What books to buy older teens for Christmas?

So many books – where do you start? What does your YA reader like that they don’t already have?

The truth is – you might get it wrong. They might hate the book or the author or have the book already. Not ideal but not a disaster either. If you’re flying blind because there is no wish list available and you haven’t had a chance to sneak a look at their shelves, then you can only do your best. And keep the receipt because they can always return the book.

My main recommendation is The Moth by Catherine Burns – a collection of short, true stories. I reviewed this book back in September. I highly recommend it – I doubt many teens will have seen or read it and it is a great starting point for discussions. Or arguments…..


Also check out recent prize winning books – don’t forget to look at the runners up, not just this year but in past years. Just because a book didn’t win doesn’t mean it isn’t good – and runners up are less likely to have crossed the path of the reader you are buying for. Don’t forget the Cross Sports Book Awards for sports lovers.

If they’re studying for their A levels – ask the teachers for some suggestions linked to their area of study. Equally ifs they are interested in studying a subject at university, have a quick check of university websites – they often have recommended reading lists. Quality broadsheets often publish lists of good books by subject matter and an internet search will often pull these up. Equally, check out the websites associated with subject based magazines – they will often have a review section, although focused on fact books rather than fiction.

I recently did some research on good history books – there is plenty of historical fiction and non-fiction but it is important to ensure that the books are properly researched. Authors who are generally regarded as having undertaken reliable research to back up their stories include Sharon Penman, Bernard Cornwell, Ken Follett, Hillary Mantel and Philippa Gregory. If you’d rather get a non-fiction book then there are some good sites to help you: The Historical Association and History Today.

There are two other good sources of help available – bookshops that employ staff who know and love books (independent bookshops tend to be the winners here) and libraries. Check out what is popular. Ask for suggestions. Don’t just trawl the internet – however easy it is. My local independent bookshop found me two historical fiction books – one set in the crusades – which I never would have thought of myself.

Finally don’t forget magazine subscriptions, they’re a great present because they last all year.






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