I love reading. Not a day goes by when I don’t pick up a book at some point an read a few pages…or a whole book. Obviously, I read a lot about youth ministry, leadership and related topics. But I also read a lot of fiction. Reading fiction is one of those things that really fills up my tank and prevents me from running on empty.
Yet I’ve often felt guilty about reading fiction because it feels like such a waste of time. Sure, it’s relaxing and everything, but not very useful…or is it?
It turns out reading fiction actually has benefits. I quote from a recent Harvard Busines Review post:
Over the past decade, academic researchers such as Oatley and Raymond Mar from York University have gathered data indicating that fiction-reading activates neuronal pathways in the brain that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion — improving his or her overall social skillfulness.
In short: reading fiction helps you to understand real human emotions better, it improves your social skills. Ha! I always knew I was on the right track there…
So, for those of you who now have a legitimate excuse to read some fiction and are looking for some tips, here are a few of my favorites:
- Ted Dekker’s Circle Series : I don’t care much for his latest stuff, but this series is really intriguing and offers a view of a different world that inspired me. The Heaven Trilogy is touching as well, and the main storyline is powerful, but at some points it’s a bit too drawn out.
- Frank Peretti’s This present darkness and Piercing the darkness: these are classics I read when I was a teen. They completely changed my view on spiritual warfare. An absolute must-read. The Prophet is also a challenging book (there’s Peretti Three-Pack with all these three by the way). Again, not such a big fan of his more recent stuff. For instance the book he wrote with Ted Dekker, House, was a big let-down with little Christian content and a lot of creepy violence.
- Francine Rivers: I like all her books, but my absolute favorite is The Last Sin Eater. That book just blew me away and changed how I viewed Christ’s work on the cross. And the Shofar Blew is also among my favorites, a powerful warning for (youth) pastors on the costs of sin.
- Charles Martin’s Wrapped in Rain. A bit different from what I usually read (you may have noticed that my taste is very mainstream, nothing too edgy usually), a bit more literary I’d say, but what an amazing book. Captivating story told in beautiful language. But then again, I have a weakness for books set in the south of the US
- Bodie and Brock Thoene: they have written countless series with way too many parts in historical fiction, mostly set in the Second World War. I like these, but would have appreciated the abbreviated versions. Their three-part series set in the Roaring Twenties and the Depression is excellent however (it starts with In My Father’s House).
- David Baldacci: not Christian fiction, but great thrillers with acceptable language overall. I love his Camel Club stuff.
- Robert Goddard: also not Christian fiction, but solid British thrillers with lots of story. Take No Farewellis the best one I’ve read so far, it kept me guessing till the very last page.
- Leon Uris’ Exodus: this book had a huge impact on me and made me interested for the first time in the events surrounding the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. I’ve read more of his books and generally liked them, but this is the best one by far.
- Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: an absolute magnificent book. Sure, the descriptions can get a bit boring and the poems and songs are a bit much at times, but what a powerful story. If you have seen the films, read the books because there’ so much more in them than they could contain in the films.
What are some of your favorites in fiction? Which books would you recommend to others?