Over 25 Biographies that will Inspire your Middle School Student

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Your tweens and teens can learn a ton by reading middle school biographies. Don’t let your middle schooler skip over this genre! There are just too many great books to choose from.

Reading about inspiring lives from the past and present allows kids to learn about the world beyond their own experiences. In addition, reading biographies teaches kids about history, science, sports, and so many other topics that may interest them.

Of course finding books that are challenging enough for a middle school reader without being overly challenging in reading level and content can be tough. This list was gathered specificially for the readers who are “stuck in the middle.”

These middle school biographies are perfect to inspire your teen or tween.

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Middle School Biographies

These middle school biographies will supplement many homeschool curriculums and make easy additions to any reading list for teens and tweens.

As with any booklist, you make the best choices when it comes to appropriate literature for your child to read. I have read many, though not all, of the books on this list. I highly recommend Common Sense Media when you want to know what sort of content might be included in any book.

A Simple Biography Report

Help your student thoughtfully remember facts from these middle school biographies with this free one-page biography report.

This simple report is perfect for your tween or teen to use to record what they learn as they read. It’s an easy (and fun!) way to report their reading. Ask them to share their findings over dinner if they are willing!

download a FREE Biography Report for kids

Biographies for Teens and Tweens

I am Malala by Malala Yousafai

Two of my kids dove into this one in middle school and couldn’t stop talking about it for quite some time. It opened their eyes to horrible situations in other countries and the courage it takes for one person to stand up to injustice.

From Amazon: “Malala Yousafzai was only ten years old when the Taliban took control of her region. They said music was a crime. They said women weren’t allowed to go to the market. They said girls couldn’t go to school.

Raised in a once-peaceful area of Pakistan transformed by terrorism, Malala was taught to stand up for what she believes. So she fought for her right to be educated. And on October 9, 2012, she nearly lost her life for the cause: She was shot point-blank while riding the bus on her way home from school.

No one expected her to survive.”

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming

From Amazon: “On May 21, 1937, the most famous female pilot of all time, Amelia Earhart, set out to do the impossible: circumnavigate the globe at its widest point–27,000 miles in all. Just six weeks later, she disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. Eighty years have passed since that fateful flight; and still, Amelia’s plane has never been found. Discover the thrilling life and tragic end of America’s most famous trailblazing flier with this impeccably researched and masterfully crafted book from acclaimed author Candace Fleming.”

Becoming Emily: The Life of Emily Dickinson by Krystyna Poray Goddu

From Amazon: “In Becoming Emily, young readers will learn how as a child, an adolescent, and well into adulthood, Dickinson was a lively social being with a warm family life. Highly educated for a girl of her era, she actively engaged in both the academic and social aspects of the schools she attended until she was nearly eighteen. Her family and friends were important to her, and she was a prolific, thoughtful, and witty correspondent who shared many poems with her closest friends and relatives. This indispensable resource includes photos, full-length poems, letter excerpts, a time line, source notes, and a bibliography to present a vivid portrait of this singular American poet.”

Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce

From Amazon: “In 1956, one year before federal troops escorted the Little Rock 9 into Central High School, fourteen year old Jo Ann Allen was one of twelve African-American students who broke the color barrier and integrated Clinton High School in Tennessee. At first things went smoothly for the Clinton 12, but then outside agitators interfered, pitting the townspeople against one another. Uneasiness turned into anger, and even the Clinton Twelve themselves wondered if the easier thing to do would be to go back to their old school. Jo Ann–clear-eyed, practical, tolerant, and popular among both black and white students—found herself called on as the spokesperson of the group. But what about just being a regular teen?”

Alexander Hamilton: The Making of America (Book 1 of 6) by Teri Kanefield

From Amazon: “The America that Alexander Hamilton knew was largely agricultural and built on slave labor. He envisioned something else: a multi-racial, urbanized, capitalistic America with a strong central government. He believed that such an America would be a land of opportunity for the poor and the newcomers. But Hamilton’s vision put him at odds with his archrivals who envisioned a pastoral America of small towns, where governments were local, states would control their own destiny, and the federal government would remain small and weak.
 
The disputes that arose during America’s first decades continued through American history to our present day. Over time, because of the systems Hamilton set up and the ideas he left, his vision won out. Here is the story that epitomizes the American dream—a poor immigrant who made good in America. In the end, Hamilton rose from poverty through his intelligence and ability, and did more to shape our country than any of his contemporaries.”

There are FIVE books in this series, “The Making of America” by Teri Kanefield. You can continue with the series by reading these titles:

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Young Readers Edition) by William Kamkwamba

From Amazon: “When a terrible drought struck William Kamkwamba’s tiny village in Malawi, his family lost all of the season’s crops, leaving them with nothing to eat and nothing to sell. William began to explore science books in his village library, looking for a solution. There, he came up with the idea that would change his family’s life forever: he could build a windmill. Made out of scrap metal and old bicycle parts, William’s windmill brought electricity to his home and helped his family pump the water they needed to farm the land.”

March: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin

Who can resist a graphic novel biography? This has been a popular one in our house with all four kids and myself!

From Amazon: “March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.”

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March by Lynda Blackmon Lowery

From Amazon: “As the youngest marcher in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, Lynda Blackmon Lowery proved that young adults can be heroes. Jailed eleven times before her fifteenth birthday, Lowery fought alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. for the rights of African-Americans. In this memoir, she shows today’s young readers what it means to fight nonviolently (even when the police are using violence, as in the Bloody Sunday protest) and how it felt to be part of changing American history.”

The Plot to Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero by Patricia McCormick

From Amazon: “It was April 5, 1943, and the Gestapo would arrive any minute. Dietrich Bonhoeffer had been expecting this day for a long time. He had put his papers in order—and left a few notes specifically for Hitler’s men to see. Two SS agents climbed the stairs and told the boyish-looking Bonhoeffer to come with them. He calmly said good-bye to his parents, put his Bible under his arm, and left. Upstairs there was proof, in his own handwriting, that this quiet young minister was part of a conspiracy to kill Adolf Hitler.

This compelling, brilliantly researched account includes the remarkable discovery that Bonhoeffer was one of the first people to provide evidence to the Allies that Jews were being deported to death camps. It takes readers from his privileged early childhood to the studies and travel that would introduce him to peace activists around the world—eventually putting this gentle, scholarly pacifist on a deadly course to assassinate one of the most ruthless dictators in history.”

Gifted Hands, Revised Kids Edition: The Ben Carson Story by Gregg Lewis

My son read this book as part of his summer reading in middle school and then we watched the movie. He enjoyed both and the story was very inspiring.

From Amazon: “When Ben Carson was in school, his classmates called him the class dummy. Many—including Ben himself—doubted that he would ever amount to anything. But his mother never let him quit. She encouraged Ben to do better and reach higher for his dreams, and eventually, he discovered a deep love of learning. Today this young boy from the inner-city is one of the world’s greatest pediatric neurosurgeons. Through determination and lot of hard work, Ben overcame his many obstacles and is now dedicated to saving the lives of critically ill children around the world.”

>>> Grab Our FREE Book to Movie Discussion Guide <<<

Child of the Dream (Memoir of 1963) by Sharon Robinson

A Long Way from Home by Saroo Brierley

From Amazon: “At only five years old, Saroo Brierley got lost on a train in India. Unable to read or write or recall the name of his hometown or even his own last name, he survived alone for weeks on the rough streets of Calcutta before ultimately being transferred to an agency and adopted by a couple in Australia.

Despite his gratitude, Brierley always wondered about his origins. Eventually, with the advent of Google Earth, he had the opportunity to look for the needle in a haystack he once called home, and pore over satellite images for landmarks he might recognize or mathematical equations that might further narrow down the labyrinthine map of India. One day, after years of searching, he miraculously found what he was looking for and set off to find his family.”

This one is also a major motion picture, so you can follow up with movie after you read the book!

>>> Grab Our FREE Book to Movie Discussion Guide <<<

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (Young Reader) by Misty Copeland

From Amazon: “Determination meets dance in this New York Times bestselling memoir by the history-making ballerina Misty Copeland, recounting the story of her journey to become the first African-American principal ballerina at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. When she first placed her hands on the barre at an after-school community center, no one expected the undersized, underprivileged, and anxious thirteen-year-old to become one of America’s most groundbreaking dancers . A true prodigy, she was attempting in months roles that take most dancers years to master. But when Misty became caught between the control and comfort she found in the world of ballet and the harsh realities of her own life, she had to choose to embrace both her identity and her dreams, and find the courage to be one of a kind.”

Elon Musk and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

From Amazon: “The version for adults has been praised as “riveting” (The Financial Times), “spirited” (The Wall Street Journal), and “masterful” (Vice). Now younger readers can read about this innovative leader who is revolutionizing three industries at once: space, automotive, and energy.”

The Lady is a Spy: Virginia Hall, World War II Hero of the French Resistance by Don Mitchell

From Amazon: “…audacious and riveting true story of Virginia Hall, America’s greatest spy and unsung hero, brought to vivid life by acclaimed author Don Mitchell. When Hitler invaded Poland, Virginia Hall was traveling in Europe. Which was dangerous enough, but as fighting erupted, instead of returning home, she headed to France.In a country divided by freedom and fascism, Virginia was determined to do her part for the Allies. An ordinary woman from Baltimore, Maryland, she dove into the action, first joining a French ambulance unit and later becoming an undercover agent for both the British Office of Strategic Services and the US Office of Strategic Services. Working as a spy in the intelligence network, she made her way to Vichy, coordinating Resistance movements, assisting in Nazi sabotage, and rescuing downed Allies. She passed in plain sight of the enemy and soon found herself being hunted by the Gestapo. But Virginia cleverly evaded discovery and death, often through bold feats and escapes. Her covert operations, efforts with the Resistance, and risky work as a wireless telegraph operator greatly contributed to the Allies’ eventual win.”

Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, a Monumental American Man by Tonya Bolden

From Amazon: “Teacher. Self-emancipator. Orator. Author. Man. Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) is one of the most important African American figures in US history, best known, perhaps, for his own emancipation. But there is much more to Douglass’s story than his time spent in slavery and his famous autobiography. Delving into his family life and travel abroad, this book captures the whole complicated, and at times perplexing, person that he was. As a statesman, suffragist, writer, newspaperman, and lover of the arts, Douglass the man, rather than the historical icon, is the focus in Facing Frederick.”

Behind Rebel Lines: The Incredible Story of Emma Edmonds, Civil War Spy by Seymour Reit

From Amazon: “In 1861, when war erupted between the States, President Lincoln made an impassioned plea for volunteers. Determined not to remain on the sidelines, Emma Edmonds cropped her hair, donned men’s clothing, and enlisted in the Union Army. Posing in turn as a slave, peddler, washerwoman, and fop, Emma became a cunning master of disguise, risking discovery and death at every turn behind Confederate lines.”

Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld

From Amazon: “At one time, Lew Alcindor was just another kid from New York City with all the usual problems: He struggled with fitting in, with pleasing a strict father, and with overcoming shyness that made him feel socially awkward. But with a talent for basketball, and an unmatched team of supporters, Lew Alcindor was able to transform and to become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.”

Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington’s Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away (Young Readers Edition) by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

From Amazon: “In this incredible narrative, Erica Armstrong Dunbar reveals a fascinating and heartbreaking behind-the-scenes look at the Washingtons when they were the First Family—and an in-depth look at their slave, Ona Judge, who dared to escape from one of the nation’s Founding Fathers.”

Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman by Dorothy Sterling

From Amazon: “Born into slavery, young Harriet Tubman knew only hard work and hunger. Escape seemed impossible – certainly dangerous. Yet Harriet did escape North, by the secret route called the Underground Railroad. Harriet didn’t forget her people. Again and again she risked her life to lead them on the same secret, dangerous journey.”

My Survival: A Girl on Schindler’s List by Joshua M. Greene

From Amazon: “Rena Finder was only eleven when the Nazis forced her and her family — along with all the other Jewish families — into the ghetto in Krakow, Poland. Rena worked as a slave laborer with scarcely any food and watched as friends and family were sent away.

Then Rena and her mother ended up working for Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who employed Jewish prisoners in his factory and kept them fed and healthy. But Rena’s nightmares were not over. She and her mother were deported to the concentration camp Auschwitz. With great cunning, it was Schindler who set out to help them escape.”

Facing the Lion (Abridged Edition): Memoirs of a Young Girl in Nazi Europe by Simone Arnold Liebster

From Amazon: “Simone Arnold is an ordinary French schoolgirl—spirited and stubborn. Then the Nazis march in, demanding complete conformity. Friends become enemies. Teachers spout Nazi propaganda. School officials recruit for the Hitler Youth. Simone’s family refuses to heil Hitler as Germany’s savior. They are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they reject Nazi racism and violence. The Nazi Lion makes them pay the price.”

Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson by Katherine Johnson

From Amazon: “As a young girl, Katherine Johnson showed an exceptional aptitude for math. In school she quickly skipped ahead several grades and was soon studying complex equations with the support of a professor who saw great promise in her. But ability and opportunity did not always go hand in hand. As an African American and a girl growing up in an era of brutal racism and sexism, Katherine faced daily challenges. Still, she lived her life with her father’s words in mind: “You are no better than anyone else, and nobody else is better than you.”

In the early 1950s, Katherine was thrilled to join the organization that would become NASA. She worked on many of NASA’s biggest projects including the Apollo 11 mission that landed the first men on the moon.”

Reach for the Skai: How to Inspire, Empower, and Clapback by Skai Jackson

From Amazon: “Actress and activist Skai Jackson is a star! Her rise to fame started on the popular Disney Channel shows Bunk’d and Jessie. Her cool sense of style led her to create her own fashion line. And her success has made her a major influencer, with millions of followers on Instagram, who isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in.”

The Secret Soldier: Story of Deborah Sampson: The Story of Deborah Sampson by Ann McGovern

From Amazon: “Deborah Sampson wanted to travel and have adventures, but since she had no money, the best way to do that was to join the army. This is the exciting true story of a woman who became a soldier during the American Revolutionary War, by dressing and acting like a man.”

Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board by Bethany Hamilton

This was a favorite book and story when my girls were in middle school. Bethany was a source of inspiration to them for a long time.

There is also a movie you can watch after you read the book. We did watch the movie, but we had to fast foward through the shark attack scene because it was too intense for them when they were younger.

From Amazon: “Soul Surfer is a moving account of Bethany’s life as a young surfer, her recovery after the attack, the adjustments she’s made to her unique surfing style, her unprecedented bid for a top showing in the World Surfing Championships, and, most fundamentally, her belief in God. It is a story of girl power and spiritual grit that shows the body is no more essential to surfing—perhaps even less so—than the soul.”

The Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia by Esther Hautzig

From Amazon: “In June 1941, the Rudomin family is arrested by the Russians. They are accused of being capitalists, “enemies of the people.” Forced from their home and friends in Vilna, Poland, they are herded into crowded cattle cars. Their destination: the endless steppe of Siberia.

For five years, Esther and her family live in exile, weeding potato fields, working in the mines, and struggling to stay alive. But in the middle of hardship and oppression, the strength of their small family sustains them and gives them hope for the future.”

Chasing Space (Young Readers’ Edition) by Leland Melvin

From Amazon: “When the former Detroit Lion’s football career was cut short by an injury, Leland didn’t waste time mourning his broken dream. Instead, he found a new one—something that was completely out of this world.

He joined NASA, braved an injury that nearly left him permanently deaf, and still managed to muster the courage and resolve to travel to space on the shuttle Atlantis to help build the International Space Station. Leland’s problem-solving methods and can-do attitude turned his impossible-seeming dream into reality.”

More Books for Middle Schoolers:

If your student is interested in graphic novels (a very popular option) then these graphic novels for middle schoolers are great options.

Our middle school book club enjoyed these 8 titles this year. They were fantastic reads for great discussions!

While these winter themed books for middle school are great in the winter, they can easily be enjoyed at any time of year.

Which one of these middle school biographies would your tween or teen love to read?

Don’t forget your FREE one-page biography report:

download a FREE Biography Report for kids

Find More Biography for Kids Books:

Biography Picture Books Your Kids will Love – an extensive list of biographies for elementary school.

The Best Middle school biographies for your tween and teen.
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