What Can I Give My Teenager for Christmas? Rooted 2020 Christmas Gift Guide

We’ve got a little tradition going here on the Rooted blog.

A couple of years ago, we asked our Rooted Parent writers to tell us what books they like to share with their families. Last year, we compiled a list of favorites to bring you the Rooted Parent 2019 Christmas Gift Guide. And this year, we polled our staff, Steering Committee, and a few friends of Rooted to offer you our most robust list yet, the 2020 Christmas gift guide.

Though we might not agree with a lot of things he said, Oscar Wilde was right about reading: “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” In addition to absorbing God’s Word (always the first and most important Book), our teens need to be challenged by history and theology, memoir and devotions. But never underestimate the power of fiction. Stories are sneaky; we reach for them looking for entertainment, but the best ones inspire empathy, expand imaginations, encourage critical thinking, build character… can you tell we love fiction? Be sure to give your teenagers well-written, thought-provoking, perspective- expanding novels and short stories. We hope you’ll see some old favorites, and find some new ones, in the suggestions below. Merry Christmas!

Rooted recommends:

Fiction Book for Teenagers

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. Andrew Peterson is the C.S. Lewis of our day, retelling the Christian Story with beauty and transcendence in fiction as well as in his music. The Wingfeather series is a fantastical tale of three siblings who learn they are princes and princess in a high kingdom and who must journey to take their rightful places. Perfect for a middle school audience but suitable for older fans too, the four novels include all manner of odd creatures and thrilling adventures that together point to our journey toward the true King and his kingdom. (Chelsea Kingston Erickson, youth and family pastor and Rooted editor; Mary Beth Johnston, Rooted Director of Ministry Development) (link is to first book in the series)

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. True masterpieces, both novels deal with the lingering effects of slavery, colonialism, and European missions in both Africa (Nigeria and Ghana, respectively) and the United States. The authors share a gift for characterization that will leave you wanting to meet the people they have created. (Anna Meade Harris, editor of the Rooted blog)

Peace like a River by Leif Enger. This recommendation was echoed by several members of the Rooted team. A favorite for anyone who reads it; especially recommended for men. (Ginger Mayfield, college counselor)

A Tale of Two Cities  by Charles Dickens. “I loved it when I read it in ninth grade and it was the first book where “Christ figure” as a literary tool made sense to me.” (Ginger Mayfield)

News of the World by Paulette Jiles. A traveling news reader tries to return a young captive to her family after she has lived among a Kiowa tribe for four years. Beautifully written, morally complex, a haunting story about taking risks and learning to love. The film, starring Tom Hanks, comes out Christmas Day. (Anna Meade Harris)

An Echo in the Darkness by Francine Rivers. Turning away from the opulence of Rome, Marcus is led by a whispering voice from the past into a journey that could set him free from the darkness of his soul. Francine Rivers brings Bible characters to life through compelling, powerful and life-changing storytelling. (Laura Hydinger, Rooted Interim Director of Development)

NonFiction Book for Teenagers

What’s Your Worldview? An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions by James Anderson. This book helps readers understand different worldviews and identify their own. It’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” style makes it creative and interactive. (Christina Fox, author, most recently of A Holy Fear: Trading Lesser Fears for the Fear of the Lord)

God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible by Vaughan Roberts. You won’t find a better short Bible survey. If you don’t know biblical theology, this book will make you fall in love. (Collin Hansen, editorial director, The Gospel Coalition)

How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World At Odds by Alan Jacobs. A provocative read for teenagers and adults, this book breaks down assumptions about our cognitive processes and offers suggestions for clearer, better thinking. Jacobs is a professor at Baylor University, so he knows how to connect with teens. (David Zahl, founder and director of Mockingbird )

The Splendid and the Vile, A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Eric Larssen. A fascinating account of just one year of Winston Churchill’s time as Prime Minister, this book focuses on the relentless bombing of Britain by the Germans in WWII. Given the events of 2020, this book offers a timely portrait of a nation in crisis and a leader determined to inspire and protect his countrymen. (Anna Meade Harris)

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer. Adventure story; cautionary tale; gripping read. The book, and the rebuttals that came after Krakauer’s account, could generate an interesting discussion on how different people can live through the same events and experience them differently. (Ginger Mayfield)

God’s Bible Timeline : The Big Book of Biblical History by Linda Finlayson. Written for older children; nonetheless, this book is a rich resource for anyone who would benefit from visual representations of the story of God’s redemptive history in the Bible. The timelines are extremely helpful. (Kevin Yi, young adult pastor at Church Everyday in Northridge, CA; director, Rooted YouTube channel)

Adorning the Dark; Thoughts On Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making by Andrew Peterson. For the artist. If you have a creative teenager, this book will inspire them to use their gifts for the glory of God. Lyrical and practical. (Rooted)

Christian Biography or Memoir

The Hiding Place  by Corrie ten Boom. Though we have suggested this memoir in the past, no fewer than five of our recommenders suggested it, so here it is again. ten Boom’s account helps readers understand the horrors of the Holocaust and how the Lord called his people to stand up against evil. Tramp for the Lord is the follow-up to Hiding Place and also well worth the read.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Another two-time recommendation. “You’ll be riveted by the drama and intrigued by the hero’s attempts to cope with what he endured in the Pacific Theater of World War II.” (Collin Hansen) “I loved this book and could not put it down. When they are still imprisoned in the POW camp even though the war has been won, you see the perfect illustration of living in the ‘already, but not yet’.” (Ginger Mayfield)

Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II by Darlene Deibler Rose. A young missionary is forever separated from her husband and held for four years in a Japanese prison camp, and through it all testifies to the love and goodness of God. (Ginger Mayfield)

Twelve Faithful Women: Portraits of Steadfast Endurance, edited by Melissa Kruger and Kristen Wetherell. For a teenager facing trials (any kid alive in 2020!). Twelve portraits of diverse women from all over the globe who faced persecution, discrimination, physical distress, loss and deprivation, yet endured through the power of God. (Rooted)

Spiritual Formation Book For Teenagers

Rethink Your Self, the Power of Looking Up Before Looking In by Trevin Wax. Sometimes the biggest changes in the world are the ones you don’t even notice. This new book exposes the folly of looking inside ourselves for meaning and morality. (Collin Hansen)

Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Tim Keller. A close examination of the story of the family parable in Luke 15. Keller goes far deeper than the typical prodigal son sermon. An excellent read for both prodigals and elder brothers (i.e., all of us). (David Zahl)

Confronting Christianity:  12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion by Rebecca McLaughlin. An excellent gift for a teenager with lots of questions, or for a kid with lots of friends who challenge the Christian faith. This would also make a good gift for a high school senior planning to attend college. (Becky Paynter, educator, mom and foster mom, Rooted writer)

Union with Christ, The Way to Know and Enjoy God by Rankin Wilbourne. The author explores our relationship with Christ by addressing life’s most basic questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I headed? How will I get there? This book discusses the answers to these questions in a direct and compelling way that gets straight to the heart of the Christian faith and what makes the gospel good news. (Laura Hydinger)

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund. Gospel-rich, accessible book with short chapters makes for an excellent book for anyone – especially teenagers – to digest in short bursts. (Davis Lacey, lead pastor at Autumn Ridge Community Church in Ellijay, GA; Rooted Youth Ministry podcast host)

A Gentle Answer: Our “Secret Weapon” in an Age of Us Against Them by Scott Sauls. Truly, we would recommend any of Sauls’ books for anyone, but his pastoral tone is well received by young adults. And talk about relevant; teens need to be discipled in the gentle way Jesus engages with broken human beings, and Sauls is a good leader. (Rooted; listen to our podcast with Sauls here)

DoubtLess – Because Faith Is Hard by Shelby Abbott. An unflinching yet reassuring look at doubt in the life of a Christian believer. Abbott is an experienced campus minister who has navigated many conversations with young adults about their doubts. He normalizes the difficulty of faith and belief while upholding the truth of the Gospel. (Rooted; listen to our podcast with Abbott here)

Devotional Reading For Teenagers

Daily Grace, The Mockingbird Devotional, Vol 2. by Mockingbird. For years we have recommended the first volume of this devotional, and it’s still well worth gifting. But something great has come out of 2020: a second version of the Daily Grace devotional, which once again focuses on the timeless gospel we need and love. Includes contributions from our own Charlotte Getz.

God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs by Tim Keller. This is an excellent devotional on the Proverbs with brief daily readings. (Christina Fox)

Take Heart: 100 Devotions to Seeing God When Life’s Not Okay Beautiful and breathtaking devotional from a collective of diverse writers, sure to bring inspiration to anyone walking through anxiety or depression. (Rachel Kang, creator of Indelible Ink Writers)

New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp. Worthy of a repeat recommendation. 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. (Mary Beth Johnston)

Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year An introduction to the Daily Office practice of daily devotions. Each office includes a psalm of praise, a passage of Scripture, and a brief set of prayers. (Becky Paynter)

A Bible Recommendation

ESV Journaling Bible. Instead of study notes, this soft-sided leatherbound Bible has wide, lined margins on either side the text for notes, journaling, or artwork. Some kids like to take lots of notes as they study or listen to sermons; others spend their devotion time illuminating the pages of their own Bible as they meditate on God’s Word. No-bleed or gel pens would make a great stocking stuffer to go along with this Bible. (Rooted)


For more ideas, check out Rooted Parent Recommends, or our resources tab on the website.

Our recommendations from Christmases past: Give the Gift Of Reading: Rooted Parent 2019 Christmas Gift Guide; Rooted Parent 2017 Christmas Gift Guide.


Merry Christmas and happy gifting from Rooted!

Advancing Grace-Driven Youth Ministry

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