Blogger: Michelle Ule
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Most Christian nonfiction is about Christian living–self-help books, advice on a myriad of subjects, or a manuscript on how to apply the Bible to life. A cursory glance at Christianbooks.com’s website today shows ten of the twenty-five top sellers as nonfiction projects.
What makes a project attractive to the nonfiction reader? One that identifies a “felt need” and provides advice on how to live with that need. This can range over the gamut from Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World–how to live a more spiritually-focused life within the context of our frenzied society– to No More Christian Nice Guy–a clarion call for men to stick up for themselves even at church. While many of us would agree our lives are too busy and we really would prefer to be more like Mary who chose “what is better,” in Jesus’ words, Paul Coughlin’s title, No More Christian Nice Guy, probably piqued the curiosity of some of you.
And that’s the key to Christian living–either plainly declaring the subject (Where Have All the Good Men Gone?) or using a catchy title to draw the reader to a concept (How to Keep Your Inner Mess from Trashing Your Outer World). It can include humor (Getting Old Ain’t for Wimps), how to’s (Prayer Walk), and general reflections on life (Horse Tales from Heaven).
It also was the key to my early walk as a Christian. Growing up in an academic, non-church-attending family, I didn’t have a clue about how to diaper a baby, much less how to raise one in the Christian faith. I started with Dr. James Dobson’s The Strong-Willed Child, and from there became a regular reader of Focus on the Family materials. I could not have successfully raised my children without those important Christian living books.
These days my child-rearing is behind me, and my radio-listening is done in short spurts. While I used to learn about Christian nonfiction books that could help my life from friends and the radio, these days the avenues are not as broad. With so many Christian magazines truncating their content and book reviews, it’s harder than ever to find books that might pique my interest or fill a felt need. Which brings me to my questions:
Where do you find nonfiction book suggestions?
What types of Christian living books appeal to you and why?
What books have you recommended over and over again?
And what Christian living-type book made a difference in your life?
Morgan L. Busse
Funny enough, my husband will bring home the latest book he’s going through and I’ll pick it up, read the back, then start paging through it. Soon I’m reading the whole thing and telling him my thoughts on the book lol. Most of the books he brings home are on Church Ministry or a topic he’s going to preach on.
I tend to avoid Christian nonfiction books. Why? Because many of them present human ideas and philosophies that are contrary to God’s Word and then try to make the Bible speak in agreement with these ideas and philosophies.
That said, if I do read a nonfiction book, it will be one suggested either by my pastor or by my parents. And even then, I’m very guarded.
The most powerful Christian nonfiction book that has influenced my life is the Bible. Occasionally I’ve read ‘testimonial’ type books or biographies that have been a blessing. I might suggest My Utmost for His Highest for someone who is struggling to have a regular devotional life.
If a person is wanting a Bible Study I might suggest Beth Moore or Kay Arthur. But always I recommend the person search the Scriptures themselves to see whether what the writer says is consistent with God’s Word.
Thanks for the mention!
Where do you find nonfiction book suggestions? Usually from a current need or topic I’m studying to preach. But I have to confess, I go to the Internet first for data, info, or illustrations.
What types of Christian living books appeal to you and why? Books that display biblical depth and integrity couples with really good writing. I don’t want the same recycled stuff I’ve read for 30 years. Something fresh.
What books have you recommended over and over again? C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. John Eldredge, Wild at Heart.
And what Christian living-type book made a difference in your life? Biographies: Spurgeon, Billy Sunday (read it when I was a kid), David Livingston (kid again)… Plus apologetics books that solidified my faith, like Mere Christianity and Evidence that Demands a Verdict. The biggest influencers have been GRACE-ORIENTED Bible teachers, like Lewis Sperry Chafer, Evan Hopkins, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and other dead guys.
You’ve raised a valid and important point, Lynn, and I respect your conviction.
And it’s one that would-be writers should heed. I recently examined a pile of Christian Living books and found myself wondering “Why should I trust these author’s opinions and ideas over what Scripture says?”
What would make me trust someone else’s opinion on what the Bible says and ideas to consider in living my life? Taught Bible study for 28 years? Depending on where, maybe. Successfully walked with God for 40 years? How do you define “successful,” but probably. Raised three darling girls to the age of six? Unlikely. Movie star? Forget it.
My husband seldom reads Christian living books–but he always glances at the titles. When he sees a plethora of marriage-themed books lying around the house, he’ll often ask, “Is there something we need to discuss?”
Usually no, but why waste the opportunity for a good conversation? 🙂
So, titles are important, but so are credentials. And in my book, the best one of all is a consistent and rich walk with the Creator of the Universe, which is why I usually prefer memoirs (join us tomorrow).
And now, I need to read my daily jolt of My Utmost for His Highest. 🙂
Crystal Laine Miller
I agree with you, Michelle.
As a long time book reviewer for Christian magazines, one of our first rules in examining a nonfiction book is “what are the author’s qualifications for writing this book?” We also look at how the subject is treated (personal illustrations, research) and how it compares with other books on same subject. Finally, we look at the audience–to whom is this book aimed and what is the doctrinal slant?
More than likely there will be a foreward written by someone who will clue you in on the doctrinal/philosophical slant and that alone can categorize the book.
Frankly, I use much of the same approach on fiction books because again, the author needs to be somewhat trustworthy on all of the same issues brought for choices of nonfiction.
I prefer choosing nonfiction health/fitness/diet books as that is my training and I enjoy fresh treatment of a lifelong pursuit, as well as a Christian worldview on it. But I also enjoy memoir-type books and Christian education/curriculum books. Looking forward to your thoughts on memoirs.
Most of my non-fiction reading are those books that challenge the reader to be bold in their faith and balance the two sides of Jesus – understanding that meek is not always mild, and that having faith and trusting God does not mean always getting stepped on. The builders in Nehemiah prayed to our God AND posted a guard day and night. Trusting Him doesn’t mean we have no responsibility.
While books on Christian living can not and should not ever replace the Bible, they can help open our eyes to verses or aspect that we’ve missed even after countless readings – just as a sermon or talk with Christian friends can.
In our culture it is easy to read the Bible and only read what we’ve heard many times over, but miss the points of Scripture that haven’t gotten the same attention.
For example, we’ve all been taught to put on the full armor of God, and have passed it on to countless generations of VBS students – but to we emphasize enough that Paul directly follows the armor with praying that would speak boldly – as he ought to speak. He needed the armor because he was about to be so bold in his faith that people would attack him (what else is new).
All we need is in the Bible, but sometimes we need teachers or tools to help us see and understand what is there. Always always we should measure what we read against the Scriptures however, and we know who wins if they disagree.
I’ve recommended and given away books by Pat Morley, David Murrow, and Paul Coughlin the most.
Thanks for these posts Michelle. I got swamped at work and knew after missing a few days I’d probably missed something to get the blood flowing!