I grew up reading a lot of “Christian” books, and I’ve come to learn that books under the “Christian Fiction” genre have been given a stigma. They have too many flaws. Or they are too preach-y. Or the writing falls flat, the characters are “too” perfect or “too” imperfect. Basically, it winds down to Christian Fiction isn’t good enough. And for a lot of “Christian” books that might be the case. I’ve read my fair share of mediocre books from the Christian Fiction genre. But there are also a lot of good Christian books. Most aren’t preach-y. Most have wonderful characters and interesting plot lines. So here are ten “Christian” books or series that I think deserve more credit.
(This prompt is for this week’s Top Ten Tuesdays: Ten Hidden Gem Books in X Genre)
River of Time series by Lisa T. Bergren: This is the first “Christian” series that gave me hope for the Christian Fiction genre. Two sisters are whisked away to 14th century Italy where they get into all sorts of trouble, like fighting in bloody battles, falling in love with swoon-worthy knights, and being threatened by medieval politics. There was an underlying message about God and trusting in His plans, but it wasn’t in your face or the main focus of the story. It was more like God was just a part of the characters’ lives, helping to guide them as they lived. The series has all the excitement of The Hunger Games mixed with clean romance and medieval history. (I also think Ms. Bergren’s other series are just as good and deserve more recognition as well.)
DragonKeeper Chronicles by Donita K. Paul: I like to describe this series as The Hobbit but for younger kids (or kids who have difficulty with Tolkien’s writing style) and with nice dragons. It has all the elements of a good fantasy plus a colorful cast of characters, including wizards, dragons, and unique creatures. Since it’s fantasy, it doesn’t push a “religious” agenda. There are definitely parallels of the Christian faith woven through the characters’ lives and the world-building, but it’s done in a careful, intricate way. Plus, did I mention all the dragons?
The Circle series by Ted Dekker: The Circle series tells two stories that interweave into a grander, complex narrative that dives deep into the truths of good vs evil, God’s redeeming love, and His greater plans for humanity. It definitely focuses heavily on aspects of faith, but it still has the adrenaline rush and excitement of a thriller novel. It’s both fantasy and reality wrapped into one, and while I’ve read a lot of Ted Dekker books and enjoyed many of them, I think these are his greatest works.
Storm Siren trilogy by Mary Weber: Another series that gave me hope for the “Christian” genre, Storm Siren swept me away with its stunning narrative, intricate world-building, and complex characters. This book is a good fantasy story, and while it doesn’t discuss God directly it, it reveals truths about morality, compassion, and the gifts and abilities we possess.
The Kinsman Chronicles by Jill Williamson: This series, so far, has surprised me because it comes from a Christian publishing house, but it has just as much chaos and conflict as many fantasy stories. The characters in these books struggle with right and wrong, who to trust, and which gods to worship. The world-building feels lived in, it feels real. I read that Jill Williamson was trying to portray the darkness and superstitions of the Old Testament, and I think she did this effectively and interestingly.
King Raven trilogy by Stephen R. Lawhead: This series is a historical re-telling of Robin Hood, and while it’s published by a Christian publishing house, I don’t recall anything about it that was strictly Christian. Yes, it was clear of mature content (aside from violence) and there may have been references or mentions of God (though historically, it was accurate to their beliefs), but overall, I think this a series that could be enjoyed by anybody who likes fantasy and the Robin Hood legend. It’s rich with detail, full of exciting twists, and it’s one of my favorite Robin Hood re-tellings.
The Door Within series by Wayne Thomas Batson: I read these books in middle school, and they changed my entire world. While I give credit to Narnia and Lord of the Rings for inspiring me to write, The Door Within series also fueled my love for fantasy and writing. Full of rich world-building, countless memorable characters, and a plot line that grips you, The Door Within series is perfect for middle school readers and beyond!
Christy Miller series by Robin Jones Gunn: I don’t read a lot of contemporary, but I have a soft spot for Robin Jones Gunn’s Christy Miller books. Christy has been a true forever friend growing up and her stories always make me feel known and understood. When I pick up one of these books, I know that I can find hidden truths about God, life, and love between the pages.
Dreamhouse Kings by Robert Liparulo: These books are wild and spooky. The thrill of the mystery surrounding the house in the woods, the portals to other places and times, and the figures lurking in the shadows kept me up late at night. I love that these books focus on family as well as introducing historical details and deep truths about life and faith.
Thunder Dog by Michael Hingson: I don’t usually read non-fiction, but Thunder Dog was an inspiring story about one man and his dog in the face of disaster. Michael Hingson shares about his life and his experience during 9/11 as he and his guide dog descended down the steps of the World Trade Center. Truly memorable.