“What youth sows, old age must reap,” said J.C. Ryle.
The teen years are arguably the most important years of a person’s life.
Why? Because they’re the training ground for the rest of our lives. This is when we’re forming the habits that will follow us through adulthood, shape our perspective of the world, and influence our identity.
J.C. Ryle says, “Youth is the planting time of full age, the molding season in the little space of human life, the turning point in the history of man’s mind.” Despite our culture’s low expectations for teenagers, youth is actually the most important season to be investing in growth and pursuing holiness.
God has given us many resources in this pursuit. Most importantly, he’s given us his Word. In it he provides everything we need for life and godliness. Yet in his mercy, he’s also given us books that apply his Word, written by godly men and women. There’s no better time for teens to dive into these good books as they prepare for the rest of their lives.
As a recent grad from the teen years, below you’ll find 13 books I believe every Christian teen should read.
13 Books Every Christian Teenager Should Read
In no particular order:
A.W. Tozer famously said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” It’s essential that teens have a proper understanding of who God is. This warm and worshipful book is a great start. Its goal is to not only help you know God better but love God better.
2. The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul
We cannot understand God apart from his holiness. R.C. Sproul writes, “[God] penetrate(s) every aspect of our lives. … He penetrates it in his majestic holiness. Therefore we must seek to understand what the holy is. We dare not seek to avoid it. There can be no worship, no spiritual growth, no true obedience without it.” The Holiness of God will challenge Christian teens to know God’s character better and see their lives impacted by his radical holiness.
3. Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions edited by Arthur Bennett
While I’ve read many modern, excellent books on prayer, none have impacted my life as much as this collection of Puritan prayers. But lest you think “Puritan prayers” sound dry or dull… these are anything but. The prayers in this collection overflow with joy, passion, love, hope, and faith. There are dozens of prayers covering dozens of topics relevant to a young Christian’s life – repentance, worship, thanksgiving, consecration, work, obedience. This book is an incredible resource for a young Christian to both 1) learn more about prayer and 2) use as a tool in their own prayer life.
4. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney
Prayer is just one spiritual discipline of many that Christ-followers are called to pursue. In this book, Donald Whitney covers several more. But don’t think this is a legalistic, moralistic list of things to do to earn God’s favor. Whitney makes clear that these are habits we pursue because we are saved, not steps we take to be saved. These should be joyful acts that reflect our love for God. He manages to share loads of practical and biblical help, without heaping on an ounce of guilt or shame.
5. Thoughts For Young Men by J.C. Ryle
Don’t let the title deceive you! This book is relevant for young men and women. Despite being written almost 150 years ago, it’s a powerful call to redeem this season and use our youth for God’s glory.
6. Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations by Alex and Brett Harris
This is a modern book that echoes the call of Thoughts for Young Men. Written by teenage brothers, it’s an invitation to rebel against our culture’s low expectations and embrace the good, hard commands God has for us as teens. It’s a cry to embrace a vision for responsibility and faithfulness as young people.
7. Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
This is another book that inspires a bigger vision of youth (and life!) than what our culture offers. Piper writes about the joy of living for God above everything else. He urges, “Desire that your life count for something great! Long for your life to have eternal significance. Want this! Don’t coast through life without a passion.”
8. Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will by Kevin DeYoung
Teenage Christians are confronted with many decisions during this season. What career should I choose? Should I go to college? Who should I date? They need a biblical framework to understand the will of God. And that’s exactly what this book is. Kevin DeYoung writes with humor, candor, and keen biblical insight to provide readers with a proper understanding of how to make decisions that glorify God.
9. The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy by Tim Keller
This book changed my life. When I read it as a teen, it completely revolutionized how I thought about my identity. At less than 100 pages, this is not a long read. But it is a profound one. Few virtues are so needed in the young Christian’s life as humility. This book is a grace-filled but straightforward call to the virtue of humility in a culture obsessed with ego. Every Christian, young and old, needs to read this one.
10. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert : An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith by Rosaria Butterfield
We live in a complicated world. Our culture is increasingly hostile to Christian values and insists that to love others we must celebrate and endorse their lifestyles, even if the Bible forbids them. This book is the beautiful story of Rosaria Butterfield, a woman who had bought into the world’s view, a woman living as a lesbian and totally opposed to Christianity. But God changed her and is using her story to change many others. This is a winsome, wise story of how to engage in a complicated culture as a faithful disciple of Christ.
In North America, it’s easy to get focused on our own circumstances and experiences and forget that there’s a whole world out there… and our faith is practiced all over the world. The church is a global mission. This book will open your eyes to the work God is doing around the world. Written like a thrilling travelogue, this book will give you a greater love for missions and a better understanding of the global church.
12. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
Just like it’s important to have a big view of the church geographically, it’s also important to have a big view of the church historically and remind ourselves that the church has a long history. It’s vital for young Christians to be students of this history. Biographies are useful tools to help with this. Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer will help young Christians engage with issues like ethics, politics, persecution, and standing up for truth by examining the life of one faithful Christian.
13. Heaven by Randy Alcorn
“If you read history,” writes C. S. Lewis, “you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.” Unfortunately, too often we don’t think about eternity. Or we think wrongly about it. Our ideas about Heaven tend to be more shaped by pop culture than biblical truth. In this book, Randy Alcorn unpacks exactly what the Bible teaches about Heaven. And it is glorious! Heaven will fill you with hope, joy, and anticipation of what’s to come and change your view of eternity forever. What better book for Christian teens as they look to their future!
Here are a few more resources to consider.
12 Things Every Christian Teenager Should Know. In this post, you’ll find advice for Christian teenagers
30 Books Every Christian Should Read Before Turning 30. This is a list of books to read before you turn 30
7 Best Theology Books for Beginners. Teenagers should read theology. Here are a few books to get you started.