Between the countless self-published books on the market and the books released by the Big Six publishing houses, a trip to Amazon (or brick and mortar bookstore) can be quite overwhelming.
How do you know which titles are worth your money? And how can you tell which ones are based on solid, Christian values?
Rachel McMillan is a voracious reader and book blogger at A Fair Substitute For Heaven. She's combed through enough titles to know the ones worth purchasing. Read on for her descriptions of the Christian novels that made her all-time, must-read list.
Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace (1880): Sub-titled "A Tale of The Christ," Lew Wallace's novel tells the story of an indomitable hero: a Jewish prince who is tested by lust for revenge and justice when wronged by his old friend, Roman Centurion Masala, during the glory years of the Roman Empire. Wallace does well intertwining faith with adventure (chariot races and all) and by including Christ as a supporting character within the context of the story, while His wisdom and teaching inform the major life decisions of Ben-Hur and his family. A Christian classic before the term Christian fiction was even coined.
Christy by Catherine Marshall (1967): This is the definitive Christian novel. The Christian industry's major literary award is named after the book - and with good reason. Christy helped establish that there was a market for intelligent, faith-driven fiction. Moreover, it straddled the line between popular secular fiction (a huge best-seller) and the type of book you'd find on the shelves in your Christian library. It's edgy, humorous, extremely well-written and even a bit dark at times.
Vienna Prelude by Bodie Thoene (1989): Thoene owned the Christian book market in the late 80s and 90s because of her huge-selling, sweeping and enthralling works. Suspenseful, romantic and deftly interwoven with history, Thoene's books appeal to readers in both the secular and the Christian world. This was the first Christian book I read when I was a girl.
Sutter's Cross by Dale Cramer (2003): Cramer introduced a metaphorical and intelligent voice into an industry saturated with Prairie romance. In a marketplace dominated by female writers, Cramer's interweaving stories, compelling narration and flair for a luscious Southern landscape - not to mention his style (a hybrid of Faulkner and Steinbeck) - upped the ante.
Fire by Night by Lynn Austin (2003): This is the second book in the Refiner's Fire trilogy, which guides readers through the Civil War through the eyes of the North, South and slave points of view. Austin is a continual best-seller and the only author to win eight Christy awards. Her ability to introduce the reader to historical canvases while exploring her underlying thesis - women of faith tested by God and circumstance through pivotal moments of history - have earned her a large following.
Wolves Among Us by Ginger Garrett (2011): Every once and awhile, a fresh and jarring Christian voice comes on the scene with edge, scope and a narrative style to take your breath away. Here, the Christian component of the novel is expertly threaded in a quiet and symbolic way. The faith of the heroine and her unlikely Savior is tested during the time of "The Burnings" - in Germany's Black Forest in the 1500s, when witch-hunters, under the cloak of spiritual fervor, were desperate to condemn women who were different, intelligent or unique. I am still haunted by this novel. It is eerie, chilling and redemptive.