If you Google “Books Every Christian Teen Should Read” you will find several blogs providing good lists of books for teens. If you read through these lists, you will find many of the lists are remarkably similar. So, why write another blog listing similar books? I decided to write my book list because I wanted to approach the book list from a slightly different perspective. Instead of listing the best books for teens to read, I wanted to approach it as ten types of books every Christian teen should read, along with my recommendation for each type. It is not enough for teens to simply read the best books, but teens also need exposure to different aspects of the Christian life through the books they read. And so, here I offer my list of ten books every Christian teen should read.
Gospel. Every teen needs to be well versed in the gospel. Both in the content of the gospel (God’s Glory, Man’s Sin, Christ’s Salvation, Biblical Response) and in the application of the gospel to daily life. That is why my number one book recommendation for teens is This Changes Everything by Jaquelle Crowe. Throughout the book, Crowe unpacks the different elements of the gospel and brings them to bear on the daily lives of teens.
This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years by Jaquelle Crowe
Theology. In addition to the gospel, every teen needs a basic understanding of theology. I struggled with determining which book would best expose teens to sound theology. I could recommend an overview of theological concepts like Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by R.C. Sproul or a hefty Systematic Theology such as Wayne Grudem’s. But in the end, I decided on Knowing God by J.I. Packer. While this book may be a little more difficult for the novice reader, it is still accessible for teenagers and offers a beautiful portrayal of the character of God.
Knowing God by J.I. Packer
Spiritual Growth. Every young Christian (whether teen or adult) needs to have a basic understanding of how to grow in his or her faith. Many churches and church leaders assume people know how to do this automatically, but I have discovered that is not the case. Young believers need to be explicitly taught practices that will help them grow for a lifetime. While Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow by R.C. Sproul is a small book, it demonstrates and develops the importance of Bible study, prayer, worship, service, and stewardship for the Christian life.
Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow by R.C. Sproul
Church. Too many teens are leaving the church because they have become disillusioned by the church. However, I believe that while the organized church has its problems, many are disillusioned because of a false understanding of the church and church membership. I landed on What is a Healthy Church? by Mark Dever because it defines both the biblical concept and the characteristics of a healthy church.
What is a Healthy Church? by Mark Dever
God’s Will. One of the most frequently asked questions by teens relates to God’s will. Christian teens are trying to find God’s will in which college to go to, which person to date or marry, or what job to take. Determining God’s will can seem almost unattainable to many teens; however, it actually is not that difficult. In Just Do Something, Kevin DeYoung shares how simple it is to know God’s will.
Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will by Kevin DeYoung
Apologetics. Christians are going to be increasingly called upon to defend their faith to friends, teachers, and a watching world. If teens are going to survive the gauntlet of high school and college they will need a basic understanding of how to define and defend their faith. While there are several books I could recommend under the category of apologetics, I chose The Problem of God by Mark Clark. This book is a great introduction to questions of faith told through the personal story of a skeptic turned pastor.
Christian Living. I struggled with the title for this category. On the one hand, I wanted to stay away from this title becasue the Christian Living section of the local Christian bookstore is likely filled with watered-down Christian fluff. On the other hand, the title aptly describes this category: how to live a Christian life. While I struggled with the title, the book recommendation was easy. In Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, Piper reminds us that we have but one life, and what we do with it has eternal implications.
Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
Gender. Over the past decade, gender distinctions have been increasingly attacked and minimized. But it is important for teens to understand who God created them to be as a man or a woman. Under this category I recommend two books for understanding biblical manhood and womanhood.
The Masculine Mandate: God’s Calling to Men by Richard Phillips
By Design: God’s Distinctive Calling for Women by Susan Hunt
Relationships. Almost every teen will wrestle with the concept of a romantic relationship. Books on this subject range from a complete restriction against any form of dating to total freedom of dating as long as sexual purity is maintained. Both extremes, however, prove unhelpful. This is why I like and recommend, Holding Hands, Holding Hearts by Richard and Sharon Phillips. The Phillips provide a biblical worldview of dating that helps Christians navigate the paths of romantic relationships.
Holding Hands, Holding Hearts: Recovering a Biblical View of Christian Dating by Richard and Sharon Phillips
Missionary Biography. Reading stories of how God has worked through others provides inspiration to persevere, which is why I recommend Christians regularly read Christian biographies. Hands down the best book to begin a biography reading journey is Through the Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot. The book tells the story of the five missionaries killed by the Huaorani tribe through the eyes of Elliot’s husband, Jim.
Through the Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot
The Advanced List of Ten Books Every Christian Teen Should Read
The preceding list consists of books I believe are accessible to any Christian teen no matter their reading level or spiritual development. However, if a teen desires to take their reading to the next level, I have provided a more extensive book for each category below.
Gospel. The Gospel’s Power and Message by Paul Washer
Theology. Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith by Wayne Grudem
Spiritual Growth. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney
Church. 9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
God’s Will. God’s Will: Finding Guidance for Everyday Decisions by J.I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom
Apologetics. Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Life Changing Truth for a Skeptical World by Josh & Sean McDowell
Christian Living. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Relationships. The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not About Who You Marry, but Why? by Gary Thomas
Biography. John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides by John G. Paton
What is the Gospel by Greg Gilbert
Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations by Alex and Brett Harris
Managing God’s Money: A Biblical Guide by Randy Alcorn
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Disclaimer: While I believe each resource can be helpful, I do not necessarily agree with every view expressed by the authors or publishing ministries. I encourage a careful, critical, and biblical examination of each source and the views represented therein.