1. Ryken, Leland, Editor. The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing. Shaw Books, 2002. 465 pgs. Ages 16-up.
If you have a teen who is at all interested in literature, this is a great gift book. It includes thought-provoking essays from a Christian worldview on the purposes of fiction, the way imagination works, and some of the biggest challenges from the non-Christian reading community. With thoughts from some of the best Christian writers such a J.R.R. Tolkein, Francis Schaeffer, G.K. Chesterton, and C.S. Lewis, much of this book will be essential reading in college–and with hundreds of quotes from a wide range of authors, it’s the sort of book that will make writing papers in college lots easier. Probably my favorite gift book for kids who love literature or the creative arts.
2. Carson, D.A. The Intolerance of Tolerance. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2012. Ages 16-up. 196 pgs.
A great introduction to the prevailing headwinds in the secular culture…and often within Christian circles as well. The arguments here are critical to remaining Christian in college, in my opinion.
3. Carson, D.A. The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism. Zondervan, 2002. Ages 18-up. 640 pgs.
This is for the really precocious kids who are deep thinkers and will be specializing in English Literature. It’s very long–640 pages–and it is THICK reading. From feminism to critical race theory to queer theory to labyrinthian debates on epistemology, Carson’s work is the most thorough and careful appraisal of the literary field that I’ve read from a Christian viewpoint. He addresses many of the major literary theorists being studied on college campus today, and he shows how they fit within a broader stream of both Christian and secular ideas. Yet he doesn’t just show where they are wrong–he also gives credit where credit is due. Students will probably use this more like a Bible or a reference book–reading bits and pieces as they need it, which makes it a book that will serve them well for years to come.
3. Harris, Brett and Alex Harris. Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations. Multnomah Books, 2008. Ages 14-up.
If you’re looking for a light, inspirational book for your young graduate, this is a great one. Just about any young adult can read and benefit from it, and since it was written by young adults to their peers, it’s not as stuffy or distant from the experience of young readers. Basically, the book is a call to do something great with your life through sacrifice. From a reader: “Alex and Brett capture the passion and potential of our generation perfectly in this book. In Do Hard Things, they encourage us to go above and beyond the status quo in everything from schoolwork to serving the poor. This is a truly unique and sorely needed book.”
4. Piper, John. Don’t Waste Your Life (Gift Edition). Crossway, 2004. 192 pgs.
What is important in life? What would it look like to capture every part of my life for Christ? Media, money, Christian living are all addressed in light of the cross of Christ. For such a short book, Piper does a remarkable job of summarizing his philosophy of ministry, and he helps readers think about the most basic issues involved in making Christ our life.
John Piper describes this Bible as “a dream come true” for its “scope and theological faithfulness.” Mark Driscoll calls it “the most important resource that has been given to the emerging generation of bible students and teachers. The ESV Study Bible is the best. Period.” And I also happen to know our own Janie Cheaney has a copy. It’s a study Bible that kids will use long into their adulthood.
Do you guys have any other suggestions? I’m always looking for good additions to my list!