gamely reveals in her forthright diary entries, it means fighting lazy teachers and unsupportive administrators; it means dealing with violence and racism; it means marshalling energy, imagination, and wit enough to ensure her students the best possible education.
Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed. 305.569 EHREN
To find out if individuals can survive on the “wages available to the unskilled,” journalist Ehrenreich spent 12 months working at a variety of minimum-wage jobs. Her experiences offer a gritty glimpse into the world of day-to-day work, a stark picture of living from hand to mouth, and a personal perspective on the politics of welfare.
Feldstein, Peter. The Oxford Project. 977.7655 FELDS
In this riveting sociological study, the residents of Oxford, Iowa were photographed in 1984 and then again in 2005. Their compelling life stories, vividly expressed in brief biographical sketches, show just how much someone can change in 21 years.
Ferris, Timothy. Seeing in the Dark. 520 FERRI
Differentiating between the nature of stargazing done by professionals in well-equipped observatories and the work of backyard scientists using homemade telescopes, Ferris invites teens to join the scientific community by tracing contributions of amateur astronomers, ranging from Copernicus to Brian May.
Finkel, David. The Good Soldiers. 956.704434 FINKE
This eye-opening account of “the surge” in 2007 follows the troops of Battalion 2-16, revealing the gritty reality for all those good soldiers serving in Iraq.
Greenlaw, Linda. The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain’s Journey. 639.2778 GREEN
The record of a typical month‑long swordfishing trip‑‑the backbreaking work, the danger, the uncertainty of the weather, and the thrill of a gritty job that makes the sea a home.
Junger, Sebastian. The Perfect Storm. 910.452 JUNGE
In 1991, as Halloween nears, a cold front moves south from Canada, a hurricane swirls over Bermuda, and an intense storm builds over the Great Lakes. These forces converge to create the cruelest holiday trick of all, a 100-year tempest that catches the North Atlantic fishing fleet off guard and unprotected.
Krakauer, Jon. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster. 796.522 KRAKA
Krakauer had a front-row seat to the headline-making 1996 climbing disaster that resulted in the deaths of five people, and his account of the unfolding tragedy, filled with keenly observed details, is not only a transfixing drama but also an inquiry into survivor guilt and the outer limits of human strength and responsibility.
Kurson, Robert. Shadow Divers. 940.5451 KURSO
In this vivid and thrilling account, a journalist recounts the adventures of the two deep-sea divers who discover a WWII German U-boat off the coast of New Jersey and become obsessed with uncovering its story.
Philbrick, Nathaniel. In The Heart Of The Sea. 910.9164 PHILB
The tragedy of the whaling ship Essex influenced Herman Melville when he wrote Moby Dick. Philbrick takes a close look at the whaling industry, whales and the men who hunted them.
Roach, Mary. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. 611 ROACH
What happens to human cadavers if they fall into the hands of scientists and researchers? Salon columnist Mary Roach explores this question in her funny, informative, and highly original study.
Sullivan, Robert. Rats. 599.352 SULLI
Sullivan spent a year observing the lives and deaths of New York City’s rats in this surprising, graphic, and entertaining natural history.
Welch, Diana. The Kids Are All Right: A Memoir 929.2 WELSH
This heart-wrenching memoir, collaboratively written from four different points of view, chronicles the ups and downs of the Welch siblings, who struggled to define the notion of home after their parents died.
All Over but the Shoutin‘, by Rick Bragg. BIO BRAGG BRA
In vivid prose, by turns comic and affecting, he recalls growing up white and poor in the South, his difficult relationship with his abusive, alcoholic father, and his love for his courageous mother, who raised him and taught him what really mattered.
Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child by Elva Trevino Hart. BIO HART HAR
“My whole childhood, I never had a bed,” begins Hart’s bittersweet recollections about growing up one of six children in a migrant family that made the circuit from Texas to Minnesota each year.
Blind Side: The Evolution of a Game, by Michael Lewis. BIO OHER LEW
A dying woman’s wish leads an abused 15-year-old from the streets of Memphis to a loving family, an education, and a professional football career.
The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls. BIO WALLS WAL
This empowering memoir recounts the strength and creativity of the Walls children as they overcome the poverty and social challenges their parents brought upon them.
Jesus Land: A Memoir by Julia Scheeres BIO SCHEERES SHE
Scheere’s unflinching memoir chronicles life in rural Indiana with her disciplinarian father, fundamentalist mother, and adopted African American brothers. Each child finds a way to survive, with very different endings.
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of A Boy Soldier. by Ishmael Beah. BIO BEAH BEA
Beah tells, in his own words, his harrowing experiences as a child soldier in the Sierra Leone civil war.
My Losing Season, by Pat Conroy. BIO CONROY CON
In this powerful memoir, best-selling novelist Conroy explores the profound effect of his final year as a point guard for the Citadel’s basketball team, interweaving stories about the years leading up to college, his abusive father, his love-hate relationship with his school, and his growing fondness for books and writing.
Soldier: A Poet’s Childhood, by June Jordan. BIO JORDAN JOR
Growing up as an African-American in a white world with a father who is harsh one minute and caring the next, means June Jordan’s growing up years are difficult but not impossible. Her father’s desire for her success makes her strong and able to achieve that success.
Stitches by David Small BIO SMALL SMA
Replete with themes of anger, pain, and hope, and employing classic imagery from Alice in Wonderland, renowned illustrator Small chronicles the harrowing story of his childhood and adolescence in this dark graphic novel.
Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer, by Lynn Cox. BIO COX COX
A long-distance swimmer describes her record-setting swims in the icy waters of the Bering Strait and Antarctica. An inspiring story of personal achievement and determination.
Truth & Beauty : a Friendship, by Ann Patchett. BIO GREALY PAT
As young writers, Patchett and Lucy Grealy began a once-in-a-lifetime friendship that lasted until Lucy’s tragic death. With intimacy, grace, and humor, Patchett’s memoir captures Lucy’s rollercoaster life—her exuberance, partying and childlike affection and her struggle with a cruel disfigurement and insurmountable depression.
Graphic novels (Located in Young Adult (YA) Fiction)
Barry, Lynda. One Hundred Demons. YA FIC BARRY
Whether she’s talking about head lice, old boyfriends, or hippies who “forgot” to pay her wages, Barry playfully explores, in “autobifictionalographical” text and art, those demons common to teens––and to us all.
Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis. YA FIC SATRA
In graphic novel format, the author describes her youth in revolutionary Iran. From the overthrow of the Shah to the establishment of the new regime, she witnesses heartbreak and struggle as life changes in her country.
Bates, Judy Fong, Midnight at the Dragon Cafe FIC BATES
After leaving China with her mother, Su-Jen enjoys her comfortable new life in Canada, but dark secrets threaten her family’s stability.
Benioff, David. City of Thieves FIC BENIO
Two teenage boys encounter cannibals, murderers, prostitutes, and assassins as they struggle to complete an impossible task during the freezing Siege of Leningrad in this funny, shocking, and briskly written tome.
Brooks, Geraldine. Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague FIC BROOK
A year after the plague strikes her village, Anna reflects on how the townsfolk handled their minister’s request to remain in town to prevent the illness from spreading. Faith, then healing herbs and potions keep everyone going–until doubt creeps in, and witch-hunting, greed, and madness take over the villagers’ lives.
Card, Orson Scott. Ender’s Shadow FIC CARD
Bean, an orphan living on the streets, finds himself plucked from desperate straits and placed in Battle School, where his tactical skills earn him respect and a role with Ender Wiggin in battle.
Chevalier, Tracy. The Girl With A Pearl Earring FIC CHEVA
Have you ever thought about the story behind a person in a painting? Griet is the name of the girl with a pearl earring painted by Vermeer, a famous Dutch artist. As the story unfolds, she is only sixteen and a servant in the household of the painter himself.
Clarke, Breena. River, Cross My Heart FIC CLARK
Strong‑willed Alice Bynam is convinced that by moving to Georgetown, her family will have more economic and educational opportunity. That’s true, but “whites still rule the roost” in the 1920s, and they’ve barred 10-year-old Johnnie Mae and her friends from swimming in a local pool. When Johnnie Mae opts for the river, instead, her younger sister, Clara, drowns, leaving her family and community behind to struggle with the personal loss and the legacy of racial injustice.
Connolly, John, The Book of Lost Things FIC CONNE
Stephen King meets the Brothers Grimm in this gruesome fairy tale about a motherless boy transported to a world where the path home leads home through a quest for the Book of Lost Things.
Cook, Karin. What Girls Learn FIC COOK
Cook tells the story of two sisters—Tilden, quiet and good; Elizabeth, the family rebel—and their relationship with their beloved mother, Frances. When Frances marries Nick, the girls must adjust; when Frances is diagnosed with breast cancer, the girls’ lives change in ways they never expected.
Doig, Ivan, The Whistling Season FIC DOIG
Rose, “who can’t cook but doesn’t bite” arrives in Montana, bringing joy and order to three motherless boys and their father.
Durham, David Anthony, Gabriel’s Story FIC DURHA
Upset when he has to leave Baltimore to join his mother and her new husband on a Kansas farm, 15-yearold African American Gabriel and his new friend, James, run away from their homes to join a group of mostly white cowboys herding cattle to Texas. Too late, they realize that their cowboy comrades are their worst enemies.
Enger, Leif, Peace like a River FIC ENGER
Set in a quiet 1960s Minnesota community, this magical debut novel centers around 11-year-old asthmatic Reuben Land and his family: his father, his brother, and his precocious younger sister. Life turns upside down when Davy, Reuben’s older brother, kills two intruders who plan to harm the family. After Davy breaks out of jail, the Lands leave their home and set out to find him.
Ferraris, Zoe. Finding Nouf FIC FERRA
After a 16-year-old girl from a wealthy Saudi family is found dead in the middle of the desert, a devout Muslim guide and a young medical examiner seek to unravel the mystery while facing the sanctions of Middle Eastern society.
Fforde, Jasper, The Eyre Affair: A Novel FIC FFORD
Meet Thursday Next, a literary detective for England’s Special Operations Network. Her mission: to stop a serial killer who enters books and kills literary characters. It’s mystery, science fiction, and social satire. It’s also lots of fun.
Stardust FIC GAIMA
17‑year‑old Tristran Thorn pledges to fetch for his beloved a star that has fallen on the far side of the wall that marks the edge of the village where he lives. His quest takes him into the land of Fairie, where nothing along the way is really what it seems.
Gilstrap, John, At All Costs FIC GILST
That federal agents happened to be looking for someone else didn’t matter once they learned that Jake and his wife, Carolyn, were on their Ten Most Wanted List. By that time, though, the Donovans, with their 13-year-old son, were already on the run and committed to proving that the 16 people whose lives they were accused of taking were viciously murdered by someone else.
Gruen, Sara, Water for Elephants FIC GRUEN
Suddenly orphaned and penniless during the Depression, a veterinary student jumps a third-rate circus train and finds romance, danger, and a bond with a special elephant named Rosie.
Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time FIC HADDO
In this acclaimed and engaging debut, Christopher, an autistic math wiz, takes his life too literally and can’t relate to others. Inspired by Sherlock Holmes, he investigates the death of his neighbor’s dog and unravels secrets closer to home.
Halpin, Brendan, Donorboy: A Novel FIC HALPI
When her lesbian mothers are killed in an accident, 14-year-old Rosalind meets and moves in with her young sperm donor father.
Hamill, Pete, Snow in August FIC HAMIL
Eleven-year-old Michael Devlin lives with his widowed mother in a working-class neighborhood in 1940s Brooklyn, in the shadow of Ebbets Field. The last thing he expects to find is a friend in Rabbi Judah Hirsch, a refugee from Prague, who trades wonderful stories from Jewish folklore for lessons in English and American culture, especially the sport of baseball.
Haruf, Kent, Plainsong FIC HARUF
They were always connected, in the way people in small towns are: the elderly McPheron brothers, unschooled but wise in other ways; high school teacher Tom Guthrie and his mischievous sons, Bobby and Ike; and Victoria Roubideaux, 17 and pregnant, with nowhere to go. In this plainspoken yet graceful story that is at once complex and elemental, Haruf deftly brings his characters together, slowly turning them into a family ready to face private fears with a renewed sense of hope, connection, and even joy.
Hosseini, Khaled, The Kite Runner FIC HOSSE
Set amid the destruction of contemporary Afghanistan, this debut novel follows two boys, linked by love, lies, sacrifice, and betrayal, whose friendship endures, despite different life paths.
Ishiguro, Kazuo, Never Let Me Go FIC ISHIG
There’s a dark secret at the Hailsham School, where the students live in carefully planned, idyllic isolation, ignorant of the future that’s been planned for them.
Jordan, Hillary. Mudbound FIC JORDA
At the close of WW II, two soldiers return to their home in the South to find racial tensions as explosive as the battlefields of Europe. This beautifully written story casts a spell as inescapable as the mud fields of the Mississippi Delta.
King, Stephen. Just After Sunset: Stories FIC KING
Modern terrors abound—a porta-potty prison, class warfare on an apocalyptic afternoon—in this wickedly compelling collection of macabre, absurd, and gleefully vulgar stories. Scary, dirty fun.
Kluger, Steve. Last Days of Summer YA FIC KLUGE
“Dear Mr. Banks, I am a 12-year-old boy and I am dying of an incurable disease” begins the first of many letters sent by determined, perfectly healthy Joey Margolis to tough-talking, loose cannon Charlie Banks, rookie third baseman for the New York Giants.
Kyle, Aryn. The God of Animals FIC KYLE
After her older sister elopes, 12-year-old Alice is left behind on the family’s rundown Colorado horse farm to cope with her distant parents and the unsolved murder of a classmate.
Lawson, Mary, Crow Lake FIC LAWSO
Now a successful zoology professor, Kate recalls her parents’ death and being brought up and sustained by her older brothers, especially Matt with whom she shares a love of the wonders of nature.
Lutz, Lisa, The Spellman Files FIC LUTZ
Isabel can’t quit her private investigator job; she works for her family, and they’ll kill her if she tries to leave. A quickly paced, quirky mystery.
Malloy, Brian, The Year of Ice FIC MALLO
High-school senior Kevin Doyle is literally skating on thin ice: a self-described “alpha male,” he is secretly gay and increasingly estranged from his father, who has a secret of his own.
Maltman, Thomas. The Night Birds FIC MALTM
Asa, a Minnesota boy growing up in the nineteenth century, learns secrets about his family’s violent, complicated past following the bloody Dakota Conflict of 1862.
Marillier, Juliet. Daughter of the Forest FIC MARIL
A young girl must restore her six brothers who have been turned into swans by weaving each of them a shirt from a blistering plant that tears her skin to shreds. The first book in the Sevenwaters trilogy.
Martinez, A. Lee. Gil’s All Fright Diner FIC MARTI
In this gruesome and wacky tale, can two travelers (one vampire, one werewolf) save a roadside diner, besieged by zombies and ghouls, from dark forces and find true love?
Meyers, Kent. The Work of Wolves FIC MEYER
In this moving, romantic novel, a gifted Lakota boy, a German exchange student, and a horse trainer rescue three abused horses, dramatically changing their lives.
Mitchell, David, Black Swan Green: A Novel FIC MITCH
In the British village of Black Swan Green, 13-year-old Jason survives ghost sightings, bullies, a first kiss, and his parents divorce.
Morrissey, Donna, Kit’s Law FIC MORRI
Kit lives in a ramshackle cottage with her mentally challenged mother, Josie, the town tramp, and her loving, protective grandmother, Lizzy. When Lizzy dies, Kit fights to keep her mother out of an asylum, but Josie’s wild ways make it difficult.
Niffenegger, Audrey, The Time Traveler’s Wife FIC NIFFE
In this arresting debut romance, Henry travels through time and space and meets his bride Clare in all her stages of life, from childhood to old age.
Odom, Mel, The Rover FIC ODOM
Four-feet-tall Wick, Third Level Librarian in the Vault of All Known Knowledge, is an imaginative Halfer who longs for the drama he reads about in books. He finally gets a chance to experience adventure when he’s kidnapped by pirates, sold into slavery, rescued by thieves, and sent to rob a tomb.
Otsuka, Julie, When the Emperor Was Divine FIC OTSUK
A short and understated, but also powerful novel in which members of a Japanese-American family, forced to move from a happy California home to cramped, humiliating detention camps set up by the American government, return home after World War II to find suspicious neighbors, a vandalized house, and a broken family.
Packer, Ann, The Dive from Clausen’s Pier FIC PACKE
A reckless attempt to impress Carrie, Mike’s dive off Clausen’s pier rendered him paralyzed. Now Carrie finds herself torn between the loyalty she’s expected to feel toward Mike and her need to transform herself. She takes a dive of her own––into adulthood––when she escapes to New York.
Packer, Z.Z, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere FIC PACKE
The predominantly African-American characters in this debut collection of short fiction struggle to maintain their sense of self while confronting unexpected life events.
Palwick, Susan, The Necessary Beggar. FIC PALWI
A young merchant accused of murder and his family are banished from their otherworld home to begin a strange life of exile in an internment camp in the Nevada desert.
Picoult, Jodi, My Sister’s Keeper. FIC PICOU
Thirteen-year-old Anna knows that she was conceived in order to provide organs and other life support for her critically ill sister. After enduring multiple surgeries, she sues her parents for the rights to her own body.
Porter, Connie. Imani All Mine. YA FIC PORTE
This deceptively simple first-person novel takes readers into the heart and mind of 15-year-old Tasha, whose love for her baby, Imani, is as plain as her fear of the rapist who fathered the child. In the stark language of a tough urban neighborhood, Tasha comes alive on the page as she struggles to reconcile her love and hope for her daughter with the violence that resulted in Imani’s conception.
Rash, Ron, The World Made Straight. FIC RASH
When 17-year-old Travis Shelton discovers a marijuana farm in the Appalachian woods, he begins a confrontation with the subtle evils within his rural world.
Rawles, Nancy, My Jim: A Novel FIC RAWLE
Sadie Watson’s love and courage carry through the cruelties of slavery into life as a free woman.
Rebeck, Theresa, Three Girls and Their Brother. FIC REBEC
This witty satire of show-biz politics, told from the perspective of four New York teenage siblings in the eye of a publicity tornado, provides a fascinating insider’s look at the world of the rich and famous.
Reed, Kit, Thinner than Thou. FIC REED
Three teens embark on a rescue mission through an America in which bodily perfection has become a religion. This provocative novel satirizes a world of adults who have lost perspective and teens forced to respond with heroic action.
Robinson, Kim Stanley. Antarctica FIC ROBIN
Teens who like multilayered sf will be as pleased with the vivid blend of fact and fiction Robinson uses to depict the stark landscape as they are by the story’s diverse cast and its gradually widening circle of intrigue.
Rothfuss, Patrick, The Name of the Wind: the Kingkiller Chronicle, Day One. FIC ROTHF
Homeless thief Kvothe wins a place at the school of magic, where he hopes to learn more about the mysterious Chandrian, who murdered his parents.
Ruff, Matt, Bad Monkeys. FIC RUFF
Jane Charlotte earns her living by killing bad people for good reasons in this high-octane, clever thriller of conspiracies, revenge, and secret government agencies.
Salzman, Mark, True Notebooks. 808.042 SALZM
While teaching writing to 17-year-olds detained in the Los Angeles Central Juvenile Hall, Salzman was surprised by the boys’ talent. Their heartwarming and funny voices are included in this irresistible and provocative memoir.
Senna, Danzy. Caucasia FIC SENNA
When her white mother, a civil rights activist, goes into hiding, Birdie, the lighter-skinned of two daughters, goes with her. The traumatic leave-taking not only separates Birdie from her beloved older sister but also loosens her grasp on her mixed-race heritage, a legacy that turns out to be increasingly important to her as she enters her teens.
Setterfield, Diane, The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel. FIC SETTE
Margaret, a shy, unknown biographer, has to sift truth from fiction as she becomes the first person to hear the secrets of a reclusive best-selling author’s mysterious past.
Shepard, Jim, Project X: A Novel. FIC SHEPA
School is a nightmare for eighth-grader Edwin, who suffers daily indignities and bullying. With his only friend, he plots a terrible revenge.
Sherwood, Ben. The Man who Ate the 747 FIC SHERW
Unbeknownst to Wally Chubb he is going for a record. He will be the only person who ever ate a 747 airplane by grinding it into paste and using it like ketchup on his food. But Wally doesn’t want the record–this amazing feat is an act of love!
Silverberg, Robert, ed. Legends FIC LEGEN
With editor Silverberg carefully supplying background, 11 stellar genre writers reenter the well-established universes they so lovingly created in series.
Strauss, Darin, Chang and Eng. FIC STRAU
Conjoined brothers, Chang and Eng, were sideshow celebrities. Eng tells the stories of their lives, both as individuals and as one entity. The emotional as well as the physical effects on the brothers is fascinating.
Swanwick, Michael, The Dragons of Babel. FIC SWANW
In this original steampunk fantasy, young Will embarks on a quest that takes him to the dizzying heights and gritty depths of the postindustrial world of Babel.
Tinti, Hannah, The Good Thief. FIC TINTI
In this suspenseful and unpredictable adventure, Ren, a one-handed eighteenth-century orphan, becomes apprenticed to a con man. Surprisingly, Ren seems born to it.
Trice, Dawn Turner. Only Twice I’ve wished for Heaven FIC TRICE
Eleven-year-old Tempest doesn’t like her new home in Lakeland, a planned community for African Americans. Most of her school classmates are boring, and their prissy airs anger and puzzle her. What saves her is a friendship with troubled Valerie, an outsider like herself, and the secret trips she makes each day to Miss Jonetta’s liquor store on fascinating Thirty-fifth Street, where she discovers great courage and caring—and terrible secrets about the world of grown-ups and about her best friend.
Watt, Alan. Diamond Dogs: A Novel FIC WATT
Neil is a 17-year-old bully who has an abusive, demanding father. While driving drunk, he hits and kills a pedestrian and hides the body in the trunk of his father’s car. His father, who is sheriff, chooses to ignore the crime.
Weisberg, Joseph, 10th Grade: A Novel FIC WEISB
What Jeremy Reskin lacks in grammatical skill he more than makes up for in self-reflection in this record of the events of his sophomore year, which reveals his fascination with new-girl-in-town Renee Shopmaker, his changing relationships with his family, and his attempts to sort out the nature of friendship.
Willis, Connie. To Say Nothing of the Dog FIC WILLI
The year is 2057, and rich Lady Schrapnell has promised to finance Oxford University’s time-travel project if she’s assisted in her endeavors to rebuild Coventry Cathedral, which was destroyed by the Nazis in 1940. The grueling search for church artifacts has given time-traveler Ned Henry an advanced case of time lag. But it isn’t rest he gets when he’s sent back to the year 1888; it’s another time-traveler’s mistake, which he must help correct before it alters the entire course of history.
Winspear, Jacqueline, Maisie Dobbs. FIC WINSP
In post World War I London, Maisie Dobbs takes her first case as a private investigator and experiences flashbacks to her modest upbringing and doomed wartime romance