rebelling against low expectations

27 Books Christian Teens Should Read (And Grownups Should Too)


“Give yourself unto reading. The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. You need to read.” — Charles Spurgeon

The Rebelution started with a stack of books. When Alex and I were 16-years-old our dad walked in one morning and announced, “I’m putting you two on an intense reading regimen.”

That challenge lit a fire in us. And those books became the inspiration behind this blog and helped birth a movement of young people rebelling against low expectations and doing hard things for the glory of God.

Now, if I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me for the list of books our dad handed us — I wouldn’t be rich, but I’d have some substantial pocket money.

Just yesterday John wrote to say, “I’m reading your book again as I prepare for a series titled ‘Leaving a Legacy” for eighth graders. Would it be possible to get the list of books your dad had you read? Thanks!”

Fortunately for John, we’ve actually put together an improved and expanded list of books Christian teens should read as part of our Raising Kids to Do Hard Things online course.

Growing up my dad always said to me, “Don’t waste time reading good books. There are too many good books. Focus on reading the great ones.”

Don’t waste time reading good books. There are too many good books. Focus on the great ones. Click To Tweet

This is a list of great books. These are books that changed my life, expanded my horizons, and shaped me into the Christian man I am today. You can grab a PDF of the entire list by subscribing to my email updates. You can unsubscribe at any time.

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The Top 5 Books Christian Teens Should Read

Of course, you really should grab the entire list.

But here are my Top 5 book recommendations for Christian teens and young adults. Besides #4 these are not teen books. They are books teens should read. These five books have impacted my life more than any others (outside the Bible itself).

You can click the cover of each book to visit it’s page. The links are affiliate, which doesn’t affect the price for you, but does provide with a small percentage of your purchase. This allows us to reach more teens and parents around the world. Thanks!

Now, without further ado, here are my top five books Christian teens should read:


1. Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper

“Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” John Piper has written more than 50 books. This may be the best. Every young person on earth should read and re-read it. The title really does say it all: Don’t waste your life.


2. Heaven by Randy Alcorn

What will heaven be like? Randy Alcorn presents a thoroughly biblical answer that will transform a young person’s perspective on life, ignite an eager longing for heaven, and inspire them to live in light of eternity while serving faithfully on earth.


3. David by Walter Chantry

An honest look at one of the Bible’s greatest heroes — a man after God’s own heart who stumbled often but returned to God with a melted heart for pardon and help. Walter Chantry is a masterful writer and biblical scholar. Great devotional read.


4. Thoughts for Young Men by J.C. Ryle

A timeless classic for young men and young women. This short book by J.C. Ryle addresses special dangers facing young adults, provides powerful biblical counsel, and suggests some general rules of conduct every Christian should follow. Must-read.


5. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

An in-depth and thought-provoking look at why certain people succeed and others don’t, Outliers is a foundational must-read for young people who want to make an impact on their world. Highly recommended. #1 New York Times bestseller.


Those are my top five, but I’ve got 22 more books I think every Christian teenager should read. This list is drawn from my own personal reading as a young adult. I read most of them in junior high or high school and the rest as a twentysomething. You can grab a PDF of the entire list by subscribing to my email updates. You can unsubscribe at any time.

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So, I’m curious. How many of my top five books have you read? How many of my top 27 books have you read? Let me know in the comment section. Parents, you can chime in for yourself or for your kids (since these are really just books everyone should read).


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About the author

Brett Harris

is co-founder of and co-author of Do Hard Things, along with his twin brother, Alex. He is married to his best friend, Ana, who blogs at He is the founder of the Young Writers Workshop — an ongoing coaching program for serious writers.


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  • Oh sweet! I have been looking for a list like this! And well, I got some work to do, cuz I’ve only read two on the entire list. Thanks for sharing this, Brett!

  • Wow, I’ve only read like, one of them… Crazy Love. Haha but about 20 of them are on my reading list! I have ‘Don’t Waste Your Life’ and ‘Total Truth’ and I’m planning on reading them soon.. Maybe I’ll start one of them today! Haha. Oh, and I started reading ‘The Screwtape Letters’.. but I haven’t finished it yet. So yeah. I have some reading to do! 🙂

  • Malcolm Gladwell’s books are really good… I’ve made it part of the way through The Tipping Point, and it was excellent. I think I’m going to go finish it now…

      • I don’t doubt you, I just haven’t made it to Outliers yet. 😀 In all seriousness, thanks for the list. I’m a voracious reader and always am looking for excellent books to read, so this is a great help.

  • Ummm… Brett? The thing won’t let me get the book list because I’m “already subscribed”. Is it me, the server, or what, do you know?

  • Thank you so much, Brett! I am all over this!! I was surprised to find I’ve only read four of the 27 and none of the top five. My list of books to read just grew by 23! 🙂

  • I’ve read 1 from the top 5 (Don’t Waste Your Life) and 4 others (Radical, both C.S. Lewis books, and Thriving at College). I have started reading a couple of the others at one time or another, and I have been meaning to read several others. This definitely gave me some new ideas though – thanks for sharing!

  • I can’t wait to read these, thanks so much! I have to ask though, have you read “Love Does” by Bob Goff? It is a MUST!!! Seriously. No joke. You need to buy it or I’ll buy a copy for you….

  • YAY!! Books Galore!! I’m kinda addicted to books, I must confess!! My list is SO long, and these will definitely be added, towards the top half of my master list!! I’ve only read one, Total Truth. Plus, I had to write a book review on it too!! It’s also cool to see that a few of the books on this list are already on my own!! That just validates that it is must really be a good book!! Can’t wait to dive in!! 😉

  • Thank you so much, Brett! A while back I emailed asking for the list of books you and Alex read, so it makes me really happy to see that you’ve posted them! I’ve only read one so far so I’m looking forward to reading the rest. 🙂

  • Wow, I love reading but the only one I started reading was Mere Christianity (my mom made me start reading it but I never finished). And I was just about to email you and ask for the books you read! This is most of the books look really good like “Don’t Waste Your Life”, “Outliers”, “Miracles”, and “Just Do Something”, just to name a few. If I do decide to buy any of those books I will definitely buy it off of here!

  • I’ve read 5 out of the list. Several of those are on my reading list, but the rest look great as well! Can’t wait to get to them!

  • I’ve only read five, and one of those I haven’t finished yet. Looks like I’ve got my Summer reading cut out for me!

    I’ve been just dying to delve into Systematic Theology . . . I’m kidding;)

    Actually not kidding that much. I’m kinda eager to take a swing at it:)

  • I have read five of the books, all of which I really liked and then parts of a couple of the others or else gone through some of it with my family. For example, I haven’t read Heaven myself, but it was either that one or a kids version or something my mom read to my siblings and I after my brother died. And Systematic Theology my family was going through with another family before I left home for college and I think I may have read at least parts of it myself for a theology class I took. 😉
    Although I can’t promise that I will read all those books on the list, I am sure I will end up reading a few more of them in my life time. I just don’t have a ton of time right now to be doing reading other than school reading and neither do I really have a desire to since college has kind of made me worn out from reading. 😉

      • Hi, Taylor! I am doing pretty well. Fairly busy with life, school, work, making new friends, getting involved in other ministries at my church, and learning more about God. One of the classes I am taking this year is called Christian Discipleship and we have been learning about spiritual disciplines, such as, prayer (private and corporate), the studying of the Bible, meditation, memorization, preaching the gospel to ourselves rather than listening to ourselves, and being a life time learner. It has been a really good class and it has been great to understand why all of these things are so important in my walk with Christ, but also convicting as I realize that some of these things are very lacking in my life.
        How are you doing?

        • Sounds pretty neat! That Christian Discipleship class sounds like a heavy punch of stuff we all need work on. 🙂 Glad you’re growing!

          I’m doing okay. It’s been a little rough the past few months, but I’m making it. 🙂 School’s pretty laid back in my senior year, so not a problem there, luckily! It’s the easiest year I’ve had since middle school.

          Oh, and I nearly applied for Bethlehem! Of the colleges I was looking at, Bethlehem looked the most like one I would like to attend, but my parents would rather me spend some extra time at home for finances sake. So I’m looking at several online degrees to at least get me started before I transfer somewhere else.

          • I am sorry it has been a rough few months, but glad the school is going well. I feel like many of us struggle as we reach that stage in our life before graduating. I know the year before I graduated high school it was one of the hardest years of my life up to that point. Lots of adult decision we have to start making and stuff. I don’t know if that has anything to do with it for you, but I know it was part of it for me. 😉
            I totally get the finances thingy. But you still have a chance to come to Bethlehem. There are several people who have transferred into Bethlehem after getting an associates degree, so you still have a chance. If you are still interested, I would look into how it works to transfer into Bethlehem to finish a bachelor’s degree.

          • That would actually be awesome, Hannah. We were wondering about how it would work to transfer to finish a bachelor’s. I don’t want to cause you extra work, but even just a link that talks about it or anything would be great. Thank you!

  • Okay, almost half of these books is on hold at the library and I can’t wait to start. We have Radical and I’ve already read Zach Hunter’s book several times – thanks so so so much for releasing this list!!! I’m looking forward to it.

  • So many good books! I love reading, but I haven’t none of these books… I am probably going to start with Screwtape Letters since it looks interesting to read. Thanks, Brett. I love the list. I’ll try to read most of these books.

  • Thank you for sharing this list, Brett! I haven’t been devoting as much time to reading lately as I should, but I think this gives me a great place to start. God bless!

      • Hi Haylie! I’ve been doing all right. Crazy busy preparing for college later this year, and I started a job a couple months ago. Life has its ups and downs of course, but I think things were pretty good. 🙂 How are you?? Sorry for just disappearing, I’ve not had time for very much lately.

        • Good to hear! Yeah, I can imagine planning for college is a bit crazy. I’m praying for you! I’m making it. Like you said, life has it’s ups and downs, but God never changes and I’m grateful for that 🙂

          • Glad to hear you’re doing all right! Thank you for the prayers, I’ll keep you in mine as well! 🙂 And look at that, it took me eleven days to respond lol. That’s mostly why I dropped off the map… 😛

  • I’ve read only 4 of these, so I’m looking forward to getting busy!! This post was very timely for me because I’ve been reading a book series lately that I probably shouldn’t be reading; they’re not necessarily bad books, but the whole plot is centered around things that I don’t believe in. I thought that I could read them and it would be ok, but I was wrong–I quickly became obsessed with them. Instead of waking up looking forward to reading my Bible, I’ve been waking up and reaching for one of these other books. I find myself thinking about this other book series all day long, and thus thinking about things that I shouldn’t be thinking about. Seeing this post was like God saying–hey, you need to change your reading habits right now!
    Does anyone have any suggestions of where I could get these books? My library never has Christian books, sadly. I’m assuming I could buy these cheaply on Amazon or Ebay.

  • This is exactly what I needed! I’ve been starting to read as much Christian literature as I can; currently working on The Pursuit of God (A.W. Tozer) and The Case for Christ (Lee Strobel), and I have a stack of more waiting on my desk. I’d always wondered what book you both read that summer; so glad you answered that question! I’ll be trying to work through all of these as soon as I can. 🙂

    • Hola Elias! De donde erres? Perdón, mi Español no es tan bueno escrito. Bienvenido a laReb! Pienso que muchos de los libros de John Piper son traslado a español, pero no se si Don’t Waste Your Life esta en español. Sabes hablar Ingles?

      P.S. Me gusta tu foto!

      • Thanks bro! Mm little bit. I’m from México, Oaxaca. In this web can i buy this books?
        P.D you’r dog look fresh! 👍🏻 where are u from?

        • No podes comprar los libros directamente de este web, pero las fotos son links a Amazon donde lo puedes comprar. No se si es fácil encontrar los libros en español desde Amazon, pero podes tratar.

          P.D. Gracias! Se lamma Ramona. Es un Spaniel. Mi máma es de Argentina. Entonces, yo se un poco de español. Puedo entender cada todo, pero mi vocabulario no es tan bueno y tampoco mi acento y mi ‘spelling’.

          • Mm ok, i understand. Nice! Thanks bro! I practic my english in Doulingo haha is an app and little bit german is good talking with u! How old are u?
            P.D Das ist gut (this is cool) in german!

  • I’ve read about 4, and am going to be starting the first on your list! Will defiantly try to be going through a lot of these and reread some that I haven’t read in awhile 😀 Thanks for the list!
    P.S. I would add “Do Hard Things” as #28 😀

  • I would also recommend
    The Cross-Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney
    What Is The Gospel? by Greg Gilbert
    Who is Jesus? by Greg Glibert
    These are great books for both Christians and to give to your non-christian friends, I would highly recommend them!

  • Why do you need so many books to give yourself any solid ground? Maybe because you all know there is no god and you yourself are responsible for your actions.

    • …I am not sure what this comment is supposed to mean but I will say this…
      theses books are not because we do not have solid ground without them, theses books help explain God’s truths and expound on them. As a Christian I KNOW there IS a God and yes as you said we are responsible for our actions. But! this does not mea we must earn your salvation nor does it mean we have no grace,God has given grace to cover our sins. As Paul said though “what shall we sin that Grace abound? By no means!” Meaning that while we have grace to cover the actions we are responsible for we are not to sin just because God is merciful. If there was no God where did this all come from?

  • I am not a teen but I mentor a 15 year old boy and I have a 14 year old grand son. Today, I gave them each “Do Hard Things”. Anyone have advice for me on how I should or should not follow up with them?

  • Thanks for re-posting this list. I’m a father of a teen, pastor, and youth leader, and have read many of these books over my 57 years. Excellent, challenging list. I do notice that a couple of the titles are more aimed at young men. Do you or some of the gals have suggestions for a few key titles aimed at young women? thanks!

  • Yay!!! More books to add to my Summer Reading List!!! 😀
    My favorite book level is YA Fiction, and my favorite genre is fantasy, so I was determined at first to catch up on mostly the new secular fiction releases. But God has spoken to my heart, and now I know He has a purpose for me to shift my summer reading focus to great Christian novels such as the ones listed above. Thank you for this list, Brett!!!

By Brett Harris
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →