I’m an avid reader. I always have a book on my nightstand, and in my former, child-free days, I could and would read for hours at a time–sometimes all day, only taking bathroom breaks. That’s even what I was doing while I timed my contractions during early labor with BabyN.
So you may wonder…if I read so much and love it so much, why is it so rarely mentioned here? Well, there’s a good answer for that: I tend to read books that I suspect would be a little embarrassing to admit.
It wasn’t always that way. I used to read whatever Oprah promoted, all the “popular” books of the moment. I took suggestions from what people around me were reading. Even now, I can catch the fads (like Harry Potter) and read them happily occasionally. But most of these fad books are not the books I choose to read and reread over and over again.
The books that I choose to add permanently to my collection, the the ones I feel drawn back to repeatedly, they are the books I feel a little embarrassed about. There is nothing at all wrong with them; it’s just that they’re not exactly ripe with literary depth.
You might remember I taught English for several years. The other English teachers around me always knew the “in” books to be reading, and they would discuss their literary merits over lunch regularly. I knew these were the books I should be reading as an English teacher because analyzing them would help me be a better teacher.
I tried, I really did. They were good enough, if they tended to be a bit heavy–and I don’t mean just physical weight. But they weren’t rereads. They were the kind to showcase in your personal library to show off how literary you are.
When I would finish one of these books, I would always take a break and go back to my good old, immaturely-written Christian fiction.
Yep, that’s what I read most of the time. It’s really not bad, and I’m sure there are worse things out there to admit to reading. But they’re certainly not complicated books, and they certainly don’t have much literary merit, as I’m sure the other English teachers could attest to. (Ha! I just ended my sentence in a preposition! That’s what I think of you English teachers!)
These books, however, are like good friends. Their lack of complication and happy endings encourage me to spend time with them even when I have books from the “cool crowd” beckoning me as well. Does it matter that the writing is oversimplified and immature and that the book is full of typos? It only matters as much as the small flaws in a best friend; they are easily overlooked for all the good they hold.
I now have a whole huge bookcase stuffed with these favorites. Many have the look of well-read books, and for good reason. Not only have I read them numerous times, but they have had previous owners, thanks to my frugal shopping at secondhand book stores. Any time I don’t have a new book to read sitting on my shelf, I reach for one of these yet again.
Here are a few of my favorites, by author:
–Lynn Austin: I started with Hidden Places and liked it enough to try some others. My favorites are her two series, though. I’m working on the second, longer series right now and am so addicted that it’s killing me to wait on the rest of the books to arrive in the mail (hopefully today!).
–Beverly Lewis: She writes about the Amish, and there is something about the culture and the way she portrays it that keeps me wanting to know more. These books are particularly predictable, but that only makes them more appealing sometimes. My favorite is her series, Abram’s Daughters.
–Janette Oke: The first Christian fiction author I ever read, she’s still probably my favorite. I own every book she’s written and have read them all at least twice. I try to read through them all every year or two. Although they are easily the least complicated of all the Christian fiction I’ve read, the characters are so lovable that it doesn’t matter. The best series in my opinion is still her first, the Love Comes Softly series (and the Lifetime movies are nothing like the books, if you’ve seen them).
–Francine Rivers: Without a doubt, she is the best Christian fiction author I’ve ever read. Her books are more than just good stories or good characters but could probably even satisfy those other English teachers. It sounds cliche to say it but Redeeming Love probably changed my life. I also love her Mark of the Lion series.
I’ve read some others, but these four authors are the ones who really resonate with me and what I’m looking for in a book.
In about a week or so, I’ll be finished with all the new books I have right now. When that happens, I’m sure I’ll find myself back in front of my Christian fiction bookshelf (yes, I have my books organized by genre–then by author’s last name, then by order within the series, then by order written) reaching for one of these books yet again.
Have any of you read much in the way of Christian fiction? Are there any books and/or authors I didn’t mention that you would recommend I try? I’m always looking for new books, even if that means putting of a reread of my favorites temporarily.