Any Christian literature that's actually, you know, good?

My best friend’s birthday is coming up and I want to continue my streak of getting her really good, incredibly personal gifts. She’s pretty religious (though far short of being a right-wing zealot) and I’d like to give her some quality Christian literature/poetry that rises above the dreck (“Left Behind” books, etc.) I saw while strolling through a Christian book store one day.

So far my list is…[ul]
[li]C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”[/li][/ul] Um, that’s it so far. Basically, I need some stuff that has withstood the test of time and is regarded as good literature, period, regardless of its Christian themes or messages.

And just to stop all the wiseasses in their tracks: Yes, she already owns The Bible :wink:

I like G.K. Chesterton a lot.

THE COMPLETE FATHER BROWN might be a good choice. The Father Brown stories are considered second only to the Sherlock Holmes stories as great classic detective fiction. And his THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY is an amusing metaphysical thriller.

I’m assuming she doesn’t have any problem with them Pope-kissin’ Catlicks?

Um… actually…

She doesn’t hate Catholic people, mind you, but she does have some pretty big philosophical beefs about Catholic theology and dogma, to the point where she’s told me she couldn’t marry one because of the child-rearing problems it would cause.

I’m not really looking for stories about people who just so happen to be religious (like a mystery-solving priest, for example). I’m more looking for things that actually deal with spritual issues or spiritual reflection. This can include books of essays, not just fiction or poetry.

Along the lines of C.S. Lewis, I’d recommend “The Screwtape Letters.”

If you want quality poets who write well both secularly and Christianically (I made a word!), here’s a few:

Donne (as long as she’s okay with reading Catholic literature!)
T. S. Eliot
Emily Dickinson

I think Tolkien might’ve written theological things too but I’m afraid I’m not well-versed in that.

You might also look for books that deal with the Bible in an interesting manner, for instance books that deal with the history behind the Bible or something such as that. The only word of warning is to find a book with a viewpoint that won’t be terribly offensive to her (unless she likes to be offended, like me).

Do you perhaps mean “The Screwtape Letters”? “Mere Christianity” is neither literature nor poetry; it’s a series of essays setting forth the basic principles of Christianity.

Actually, I found one a few months ago. Try Desire of the Everlasting Hills; The World Before and After Jesus by Thomas Cahill (IIRC he also wrote How the Irish Saved Civilization. It is not treacly but very thought provoking. I’ve also lent it to a few thinking Christians in my church who also enjoyed it. I bought my copy at a conventional, large bookstore (I’m not comfortable in the Christian ones).


George MacDonald
G.K. Chesterton
C.S. Lewis

There are a lot of authors in the “ok, but not brilliant” range (Left Behind is simply awful, so better than that is not very hard.)

there’s a wonderful book by Kathleen Norris called The Cloister Walk. I highly recommend it. Ms. Norris is a poet who was raised Lutheran (I think), then went away from it as a teenager (in the 60’s/70’s). This book is about her journey back to faith, and it’s amazing. I’m a fast reader, and I read this book slowly, because I didn’t ever want it to end. It’s very rich – her being a poet and all – and just a spectacular book. I’d put it at the top of your list.

Frederick Buechner also writes some good stuff (some fiction, some not), as do Philip Yancey and Eugene Peterson. I haven’t read much of their stuff, but they’re very well regarded at my (Christian) university.

Good luck – and let us know what you settle on and how she likes it!

To all of the above I would add The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris.

Stargazer, you beat me!

Donne came from a Catholic family, but he converted to the Church of England – around the turn of the seventeenth century, I believe – and his great religious poetry is written from this perspective.

I love Donne, though, and I wholeheartedly second the recommendation.

You know, I was actually going to suggest the Screwtape Letters. It’s a great book and a good read…Ok actually I listened to them on CD with John Clease narrating them-that still counts I feel- and I thought the screwtape letters were really thought provoking.

A Canticle for Leibowitz, by xxxx? Miller, is excellent Christian sci-fi.

Walter M. Miller, Jr. Another recommendation I wholeheartedly recommend. :slight_smile:

These all sound like exactly the kind of things I was looking for.

Actually, my friend has read those dreadful “Left Behind” books. Yet she’s really smart; I just think she’s just never been exposed to anything beyond the overly-sentimental, completely-lacking-in-subtlety-and-nuance crap that Christian book stores are polluted with. She’s told me she’s getting sick of them, but just keeps reading them because she blew so much money on the first however-many books. As for me, I cracked one open once, and it took me only one or two pages to be absolutely repulsed. They’re almost a parody of themselves.

I doubt any of these books are very expensive, so I may just get her a whole bunch of them, from several different periods. I may also get The Screwtape Letters for myself, since I’ve always wanted to read it. :slight_smile:

Keep suggestions coming if you think of anything else!

Argh, I did not just phrase it that way… :eek:

To start getting excessive about the C.S. Lewis; The Chronicles of Narnia are great Christian literature disguised as great children’s fantasy.

Kingdom Come from DC Comics.

OK, ok, so it incorporates the Superman mythos into the book of Revelation…it’s still a good read. Although if you’re looking for LITERATURE, there’s a novelized edition by Elliot S. Maggin which is even more Biblical than the comics.

I keep seeing and hearing how the Screwtape Letters are hugely popular, but somehow I never saw the appeal in them. I read some and thought “so what?”

But I really, really like Lewis’s Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength). I thought he did a bang-up job with that. Even though I’m not Christian, I thoroughly enjoyed it. He gets a little heavy with the dogma in a few places, but that didn’t prevent him from writing some exciting, thoughtful adventures. Perelandra has some extremely deep private personal meaning for me.

I still like Tolkien better, because his writing is so well crafted. All of Tolkien’s work is suffused with Christian depth, although he never proselytizes the way Lewis did.

Lewis thought his last novel, Till We Have Faces, was by far his best. Doesn’t anyone read that any more? I still have to get to it.

I still have to read The Man Who Was Thursday, it really sounds interesting. I just started MacDonald’s Lilith, on the basis that Lewis saw MacDonald as the forerunner and inspiration for his fantastic fiction.

Canticle for Leibowitz??? That’s very much post-Christian, I would say.

John Donne ROCKS! The 17th century is perhaps the greatest period in English poetry, and Donne is the champ of it. No other English poet has combined Sex and Religion so well.

I’m surprised no one has mentioned Charles Williams. If you want really seriously thought-provoking Christian fiction and poetry, you really have to check out Charles Williams. Especially The Place of the Lion (which inspired “Aslan”), Descent into Hell, and All Hallow’s Eve. Williams was a one-of-a-kind author. For him poetry had occult incantatory power, and he was a master of several schools of poetry. He was one of the few people to combine Anglican Christianity with occult Magick. His concept of love, which he found in Dante’s treatment of Beatrice, was that human love leads to divine love, a belief he shared with Sufis and Tantrics as well as Dante. Williams was one of the three major members of the Inklings, the little coterie that formed around C. S. Lewis and included Tolkien as its other major luminary. I just got done re-reading Humphrey Carpenter’s The Inklings and learned more from it than the first time I read it. You all should definitely read The Inklings for an in-depth discussion of what the craft of writing Christian literature meant to Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams and friends.

If you want to shoot really good Jack Lewis into your mainline, read The Horse & His Boy (the fifth or third Narnia book, depending on how you count), The Case for Christianity (which is, I think, included in Mere Christianity), and The Great Divorce (“All Hell is smaller than one pebble of your earthly world: but it is smaller than one atom of this world, the Real World.”) I love that.)

But I refuse to turn this into a Jack Lewis appreciation thread, so I’ll say, um… Well, there’s all that classic literature from previous centuries, but is Milton the sort of thing you really want to read? Or Dante?

I’d get as much out of Oscar Wilde. Or Koyannisqatsi. OK, maybe not Koyannisqatsi. But, you know, does it have to be explicitly Xtian? Will she only read “Christian” stuff?

Hmm, what are we looking for? There’s quite a gulf between, say, the Cotton Patch Bible, and Thomas Aquinas, neither of which is what I imagine you want. I think G. K. Chesterton is a pretty good idea. Also that Lewis guy (sheesh!).