I’m a huge fan of nonfiction, but my first love was stories. I’m a firm believer in the power and necessity of stories (and all kinds of art!). They’re immensely valuable for Christians. With that in mind, here are four of my favorite fiction books and series, with comments.
(and also an apology for a “summer reading suggestions” post that didn’t come until mid-July. I kind of forgot this was in my drafts, since I originally had the idea last November. xP)
(Necessary disclaimer: Just because I recommend a book doesn’t mean I recommend/endorse everything in the book/everything else said author has written. Always use discretion in choosing books, and adhere to your family’s standards if applicable.)
The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson
(On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, North! Or Be Eaten, The Monster in the Hollows, and The Warden and the Wolf King)
I talk about AP’s music a lot on here, but really his books deserve just as much recognition. I like to describe these as a mixture of Tolkien and Lewis, with a little bit of whimsy and boy humor thrown in. The books take a Narnia-style approach: the ages of the main characters range from 9 to 12 in the first book, but the writing contains enough depth and beauty to make it more than appropriate for teens and adults. The worldbuilding is on point, the characters are realistic and loveable, and there’s just enough mystery to keep you guessing throughout. I’m hesitant to call it epic fantasy, but by the end of the series the stakes are high enough to warrant the description.
Content: It’s something of an action adventure, so there’s a good bit of fighting. The blood and gore is kept to a minimum though, and it’s never treated flippantly. Some parts might be scary or disturbing for younger readers (I won’t give away too much because of spoilers, but if you have very young children you may want to preread a little bit. If Narnia isn’t an issue, this shouldn’t be either).
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
I’m blessed with a mom who loves English literature. She introduced me to P&P through the BBC miniseries first, and I enjoyed it immensely (possibly unpopular opinion: Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle are the only Darcy and Elizabeth). If you haven’t read it because it’s too girly, trust me, it is not a typical romance. It focuses more on the character development of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy than anything else. It also has one of the best opening lines in literature (and this in a day when it was acceptable to start your novel with a chapter on the main character’s family history!).
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife.
Content: Austen lived in the 1800s. Objectionable content is definitely not a major issue here, at least compared to contemporary fiction. An elopement is mentioned (no elaboration), and PluggedIn finds some uses of the Lord’s name in vain.
The Darkwater Saga, by Patrick Carr
(The Shock of Night, The Shattered Vigil, and The Wounded Shadow, plus the novella prequel, By Divine Right)
I love these books so much. I’ve never been able to put them down, even on rereads (because when the third book comes out a year after I read the other two, and they’re both complex fantasy novels with winding plots, I don’t remember anything xP). I’ll just do a list for this one:
- It is epic fantasy. With seriously high stakes.
- The best part of the series is definitely the characters,
- To summarize very briefly: it’s mind-reading, an evil forest (aka the Darkwater), a king’s reeve who solves murders but might be going crazy, secretive–and murderous–politics, and evil forces that come alive at night.
- I love character friendships, and Willet Dura’s friendship with Bolt is one of my favorites. Their sarcasm is so great.
- It switches between first-person and third-person point of view, which I would never have expected to work, but Carr pulls it off well.
- The religion is well-done, and integral to the plot and worldbuilding (not just sloppily tacked on to make it “Christian” literature–although it is reminiscent of Christian and Catholic faith).
- There’s a massive library. =))
Content: Carr is apparently Christian or Catholic, so good and bad are generally portrayed as such, even when characters are forced to make incredibly hard choices. I’d still recommend these books for at least 16+. They’re intense and parts can be dark. There’s more than a little violence (it’s epic fantasy, after all). Immodesty is mentioned, not described in-depth. And book two does contain some things (not graphic, still intense) to which younger readers definitely may not want to be exposed.
Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle
Volume 1 (A Study In Scarlet, The Sign of Four, Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles), and Volume 2 (The Return of Sherlock Holmes, The Valley of Fear, His Last Bow, The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes)
I recently watched the first episode of Sherlock on Netflix. I’m not sure if it’s what the creators intended, but it reminded me of how much I enjoyed the books when I was younger. So I’ve been rereading my two complete volumes, with their assorted novels and short story collections. I love the adventures, watching Holmes come up with an astonishing solution to a seemingly unsolvable mystery, the friendship between him and Watson, and the gentlemanliness and courtesy of the Victorian era. I also love Doyle’s knack for describing Victorian London–it’s so vivid and familiar that you almost feel you’ve been there (and the attitude toward America can be amusing).
I do prefer Volume 1 to Volume 2. It contains several of my favorite stories, the ending is satisfying (yes, really xP), and The Hound of the Baskervilles works well as a return to some of the earlier days of Holmes’ and Watson’s career. By contrast, some plot elements in Volume 2 feel forced. That doesn’t mean the stories aren’t still fun to read, though!
Content: Again–nineteenth-century England. xP The Victorian era is pretty well-known for its politeness and propriety. It’s actually quite refreshing to read something set in an era where decency, fidelity, and morality are still held high and gentlemen act as such (one of my peeves with the Sherlock show is how rude Sherlock is to everybody. Holmes of the books is a perfect gentleman, even if a bit arrogant). A few murders are described, but nothing is excessive or graphic. A few uses of d— and the Lord’s name in vain. And there are a few cases (mostly in Volume 2) where Holmes takes the law somewhat into his own hands.
I… hadn’t intended this post to be this long. Oh well, it just goes to show you shouldn’t let a nerd talk about books (you hear that? don’t let me talk about books too much!). Do let me know if this is interesting, though! Have you read any of these? What are you reading right now?