It’s long been clear that CT readers are also book readers, and we see this especially around our January/February Book Awards issue. This year, we saw a particular outpouring of appreciation for fiction and our explorations of it in Ann Byle’s report “Christian Fiction (Finally) Has Issues” and Sara Kyoungah White’s article “Reading for the Love of the World.”

Many people wrote in to share their long love of Christian fiction and their edification from what Byle calls “a noticeable shift in Christian fiction away from safe sentimentality and toward messier characters and story lines.” Michelle McNeil of Nashville said, “I have been reading Christian fiction for 30-plus years and read or listen to about 100 novels a year. I’m so relieved to see the addition of harder topics, less Sunday school–style answers, and flawed characters.”

Some are still looking for improvement, though. “The best works of fiction being written by Christians are not being published by Christian publishers,” wrote @amy_mantravadi on Instagram. One of the subjects of Byle’s story (and a CT Book Awards judge), Sarah Arthur, replied to her: “I’m so glad that both trade publishers and Christian houses nominate titles for the CT Book Awards! Makes my job as a judge absolutely fascinating.”

Responders also resonated with White’s encouragement to be literary “pilgrims and sojourners in a culture where Christian stories are slowly fading or already forgotten.” Adding contemporary secular literature into one’s reading should be “done carefully and with discernment,” one Instagram user said, but “you do come to find that it is all connected,” added another. One subscriber who emailed a response also recommended processing such books in a discussion group.

Instagram users responding to our posts about these two articles also left plenty of book recommendations. So if you’re looking for more reading suggestions, head over to @ct_mag on the app and join the conversation!

Alexandra Mellen
Conversations editor

Christian Fiction (Finally) Has Issues

Many of us follow people on Instagram because they give closed-door guidelines—chapters to avoid if you don’t want explicit language/scenes. I love to read but have stayed away from Christian books. I want real-world stories!

@kalikalimann (Instagram)

Thanks for pointing out the upswing in clean mainstream fiction. Many of us have gone in that direction to reach a broader audience.

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@heatherdaygilbert (Instagram)

Reading for the Love of the World

While I read widely, especially old classics, I rarely read contemporary secular literature, especially fiction, because I don’t trust authors with my time and mental energy. Sara’s article helped change my mind.

Jonathan Threlfall
Concord, NH

This is also why it’s important to look at movies coming out of “non-Christian” society. The stories told reveal so much about our own perceptions of the world, fears, and desires. Recognizing patterns of hunger in non-Christian culture can help us understand where they’re at (they aren’t so different from us), have empathy, and respond in love with the fullness and truth of Christ.

@joni.elizabeth (Instagram)

Theology Is Not a Waste

We just watched the Super Bowl. Those players spend years preparing their bodies and minds for a four-hour game. We’re in a spiritual battle for the eternal lives of those around us. How can we not prepare?

Improv Missionaries (Facebook)

It would be bizarre if I thought that I could love my wife better by not knowing much about her. (I’d end up being in love with my own imaginary version of her rather than the real woman.) Same with God.

Michael A. Covington (Facebook)

American Christianity Is a Flourishing Forest

A confusion here between the core elements of historical, orthodox, biblical faith and the expressions of that in different contexts. You can’t have someone say, “Jesus is Son of God” and another say, “Jesus was merely a human” and then claim to have the same faith.

@Bobafrith1 (X)

The 2016 Election Sent Me Searching for Answers

Thank you for sharing Carrie Sheffield’s testimony. It was so uplifting and encouraging to read about our current political divisiveness playing a positive role in someone’s journey. I continue to pray and hope for more of this.

Kathy Erb
Gaithersburg, MD

From the Archives
Christianity Today's books issue from February 26, 1971.

Christianity Today's books issue from February 26, 1971.

A yearly review of the Christian publishing market is an old CT practice, far predating the current Book Awards concept. In the magazine’s third calendar year, the February 17, 1958, issue included surveys of books about the Old and New Testaments and an overview of “Significant Theological Works” and the “Upturn in Evangelical Publishing.”

The practice expanded from there. A few years in the ’60s had spring and fall book lists (along with every issue’s regular reviews section). Editors starting in 1973 added deeper comments on “Significant Books” of the year.

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In 1978, editor Donald Tinder wrote, “We intend the list to reflect the diversity of views, branches, and concerns within the evangelical movement, broadly defined. … The purpose of this list is to call attention to books that are rarely bestsellers but with which the reading Christian should be familiar.”

The first CT Book Awards appeared in April of 1990. It included both Critics’-choice and Readers’-choice Awards, with subscribers voting from a shortlist of the year’s best. Current senior books editor Matt Reynolds took the reins in 2011, and in 2014 he introduced the first Book of the Year (God’s Forever Family by Larry Eskridge).

These book lists and commentaries on the Christian publishing industry are still available to all our subscribers in our archives. And check out the archive of our Books & Culture magazine, which ran from 1995 to 2016.

Alexandra Mellen
Conversations editor

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