Would you like to see your teens read more books that would challenge their thinking and broaden their horizons? How about helping them learn to gather life lessons from the fiction they devour? Here’s an easy way: offer a reward your teen can’t refuse.
One family I know offers their teens this challenge: read 25 books from a prepared list and write a 1-page report for each book. As a reward, each teen has the opportunity to receive a slightly used but reliable car. What 16-year-old wouldn’t rise to that challenge?
Should you challenge teens to read fiction or non-fiction? Consider this: roughly 75% of the Bible is story format. Jesus used stories (parables) to emphasize much of His teaching. Why? They stick with us. Neurosurgeons have studied what the brain does while listening to stories: our brains connect actual experiences when hearing a story. That means reading a book about camping activates the memory of a past camping experience. It also means that when your teen encounters a life situation they read about in a book once, they will remember how the literary character dealt with the same situation.
Let them read fiction. But promise them a reward for their one page reports. A cash prize? A trip? A free car?
This would also be a fun journey to take together with your teen, or if there aren’t any teens in your home, challenge yourself (and a friend!) to a new reading list! We often get stuck in a genre–it’s good to stretch our reading muscles from time to time. Think of something you might want as a reward for accomplishing your reading goals: some new clothes, an hour alone at the coffee shop, or a movie date with a friend.
Here is a list of 10 books I’d challenge every teen–and adult–to consider adding to their reading list.
I’ve included discussion questions to help you delve into the themes of each book.
What books would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments!
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1. The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas
One centurion won Jesus’ robe at the foot of the cross. The Robe is his story. Journey from the elite of Rome to Israel with Marcellus and his slave (and friend) Demetrius. After the crucifixion, Marcellus is sent by the emperor of Rome on a mission to find out the truth of the man called Jesus. What he finds changes his life forever.
Why This Book: Marcellus must decide who Jesus really was and how that affects him. He goes through the basic questions of faith: who is God, how does God reveal Himself to us, is He good, why is there is pain in the world, and more. It’s Theology 101 wrapped in an action-packed, compelling story.
Discussion Questions for The Robe:
- Briefly describe Marcellus’ story from beginning to end. What character traits do you think he possesses that allow him to change from “proper Roman” to “illegal Christian”?
- Make a list of qualities about Demetrius. What qualities of Demetrius do you admire? Which ones do you possess and which ones do you want to develop?
- What did you feel at Marcellus’ trial? What would you have done in his place?
- Many people today die for believing in Christ and proclaiming their faith. Would you deny Christ? Stay quiet, or loudly proclaim that Jesus is God?
2. Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Screwtape Letters is a compilation of 31 letters written by Screwtape, a senior demon, to his nephew, Wormwood, who is in need of guidance. Wormwood is charged with guiding a man towards Satan and away from Jesus.
Why This Book: While each chapter reads like a devotional, the whole book drives home one point: We have an enemy. This enemy wants to destroy us, and he doesn’t stop when one becomes a Christian. We should know our enemy’s attacks to stand against them.
Discussion Questions for Screwtape Letters:
- The book is from the perspective of a demon. Why is this so powerful? How does it allow C.S. Lewis to write about topics in a new way?
- Which letter spoke to you the most? Why?
- What was the relationship between Screwtape and Wormwood like? How does it differ from a Godly relationship?
- What did you like most about this book?
3. Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard
In this allegory, go on a journey with a young woman named Much Afraid away from her Fearing family to the High Places of the Shepherd. She travels with two companions, Sorrow and Suffering. Follow along as a picture of salvation to spiritual maturity unfolds through walking with God.
Why This Book: In Hinds’ Feet on High Places, you experience how a Christian is transformed from someone who does not believe in Jesus to a believer who faithfully follows Jesus through dangerous and safe places.
Discussion Questions for Hinds’ Feet on High Places:
- What are four main lessons learned by Much Afraid? What is the common connecting them?
- Describe the Valley of Loss. What is the meaning of this place? What does Much Afraid lose there?
- Why does Much Afraid slip and stumble when walking on level ground in the Forests of Danger and Tribulation more than she does while climbing the Precipice Injury?
- Why are Suffering and Sorrow good companions for the journey?
- What have you learned from reading this book?
4. A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers
Young Hadassah doesn’t turn away from God when she is captured and enslaved by the Romans. Not even when her family is killed. Yet she doesn’t let her faith be known, as she’s enslaved to her fear as well. But her courage grows, and so does her love for Marcus, the brother of her mistress. Her path, like the young gladiator Atretes, leads to the arena where both must embrace their faith.
Why This Book: The similarities between the last days of Rome and our culture today are alarming. Rome, although described as majestic, is also seen as “a stinking bog of base humanity drowning in filth and depravity.” Characters in A Voice in the Wind deal with issues of abortion and other subjects that are relevant to us. But through it all, we see that faith in God holds us steady.
Discussion Questions for A Voice in the Wind:
- Describe Hadassah and Atretes. Remember each was enslaved, but each has a different response to it. Why? What caused them to react differently to the same situation?
- Hadassah struggles with fear. How does fear control a person? What can a person do to break free of the fear? Atretes struggles with anger. How does that affect his life? In what ways can a person become less anger?
- What similarities do you see between the Roman life and today’s society? What issues affect each society? Why do you think that is?
- How do you handle adversity or tough situations? How would God like you to handle difficult times?
5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
In Nazi Germany, everyone was busy trying to stay alive. But the busiest of all was Death. And yet, despite the work that piled up, Liesel Meminger catches the attention of Death. Liesel, a foster girl, learns to read and can’t resist any book she may find. Together she shares her love with her foster father and a Jewish man hidden in their basement.
Why This Book: The narrator, Death, completely unique than how we often think of death. Portrayed in The Book Thief as compassionate and weary of his job, Death gives us an outside perspective of life and death. Also, the storyline is more of a poor family trying to survive a world that is extremely more different and unpredictable every day. How do you live in a world where friends and family are executed just for their heritage? How do you help the innocent when it means risking your own family?
Discussion Questions for The Book Thief:
- At the beginning, Liesel thinks that Hans Hubermann’s eyes show kindness. How does Hans gain Liesel’s love and trust? Why is it difficult for Rosa to demonstrate kindness to Liesel? How do you show kindness, especially to those younger or less fortunate than you?
- Describe life in Nazi Germany.
- What scenes stood out to you? Which ones did you like? Why?
- Hitler ordered books to be burned as a form of censorship. Is censorship of books ever acceptable? Explain.
- One theme is being happy with what you have. For example, when they couldn’t go outside, Liesel built a snowman inside. How do you find ways to be happy when you can’t get what you want?
Scroll down to find out the rest of the book titles. ⇓ Get the rest of the discussion questions by downloading the printable list that includes all 10 books, descriptions, and discussion questions.
6. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
7. Ender’s Game by Olson Scott Card
**Parental advisory: contains some language
8. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
9. The Martian by Andy Weir
**Parental advisory: contains some language
10. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Which of these books was your favorite? Why?
I love this question because even if people pick my favorite, they normally have a different reason than I do, and it gives me a new reason to love the book and read it yet again.
What books would you add to this list?
Let me know both answers in the comments. And don’t forget to give or claim that reward!
Onward and upward,
Vicki V. Lucas
Here at Club31Women, we recognize that not everyone has the same taste or point of view on books, music, or movies, but we offer these short reviews for your consideration. Our hope is that you will find something new and wonderful on this list of recommended resources!
~ Lisa Jacobson, Club31Women
Vicki V. Lucas gave up her career teaching English as a Second Language to wander in unknown worlds with her husband as they raise their two daughters in Central Idaho. Along with Flashes of Ember and Ember’s Choice, she has published Toxic and Rancid, a Christian fantasy series for teens and tweens. She has also written a young adult supernatural novel called Devil’s Pathway, a nonfiction book called The Truth About Angels: What the Bible Says, and a short story series titled Angel Warrior Files. Explore further at vickivlucas.com.