Summer Reading Suggestions: Four Favorite Fiction Books (or series)

favorite fiction summer

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.

My friend Schuyler has full reviews, with content warnings, for books one, two, and three.

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?

12 Comments

  1. “Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle are the only Darcy and Elizabeth.” Truer words have never before been written (I mean, aside from the entire Bible! Lol!). I frequently get in debates on this on the most accurate portrayal of Darcy and Elizabeth, and I cannot agree with you more! It was the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice that got me hooked on Jane Austen. <3

    I've never read Sherlock Holmes, but now I really want to! I confess, I love Sherlock. I think both Cumberbatch and Freemen do an excellent job portraying Sherlock and Watson. Like I said, I've never read the books, so I have no idea how close to character they are compared to Doyle's original work. However, I honestly cannot think of anyone other than Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes! 🙂

    Sherlock is far from perfect. I will warn you that the profanity and misuse of God's name worsens as the series goes on. So though I love the show, I also have mixed feelings. There are themes of redemption and morality scattered throughout the series. But there are also references to homosexuality, drug usage (not foreign to Sherlock Holmes, if I am correct), and other questionable content.

    If you continue on, I cannot wait to hear your thoughts on the last episode of the final season. My dad and I watched that one late at night when the rest of my family was out of town and both of us were on the edge of our seats, sweaty palms and all, unable to even speak during that entire episode! It was good and horrible all at once! 😀 But mostly good…

    As for summer reading, I am currently reading three books at once. I am reading Love Defined by Kristen Clark and Bethany Baird, Desiring God by John Piper, and I am half way through the very first WingFeather Saga book. All of which I am enjoying immensely!

    I will have to look up The Darkwater Saga. I have never heard of that one, but I usually enjoy a good fantasy book!

    Thank you for sharing all of your wonderful insight! 🙂

    P.S. Look how long this comment is! See? No need to apologize for the length of your blog post! <3

    1. It’s good to hear your thoughts on Sherlock! I think I’ll finish the series at some point, although idk when–I only watch Netflix about once or twice a week, so I don’t get through series very quickly. XD

      Oh, cool! I’d love to hear your thoughts on all those books sometime. I’ve read Desiring God, but not Love Defined.

      P.S. So sorry this comment is so late! I’ve been just a bit busy lately 😉

  2. Benjamin Harbour

    I like how one of the highlights of a book is that “There’s a massive library.” XD I’m reading The Hobbit, with plans to continue on with the Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillian. And I’ve read the Wingfeather saga, and it is perfectly awesome. 😀

    1. Oh, yes, The Hobbit and LotR are so good! LotR is at the very top of my favorite fictional books list (the only reason I didn’t include it here was because I feel like I’ve already mentioned it too many times!). And yes, the Wingfeather Saga is absolutely amazing!

  3. I only just read Pride and Prejudice for the first time this year in the spring and loved it. I love her humor and sarcasm and also the way she develops her characters.

    My most recent read was Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Such a good book! I think she has a similar style to Jane Austen. It was very creatively and beautifully written while at the same time a somewhat sad story, yet I could hardly put the book down.

    I have also read a number of the Sherlock Holmes stories in the past and really enjoyed them. I don’t know if you have read any of G. K. Chesterton, but he wrote the Father Brown stories, which are super fun too, if you enjoy detective stories.

    1. Oohh, Rebecca is a really interesting book! Yeah, it was pretty sad. Du Maurier tended to write in a more Gothic style, I think. I started Jamaica Inn but never finished it–as I recall, it was more the use of the Lord’s name that bothered me than the atmosphere, but that one was actually even darker than Rebecca.

      Yesss, Father Brown is so good! I think I may like him even better than Sherlock Holmes (at least, I really love Chesterton’s narrative style and the very veiled sarcasm). =D

    1. Ooh, how are you enjoying the Darkwater Saga (if you’ve started it)? And yeah, I do love some aspects of the BBC show, but I don’t like all of what they did with the character (although Watson is very nearly perfect, at least in the few episodes I’ve seen).

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