Books (Besides the Bible) Recommended for Christian Readers
This is intended as a list of both fiction and nonfiction books (not necessarily "religious"), written by both Christians and non-Christians, that may be worthwhile for educated Christians to read --even if, in some cases, only to better understand some non-Christians' ideas.
301 God's Problem: How the Bibl...
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3.89 of 5 stars 3.89 avg rating — 2,662 ratings
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302 Catechism of the Catholic C...
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4.36 of 5 stars 4.36 avg rating — 5,017 ratings
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303 The Gifts of the Jews: How ...
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3.84 of 5 stars 3.84 avg rating — 2,430 ratings
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304 Middlemarch
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3.89 of 5 stars 3.89 avg rating — 73,367 ratings
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304 A History of God: The 4,000...
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3.85 of 5 stars 3.85 avg rating — 21,089 ratings
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306 The Greatest Show on Earth:...
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4.16 of 5 stars 4.16 avg rating — 25,428 ratings
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307 Danger in the Shadows (O'Ma...
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4.31 of 5 stars 4.31 avg rating — 8,059 ratings
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308 Siddhartha
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3.94 of 5 stars 3.94 avg rating — 267,531 ratings
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309 The Christian's Secret Of A...
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4.29 of 5 stars 4.29 avg rating — 697 ratings
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310 Spiritual Disciplines for t...
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4.14 of 5 stars 4.14 avg rating — 3,791 ratings
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311 The Holy Secret
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4.27 of 5 stars 4.27 avg rating — 1,848 ratings
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312 Kristin Lavransdatter (Kris...
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4.25 of 5 stars 4.25 avg rating — 3,711 ratings
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313 Red: The Heroic Rescue (The...
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4.3 of 5 stars 4.30 avg rating — 15,237 ratings
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313 Black: The Birth of Evil (T...
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4.22 of 5 stars 4.22 avg rating — 18,279 ratings
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315 Quiet Strength: The Princip...
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4.13 of 5 stars 4.13 avg rating — 5,402 ratings
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315 The Last Sin Eater
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4.02 of 5 stars 4.02 avg rating — 15,636 ratings
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317 Dave Ramsey's Financial Pea...
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4.55 of 5 stars 4.55 avg rating — 795 ratings
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318 Dracula
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3.94 of 5 stars 3.94 avg rating — 425,669 ratings
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319 The Eyes of the Heart
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4.64 of 5 stars 4.64 avg rating — 25 ratings
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320 The Holy Bible - ESv
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4.66 of 5 stars 4.66 avg rating — 6,349 ratings
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321 The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
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3.86 of 5 stars 3.86 avg rating — 39,688 ratings
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322 Ivanhoé
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3.71 of 5 stars 3.71 avg rating — 52,043 ratings
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322 The Language of God: A Scie...
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3.77 of 5 stars 3.77 avg rating — 4,656 ratings
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324 Not Open: Win the Invisible...
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4.73 of 5 stars 4.73 avg rating — 11 ratings
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325 East of Eden
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4.31 of 5 stars 4.31 avg rating — 241,536 ratings
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326 The Heavenly Man: The Remar...
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4.31 of 5 stars 4.31 avg rating — 8,334 ratings
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327 Martin Luther: Selections f...
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3.7 of 5 stars 3.70 avg rating — 404 ratings
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328 Story of a Soul: The Autobi...
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4.36 of 5 stars 4.36 avg rating — 5,523 ratings
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329 Pollyanna (Pollyanna, #1)
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3.9 of 5 stars 3.90 avg rating — 43,517 ratings
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329 The Visitation
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3.86 of 5 stars 3.86 avg rating — 12,611 ratings
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331 The Cross and the Switchblade
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4.16 of 5 stars 4.16 avg rating — 25,010 ratings
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332 The Hobbit
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4.2 of 5 stars 4.20 avg rating — 1,575,595 ratings
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333 Basic Christianity
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4.14 of 5 stars 4.14 avg rating — 5,208 ratings
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333 Girl Meets God
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3.94 of 5 stars 3.94 avg rating — 4,897 ratings
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335 Soul Surfer: A True Story o...
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4.12 of 5 stars 4.12 avg rating — 6,404 ratings
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336 Adventures in Prayer
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336 Jesus, Interrupted: Reveali...
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338 The Visionary Christian: 13...
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339 Forgotten God: Reversing Ou...
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4.16 of 5 stars 4.16 avg rating — 17,757 ratings
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340 Wild at Heart: Discovering ...
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341 Joni: An Unforgettable Story
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342 Pensées
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343 Showdown (Paradise, #1)
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344 A Simple Path
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4.23 of 5 stars 4.23 avg rating — 762 ratings
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345 Poems and Prose
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345 The Power of Positive Thinking
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4.06 of 5 stars 4.06 avg rating — 35,239 ratings
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347 Spiritual Depression: Its C...
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4.29 of 5 stars 4.29 avg rating — 1,522 ratings
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348 Velvet Elvis: Repainting th...
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3.79 of 5 stars 3.79 avg rating — 14,783 ratings
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349 The Grace Awakening: Believ...
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4.32 of 5 stars 4.32 avg rating — 1,132 ratings
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350 Hearing God
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4.11 of 5 stars 4.11 avg rating — 1,191 ratings
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351 The Continuous Atonement
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4.6 of 5 stars 4.60 avg rating — 1,696 ratings
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352 Eternity in Their Hearts:  ...
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353 The Traveler's Gift: Seven ...
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4.07 of 5 stars 4.07 avg rating — 6,225 ratings
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354 For One More Day
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4.06 of 5 stars 4.06 avg rating — 81,908 ratings
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355 The I Ching or Book of Changes
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4.14 of 5 stars 4.14 avg rating — 10,576 ratings
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356 Money, Possessions and Eter...
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4.18 of 5 stars 4.18 avg rating — 599 ratings
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357 The Bible Jesus Read
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357 The Scarlet Thread
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4.08 of 5 stars 4.08 avg rating — 15,149 ratings
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359 The Negotiator (O'Malley, #1)
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4.29 of 5 stars 4.29 avg rating — 14,841 ratings
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360 One Day in the Life of Ivan...
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3.92 of 5 stars 3.92 avg rating — 50,161 ratings
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361 The Promise
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4.1 of 5 stars 4.10 avg rating — 8,430 ratings
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361 Combat Ready
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361 The Barista
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361 The Gladiator
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4.26 of 5 stars 4.26 avg rating — 439 ratings
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361 A Forest of Doors: An Orpha...
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366 Are We Living in the End Ti...
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366 Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl...
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366 Dark Passage (Dark Passage,...
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369 The Bhagavad Gita
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370 The Politics of Jesus
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371 The Love Dare
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371 The Champion
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4.28 of 5 stars 4.28 avg rating — 304 ratings
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371 The Protector
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4.33 of 5 stars 4.33 avg rating — 286 ratings
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374 Our Covenant God: Living in...
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374 The Color Purple
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4.13 of 5 stars 4.13 avg rating — 295,827 ratings
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376 Nicolae (Left Behind, #3)
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3.92 of 5 stars 3.92 avg rating — 22,873 ratings
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377 Our Endangered Values: Amer...
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378 Operation World: When We Pr...
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4.34 of 5 stars 4.34 avg rating — 1,298 ratings
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379 The Blind Watchmaker: Why t...
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4.07 of 5 stars 4.07 avg rating — 15,510 ratings
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380 Religious Literacy: What Ev...
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381 Sense and Sensibility
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382 Know Why You Believe
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383 The Indwelling (Left Behind...
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383 A Year With The Church Fath...
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385 Chosen By God: Know God's P...
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386 What Jesus Demands from the...
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386 Darwin's Black Box: The Bio...
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3.59 of 5 stars 3.59 avg rating — 2,106 ratings
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388 Dakota: A Spiritual Geography
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4.08 of 5 stars 4.08 avg rating — 2,523 ratings
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388 Desecration (Left Behind, #9)
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3.98 of 5 stars 3.98 avg rating — 15,850 ratings
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390 Finding God in Unexpected P...
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3.8 of 5 stars 3.80 avg rating — 523 ratings
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391 When I Don't Desire God: Ho...
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4.18 of 5 stars 4.18 avg rating — 2,583 ratings
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391 The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilg...
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4.13 of 5 stars 4.13 avg rating — 12,444 ratings
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393 Who Wrote the Bible?
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394 The Attributes of God
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395 The Idiot
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396 What Is Reformed Theology?:...
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396 Unbroken: A World War II St...
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4.43 of 5 stars 4.43 avg rating — 236,799 ratings
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398 Woman, Thou Art Loosed!: He...
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4.3 of 5 stars 4.30 avg rating — 2,895 ratings
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399 Who Moved the Stone?: A Ske...
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400 Breathing on Her Own
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flag this list (?)
2,637 books · 2,386 voters · list created October 12th, 2008 by Werner (votes) .
120 likes · like
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Werner
Werner
1565 books
146 friends
Aaron
Aaron
79 books
19 friends
Jon
Jon
1706 books
113 friends
Quotes
Quotes
86 books
43 friends
Laura
Laura
193 books
70 friends
Dottie
Dottie
7408 books
120 friends
Vanda
Vanda
1049 books
62 friends
Mary
Mary
892 books
134 friends

More voters…


Comments (showing 1-50 of 85) (85 new)


message 2: by Freeman (new)

Freeman Barton My first choice among many great books by Elisabeth Elliot.



message 3: by Antoine (new)

Antoine Hmmm. This is a great list. But (as a christian who reads a lot) I just couldn't find the urgency anywhere on the list that said... "Oh yes, you've just got to read that one."

Also, we're almost 900 books short of 1000 here.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Did anyone vote for any Billy Graham books?


message 5: by Vanda (new)

Vanda a couple of books (or more) are listed twice: screwtape letters, imitation of Christ


message 6: by Werner (new)

Werner Sorry to be so slow in responding to these comments; I just now discovered that lists have comments sections! Freeman, I added Through Gates of Splendor to the list just now. Also, you (and anyone else who wants to) can add books yourself. Just type in the title/author you want to add in the "add books" blank at the right-hand side of the top of the list. When the system brings up all the books it finds in its search for those words, you vote for the one you want. Yes, Alice, there's one Billy Graham book on the list. I haven't read many of his books myself --I did read World Aflame over 30 years ago, but didn't add it to the list since I felt it might be somewhat dated now.

Antoine, yes, we're way short of 1,000 books here! But if I'd started the list off with 1,000 books (actually, I don't think I've even read that many books in my life --though I'd like to :-)), then no one else could ever have added any. My idea was that this way, it could gradually grow to 1,000 books, with many people adding their own suggestions over time --kind of a group project.

Agape, I think the duplication on The Imitation of Christ has been cleared up. But The Screwtape Letters is still duplicated, and thanks for reporting it! I'll try to do something about that ASAP!


message 7: by Vanda (new)

Vanda Werner, let me know if you need help :)


message 8: by Hunter (new)

Hunter Didriksen some of these look like adult books!


message 9: by Werner (new)

Werner Hunter, I'm the moderator for this list (only because I started it), but I don't usually spend much time with it due to all the other irons I have in the fire. But I'll try to check it ASAP for inappropriate inclusions.

Are you using "adult books" the way some people do, as a synonym for porn? (If so, those books don't have any place here.) Or did you just mean actual adult books, as opposed to childrens' books? In that case, this list is primarily aimed at adult Christians, though it may include some kids' books, too.


message 10: by Hunter (new)

Hunter Didriksen I meant it in a way that some of these covers look like the books that my dad reads. And like they are too old for me to read. Some day i might reads some of them though.


message 11: by Werner (new)

Werner Thanks for the clarification, Hunter. And yes, I hope you do get a chance to read some of these as you get older!


message 12: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Hunter-
Almost all of these books have adult literaure printed on their covers, but when I was a kid, that didn't rein me in. I loved the Screwtape letters and C.S. Lewis's imagination for adults. I think you might enjoy Ted Dekker, which is one author I didn't see on here. Maybe I just missed it.

Onward to what I clicked this box for in the first place:
I liked this list but there were a lot of books that didn't really strike me as great reads for Christians. And I am not a great Christian, a righteous woman of faith, but isn't Dorian gray a little much for this list? It revolves around homsexuality really, even if the book is beautiful, this would offend many Christians that I know. And I won't even go into the issue of the Book of Mormon. *Sigh*


message 13: by Werner (new)

Werner K.l., thanks for sharing (and hope you voted on the list!) The scope of the list is defined by the description at the top, which notes that these books aren't necessarily written by Christians, and may only be recommended for Christian readers in order to help us understand the ways that (some) non-Christians think. Given that range, it's almost inevitable that the ideas and other content of some of the selections would offend many Christians. Being offended by something doesn't necessarily obviate the desirability of understanding it, if we're going to live in this world and try to impact it constructively.

I've read both of the books you mentioned, The Picture of Dorian Gray (in fact, I think I added that one to the list myself) and The Book of Mormon. Wilde was not a Christian when he wrote the Dorian Gray book (he converted to Catholicism near the end of his life), but he was spiritually searching, and sympathetic to Christian teaching even though he didn't personally practice it. The message of the book is ultimately a pro-moral one, which exposes the hollowness and futility of hedonism and points the reader to different goals. And although Wilde was personally homosexual (or, at least, bisexual), that doesn't automatically warrant reading a homosexual theme into all of his writings. Granted, I've been known to miss subtle homoerotic content in books because I wasn't looking for it; but I don't personally see any content of that sort here --and the conduct of Gray and Wotton towards women hardly suggests homosexuality on their part, whatever else it suggests.

Mormonism is a significant and growing spiritual force in our world, which Christians of all stripes are apt to encounter and need to understand and deal with; ignorance isn't a useful tool for this. The Book of Mormon is a good starting place for learning about Mormon beliefs --and a Christian who would be converted to Mormonism just by reading it is not very secure in his/her faith (or very knowledegable about history, archaeology, literature, etc.)


message 14: by D.C. (new)

D.C. What the heck is the Book of Mormon doing on here?


message 15: by IWB (last edited Aug 19, 2009 11:09AM) (new)

IWB D.C. wrote: "What the heck is the Book of Mormon doing on here?"

One ought to read even those things with which they do not agree, if for no other reason than to understand why they may disagree with you, assuming that is why you question it being on the list. Besides, it meets the criteria for the list--it is not the Bible. Many people, nonetheless, consider The Book of Mormon to be an important Christian text. I do not share this opinion, but one must furnish reasons, in spite of personal opinion, for any claim that the The Book of Mormon is or is not a Christian text.


message 16: by IWB (last edited Aug 19, 2009 01:27PM) (new)

IWB Questioning the inclusion of a book is important insofar as a forum exists whereby one may provide reasons for inclusion or exclusion. Such a forum, however, exists only in the comments area, which strikes me as not the best place to debate. But questioning the inclusion of a book is not good when it is merely a tacit expression of one's desire to censor the list to some degree apart from providing objective reasons for so doing.

Some people have questioned the inclusion of certain books because (1) they consider the book personally offensive; (2) they consider the book to be offensive to all Christians; (3) they consider the book to be non-Christian; (4) they consider the book unimportant.

Allow me to comment briefly on the above enumeration. Regarding (1): This is a public list. As such one should expect that other people do not share one's personal views on what is offensive. For this reason, one ought not impose, in the form of exclusion, one's personal hang-ups, all or some of which may or may not be reasonable hang-ups. In short, this public list cannot cater to one's private wants, except accidentally. Besides, if there is one book that is capable of offense it's the Bible, yet I doubt you would advocate it's exclusion from a list on that basis. On (2), which can be taken descriptively or prescriptively: Descriptively, for this concern to be accetable the following must obtain: A public statement delineating the standards by which we judge the content of books such that their content is offensive to all Christians (and by "Christian" it is meant "anyone who consideres themself to be a Christian"). But such an expression cannot be realized in this forum for a number of reasons. First, we have no reason to think any one person's choice of standards is the correct one to adopt; there would not be univocal concensus on both the standard, the content, and who should make the decisions about that standard and content. Second, even if we did accept that person's standard as a good one, there is no reason to think that person has the authority to demand such a standard. Third, even if the standard and the person's authority were accepted by this forum, it's unclear that such an acceptance would concord with GoodReads policies in general. Fourth, I think it would be pretentious at best, arrogent at worst, for anyone here to think themselves qualified to know what presicely is offensive to all Christians. Lastly, I don't even know if it is epistemically possible for us to know what is objectively offensive to all Christians. On (3): Whether a book is non-Christian or not is irrelevant to its inclusion in the list. The parameters of the list include anything that an educated Christian ought to read, be it Christian work or not. It is confused to think that one can seriously call oneself educated if one has read only Christian works. This leads to a corollary problem: what counts as a "Christian" book? What counts a "non-Christian" book? This is just an instance of a problem found in (2); namely, a universal standard. On (4): If one votes for a book to be on the list, then that book is important enough to be on the list. There is no public constraint on voters to meet some arbitrary standard of importance. A list like this is going to have varying degrees of quality because those who vote have varying views on what it means to be educated, what it means for a book to be important to education, and what it means to be an educated Christian. Thus, I think, for instance, that The Chronicles of Narnia has virtually zero educational importance for the Christian, even though there are at least 70 people who think that it does have such importance.

I appreciate people's concerns regarding the content of the list, but I expect such concerns to be tempered with an understanding of their implications.


message 17: by Werner (new)

Werner Thanks for sharing, IW. You obviously put a lot of time and thought into your comments.

This was designed to be a list of books that are useful in some way(s) for Christians to read, even if it's only so that we can understand challenges to our faith which are posed in the world in which we're called to live and witness to God's truth. Obviously, many of the books listed are by Christians, and others have ideas that are compatible with Christianity; some, like the books promoting atheism, do not, and probably would offend many Christian readers. But just because we disagree with or are offended by certain ideas isn't a good reason not to attempt to understand them; we can't very well ask others to read or listen to our ideas if we don't respect them enough to do the same. (Personally, I've read the Koran for that reason, though many of its ideas are, to put it mildly, not the same as mine.) So just because I, or someone else, lists a book here doesn't mean that we agree with everything --or anything--that it says. And my judgment of what "every Christian should read" may not be the same as that of other people who accept the open invitation to list books here (as IW said, it's a public list :-)), and vice versa, but as list moderator, I respect their right to exercise their own judgment about that. Anyone reading the list should take any of the cited items merely as suggestions, to evaluate as he/she feels led; but I think we benefit from having suggestions from a lot of different sources --for one thing, the others who vote on the list have read a great many books that I haven't. So I'm inclined to be much more inclusive than exclusive. Hope that explanation helps!


message 18: by IWB (new)

IWB Hi Werner, I hope my post was not misleading. It was not directed at you specifically, nor was I soliciting a response from you personally; although I do appreciate your reply.

My post was merely intended to be a general comment related to concerns posted by other members.

Thanks


message 19: by Werner (new)

Werner No, IW, your post wasn't misleading! I just wanted to supplement it with my thoughts, so that everybody knows where I'm coming from. :-)


message 20: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Moyo personally i think it's a good list, but alot of great books and authors are missing. anyway that's me


message 21: by Werner (new)

Werner Well, Michelle, now's your chance to add those missing books to the list! We'll appreciate your input.


Amelia, the pragmatic idealist Werner wrote: "Thanks for sharing, IW. You obviously put a lot of time and thought into your comments.

This was designed to be a list of books that are useful in some way(s) for Christians to read, even if it's..."


this is such a great list!! thank you for creating it (or moderating it) there are so many great books on here--i personally love how LOTR is in the Top Ten--yay! and The Screwtape Letters is one of my favorite books ever.
There are only 3 books that i was hoping wouldnt be on here--and they're not, so that's refreshing. Anyway, great poll!


message 23: by Werner (new)

Werner Thanks, Amelia! Glad you find this list useful. (LOTR and The Screwtape Letters are some of my top favorite books, too.)


message 24: by Dave (new)

Dave I'm going to challenge my brother!


message 25: by Werner (new)

Werner Dave, we'd be glad to have your brother add some books to the list. The more the better!


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

Some of my favourite books are here, to be sure, but not all have too much to do with Christianity. C.S. Lewis's children's books are parallels, obviously, but do not even hold a candle theologically to his Screwtape Letters or Mere Christianity. And I know that Tolkien was a Roman Catholic, but there are many very pagan ideas in The Lord of the Rings (not that I—or Tolkien, for that matter—disagree with all of them; pagan doesn't mean 'bad' or Christian 'good').

I should urge Christians, rather, to read books such as The Qur'an, The Vedas, &c. Actually, a brilliant book for Christians to read, and one very dear to my heart, is Leo Tolstoy's essay The Kingdom of God is Within You, which had a powerful impact on Britain's Mohandas Gandhi and our Martin Luther King.


message 27: by Werner (new)

Werner Logan, because of the parameters of this list, and the niche it was intended to fill, not all the books on it are necessarily intended to have anything explicitly to do with Christianity or religion per se. It's a list of books that are desirable and constructive, in the estimation of whoever posts them, for Christians to read --not necessarily ONLY for Christians, or because they have Christian content as such (many of them don't).

In adding books to the list myself, I've stuck with ones that I've read personally. I have read The Qur'an, however, and I certainly agree with you that it's important for Christians to read it, to help us understand Islam and its similarities and differences compared to our own faith. So, I added it to the list just now! Since I haven't read the Tolstoy book you mentioned, or The Vedas, I didn't add them; but you're very welcome to do so!


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

I didn't mean to insinuate that the list should be exclusively Christian or for Christian instruction. I was more surprised that books with Christian content, rather than Christian inspiration, theology, &c. were so high on the list.

I also think that someone has added The Kingdom of God is Within You—I seem to remember marking it, or something; but I shall certainly add The Vedas.


message 29: by Victoria (new)

Victoria I like what I've seen of this list, and agree on the on the inclusion of atheist texts and the Qur'ran and other things like it. However, and this is a biggie, why is Twilight on the list? I am still recovering from a damaged IQ due to the time I read that book. No one should have to suffer that trauma...and it's not educational whatsoever.

That aside, I appreciate the work gone into this list.


message 30: by Werner (new)

Werner Hmmmm! Well, Victoria, I can't speak for whoever listed Twilight, since it wasn't me. I've read all four books in the series, and given them five-star ratings (interestingly, I didn't experience any trauma at the time, and haven't noticed signs of brain damage since, though I suppose other people's reactions can be different :-)). However, I'm hesitant to add much modern popular fiction to this list, given its special focus, unless it has a particularly relevant Christian message --and I'm especially hesitant about vampire/werewolf and other supernatural fiction, which is a specialized taste that's not everybody's cup of tea (though it is mine). But that's just me; other people who add books have their own criteria, and I defend their right to do so. Fiction titles of any type, I suppose, are usually added because someone thinks they provide a quality reading experience that's wholesome and in some sense illuminating (though not necessarily "educational" in an academic sense) about the human condition and moral/psychological truth. I personally think Twilight qualifies on that score; but whether or not every Christian in the world should read it (or any other novel on the list) is a very subjective judgment, and those with differing opinions may have to just "agree to disagree". :-)


message 31: by Linda (new)

Linda Seems to me that the point of a list like this should be works that would particularly benefit or be appreciated by the Christian reader, whether it be to instruct them in their faith, build them up spiritually, equip them to lead more effective lives for Christ, educate them regarding the history of Christianity, or to enlighten them regarding beliefs held by other religions and worldviews.
I agree that there is a lot of great fiction worth reading - by anyone in general, but is it something EVERY Christian MUST read?
Twilight - really?? Not profitable reading, intellectually or religiously, and not even good literature, IMO. There are much better books that convey the "human condition and moral/psychological truth."


message 32: by Werner (new)

Werner Linda, to clarify the purpose of the list, it was created some time ago in response to a discussion, in the Christian Goodreaders group, of a secular list of "1,000 Books Everyone Should Read" (or something similar). Someone suggested that the latter list had a lot of objectionable titles, and that there ought to be a similar general list suitable for Christians. That's why its scope isn't confined to specifically Christian or religious books. Hopefully it serves a purpose!

You (and others) have raised a legitimate point, though; the air of compulsion or prescription implied in the designation of these as books that every Christian "should" or "must" read is inappropriate. As fellow believers, we give each other suggestions --not commands! So, I've revised the list title and description in a way that I hope makes it more appropriate (and less presumptuous!).


message 34: by Julie (new)

Julie S. I voted for Robinson Crusoe because it is a beautiful picture of God's power and perfect will. I know that it is a fictional book, but I love this book that chroncicles his experiences with God on the island.


message 35: by Werner (last edited Dec 30, 2010 04:53PM) (new)

Werner Julie, I voted for that one, too! There's actually quite a bit of Christian content and worldview in this book: not only does Crusoe rededicate himself to God on the island, but his attitude toward the Carib Indians and his staunch anti-slavery (as well as anti-idolatry) stance is shaped by his Christian convictions. And Defoe's sympathetic portrayal of a Roman Catholic priest, and the way that Crusoe and the priest accept each other as fellow Christians despite their different affiliations, is considerably in advance of the rampantly sectarian attitudes that prevailed among many professing Christians in that era.


message 36: by Judy (new)

Judy Croome This is a great list! There's a feast of possible reads waiting for me to explore.

As a newbie to Goodreads, how do I follow or join the list?

Thanks
Judy Croome, South Africa


message 37: by Werner (last edited Apr 01, 2011 11:10AM) (new)

Werner Judy, now that you've posted a comment on the list, anytime anyone else does, Goodreads will e-mail you a notice of the posting. If you add a book(s) to the list, or vote for any that are already there, this list will then automatically come up under "My lists" whenever you use the "explore" function. (You have to first click "More lists" at the first "explore" page to get to the "My lists" link.)

Glad that you like the list and find it helpful!


message 38: by Judy (new)

Judy Croome Thanks for the help, Werner, much appreciated! :)

Judy (South Africa)


message 39: by Judy (new)

Judy Croome Got it! It works! :) Thanks again Werner.

(Oh dear, I've only finished browsing to end of Pg 2 of the list and already my to-read shelf is groaning!)

Judy (South Africa)


message 40: by Werner (new)

Werner Your to-read shelf sounds like mine, Judy. :-) Happy reading!


message 41: by Zulfiya (new)

Zulfiya I especially enjoyed the fact that the book of O. Wilde was listed here. It does not take much to understand that his book The Picture of Dorian Grayis actually the hymn to homosexuality. And he (the author) was convicted of sodomy and gross indecency.
I personally think Oscar Wilde is one of the greatest English/Irish novelist, and I also think people are free to enjoy their nature and be what they are, but still there is a very bitter question of tolerance.
Have I missed something? Or is homophobia not an issues any more in the Christian world?
I know it sounds really brusque and harsh, but I live in one of the Southern states of the USA, and Christian religion is very much an issue here, and some people definitely have a strong feeling of homophobia here. Unfortunately.


message 42: by Werner (new)

Werner Hmmmm! Zulfiya, since I'm the one who added The Picture of Dorian Gray to this list in the first place, I'd have to say that you're mistaken about the reasoning behind it (at least on my part --though I don't know anything about the thinking of others who voted for the book). Personally, I not only don't see it as a "hymn to homosexuality," but I don't find any homosexual content in it at all. Granted, I have been known to miss homosexual themes in fiction because I don't look for them; if you can point out anything of that nature in the text of the book itself, I invite you to do so. (I'm aware that Wilde himself was homosexual --or perhaps bisexual; he was married to a woman-- but that doesn't automatically make everything he ever wrote a "hymn to homosexuality," any more than another writer's being heterosexual makes all of his/her writing about sex.) I included Wilde's book here because I felt it was a good treatment of moral and spiritual themes, from a great writer who thought seriously about such things all his life (and converted to Roman Catholicism near the end of his life).

The classical Christian view of sex and gender starts from the assumption that God created it. Therefore, our division into two sexes isn't a meaningless accidental result of evolution, devoid of any moral significance; rather, it's a purposive arrangement by a Creator who intended us to find sexual fulfillment and joy in heterosexual marriage and family life that illustrates and reflects our relationship with Him. At the deepest level of our being, that creational intent is part of who we all are by our "nature." To the extent that we're faithful to our calling as Christian believers, we try to encourage all people to respond to God and be free to be what he made us to be --free of sin and selfishness, free of mental hangups that distort our interaction with others (including our sexual interaction), free of cultural hangups and peer pressure. (At the same time, we're called to be compassionate to the moral struggles of others and respectful of their worth as human beings, and to recognize that only God can finally judge any of us.) Smearing that position as "homophobia" and declaring it beyond the pale of human tolerance, as some today do (not you necessarily), obviously does not refute it.


message 43: by Judy (new)

Judy Croome Werner and Zulfiya, what an interesting discussion! I agree with Werner that "The Picture of Dorian Gray" is more an exploration of good and evil than it is about homosexuality. I suggest, too, that prejudice (intolerance) is a *human* condition; not necessarily a "Christian" condition. To allocate prejudice as a condition of one group alone is to deny or ignore the potential for good and evil contained within all humans (irrespective of their chosen faith or their race, gender etc.)

Thinking about it now, I wonder if "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" is on this list - that's another excellent exploration of the good/evil duality within human nature.
Judy Croome, South Africa


message 44: by Zulfiya (last edited Apr 18, 2011 10:01PM) (new)

Zulfiya Werner, thank you for clarifying your position. First, I want to reassure you that I am not intentionally looking for homosexual messages in his novels. I believe you have to know about authors and their lifestyle and how their life affected their works. I would strongly recommend you to pay close attention to the descriptive passages about young Dorian Gray in the novel and read the letters Oscar Wilde wrote to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas. The similarity is striking. On the other hand Oscar Wilde's marriage was very similar to the one of Lord Henry Wotton and Victoria.
Oscar Wilde was known for sending hidden messages in his works, like the play 'The Importance of Being Earnest', or in his poem 'The Ballad of the Reading Gaol', or 'De Profundis'
Though I concur with you that this book is also about the duality of a human soul and its naivite and later corruption (sorry about the spelling of the word naivite- the key-board does not have all the French accent and trema signs of the language, though Oscar Wilde would be extremely disappointed about it. As you know, he even wrote his final play in French as he believed English was not beautiful enough for this purpose)
And, yes, "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" is also and excellent example about the duality of a human being, but nowadays it is mostly used as a term to indicate the different or opposite social roles people accept to fit in or blend in different social milieus.
Now concerning the prejudice/intolerance. It is a human condition, but it is deeply rooted and blatantly observed in religious communities. Those communities of DIFFERENT RELIGIOUS groups host and cultivate this feeling.
To show the other side of the story I should say that secular educated people are not free of any prejudices as well. Most secular people I know consider believers of any religious group brainwashed and manipulated.
I am not free of prejudice, either. I am strongly prejudiced against uneducated people and people who have no intention to educate themselves, especially nowadays when everyone considers himself/herself a college material.
At least here (goodreads.com) you can meet people who share your values and are your soulmates.
And again, the freedom of conscience is an unalienable right of every human being, but how does it happen that the place I live in is populated by ardent Christians, but most of them have trouble reading even a Harlequin novel. Well, to be more exact, reading in its simple form. I dare say it is a rhetorical question.
Trust me, I am doing my best not to be judgmental, but the figures are against me, at least in my state. I wish all people were like you in your aspiration for knowledge. I still hope for the best. I hope in my dreams that one day the government will try and send a certain message to encourage literacy and reading. Wishful thinking, sigh


message 45: by Werner (new)

Werner Judy, if Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde wasn't on this list before, it should have been; and it is now!

Zulfiya, thanks for your insights. You're obviously a lot more knowledgeable about Wilde than I am, and since I haven't read most of the works you mentioned, I have to defer to your judgment as to their messages. Besides the Dorian Gray book, the only other Wilde work I've read is his Biblical drama, Salome. (That one, of course, was faulted by Victorian critics for sexual content, but not of a homoerotic kind --his Salome dances the Dance of Seven Veils, which in the historical context is probably exactly the sort of dance she performed. :-) ) But even without having read any of his letters, I'll agree with you that he almost certainly saw Dorian as the kind of male who would be attractive to him, given the stress on Dorian's physical beauty and perfection. Heterosexual writers, when portraying an opposite-sex character who's meant to be seen as attractive, inevitably tend to envision and describe him/her in terms that are attractive to us personally (I say "us" because I'm a writer of sorts myself, and understand the psychology :-) ). No doubt, for a writer who experiences same-sex sexual attraction, the psychological dynamic with same-sex characters works the same way. I'd still say, though, that he didn't necessarily expect or want most of his male readers to feel the same way about the character; and that this isn't the same thing as writing a direct (or even a "hidden") apologia as such for homosexuality. (Dorian's initial attraction to Sybil Vane, whatever else it is, isn't homosexual; and there are plenty of indications in the text that both Dorian and Lord Henry have interests --and more than interests, though in Victorian fashion that's only hinted discreetly-- in females that are definitely of a sexual nature.)

Yes, a tendency to distrust and fear people with different beliefs, and to let that attitude develop into dislike and even hatred, is a universal trait of all of us flawed humans: religious and nonreligious, straight and "gay," conservative and liberal. Those of us who are Christians struggle against this the same as anybody else; we live in the tension of believing that God is molding us to be fit for life in an eternal community of love and peace, but knowing that we haven't attained that ideal yet. It's easier for human habits of distrust and dislike to form and fester in situations where we never get to personally know any of the people we're tempted to see as the "enemy." That's one great blessing of a site like Goodreads --it not only brings us into contact with soulmates who share our values, but also with people who have very different ideas and values, in a non-threatening context that invites us to get to know each other, consider each other's ideas, and see how much we have in common as fellow human beings.

Your point about ignorance and aliteracy among professed Christians is interesting. Obviously, the Bible doesn't glorify ignorance, and Christians have historically been a major force promoting education and literacy, stimulated partly by belief in the importance of being able to read the Bible. (Though I think among modern American Christians, actual Bible reading has greatly declined, despite the lip service paid to the idea, and that's one of my pet peeves.) By the end of the 19th century, though, in reaction to the gradual takeover of the educational system by secularists, a sizable segment of American Christianity (in what became the fundamentalist movement) developed a strain of thought that actually was strongly anti-education and did tend to glorify ignorance. That remained a strong current for over a hundred years, and still leaves a harmful legacy today. Happily, American evangelicalism today has been recovering its love of learning and participation in the life of the mind. But that recovery faces a new anti-intellectual threat, which is common to everybody in our society, not just Christians: an insidious collapse of reading instruction in the schools, a general dumbing-down of the culture and devaluation of logical thought and verbal skills, a mass media that basically glorifies ignorance and reduces intellectual life to factoids and sound bites. What you're seeing in Arkansas is, I suspect, mostly a reflection of this, not something peculiar to Christians even though most people there happen to self-identify as Christians; you could see it in any state among people of any demographic. (As a college librarian, I certainly see it here in Virginia, in the annual incoming flood of aliterate, intellectually indifferent "students" who approach college as a credentials factory to guarantee a high- paying job --and many of these people are completely secular in their attitudes and affiliations!) Like you, I'd love to see our government encourage literacy --but I certainly don't think it does that now, and I'm not holding my breath for it to happen. (I'm sighing right along with you.)


message 46: by Zulfiya (last edited Apr 19, 2011 11:55PM) (new)

Zulfiya Werner, thank you for keeping this discussion alive.
I totally agree with you that Christianity was a strong educational source in the 11th-14th centuries. It was, as you remember,the time of monasteries and and big abbeys. These places were the pulsating heart of knowledge and the only place of learning and literacy. They also showed a surprising level of tolerance because their libraries had books written in Ancient Greek and Latin as well as books in Arabic.
The wonderful symbiotic relationship between Christianity, Islam, and Judaism in Southern Spain is the aspiration and dream for many people nowadays.
It is also worth mentioning that it was the time most people describe as Dark Age. I find this misnomer hilarious. Hmmm, all this made me think about a wonderful book The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. I am not sure it will be appropriate in your list due to a certain theme we have already discussed, but at least it shows the monastic life in the most engaging way, and it is a beautiful example of a medieval library; but I personally think Umberto Eco wanted to follow the idea of Jorge Borges and to exemplify his thesis that the whole world is a library. I do believe that you find this idea appealing due to your occupation.
And yes, I tend to agree with you that most young people nowadays are totally illiterate (or aliterate as you put it. And I think it is a better term because they do not show any sign of literacy), religious and secular alike. I am a native Russian speaker with the degree in ESL (English as a Second Language), Linguistics, and British Literature. I teach a couple of remedial English courses in a local college. And the degree of illiteracy (or aliteracy) and brain-numbing ignorance is petrifying. Some of my students have never heard of British English and believe that they speak American. Some openly confess that they have never read in their life. My first day was an awfully painful and traumatic experience. Their only intention to go to college is to earn certain credentials and have a career, not a job. I often tell my students that loving and learning are two most important things in my life. I do not think they understand me.
This part of the USA has one of the biggest Christian community, and it is still a huge cultural shock for me that the first question people usually ask is about my church. I was often asked to explain what agnostic meant because that was my usual answer. Some people seriously believed that it was a new segregation. It would be funny if it was not so sad. It does not mean I am not against the idea of a Creator(the world around us is explored, understood, and viewed in terms of both Mythos and Logos) , but I am strongly against the rigid, conventional, prescribed, spoon-fed and regimented idea of a Creator. I understand and accept religious beliefs and spiritual life in all its forms To put it plainly, I can not accept doctrinal religious institutions of all types.
I think I am gradually learning how to accept Christianity in Arkansas. And I am really enjoying reading books about the religious experience and the people who are strong believers. Gilead is a very enjoyable read so far.
But I do not think that one day I will be a neophyte.:-)
The whole nature of writing has fascinated me all my life, and there are some questions I am burning to ask. Do you view writing as a form of exhibitionism and voirism (these are the terms introduced by J. Fowles)? It basically means that you expose and project your own personal experience as well as you collect the 'smithereens' and 'leftovers' (Roger McGough) of conversations around you and true life stories; and then after some accumulation and a certain cathartic experience it finds its way to the paper/ screen?


message 47: by Werner (new)

Werner Zulfiya, good questions about writing! Voyeurism and exhibitionism aren't exactly the terms I'd use; but it's most definitely a form of self-expression, and for every writer the grist for the mill, so to speak, has to come both from remembered personal experience and from observations of others' lives and conversations. Of course, we re-shape and re-combine all of these elements in different ways, and blend them with our own particular vision. Do you do any writing yourself?

The Name of the Rose is on my to-read list, and we have it at my library. I didn't check just now to see if it's already on this list; I know I didn't add it, because I only add books I've actually read myself. But you can certainly feel free to add it (or other books)! We don't automatically censor any book for its subject matter, and books on the list don't have to be from a Christian perspective -- just of interest (in some way) to Christian readers.

Higher education is a wonderful calling, but in the times we're living in, it's also a really challenging and often frustrating one, sort of an uphill battle. I could relate to everything you wrote about your students; and all I can do (as a fellow soldier in the trenches :-) ) is encourage you to hang in there. All we can do is try our best; for a lot of students, it goes in one ear and out the other, but if you can impart to one kid the light of intellectual openness and curiosity that you show here, you've accomplished something very worthwhile!

It's great that you're learning to understand people across a cultural divide, and open to reading about religious experience. Probably you're right that you won't wind up as a neophyte; but who knows? (After all, C. S. Lewis started out as an atheist. :-) ) Actually, your distrust of religious institutions and regimented, prescribed doctrines reminds me in some ways of myself. There's no question that at its core, religious faith involves obedient submission and self-surrender to the Creator, an acknowledgment that God knows best and can be trusted to lead us the right way. But that's not the same thing as blind submission to other people or institutions --indeed, considering that total submission belongs to God, giving it to human beings and human creeds could be called idolatry. For what it's worth, I've always felt that the church as we see it in the New Testament is more a family than an institution, and that we're called to be faithful to the Word of God as we understand it --not as somebody else wants to understand it for us. (Does that make any sense?)


message 48: by Judy (new)

Judy Croome Werner, it makes excellent sense! You've put it so well. Really enjoying reading this discussion.

Judy Croome, South Africa


message 49: by Werner (new)

Werner Thanks, Judy!


message 50: by Zulfiya (last edited Apr 20, 2011 10:33PM) (new)

Zulfiya Thank you, Werner, for a stimulating discussion. It does make perfect sense. And that is what makes me the staunchest agnostic. I am not extremely rebellious, but I am independent, which also means I hate causing trouble and ask people to do something for me or help me. I am aware that religion (any religion) requires obedient submission and self-surrender, but when you question and scrutinize everything around you self-surrender is out of question. My agnosticism also comes from the fact that I was brought-up in a family of a surgeon. Surgeons, neurosurgeons, OB/GYN, cardiologist and other health-care providers often bring people back from the other side of life. They fight , confront, and challenge biological death every day and develop that strong independent spirit of self-reliance.
But all this is a theological debate, and as it has been wisely observed - to each his/her own.
Now concerning my writing experience (This word is definitely an hyperbole LOL). I did try my hand at writing in Russian, and a couple of my stories were actually published in some local Russian literary magazines, but it is not worth mentioning. I personally view this past experience tinkering with writing as a whim, a satisfaction of my personal needs, and it is nothing serious.
I have not tried any creative writing in English yet. I am slightly apprehensive and unwilling to do it because it does require a serious level of language sensitivity and a keen observing eye. I lack both. But I do like to deconstruct (it is a Roland Barth's term), reconstruct and analyse creative writing. I think my linguistic professional background actually is at loggerheads with my philological background (though those two scientific fields are closely related and often overlap and intertwine), and it impedes my creating writing as I tend to over-analyse everything from the scientific viewpoint. You are a published writer, and you definitely know that creative writing is listening to your muse and then gathering the strings of words and fine-tuning them by changing emphasis and shades of meaning. It is widely known as editing:-)
I truly enjoy playing with words, but I think my low level of commitment, motivation, and my other Russian linguistic personality (this is one of the terms linguists use to describe truly bilingual people. I often refer to it as a linguistic multiple personality disorder or professional schizophrenia :-))))) )as well as some surprisingly alive remnants of French and my ethnic Tartar language do cause a certain cacophony and chaos. All the above mentioned facts were basically mere excuses not to be committed to writing. They are also fine and plausible excuses to devote more time to reading.
I was actually surprised to find many Russian novels in your list. Do you personally have any favorites among them?


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