Give the Gift of Reading: Rooted Parent 2019 Christmas Gift Guide

Back by popular demand: a couple of years ago, Rooted polled our parent writers to find out their favorite books to give teenagers. You asked for more book suggestions, so we give you our Rooted Parent 2019 Christmas Gift Guide.

We snuggled with our little ones reading picture books when they were young; years later we still bond with our teenaged and young adult children over powerful storytelling and great writing. This year we consulted our staff and steering committee to build the list below, along with the links for easy ordering. We find these books can be powerful conversation starters to help our kids get into the habit of reading books that will develop their theology and thinking skills. You’ll find these are great reading for you as well; buy a couple and trade them around the family. Be sure to check out our resources tab Recommendations for Teens for more gift ideas.

Merry Christmas and Happy Reading!

Gospel- Centered Reads

Lost and Found: How Jesus Helped Us Discover Our True Selves ed. Collin Hansen. This highly readable book contains twelve powerful testimonies from men and women who realized they were lost when Jesus found them. Voices as varied as Joni Eareckson Tada, Christopher Yuan, Aixa de Lopez, and Vaneetha Rendall Risner will encourage teenagers to trust in Jesus and embrace His plan for their lives. A good option for the kid who isn’t much of a reader but likes a good story.

Transformed by Truth: Why and How to Study the Bible for Yourself as a Teen  by Katherine Forster. Written by a teen for teens, Forster speaks as one who knows the struggles young people face in reading the Bible. However, she doesn’t let emerging adults off the hook- she challenges young seekers and believers to do the hard work of habitual Bible study- and encourages them to seek the rewards of loving God’s word. See our review here.

Irresistible Faith: Becoming the Kind of Christian the World Can’t Resist by Scott Sauls. Scott Sauls is uniquely gifted to challenge Christians to move deeper into Christ. Sauls offers a view of how the world will look if Christians really learn to love God and neighbor as the Bible teaches, and his vision will resonate with teens and young adults who care very much about social justice. Speaking directly to the heart of millennials and Gen Z, he demonstrates the winsomeness of Christ and of the Christian who really loves both Savior and neighbor.

The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy by Tim Keller. All of Tim Keller’s books are very readable, even for teens, because he has the Lewisian gift of making the deep things of God accessible. The Prodigal Prophetexamines the small, potent book of Jonah, “one of the worst prophets in the Bible,” drawing out issues of diversity and God’s justice that will give young readers a Biblical view of God’s plan for how we ought to “do justice and love mercy.”

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit  by James K.A. Smith. This is not an easy read, but boy, is it a potent one. Parents will enjoy this as much as their teens and reading this together will likely springboard you into great conversations about your family’s daily habits and practices. To use Smith’s word, the “liturgies” of our lives not only indicate what we already love but shape our hearts to either worship God or the world.

The Storytelling God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables and The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together by Jared Wilson. These two books from Jared Wilson are great choices for teenagers. The first explores the often difficult-to-understand teaching of Jesus in the parables, which are far more complex than the moralistic fables we sometimes reduce them to. The second will be an encouragement to any teen who struggles with perfectionism or relationships, because after all, aren’t all disciples “people who can’t get their act together?’

The Holiness of God by RC Sproul. One of the spiritual giants of the last century, R.C. Sproul tells of how, as a young college student, he came to yearn after the holiness of God. This modern classic text will help young people do the same.

Books by Christians for the Wider Culture

How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Alan Jacobs. This is a short, insightful, fascinating look how “the chaos of modern life” has short-circuited good thinking, and what we can do to push back and redevelop this critical human faculty. Jacobs is a Christian and professor at Baylor University. Accustomed to examining social and political issues in his work, Jacobs will challenge your teen reader through the page in the same way he challenges undergrads in the classroom.

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life, Freedom, and Justice by Anthony Ray Hinton. The follow- up to Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson, The Sun Does Shine is a potent account of one man’s unjust imprisonment on death row for 30 years for a crime he could never have committed. Buoyed by the prayers of his faithful mother, Hinton overcame bitterness to mentor other inmates during his prison term. His life powerfully demonstrates the grace of God and the power of forgiveness, and his book will make readers think long and hard about systemic racism in our criminal justice system.

Spiritual Memoir

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi. The story of a young man growing up in a loving Muslim family who comes to profound faith in Jesus, this memoir challenges readers to examine their own commitment to Christ. Qureshi’s spiritual journey and commitment to the truth of the gospel is difficult and inspiring; his is a voice our kids need to hear.

Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Always Has Been by Jackie Hill Perry. This is beautifully written account of a young African-American lesbian who encounters God and is literally made new by His word. For students who are struggling to understand current gender and sexuality issues, Perry’s story will be a help, a comfort, and a guide.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story by Donald Miller. A follow-up to his first memoir, Blue Like Jazz, this book is an account of the aftermath of Miller’s early success with his first book. Finding his self-worth in accomplishments proves to be a pathway to depression; finding his identity in Christ proves a more stable and joyful way to live.

Recommended Bible and Journals

ESV Student Study Bible Recommended for students by a 15-year veteran youth minister, this study Bible is a great choice for anyone. There are numerous helps that any reader will appreciate, and the Old Testament historical background information is invaluable. This edition will encourage your teens to study God’s Word for themselves.

ESV Scripture journals published by Crossway. These paperback journals make excellent (and inexpensive) gifts for anyone who likes to make notes in their Bible or journal alongside the verses. Crossway publishes a journal for every book of the Bible (some of the minor prophets are combined), and they can be ordered individually or in Old and New Testament sets. (They are also available with either plain black covers or in a rainbow of pretty illuminated covers.) Every book opens to Scripture on the left-hand side and faint lines on a blank page for writing on the right-hand side. Useful for group Bible study or more personal prayer or research, these journals are practical and attractive gifts for any Christian or seeker.

For the Fiction Lover

The Complete Short Stories of Flannery O’Conner by Flannery O’Conner. This collection of thirty-one stories will introduce your teen to one of America’s finest writers. A keen observer of human nature, O’Conner longed to glorify God through her craft. This is the woman who observed, “I don’t deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it.” Young people will appreciate reading this witty, challenging believer.

The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy. One way to introduce your teenager to great Russian literature: give him or her a very short first novel that will challenge them to wrestle with questions they are already beginning to ask. On his deathbed, Ilych wonders what gives life and death real meaning, and begins to find true comfort and meaning in the kindness of his servant Gerasim. If you want to read this one with your child, TGC offers a study guide to the Christian themes in this rich novella.


New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp. Tripp’s devotion is solidly gospel-centered, clear-eyed, and encouraging. Teenagers will read the gospel every single day in this devotional and be directed to corresponding passages in scripture both familiar and unfamiliar. There is no better guide for learning how the gospel truly permeates every facet of our lives and what it means for anyone who chooses to believe.

The Mockingbird Devotional: Good News for Today (and Everyday) by Mockingbird. Underneath the ministry of Mockingbird “lies the conviction that none of us ever move beyond our need to hear the basic good news of God’s Grace.” This devotion gives readers daily reminders of that grace; what more could parents want their kids to read? Full of humor, wit, and pop culture references, this volume brings the gospel home in each day’s reading selection.

For more ideas, check out Rooted Parent Recommends, or our resources tab on the website. For Christmas-specific resources, please check out A Review of Advent Devotionals for Families and Teens.

Advancing Grace-Driven Youth Ministry

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