Five fiction books Christians should read

One of the things I’ve really come to love as I’ve re-embraced fiction has been its power: good fiction is disarming. It allows you to enter into a world either very similar to our own or completely unlike it, and experience the mundane and the marvellous in ways you may not have imagined previously. It allows us to explore the nature of humanity in ways that you can’t as effectively through non-fiction. Often, by the time you’re done reading a really good fiction book, you’re surprised by how much you have to consider.

And yet it seems like so few Christians (at least in the circles I run in) read really good fiction.[Worse, it seems like even fewer Christian authors write really good fiction (as evidenced by the plethora of Amish romance novels available at your local Christian bookstore). But that’s an issue for another time.] I’d like to see that change (as would Justin Taylor, clearly). So, here’s a look at five fiction books Christians should consider reading. I do not promise profound picks—in fact, there’s a high degree of moral ambiguity represented in each—but I trust you’ll find them intriguing.

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

What got me in this book in particular (aside from it being so ridiculously quotable), is how much I identified with its characters, especially as an angsty 20-something music snob. I knew the guys at Rob’s record store. Actually, I was one of them—socially awkward and pretentious in my musical taste. (How is it that I ever got married?) Hornby’s greatest skill—giving us characters who read as real people, as opposed to ideas presented as people, if you follow—is on full display in this book, and why he is among my favorite modern authors.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

Having read a few of his books, this remains my favorites (Wonder Boys is a close second). I grew up adoring comic books. I actually desperately wanted to work in the comic industry in my teens (and even in my 20s; don’t judge). Kavalier and Clay follows Jewish cousins Joe Kavalier and Sammy Klayman who find fame with their creation The Escapist in the golden age of comics (the late 1930s to early 1950s). This book deals with some pretty powerful themes—among them , the cost of fame, racism, sexual identity, and family—but refuses to sacrifice good storytelling for the sake of making a statement.

The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

Is this a “safe” pick? Absolutely. Anything by C.S. Lewis tends to be in Christian circles since he’s one of us. But this one is different than the other books in the Narnia series (all of which I enjoyed). While it is not unceasingly grim, and, indeed, ends on the highest of notes, there is a weight to it that is lacking in some of the earlier volumes. One of my favorite elements? The ape who insists he’s a man (see why at the link).

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

I picked up this book randomly during my last year of high school. I can’t remember why exactly, though it may have been for an independent study project. After reading it (and then reading it again. And again. And…), I think I finally wore out my copy. It’s the richness of the characters that makes Great Expectations so compelling. As Dickens tells the tale of a lower-class boy who desires to become a gentleman, he gives us far more complicated and conflicted men and women than you find in any of his other works.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

Few authors can blend the mundane with the absurd as masterfully as Adams. Here’s one of my favorite passages:

The bathroom was not large.

The walls were panelled in old oak linenfold which, given the age and nature of the building, was quite probably priceless, but otherwise the fittings were stark and institutional.

There was old, scuffed, black-and-white checked linoleum on the floor, a small basic bath, well cleaned but with very elderly stains and chips in the enamel, and also a small basic basin with a toothbrush and toothpaste next to the taps. Screwed into the probably priceless panelling above the basin was a tin mirror-fronted bathroom cabinet. It looked as if it had been repainted many times, and the mirror was stained round the edges with condensation. The lavatory had an old-fashioned cast-iron chain-pull cistern. There was an old cream-painted wooden cupboard standing in the corner, with an old brown bentwood chair next to it, on which lay some neatly folded but threadbare small towels. There was also a large horse in the room, taking up most of it. (69)

You could really choose any of his books and you’d do well; but I’ve long had a fondness for Dirk Gently (which I also happen to be re-reading at the time of this writing).

Those are a few fiction books I’d recommend checking out. What are some of your favorites?

Photo credit: EJP Photo via photopin cc

14 thoughts on “Five fiction books Christians should read”

  1. Will I learn how to be more gentlemanly after reading Great Expectations? (serious question)

    1. Jalamb, I think one of the points Dickens makes in GE is that it’s not your social status or dress or bank account that makes you a gentleman. Character is what defines a true gentleman – how you treat others, your work ethic, your humility, etc. Pip comes to understand this after striving to become a gentleman for the wrong reasons and in the wrong way, and realizes that he sacrificed his good qualities in the process.

  2. I loved Great Expectations. I recently finished David Copperfield.
    I recommend the complete stories of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
    I highly recommend The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. The amount of allusions to Scripture is surprising.

    As far as Douglas Adams, his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy had me laughing to the point of tears from chapter 1.
    C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy and Till We Have Faces are good. My favorites from the Chronicles are The Magician’s Nephew and Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
    I also recommend The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.
    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was excellent!

  3. Some good ones here, inspired me to revisit a couple that I have read already. I would recommend Kent Hinckley’s Hearts, Minds and Coffee. A great read on the Vietnam war from both sides. kenthinckley.com is his site! I recommend!

  4. “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers as well as her Mark of the Lion series. Best fiction books I have ever read.

    1. I enjoyed Redeeming Love as well, and am currently reading the first in the Mark of the Lion series (A Voice in the Wind). However, I don’t recommend The Scarlet Thread – terrible book, I abandoned it before finishing it, and I rarely do that!

  5. Thanks for reminding readers that there is good secular fiction that is worth reading, especially in light of the fact that, as you mentioned, quality Christian fiction is not plentiful. IMO Ted Dekker is a good story-teller who weaves Christian themes into his stories. I have also enjoyed Randy Alcorn’s works, such as Safely Home and Edge of Eternity. I find it difficult to find contemporary secular fiction that doesn’t contain offensive material, so my favorites mostly come from prior centuries. I love Dickens as well, my personal favorite being A Tale of Two Cities (with GE coming in second). Other favorite novels include: Jane Eyre, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Count of Monte Cristo, Of Mice and Men, and more recently, The Book Thief. With that I will leave you with a quote: “The Christian novelist is distinguished from his pagan colleagues by recognizing sin as sin.” ( Bret Lott). That’s what I like to see in the novels I read.

  6. This book is in my top 5 favorite fiction and is #1 on my “books I want to read to/with my son” list: The Early Tales of Snow and Oakham by Philip Chavanne. The book deals with manhood and rite of passage in an exciting series of adventure stories. It attacks the culture plague of prolonged adolescence, but the story itself is so intriguing that you don’t even realize the author is doing that until the very end. Highly recommend.

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