It’s time to get reacquainted with your library and stuff your brain with the good stuff. I’m talkin’ books! Lots and lots of books. This list is my go-to when recommending great reads that don’t leave you feeling gross afterward. It took me a while to get into faith-based books because, like many, I had my preconceptions about what they would be like. I had the idea that Christian fiction would read like a Disney movie and Christian non-fiction would dance around the real issues on everyone’s minds. Thankfully I have been proven wrong and now have more spirit-filled favorites than secular ones.
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
I was not a fiction reader until I read this book. At first, I was skeptical about Francine Rivers’ books because they looked like those cheesy romance novels you see at the grocery store – I guess you literally shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. What I love about her style of writing is she keeps it real. So many people think Christians don’t deal with life’s toughest issues or they can’t be sexy, and that’s just not the case. This book addresses serious topics like abandonment, rape, sex trafficking, mental health, and adultery, but balances it all with epic love, forgiveness, and redemption. If you love period pieces and intense drama, Redeeming Love is going to be your new jam!
Mark of the Lion Trilogy by Francine Rivers
I have to admit, Redeeming Love was my favorite until I read this series. I had been given this trilogy as a gift years ago and Ben read it before I did. Every time I tried to start the first book, I got bored with the overload of details but Ben reassured me it was all just building context and setting the scene. Once I pushed through the first few chapters, I couldn’t put the story down. The books take place during Roman times and cover topics like wealth, power, manipulation, abortion, racism, female empowerment, pride, spirituality, love, and perseverance.
Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers
After getting through Redeeming Love and the Mark of the Lion trilogy, I wanted to read every Francine Rivers book I could get my hands on. Bridge to Haven reminds me a lot of Nicholas Sparks movies (because I’ve never read his books). It tells the story of a naive young gal who feels lonely until an older boy gives her attention and takes advantage of her innocence. Meanwhile, the one who knows her best never gives up on her, no matter how far gone she is. When you were young, did you ever feel neglected or seek attention in irrational ways? Did you ever fall for dumb ideas or get into trouble for believing in the wrong people? If so, you’ll identify with her and you’ll loooooove the ending!
The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers
This is a modern personal growth & love story mixed together. Much different from the other Francine books I’ve read, The Masterpiece takes place today and deals with issues many people are going to therapy for like money, social image, secrets, absent parents, being a single mom looking for love or a terminal bachelor who’s afraid of it. There’s a fun tug of war between the two main characters, both in themselves and with each other. They’re both sassy and strong-willed, independent but needy. You won’t be able to decide whose side you’re on.
The Circle Series by Ted Dekker
After professing my fandom for Francine Rivers’ epic drama-love stories, here are a few for the fellas. Ben has always been partial to sci-fi and fantasy books, which is why he’s always been drawn to the works of Ted Dekker. Dekker is probably one of the most popular Christian authors in the game, and for good reason. This series is about an average Joe who finds himself living between two worlds and each choice he makes impacts the other. When he’s awake, he’s in what we all consider reality. While he’s asleep, he’s in a mystical place where things are very different. “The fates of both worlds now rest on his ability to shift realities through his dreams while trying to find a way to change history.”
Forbidden [The Books of Mortals Trilogy] by Ted Dekker & Tosca Lee
Fun Fact: Tosca Lee has ties to my home state! Her father is a professor at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and she was both Mrs. Nebraska America and Mrs. Nebraska United States in the late 90s. The series begins with Forbidden and continues with Mortal, then Sovereign. These books are intense! The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where alchemists have come up with a plan to create world peace…by genetically eliminating all emotion apart from fear. But, there is a secret society who has been protecting an antidote that can reunite humanity with their free will where they can experience real love and freedom.
WEIRD: Because Normal Isn’t Working by Craig Groeschel
Apart from the Bible, this is the first faith-based book I ever read. As I mentioned before, I wasn’t much of a fiction reader. Self-improvement books and memoirs were my go-to genres, and I’m not sure how I came across WEIRD but the first few pages sucked me in. Because normal isn’t working…this was the breaking point in my faith. Following the steps of a normal – aka practical – life wasn’t eliminating my troubles or anxiety. In the midst of a panic attack, I decided to trust God’s plan over my own and start pursuing a lifestyle many consider, “weird.”
The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living As If He Doesn’t Exist by Craig Groeschel
Let’s get real for a moment. I would be willing to bet that the majority of those who are reading this believe in God but live as if He doesn’t exist – I did. If you consider yourself a Christian your story might be a lot like mine: You went to Sunday school when you were little, had confirmation or a first communion ceremony, and attended church for Easter and Christmas. BUT, do you actually know what it means when you say you’ believe in God? Do you have a relationship with the one you believe in (ie. prayer, worship, study)? This book is a tell-it-like-it-is read that will have you checking yourself and your relationship with God.
NIV Study Bible
No explanation needed. The best selling book of all time should be a part of your library and I recommend this version. I like how easy it is to understand NIV and the Study Bible helps put things into context, which is really important for applying The Word to life today.
Joyce Meyers Devotional: Hearing From God Each Morning by Joyce Meyer
My mother-in-law gifted this devotional to me in 2011 and it has always been an encouraging way to start the day. Joyce is a straight forward gal, and she has an awesome way of illustrating important lessons with real-life examples.
C.S. Lewis Signature Classics
You’ve heard of the Chronicles of Narnia, right? Well, C.S. Lewis created way more epic works and a ton of them are included in this book. Mere Christianity (non-fiction) and Screwtape Letters (fiction) are my favorites. The great thing about reading C.S. Lewis is his background; He didn’t always believe in God and he’s incredibly smart. So, after coming into his faith, he was able to write about the topic of Christianity from the perspectives of both a believer and non-believer. If you find yourself on the fence about your faith, I suggest reading Mere Christianity.
Culture of Honor by Danny Silk
This is an excellent book for anyone but especially parents or those in a mentorship/leadership role. What I love about this book is how it addresses misconceptions about how the church should be treating people. Danny shares a story about a member of his church who was dealing with some mishaps in his marriage. Instead of chastising him and exiling him from the church, Danny works with him and his wife to get to the root of their discord and encourage church groups to give him grace and support for a better future. Danny also talks about proactive ways to discipline children so they grow to respect and honor their family. Essentially, this book teaches us how to manifest a Culture of Honor in all of our relationships.
Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner
This is another sweet story for the ladies. Chasing Slow is a bit of a memoir about the evolution of Erin’s life and how she taps into her faith to adapt to hard times like navigating the success of her HGTV.com show and marrying a man with a terminal brain tumor. Her book reads like quality time with your best girlfriend or big sister. She shares about raw emotions, pressures, doubts, and successes, and how she came to the conclusion that it’s more fulfilling to eliminate the chaos and live slowly to fully enjoy all of life’s flavors.
The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
If you haven’t heard of this book, you must be living under a rock. The 5 Love Languages is one of my two favorite tools for marriage growth. In this book, Gary walks through what giving and receiving love looks like to different people. There is great advice throughout this book, which ends with a quiz that will identify you and your significant other’s love languages. My love languages are Physical Touch (holding hands, hugging, kissing) and Quality Time (undivided attention, talking and listening).