New (or New to Us) Books for Holiday Reading and Gift-Giving

It’s a fact: readers love to give books as gifts, and we’re here to help! When in doubt we tend to turn to the classics, or the books we enjoyed as children. That’s a pretty safe bet, and it’s fun and rewarding to make new fans for those books we loved. But we shouldn’t neglect the excellent new books that emerge like glittering stars each year. Granted, not all of the titles below were published so recently, but all, or almost all, were reviewed by us in the last 3 years. 

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  • The Light Princess. The classic George McDonald tale, in a brand-new edition. For ages 8-up.
  • Briar and Rose and Jack. An elegant collision of two (or more) beloved stories. For ages 12-15
  • The Princess Bride. Another classic, but here’s a beautiful gift-worthy edition! For ages 12-up
  • Tales of Wonder, Vol. I. Eight “essential” fairy tales, with discussion questions to help you discover what makes them essential. For ages 15-up



  • New Shoes. Francis the donkey finds a way to provide shoes for his favorite calypso singer’s concert–even though she doesn’t have feet. For ages 4-8
  • Bolivar. Solid pacing, clever artwork, and a wonderfully well-rounded dinosaur make for a great read. For ages 4-10
  • Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl. Two of our favorite graphic-novel heroes–together in one volume! Note: This is the LAST in the series, so be sure to start with Mighty Jack and Mighty Jack and the Goblin King. And here’s our starred review of Zita the Space Girl.
  • The Iliad. Gareth Hinds graphic-novel makes an excellent introduction to Homer’s classic for teens.


  • Mistmantle Chronicles. They’ve been around for awhile but we’ve recently discovered them. Wonderful animal fantasy with many classical allusions. For ages 8-12
  • Sweep: the Story of a Girl and Her Monster. Historical fantasy set in 19th-century London, with elements of myth and grace. For ages 10-15
  • Time Sight. Time-travel back to old Scotland–and even older Scotland–as a trio uncovers their family history. For ages 10-15
  • The Ranger’s Apprentice series. A rollicking, multi-volume series combines elements of adventure, heroism, villainy, and a touch of romance. For ages 12-15
  • Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy. A treat for literary minded readers who enjoy complex world-building and literary style. For ages 15-up.


  • Brother Hugo and the Bear. A cryptic aside in a medieval letter inspired this lavishly-illustrated tale of a monk, a manuscript, and a bear. For ages 4-8
  • The Faithful Spy. This outstanding biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer uses graphic-novel elements to stunning effect. For ages 12-up
  • Lovely War. An epic romance plays out against the dramatic background of World War I, with an assist from the gods. For ages 15-up


  • Spy Runner. Cold War derring-do as 12-year-old Jake tracks a possible Russian spy. For ages 10-14; especially appealing to boys.
  • A Pocket Full of Murder/A Little Taste of Poison. Classic murder mysteries unfold in this winsome historical fantasy duo. For ages 10-15
  • The Father Brown Reader. Four classic stories about G. K. Chesterton’s clerical sleuth, adapted for young readers. For ages 8-12
  • The Secret Keepers. Adventure and mystery combine in this multi-faceted tale by the author of
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society series.  These have been around for awhile, but the fifth volume is new this year: The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Secret of the Ages. For ages 10-14


GREAT READS FOR TEENS (fun and/or thought-provoking):

  • You Bring the Distant Near. Three generations of a Bengali family find life and love in America.
  • The Boys in the Boat (Young Readers Edition OR Adult). A gripping true story about teamwork, perseverance, and triumph at the Olympics.
  • Forward Me Back to You. Two conflicted teens travel to India to confront human trafficking and challenges to their Christian faith.
  • Adulting 101. Great advice for older teens who are ready to launch!

CHRISTIAN FANTASY AUTHORS (always worth a mention!)

  • ND Wilson
  • Andrew Peterson
  • S. D. Smith
  • Jonathan Rogers


For still more ideas, see our mega-lists of these popular genres:

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Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.


  1. Cristy S. on November 25, 2019 at 5:09 am

    Wonderful, thanks so much!
    (under Christian Fantasy Authors, I think you mean S.D. Smith of Green Ember series?)

    • Betsy on November 25, 2019 at 8:31 am

      Thanks for catching that, Cristy! Yes–SD Smith of Green Ember fame :-). I’ve updated it.

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