Our 2020 Christmas Gift Guide: The hard-to-buy-for teens edition

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be compiling a host of gift guides to help you with your Christmas shopping.

Here is a list of suggestions for the tricky teens in your life.


  • Future Girl by Asphyxia – Visually orientated teens will love this gorgeous art journal tale of a Deaf girl finding her voice in a challenging future Melbourne.

  • Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam – This lyrical verse novel about a wrongfully convicted teenage boy will grab the attention of teens interested in social and racial justice.

  • The Cousins by Karen M. McManus – Written with pace, efficiency and highly relatable young characters, McManus’s latest crime thriller contains drama, an inheritance up for grabs, a holiday locale and a web of lies.

  • Humans by Brandon Stanton – Maybe they’ve seen Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram account, or maybe they’ll just be drawn to this chunky book with hundreds of startling photos and honest stories from all over the world.

  • Ok, so maybe you don’t want to push it with a book. You could gift your non-reading teen a Readings tote or t-shirt, this amazing jigsaw or even this one, a covetable diary or a fun game to play with friends.


The following books are so fresh off the press we find it impossible to believe your teen has read all of them…

  • The Loop by Ben Oliver – This thrilling novel follows a young prisoner as he escapes a high-tech prison only to find that the world outside has descended into chaos and rebellion.

  • The History of Mischief by Rebecca Higgie - A mysterious book, and the philosophical fables it contains, takes two sisters on a journey through history and the world in this unique story that explores family, grief and humanity.

  • These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong – Travel to 1920s Shanghai for this historical fantasy that details the blood feud between two rival Russian and Chinese gangs, and a city swept by a sinister contagion.

  • Most Likely by Sarah Watson – Four best friends in their senior year of high school. One of them will grow up to become the president of the United States…

  • Take Me with You by Tara Altebrando – The new book from enormously popular psychological thriller author Altebrando follows four teens who are manipulated by a mysterious device.

For more of our best recommendations for voracious teen readers, you should also check out the ten YA books we think people should have read before the end of 2020, the six wonderful reads that made up this year’s Readings Young Adult Book Prize shortlist, and the ten books that our staff voted the best YA books of the year.

Also, consider this your PSA to buy some local Australian YA fiction for Christmas this year. It’s been a weird year for Australian authors to release their books and they could use your support. Start with these four sparkling local suggestions, and then browse recent #LoveOzYA books.


  • The F Team by Rawah Arja – Tariq and his mates are coerced by the school principal into entering an intense rugby competition – on a team with their rivals from Cronulla. Funny, heartwarming and full of the ways sport can push and transform teens.

  • A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti - After a tragic incident at her high school, teen runner Annabelle embarks on an ultra-long road run from Seattle to Washington, accompanied by her Grandpa Ed in a campervan. This is a warm novel that explores the power of sport to heal.

  • Break The Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli - An ambitious young gymnast shooting for Olympic gold is challenged by injury and abuse allegations, but finds resilience in the friendship of her teammates.

  • More Than a Kick by Jennifer Castles and Tayla Harris – AFLW fans will love this inspiring story of Tayla Harris’s stellar sporting career so far, and her advice about navigating the ups and downs of social media.

  • If they’re an older teen, you might want to peruse our collection of books for sport fans, which includes a lavish book from basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, a warmly written history of surfing in Australia, and Gary Ablett’s new autobiography.


  • Exploring the Elements: A Complete Guide to the Periodic Table by Sara Gillingham and Isabel Thomas – This visually-appealing and comprehensive guide to all 118 chemical elements covers attributes, characteristics, uses, and interesting stories behind the discovery of each. Chemistry heaven.

  • The Secret Life of Stars by Lisa Harvey-Smith – Astrophysics comes to life in the hands of renowned Australian astrophysicist Harvey-Smith. This truly mind-bending and fascinating book covers blue giants, white dwarfs, pulsars, neutron stars, black holes, runaway stars and much more. Teens will never think about our universe the same way again.

  • Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty – This book by 15-year-old Irish teen conservationist Dara McAnulty is so good that it won the Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing, a prestigious honour normally awarded to books for adult audiences. McAnulty’s youthful passion and love for the natural world truly shines through in his detailed and contemplative writing.

  • A Human’s Guide to the Future by Dr Jordan Nguyen - Biomedical engineer and inventor Dr Jordan Nguyen romps through the big innovations being developed around the world in this very readable book that touches on robotics, artificial intelligence, bionics, extended reality and avatars.

  • Welcome to Country by Marcia Langton - This youth edition of Professor Langton’s essential book covers Australia’s prehistory, post-colonial history, language, kinship, knowledge, art, performance, storytelling, native title, the Stolen Generations, making a rightful place for First Australians and looking to the future for Indigenous Australia.


  • The Lost Soul Atlas by Zana Fraillon – This rich and empathetic fantasy follows Twig in his Afterlife, as he embarks on a gruelling quest to piece together memories and clues from his life on the streets and find his way home. Acclaimed author Fraillon has crafted a unique story with real-world resonance and touches of humour and magic.

  • The End of the World Is Bigger than Love by Davina Bell – Twin sisters Summer and Winter survive in style on a remote island in a destroyed world. Then mysterious stranger Edward upends their carefully constructed reality… Bell’s first novel for teens is is somewhat indescribable – surreal, odd and utterly captivating.

  • Burn by Patrick Ness – Talking dragons? The FBI? A doomsday cult? All this, and more, from the inimitable Ness, who continues to surprise and delight with his distinct and unusual storylines

  • The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix – Susan travels to London to find her father and becomes friends with Merlin, who is a member of a secret society tasked with controlling the magical intrusions of the Old World of England.

  • A Fairy Tale Revolution - This series features retellings of classic fairy tales by major literary figures like Rebecca Solnit and Jeanette Winterson, and are designed to breathe new life into old stories for the enjoyment of both adults and young people.


  • Loner by Georgina Young – This enormously funny and affecting book captures the awkward in-between years after high school and before adulthood perfectly. You’ll want to give directionless protagonist Lona a big hug.

  • Before the Beginning by Anna Morgan – Live Schoolies Week vicariously with this empathetic multi-narrator story about a group of teens camping on a remote island and facing up to their anxieties, challenges and dreams.

  • The Coconut Children by Vivian Pham – The youthful love story between high school student Sonny and her childhood friend Vincent is set vividly among the Vietnamese-Australian community in 1990s Cabramatta. Sydney author Pham is still in her teens herself, and her debut novel is moving, funny and profound.

  • A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik - Published as adult fantasy, this wonderful story about a cut-throat school of magic and the dark power possessed by a young girl has enormous appeal for older teens.

  • The Rupi Kaur Boxed Set - Rupi Kaur is enormously popular with teens for her emotional and direct poetry; this good-looking boxed set contains two volumes of her work.


  • Deep Water by Sarah Epstein – A group of teens try to find out what happened to 13-year-old Henry Weaver, missing for three months, in this atmospheric mystery set in a small Australian town. With believable teens, a palpable setting and a engrossing plot, this book is easy to disappear inside of, and impossible to put down.

  • This One Is Ours by Kate O'Donnell – Charming, thoughtful and wide-eyed, this story of an Australian student on exchange in Paris (at art school, no less!) will make readers crave pastries, romance and the mind-expanding effects of being outside your comfort zone.

  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins - Everyone knows Suzanne Collins’s blockbusting Hunger Games trilogy, and this long-awaited prequel is sure to delight almost all teen readers. It’s fascinating to meet the adolescent versions of familiar adult characters, and witness their determined social machinations in an authoritarian society.

  • When It Drops by Alex Dyson - This charming, funny and relatable novel by former triple j radio host Alex Dyson follows sixteen-year-old bedroom songwriter Caleb, who accidentally goes viral and is thrust unwillingly into the heady music industry.

  • Ghost Bird by Lisa Fuller – The 2020 winner of the Readings Young Adult Book Prize, Ghost Bird comes with the highest approval of our staff judges and author Amie Kaufman. It’s a spooky thriller set in country Australia against a backdrop of family relationships, small-town grudges and casual racism.

Still stumped? We also sell gift vouchers which can be used in-store and online.

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