Ever since Joseph and Aseneth was a runaway second-century bestseller, Christians have been writing fiction. Some of it has been among the world’s great literature, such as Dante’s Divine Comedy, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Evelyn Waugh’s Helena, and many more.
My recent discussion of The Shack by Wm. Paul Young and its lack of certain heresies (read it here) has set me thinking about Christian novels worth recommending. While The Shack was entertaining and thought-provoking, it won’t be in the following list. The books I’m going to recommend have the following benefits: not only are they good novels but they express deep truths about the universe, God, humanity, and people who aren’t professing Christians could enjoy and read them as well. Here are five, in alphabetical order by title:
Byzantium by Stephen R. Lawhead. This is a novelisation of the adventures of St. Aidan, an Irish monk who, in the Early Middle Ages sets off from Kells to Byzantium with a complaint about the behaviour of Western clerics on the Continent. There are Vikings, Muslims, Byzantines, loss of faith and its recovery. Aidan is very . . . real. And the Vikings are fantastic (“Heya!”).
The Cosmic Trilogy by C.S. Lewis. Many people find The Chronicles of Narnia their favourites; others applaud Till We Have Faces as a work of genius. I’m not sure what my favourite work of Lewis’ fiction is. The Cosmic Trilogy, however, is well worth a read. These books centre on the adventures of Ransom, who in the first (Out of the Silent Planet) travels to Mars (Malacandra), the second (Perelandra) to Venus (Perelandra), and in the final volume (That Hideous Strength), the battle takes itself to Earth. The stories are excellent, the characters compelling, and a whole gamut of “issues” is run throughout this trilogy.
Godric by Frederick Buechner. This is a novelisation of the life of St. Godric, an Anglo-Saxon hermit in the Middle Ages. This well-written novel tells Godric’s life, including Godric’s struggles and doubts, his own humility and questioning of his vocation. It is beautiful and wonderful.
Helena by Evelyn Waugh. This is a novelisation of the life of St. Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine. I believe that this book captures the spirit of the Late Antique world, especially in terms of philosophy and religion. Waugh is not trying to make a historical reconstruction but simply telling the legend of St. Helena’s life. I believe this is a masterpiece; it was Waugh’s favourite of his works. Loyola Classics has a snazzy edition out.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. This, along with its companion novels, is among my favourite books. It is a type of science fantasy, if such a genre exists. It is about four children who set out across the universe to fight the Dark and to find their missing father; the Dark is taking over planets, extinguishing stars. Their greatest weapon in the fight against the Dark? Love.
Christian fiction I want to read:
All Hallows Eve by Charles Williams
Brenden by Frederick Buechner
The Pendragon Cycle by Stephen R. Lawhead (I’ve only read Taliesin)
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
The Psychomachia by Prudentius
What Christian novels do you recommend?