Can't Judge a Book By its Cover: Sneaky Christian/Inspirational Books

Has this happened to you?

I’m a historical fiction fan. Not too long ago, I was in a bookstore to pick something up, and only had a few minutes before Hubby was picking me up. A book with a “historical fiction cover*” caught my eye. I read the back cover. It looked interesting. I bought it, got it home and started reading it.

About twenty pages into it, I knew something was wrong. My suspicions were confirmed the further I read. It was an inspirational novel. You know the kind-- in which the protragonist’s relationship with God is given just about as much space as the relationships with other characters.

I have nothing against this genre . . . well, that’s a lie. I do. I don’t like it. But I especially don’t like being tricked into buying it because it was disguised as something else.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. I’ll read a description on Amazon, think the book looks interesting and only discover that it’s inspirational once I start reading. Nowhere on the covers or in the descriptions does it say anything about Christianity/inspiration. I find this sort of vaguely dishonest and most definitely irritating.

I’ve now started a mental list of publishers of these books and check the publisher before I buy anything. I’m irritated. Not “pit-irritated” but irked. I’ve half a mind to mail the book back to the publisher with a demand they refund my money for tricking me.

*Readers of historical fiction will know to what I refer. It’s the latest trend in covers for these books, and it’s usually something along the lines of an off-center detail of a historic painting.

Aw, crap. Can someone please ask a mod to move this to Cafe? :smack:

I can’t say that I’ve had that happen to me, but I don’t blame you for being irritated. I have read a number of Inspirational Historical Romance novels–but I always knew before I started that they were supposed to be Inspirational. (It just so happens that that is a category of books that appeals very much to my grandmother, she has passed many of her books on to me. Obviously, I must enjoy at least some of them or I wouldn’t have read as many as I have, but the tendency to feature all the same cliches that a similar book without the “inspirational” claim and feature a cliched epiphany about God’s importance as well tends to keep me from seeking them out.)

My peeve is when book covers make it darn near impossible to figure out whether the book whose cover I don’t recognize by a favorite author is in fact a newly written book or at least one I’ve not read, or a book I have read by the aforementioned favorite author.

I’ve only seen one book like this–a friend of mine gave me a Christian romance novel. I only read it because she gave it to me, and it was short. And I was hoping it would get better, but it was truly awful in many ways. At least I knew what I was getting into–I’d have been really annoyed if I didn’t know what it was before I read it.

I’ve been tricked by that, too. One such book was sold under a completely different title, and the author’s name was rendered differently on the cover. (An initial and a last name instead of the full name.) It wasn’t until I started reading that I recognized it.

Check the copyright page. It usually will say something like, “Originally published as [Title] by [Author’s Name.]”

Hmm, I wonder how a “Christian romance novel” is different from a “romance novel”? If kinky flagellation is involved, it might not be so bad…

It has, well kinda. It was The Celestine Prophecy It turned out to be an invitation to join the author’s cult. (Bring money)

There’s a shit-load of them out there. The Amish are very popular characters.

The main differences are that Jesus gets a lot of mention. The one I just got tricked into buying had a character who was mad at God for the death of his wife, but he came back to Jesus at the end at the heroine’s coaxing. Secondly, there is no sex, even if the characters are married. Melodrama and bad writing combine with the former to make a pretty bland and prissy style.

Moved to Cafe Society from MPSIMS.

If it had some of that, it might have been worth reading. No, there aren’t even any hot sex scenes. There’s just a little bit of chaste kissing, and that doesn’t happen until close to the end. Really, how can you have a cheesy romance with no heaving bosoms. No heaving, no throbbing–what’s the point?

I can’t believe I actually read this book–it’s much worse than I remembered. It’s not bad in a good, entertaining way, it’s just plain bad. It’s about 5 books worth of bad, packed into one little paperback.

The plot: assistant DA’s family is murdered by the brother of a kid she put in jail. Burnt to a crisp. She goes in witness protection program, moves to a small town in Texas, opens a costume shop, and finds love in the arms of her hunky neighbor. It involves a lot of praying and casseroles, and a few more fires. And did I mention that she’s an excellent cook and great with kids, and he’s very good at building stuff. :rolleyes:

I was at the library the other day when I saw a book in the new arrivals section about information theory and biology. Given my interest in the former (I actually did research and published in the area a long time ago), I picked it up and scanned thru it to see what it was like.

The ToC worried me. Didn’t sound like a real Science book. Then checking into the tail end of the preface, things like “The Bible” and such started to appear. (The first few pages of the preface carefully avoided creationist terminology.)

Oh crap. One of those books. Our tax dollars at work spreading ignorance. More of the usual misuse of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics stuff.

I’m a public librarian, in charge of processing new books as they arrive at our branch, and I can tell you I’ve processed a lot of nonbooks. Stuff on astrology, reincarnation, autobiographies of “psychics,” iffy fad diets . . . Whaddaya want? We’re public servants. We give the people what we think they want. Collection-development decisions are made in response to patrons’ acquisition requests, among other things.

I’m a librarian, too, and I just finished weeding out quite a few creationist books from our collection (we actually still had copies of Gish), and replacing them with current books on evolution, biology, etc.

I know we’re supposed to respond to the demands of the public, but I feel that the responsibility to house accurate information outweighs what we think the public “wants”. I’m no more going to carry anti-evolution books, giving them the imprimatur of legitimancy, than I would books denying the Holocaust.

For you librarians: Should you come across one of these inspirational tomes masquerading as a normal historical fiction (or whatever genre) book, would you please put it in the Christian section where I won’t select it by mistake?

Of course, if you pick a dud from the library, no harm, no foul. You can just return it and get another. But buying books is a whole different story. (I don’t like the library much because you bastards want the books back.) I’m a little devestated to discover that some of my precious book budget has been wasted.

This trend pisses me off even more when it is posing as scholarly research. There’s a lot of great books out there on neopaganism and Goddess worship. They *all *detail how the current religions under this umbrella, including Wicca, are not in fact the “old religion” running in some unbroken line from some utopian matriarchy but in fact a new religion based on Western Esotericism and a mythos of an old religion which probably never existed. Fine, we get that. We’re not idiots. But there was one book in particular that then went on to “document” a bunch of bizarre claims about Goddess worship being Satanic/demonic and a perversion of Chrisitanity and a lot of crap almost straight out of the Malleus Maleficarum. Not to mention the crap he had to spew about feminism and how it was single handedly responsible for destroying Western Civilization. And this from a professor of religious studies! I couldn’t believe the level of Christian propaganda and ignorance written on these pages. (And the damn thing gets 3 1/2 stars on Amazon. Grr.)

Under the Dewey Decimal system most U.S. public libraries use, “nonfiction” religious literature goes in the 200s. But novels, whatever their content or theme, go in the fiction section, shelved by author’s last name. Exceptions might be made for genre fiction, e.g., a library’s fiction section might have separate subsections for science fiction, mysteries, Westerns, etc. But no public library, AFAIK, has a separate section for Christian fiction; so general fiction is where you’ll find it.

While I admire your desire for accurate information, (as an avid library user, I say thank you to all librarians!) I do have a problem with your choosing what to place in the library shelves based on your own beliefs about what is and isn’t accurate, though I do agree that creationism is false. That method carries an overtone of censorship to me. (if I’m way off base and this actually is the accepted method of determination for what goes on the shelf and what doesn’t feel free to let me know. ) :slight_smile:

This is not a slam on you, I would say the same to a fundy christian librarian that wouldn’t place evolution or books about religions other than theirs on the shelves.

I could be wrong, since I don’t search these “books” out, but my local library has a sticker on the spine of each, just like they have stickers for Westerns and mysteries. The sticker depicts a cross, if memory serves. I know that when I see that–not to check that book out. I tried to read one, once. That was enough for me. It was some type of Christian mystery–no death, but gossip and scandal were hurting a community! The horror! The shame! And the protagonist was at first using the scandal to help her write fiction (a dollop of reality there) and then had a crisis of conscience and tore up her scurrilous tome, to write cleaner, nicer fiction.

Never again.

How far would you take that? I’m convinced astrology is useless bullshit. If you’re like most Dopers you probably agree. But would you purge your shelves of books on astrology? It is something some people want to read; and it is a subject of some small intellectual interest to some non-believers.

Just because a public library carries a book does not mean it is conferring any “imprimatur of legitimacy” on it. I mean, book A in a given collection might contradict everything said in book B. Well, people should have the opportunity to examine a question from all sides, and we as librarians should provide that for them. Within practical limits. I wouldn’t object to a Holocaust-denial book in our collection, but I’m sure we’ll never acquire one – too much political fallout; and if we got one it would disappear in a week.

Hmm! So some public libraries do have Christian-fiction sections! (I’ve never seen such a thing, but I’m still new in the profession.)