Most people think that Chess is the ultimate board game for testing your strategic wits. But many people, especially the mathematically inclined, believe that title should belong to Go. Go was invented in China more than 2,500 years ago, and may be the oldest game continuously played until today. You can pick up all sorts of sets, from fancy wooden tables to cheap plastic sheets. We recommend the travel set pictured above for most teens.
If your teen likes to play with computers but isn't looking to spend hours fiddling with pricey components (or you aren't eager to pay for them), a simpler option is the Arduino Starter Kit. Arduinos are simple, but infinitely customizable devices designed to introduce kids and teens to the basic principles of computing and robotics. The starter kit comes with all sorts of interesting pieces and projects, but quick learners may soon come up with new uses for the device outside the book.
When I was younger, a friend of mine received a bonsai tree as a gift from his parents. He's always been scientifically curious, and learning how to care for and shape the little tree quickly became an obsession for him. Now, he's in an Ivy League neuroscience program. Go figure. Bonsai fans highlight the opportunities to learn the intricacies of botany on a scale that can fit in a child's bedroom. Get your teen started with the well-reviewed "Bonsai: The Beginners Guide."
How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction
One of the most fascinating ideas in science right now is the notion that extinct species might one day get brought back to life, and even that such de-extinction might be a good idea. Biologist Beth Shapiro's book "How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction" is the best popular work on the subject, a fascinating read, and it's accessible to curious teens and adults alike.
New York 2140
Think your teen might be more interested in science fiction than science fact? Kim Stanley Robinson's "New York 2140" is one of the most fascinating novels based in science to come out in recent years. The book peers into the future, imagining what society might look like once sea levels have risen dozens of feet and turned Manhattan (and many other places) into a drowned city. And of course, there's intrigue and mystery.
Is your teen more of a space kid than an Earth kid? Another great, earlier novel from Kim Stanley Robinson is "Red Mars," the first installment in a trilogy about how humans might one day take over the Red Planet and rebel against their home-world.