I like reading lists of great books in hopes of discovering one I had missed or had not considered reading before. About ten days ago Josh Katzowitz had an article on Newmax listing the top ten most popular Christian novels of all time. Click through to see his comments on each title. Below are his top ten:
- A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
- Christy – Catherine Marshall
- The End of the Affair – Graham Greene
- Gilead – Marilynne Robinson
- The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis
- Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien
- Love Comes Softly – Janette Oke
- The Man Who Was Thursday – G. K. Chesterton
- Wise Blood – Flannery O’ Connor
- This Present Darkness – Frank Peretti
There is no doubt each has its merit. The title of the article did not say “the best” but instead “most popular” and yet, prior to the list, he identified the ten books as “examples of the most famous works of Christian fiction.” If that was the intended criteria he missed Left Behind or The Shack! However, if you have not read one on that list, make reading it a part of your New Year’s resolutions…meanwhile I think the list could be expanded by another ten. In your comments below, please agree or disagree and add any that you think have been missed.
- Redeeming Love – Francine Rivers (1997)
- Barabbas – Par Lagerkvist (won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1951)
- The Singer – Calvin Miller (1975)
- War in Heaven – Charles Williams (1930)
- Hind’s Feet on High Places – Hannah Hurnard (1955)
- Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis (1942)
- Silence – Shusaku Endo (1966)
- The Moviegoer – Walter Percy (1961)
- Peace Like a River – Leif Enger (2001)
- Shunning – Beverly Lewis (the book that started a new genre in fiction – 1997)
Other possible additions:
At Home at Mitford – Jan Karon
Power and the Glory – Graham Greene
Mariette in Ecstasy – Ron Hansen
The Diary of a Country Priest – George Bernanos
Death Comes for the Archbishop – Willa Cather
Kristin Lavransdatter – Sigrid Undset (won the Nobel Prize in 1928)
The Testament – John Grisham
The Paradise War (book one of the Song of Albion trilogy) – Stephen Lawhead
A Skeleton in God’s Closet – Paul Maier (It was #1 on the CBA bestseller list)
Julie – Catherine Marshall
Dinner with a Perfect Stranger – David Gregory
Black (book one of the Circle series) – Ted Dekker
Firebird – Kathy Tyers
Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
Divine Comedy – Dante
Paradise Lost – John Milton
Now it is your turn!
The top Christian novels for me are ones that I return to read multiple times. Among them are Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia (esp. The Last Battle), Till We Have Faces, and Space Trilogy (esp. Perelandra and That Hideous Strength), All of Madeline L’Engle’s fiction, Charles Williams’ fiction, Charles Martin’s The Dead Don’t Dance and Maggie, Michael Morris’ Slow Way Home, and yes, Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and Lila. While not a specifically Christian book, Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto was a novel where Christianity was exercised in a terrorist to me a Christian novel. I’m sure I’ve missed some that were my “best” at one time. However, my most reread books tend to be non-fiction.
And that’s why I need an editor especially in the morning!
David Alan Binder
I find it interesting that the top ten Christian books does not include the Bible.
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I appreciate any comments
David Alan Binder
The list is for Christian fiction. I don’t consider the Bible to be fiction!!!
It did say Christian fiction. Most of us don’t consider the Bible to be fiction.
Two more to add are Two From Galilee by Marjorie Holmes and John, Son of Thunder by Ellen Gunderson Traylor. Both had a profound effect on my faith.
I’m a bit surprised that William E. Barrett’s “The Left Hand of God” and “The Lilies of the Field” weren’t there.
And what about Andrew Greeley?
Great list! I love that you included Willa Cather, whose work I first encountered in grad school at a secular school. She’s an awesome author who also writes great faith-filled fiction.
I really enjoyed C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy. My favorite was Perelandra because of the insight Lewis provided into the way temptation works through the interactions between Weston and Tinidril (the Queen of Perelandra).
Steve, I agree with many on these lists.
I would add Francine Rivers’s Mark of the Lion series. A Voice in the Wind is still in the Amazon top 100 in both paperback and Kindle versions after more than 20 years on the market. For a gripping tale of faithfulness under persecution and threat of death and the struggle of nonbelievers against coming to faith, these are exemplary. The parallels between the challenges Christians faced in the Roman Empire and the persecution that is rampant in the world and beginning in the US made these books even more riveting when I read them a little over a year ago.
Reading Peretti’s This Present Darkness opened my eyes to the real possibility of demonic activity in the affairs of men. The American church has foolishly downplayed and even denied the reality of demonic powers and warfare in the spiritual realm even though Jesus himself spoke of the conflict. I have never viewed world events the same after reading this book. Today’s events make much more sense viewed through the lens of spiritual powers in rebellion against God. If we don’t recognize the real enemy, we will never win the battle. (Jesus already won the war.)
Screwtape Letters should be mandatory reading for the insights it give into how Satan tries to draw away even the elect from a fruitful faith. I reread it every few years to rearm myself. It should be read by every Christian past the age of 14. Focus on the Family made a superb dramatization with Andy Serkis (Gollum in Lord of the Ring’s movies) as the voice of Screwtape.
Another story with potential for profound impact is Dinner with a Perfect Stranger by David Gregory. Although Amazon classes it as apologetics and the back cover of the hardbound classifies it as personal growth, it is a fictional narrative of a driven professional accepting what he things is a gag invitation to dinner with Jesus. My daughter, who was in 8th grade at the time, was so affected by it she made me read it. I couldn’t put it down after I started reading. It could change the entire life perspective of someone considering a relationship with Jesus for the first time. I love the line “There’s no adventure like being joined to the Creator of the universe.”
Carol, your review of each of these outstanding novels is so clearly worded and descriptiveI thank you!
This Present Darkness and Screwtape Letters are my top must reads recommended to many, but I haven’t read Dinner with a Stranger! I am putting in my Must Read pile!
I thought I was the only one who had discovered the beauty of The Singer! I gave my book away to my former speech and debate team. What a beautiful poem.
So glad you added Redeeming Love!
The two novels Michael Phillips wrote for what he called “The Livingstone Chronicles”, “A Rift in Time” & “Hidden in Time”, are exceptional.
Great lists. I would add Deborah Raney’s, A Vow to Cherish. That book spoke to me because my grandmother died from Alzheimers. And the faithfulness of the male protagonist? Loved it.
I loved seeing The Singer on your list, as well as Redeeming Love.
May I suggest to the classics we add Lew Wallace’s Ben Hur. Reading it as a younger man, it had a role in not only opening my spiritual eyes, but in showing me that disappointments and hardships can be part of God’s plan.
As is the case with many movies, the book is superior in having the time to give facts and details the movie could not accommodate due to time and cost constraints.
Michael Phillips and Judith Pella wrote a series of books set in 19th century Scotland called The Stonewycke Trilogy. These books covered a family saga over three generations, showing how God’s hand worked in the lives of this family over long swaths of time. I absolutely adored these books that had such an impact on me as a young adult. I plan to make a master list of all of these books and expand my already bulging reading list to the point where it either explodes or erupts, spewing paper confetti across several states. There is not time in this bookworm’s days to read all these wonderful works! And write my own!
In His Steps, by Charles Sheldon had a profound effect on me as a young Christian.
This is fun!
I would add:
The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorn
When I started An Affair to Remember I thought where is this going? Great denouement with the priest and the female protagonist. I vote for Ben Hur by Lew Wallace. I read it at age sixteen. A new one is Empire’s End by Jerry Jenkins about the training of the Apostle Paul in Arabia.
William Lane Craig (a prof of mine at Biola University) believes Dostoyevsky is superior to C.S. Lewis. He certainly describes nihilism, the antithisis of Christianity, e.g., Notes from Underground.
The short stories by Flannery O’Connor are impressive.
Kudos for you for starting this blog.
How Far to Bethlehem, by Norah Lofts (fine historical fiction author)
I am trying to remember a fiction book about WW2 and the invasion of France it was a good read and had the following story lines in it. 1. A loyal German officer who is conflicted when he sees the SS rounding up Jews and tries to stop them. He ends up helping to rescue a Jewish baby by pretending to be the boys Dad and taking a trip to the border of a neutral country,handing the baby over there. 2. A Polish or French military boys academy the older of which set up a defensive position and provide a surprisingly good resistance to the aforementioned German officers unit. 3. A french soldier who is a single dad and whose children become refugees escaping the oncoming Germans. They end up in the company of an eccentric scientist who wears his gas mask every-time he goes out of doors. It wasnt a christian themed book per se, but I think the author was christian who wrote a book that avoided foul language and sex.
Thank you for the article and everyone’s additional suggestions. I have a lot for my queue. I really enjoyed The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant and love Tessa Ashfar’s books.
I’m surprised nobody has mentioned George MacDonald! He is by far my favorite Christian author!
You can now download the complete collection of his original works on Kindle for $1.99. Definitely read the original works as the edited versions cut out many of the gems and pearls of wisdom that abound in his fiction. Children may need the edited versions.
My favorites are Sir Gibbie, Donald Grant, Malcolm, The Marquis of Lossie, Robert Falconer, and Castle Warlock.
Some of his books have dialog in Scottish, and for those may need the online Scottish dictionary at first until you learn about 30 words. And there is also a glossary in the collection.
In a forward to one of MacDonald’s anthologies, C.S.Lewis wrote:
“ I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him. But it has not seemed to me that those who have received my books kindly take even now sufficient notice of the affiliation. Honesty drives me to emphasize it.”
The bronze bow was incredible.
I like Odd Thomas by Dean Koonz. I am not a Catholic and the beliefs of Odd Thomas are very Catholic. But it was a great book about a great character who had a strong belief in God,
Heaven, Christian Morality, simplicity, righteousness, and Hell. As a Christian, I love exciting adventures with leading characters who strive to do the right thing. I love ‘Little Oddie”.