In the (almost) 10 years Tony and I have been married, we have come to one undeniable conclusion: We have different tastes. He likes milk chocolate; I like dark. He orders a Venti Americano; I drink green tea. He likes meaty works like Owen and Calvin; I prefer easier-to-chew contemporary works. But there is one particularly irreconcilable difference between us, one that between bibliophiles the battle-lines run deep: He prefers non-fiction, and I like fiction.
Until recently, I would steal my literature moments like a kid sneaking from the cookie jar: a chapter or two at the gym, a few pages between pushing kids on the swings, or lately, reading the classics to our son. I have actually “saved” fiction books to read while in labor for each of our children. (Apparently we need to get a babysitter more often.)
Why all the caution around fiction? Christian fiction today often gets a bad rap, partly because much of fiction today deserves neither the term “Christian” nor “literature.” From pithy tales to outright sin, the world of Christian fiction is not one we can always confidently recommend. But we are thankful for fictional works that have pointed our eyes to the Cross, and we’re happy to recommend these to you.
1. Biblical Fiction
Lynn Austin. When I discuss fiction titles with other believers, Lynn Austin’s Chronicles of the Kings series is one of the first I mention. Beginning with Gods and Kings, Austin masterfully retells the Old Testament accounts of Kings Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manassah in a compelling and entertaining way. I have such a deeper understanding and appreciation of God’s work in the nations of Israel and Judah, and that is partly because these books kept driving me back to Scripture. By far, these are my favorite Christian and biblical fiction books.
One more note on this series: When I read through them, I snatched a book from Tony’s bookshelf that was very helpful in comparing this series to the Bible. It was an old harmony of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles which set the corresponding biblical accounts side-by-side. There are two versions available we found: an older one here, and a newer one here.
2. Historical Fiction
Stephanie Grace Whitson. As a brand-new believer, I walked into a church bookstore in Lincoln looking for something to read on the hour trip back to Omaha. I was pleasantly surprised, after being introduced to the historical fiction of Stephanie Grace Whitson, to discover that not only was she a Nebraskan, she attended the very church where Tony and I were saved. Her Prairie Winds series brought me through the delivery of our first child, Jonathan, and since then I have enjoyed her other historical fiction books as well. I appreciate her faithfulness to the Word and faithful communication of the Gospel. I have not read her more recent books, but her first series starts off with Walks the Fire. You might want to have the sequel ready as well, unless you need a sanctifying lesson in patience.
If bad Christian fiction is spiritual junk food, a good biography is like a whole wheat cookie — the whole grain goodness of spiritual examples mixed with the sugar and salt of real-life drama. (Be sure to wash it down with the pure milk of God’s Word.)
Another excellent recommendation does not fit well into these categories so I’ll jot it down here. Recently, Tony pointed me a new book by Dr. Harry Kraus, a missionary surgeon in Africa. Kraus is noted in the literary world for his fictional writing but his newest is non-fictional. Breathing Grace casts his exciting medical experiences as illustrations of our need to be sustained daily by God’s grace. Just as the body lives off oxygen, so too does the soul live off a moment-by-moment supply of grace. Tony wrote a full review earlier this year. It’s not fiction, but Kraus is tuned into the fictional genre and his book will certainly appeal to fans of fiction.
One of the best things about being a parent is getting to read some of the great classic books you missed as a kid. From the Chronicles of Narnia to the Lord of the Rings, Tony and I are enjoying catching up on our grade school education as we read to our son. Other favorite classics (not quite for a 6-year-old boy) include Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. If your wife has already read these volumes, no doubt she loves them. A thoughtful gift might be a hardcover edition and a date-night “chick flick” movie edition of these books.
So that’s a very short list to get your fiction fix started. Now, will all the other TSS fiction fans please stand up? We’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments. Thank you for sharing!
One more category to come…thanks again for joining us on our early Christmas shopping trip!