Sometimes a great book can kick a kid into high gear, and these 10 inspirational books for teens can both motivate them and help them feel understood.
If your teenagers are like mine, getting them to finish a book can be challenging. Between reading for school and the allure of YouTube videos and Netflix, books often fall to the bottom on the list of fun things to do.
During the teenage years especially, kids seek information and inspiration from sources beyond their parents. They want to be moved and motivated by others, and sometimes they just need a little encouragement to pick up a great book.
We asked the teens in our life what books have inspired them the last few years, but our best advice is to let your teen choose what they want to read–and don’t criticize. Whether it’s a sports book, adventure series, or the Harry Potter series they have already read 14 times, reading should always be encouraged no matter what the topic!
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10 of the Best Inspirational Books for Teens
Best inspiring book for sports enthusiasts
Any teen who loves sports can relate to this book. Written in the context of basketball, the book is (divided into four quarters. It highlights the key principles that the world’s most elite basketball players (Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, etc.) have applied to their lives and explains in detail how you can use those same principles to help you navigate through life, accomplish your goals, and realize your dreams in any aspect of your life.
Best book for practical information
OK, we’re going to be honest. This wasn’t a book that our teens wanted to read right off the bat. BUT, with a little prodding, they got into it and they all remarked that they were able to apply some of what they read into their day-to-day life. Like it’s parent book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Sean Covey, this book offers straight-forward advice to how to live with focus and make better, more informed decisions and have a more positive mindset.
Inspiration for teens dealing with mental health challenges
It’s no secret that today’s teenagers are struggling with their mental health, with many facing extreme bouts of depression and anxiety about the world around them. Worst of all, many teens stay silent about their struggles, fighting a lonely battle that is claiming far too many lives.
Never Fight Alone is a book for teens that consists of 51 inspiring interviews with all sorts of people who have faced similar problems. From teen entrepreneurs to former professional athletes to inspirational authors and speakers, they describe the obstacles they faced, how they overcame them, and offer life-changing tips for how readers can do the same.
Best book for building self-esteem
Often recommended by therapists, this is a great book for the teen who needs a little boost to their self-esteem and shutting down that self-doubt. In Just as You Are, psychologist Michelle Skeen and her daughter, Kelly Skeen, offer simple tips to help you overcome feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness , stop comparing yourself to others, and be more open and accepting of all aspects of who you are. You’ll also learn how to be more aware of your thoughts and feelings in the moment using powerful mindfulness tools and build a plan of action for the future based on your values, and start learning self-care.
Best inspirational book for teens who likes to dream
Originally performed at the Kennedy Center for the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and later as a tribute to Walter Dean Myers, this stirring and inspirational poem is New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist Jason Reynolds’s rallying cry to the young dreamers of the world.
This books is great for any kid who has big dreams but may not think they are good enough. It talks about how to keep your dreams alive, and that sometimes dreams take time or change. They involve struggle. They often involve getting beaten down. But it also encourages kids to take a leap of faith and believe in yourself, as that’s when great things happen.
Inspirational fiction that will make you think
This is an amazing coming of age novel about Black girlhood and adolescence. This riveting story follows two sisters as they try to make sense of their new life with their estranged grandfather in the wake of their father’s death and their mother’s disappearance.
Inspiration to get you motivated
True story, my husband made our kids read this during the pandemic, and we even read parts of it aloud. It is definitely one of the best motivational books of all time. Based on a graduation speech that went viral, Admiral William H. McRaven started it off by saying, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. Taking inspiration from the university’s slogan, “What starts here changes the world,” he shared the ten principles he learned during Navy Seal training that helped him overcome challenges not only in his training and long Naval career but also throughout his life; and he explained how anyone can use these basic lessons to change themselves-and the world for the better.
Most inspiring true story (tough, but compelling read)
The lives of two teens from very different neighborhoods are forever changed and bound together by a horrific crime. This compelling nonfiction book for teens about race, class, gender, crime, and punishment, tells the true story of an agender teen who was set on fire by another teen while riding a bus in Oakland, California.
Inspiring memoir for the YouTube generation
Ryan Higa’s How to Write Good
An unconventional but heart-warming memoir about how a famous YouTuber did something positive with his life. It discusses how he went from being a relatively happy kid to being depressed and angry and filled with dark thoughts–but more importantly, how he found a better way to live his life.
Inspiring and relatable biography
Warm, funny and relatable, James Corden has achieved his dream of being a great entertainer. His Carpool Karaoke TV show has an almost cult following. Yet at school, he wasn’t cool, or clever – in fact, he was pretty disruptive. But he never gave up, forming a boy band and attending hundreds of auditions. It was only when he followed his heart in an ocean of naysayers that he found success. This inspirational book for teens who haven’t yet found their ‘thing.’
Bonus: Great books for little bits of inspiration
Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You: This book by Lin-Manuel Miranda is a great pick me up for when the world might be pushing your teen down. Inspired by quotes and messages on Twitter, this is a great read to start your day.
The Happiness Project: Happiness guru (and podcaster) Gretchen Rubin experimented with all sorts of paths and possibilities on the road toward happiness—and she shares what worked, what didn’t in her year of attempting to find more happiness. It’s great perspective for a negative teen.
Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self: a subtle way to encourage your teens to put their phones down, Manoush Zomorodi investigates cutting-edge research as well as compelling (and often funny) real-life examples to demonstrate that boredom is actually a crucial tool for making our lives happier, more productive, and more creative. It also talks about the effects of social media on our creativity.