If you’ve ever heard Lauren Winner talk about how she came to faith, she’ll say it was partly because of The Mitford novels. And you’ll notice that she seems somewhat embarrassed by it, as if it should have been a nobler piece of work.
I have a similar confession. I love to read. This is not my confession. Neither is the fact that my Amazon wish list, that I use to order my library books from, has 870 books on it, that I actually want to read. (I should know. I cleaned it out today and deleted about 20 books that didn’t look interesting anymore.) I’m rather proud of that fact, actually, even if the majority of the list is theological works, books on writing, and memoirs; types of writing that I didn’t grow up reading.
The books I actually cut my teeth on, the books that formed my reading habits, are my real confession here.
And then, of course, Janette Oke. You can’t talk about Christian fiction without talking about her. Love Comes Softly. Marti and Clark giving me a love of the prairie. The Canadian West series given me, even now, the deepest desire to visit Calgary, Alberta and British Columbia. (One of my dream trips is to take the train from Windsor to Vancouver and back.)
As I flew through those books, but was still fairly young, I moved to other acceptable books and authors. June Masters Bacher, with Rachel and Cole in the Pioneer Romance Series. Marian Wells and her Starlight Trilogy, teaching me about Mormonism. Jane Kirkpatrick and her books set in the Willamette valley, giving me a love that endures to this day of the Pacific Northwest. Slowly the books began teaching me, giving me a love for the stories, for history and the people who lived it.
Jane Peart and the Brides of Montclair. Gilbert Morris and his House of Winslow series. And then on to meatier authors, like the Thoenes, teaching me about WW1, the Depression, WW2,and Israel. Tracie Peterson and Judith Pella, giving me a look inside the Industrial Revolution. Michael Philips and the amazing Rose trilogy, giving a glimpse of life behind the Iron Curtain. The Stonewycke trilogies -Scotland! Because of Peterson, an absolute love for Alaska and Montana. (Ok, anything by Tracie Peterson. If I had to pick, she would be my favorite author that I actually read.) I loved Francine Rivers years before Redeeming Love made her well-known, with The Mark of the Lion series.
I had unrealistic romantic expectations because of the Glenbrooke series. And there was the series where the author forgot a characters name, 2 books in. (I am trying so hard to find this series!) The book where the same scene was repeated a couple of pages apart. (I actually wrote a letter to the publishing company over this one!) The book that said ‘everyone was laughing so hard’ but I never smiled. (
Again, I wish I could find this – I think it was a series. Oh! I found it!!! The Island of Heavenly Daze.)
Judith Miller. Lynn Austin with one of my favorites, Pretense. (Because it took me forever to read this, and it’s a good story.) Lori Wick. The so suspenseful stories of Dee Henderson that made me think an ex-boyfriend was stalking me. Karen Kingsbury, who I loved before she was famous, and now can’t stand to read. Topping my list are Kristen Heitzmann and her amazing Italian food, Gary Parker and the Highland series, one of my absolute faves, and Elizabeth Musser and the Swan House. You have to read at least this one, if not these last 3 I’ve mentioned.
The only thing I cannot, cannot do is Amish books. I can’t stand the dialect. I don’t know why they’re popular. I wish my library would stop spending money on them. I just can’t.
Those books that have the cross sticker were, for so long, my go-to books. The safe ones. The appropriate ones. I think the first secular, non-classical fiction book I read (besides trying out Jude Deveraux in jr. high to fit in) was Confessions of a Shopaholic, only because my sister-in-law wanted me to read it, and oh my word. I was slightly scandalized. And then quickly devoured all of her books.
And yes, they might not have been realistic, and some of the writing is sub par, and I always skipped the pages where they give the salvation message – but unknowingly, these books formed me, and I loved reading them. I am more selective in which authors I read now, but I still love them. When I go to the library, I still scan the new book shelf looking for any new cross stickers that look interesting. I still hope my favorite authors will continue to enthrall me with new friends.
And, I have started my daughter on them. I analyzed it, but decided the love of reading and delightful shared memories trump some bad writing and annoying theology. She is flying through the Brides of Montclair right now, and has already read the Love Comes Softly series. House of Winslow is next, and I cannot wait. (Secretly I’m hoping this kicks in a love for, or at least a tolerance of, history so she won’t be kicking her heels at it when school starts.)
And oh my word, you guys! In looking up some of the books I’d forgotten the names of, I learned that Michael Phillips and Judith Pella have a 7 book series set in Russia that I somehow missed all those years ago! A new series to live in for a few days! The best thing about Christian fiction? It’s such easy reading that I can fly through the books. Of course, the sad part is, that I can fly through the books, which is a shame when I love them. But I cycle through them. I have probably read all of these books, and many, many more at least 2 or 3 times. My favorites I’ve probably read at least 5 times. When Sarah wrote about the books that were her friends, I didn’t have any fancy literary books to offer up.
All I have are these books, Christian and comfortable, sacred and safe, and somehow, in spite of the worst of them, the best of them have inspired me to learn and write and live in story.
So, what books are you slightly embarrassed to love? Who are your favorite Christian authors?