Friday, July 31, 2009

Christians Who Write (Giveaway #1)

I'm going to step out on a limb and admit that up until the last few years of my life, I only read "secular" books. I only liked secular books. And yet, in all those years of reading, I thrilled at the discovery of a book by a Christian who writes... I think that something inside of me longs for hope at the end of a story. Not necessarily a happily-ever-after ending, but a hopeful one, an ending that acknowledges that the world is still, in spite of it all, a beautiful place.

At any rate, I've amassed a library filled with wonderful books and I'd like to share some of my favorites with you.

Peace Like a River - Leif Enger

If you haven't read this book, scoot on over to Amazon and buy it. Amazon is selling it for $4.60 right now, and let me tell you: that's a steal. This is an absolutely gorgeous book. Not to be missed. It will always be in my top ten.

Abide With Me - Elizabeth Strout

Elizabeth Strout is probably my all-time favorite author, and the woman whose work I would like most to emulate. Abide With Me is the story of a small town pastor who loses his wife to cancer and has to live in the balance between grief and new life, all amid the backdrop of a gossipy small town that just can't understand.

Prayers for Sale - Sandra Dallas

I reviewed this book a while back (you can read my thoughts here), but I like Sandra's work enough to mention her again. Her books aren't action packed or filled with plot twists and turns, but she weaves beautiful stories and manages to make you believe again in grace.

Your turn. What non-CBA books have you read and loved? Please share!

And now, as promised, a giveaway. I'll send a copy of one of my favorite books to one person who leaves a comment on this post. All you have to do is leave a comment with your favorite non-CBA book. Then go tell your friends! Easy, right? I'll draw a winner on Tuesday at noon.

Here's the book:

Breath for Bones
Art, Imagination, and Spirit: A Reflection of Creativity and Faith
Luci Shaw

Luci Shaw is my favorite poet and this book is her a collection of her reflections on faith and writing. If you are a writer, artist, poet, or musician (or you want to be one) this book will help you understand the role of your faith in your art. It's an absolutely amazing book--I can't recommend it enough.

Good luck!


  1. I love being introduced to authors and books. I'm going to add a few of these to my Amazon wish list, especially Abide in Me, that looks like a wonderfully emotional read. Thanks for pointing them out to, Nicole!

    Karen Kingslover is amazing. Poisonwood Bible is phenomenal writing.

    Wow...I just realized it's been awhile since I've read outside of the CBA market. The last book I read in the ABA (not including YA fiction, which I read a lot, being a teacher) was Kiterunner. Talk about an excrutiating, but gripping read. I strongly disliked the protag. I've never read a book where I harbored resentment toward the protag before and kept reading, but there ya go. He redeems himself by the end.

    My goal is to read at least one of your recommended books.

  2. A recent book I read and really liked was Jodi Picoult's "My Sister's Keeper". It really held my attention and I had no idea how the family was going to resolved the conflict. The last twenty pages really turned in a direction that I didn't see coming. Totally different than the movie version! I still haven't seen the movie because I was disappointed in hearing how they changed the movied ending from the book ending. I love to read the books before the movies come out anyway and I usually always love the books way more than the movie version! Melissa

  3. My favorite non-CBA book as of now is A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. And I'll tell you why. It is set in the Adirondack mountains (I love the mountains and the vegetation of the mountains, the feel, the beauty, the creativity of the mountains, so I was drawn in immediately). It is told around an actual murder of a young girl named Grace Brown in the early 1900s (my first ever history novel that I read, plus the touch of actual events gave it a mysterious air that I breathed and breathed and breathed). It is a story of a young girl trying to grasp her freedom and make her own life (I'm trying to do the same thing!). So, for me, this book had all the ingredients of a favorite (wish they would make it into a movie). Her writing style, in my opinion, sort of resembles yours. You and Jennifer Donnelly both have a sort of poetic prose style in your writing, and you both have a knack for fantastic storytelling, and illuminating characters and scenery. Sorry, I didn't really mean to write so much. Anyway, I'll definitely have to check out those books you posted. I've been wanting to look into Peace Like A River, I just kept forgetting about it (oh no!), so I'm glad you reminded me. :) Have a wonderful weekend!


  4. Well it has also been awhile for me since I've read a secular novel! But I guess one of my favorite novels is les miserables although that certainly has Christian elements and themes. So another favorite would be jane eyre-best novel!!! Gotta love charlotte bronte.

  5. Just found your blog and love it! Right now I am reading the Twilight series and it has honestly been so refreshing to read something different than my normal "go to books." Obviously, it is WAY out of the norm of christian books, christian writers even, but I am definitely enjoying it!
    Another favoritie is Cane River by Lalita Tademy.

  6. Read the first two you mentioned. Peace Like a River is one of my all time favorites! I'll have to look into the others.
    ~ Wendy

  7. Hi Nicole,
    There are so many books that I have absolutely loved or have stayed with me years after finishing them. Peace Like a River is one of those books. I also have loved Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safron Foer. I listened to the audiobook and would like to read the book, as it has illustrations and other notes written. It is incredible. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel is another.

    I look forward to reading your book with my book club - I haven't distributed them yet, as summer has kept people busy! Within the next few weeks I'll distribute and then let you know the date we'll be discussing!

    Thanks for inviting me to the giveaway!

  8. THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett is a must-read, especially for those of us who write and struggle to capture the "sound" of someone's voice in dialogue.

    I also devoured the TWILIGHT series

  9. I've really enjoyed this discussion of Christian fiction and Christians who write. It is helfpul to define the difference - it doesn't put down either camp in a way that would be unproductive, but it does understand what each contributes. I, too, LOVED Peace Like a River. It was the first time I had read fiction and felt like "If I ever wrote a book this would be how I hope it would sound." Thank you for bringing up Elizabeth Strout, as well. I read Amy and Isabelle, but I think I was too young for the endeavor and ended up with a bit of a scar as a result :) I'm excited to try the one you mentioned.

  10. Do you ever feel like there's a reason you lose a lengthy comment you were seconds away from posting? :)

    Nicole, I just wanted to say (now that I need to say it quickly) that I am a new fan of yours- just finished After the Leaves Fall (about 1hr ago) and can't wait to go pick up the sequel at the library tomorrow.

    I want to encourage you to keep probing the technicalities of Christians who write vs. Christian writers because what you're asking & posting about rings very true to me. I am a fledgling writer who happens to be a Christian, and I feel called to write though not in the Christian Writer format. I have stumbled upon a few Christian writers that I adore but for the most part, Christian fiction leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

    I'm also glad that you're blogging because it gives me the chance to be a geeky fan and tell you I love your work.

    Thanks for letting me make a comment and I will keep checking back to see where the Christians who write thing goes :)


  11. I just finished reading Elizabeth Strout's "Olive Kitteridge." I love the journey a good novel leads me through, but I am also often addicted to the more immediate satisfaction a short story can provide. Strout's new work entertwines both to weave a dimentional tapestry of Olive's human experiences. Although it's very different from any other novel I've ready by Elizabeth Strout, it is a clear example of how a great author can sometimes successfully re-invent herself for a time.

    Happy reading to all! Thanks, Nicole, not only for writing such beautiful books, but also for continually sparking our reading interests in new wsys!

  12. I know I already posted my favorite non-CBA book (A Northern Light), but I've started reading Sarah Dessen's "Dreamland" again for the fourth time. I haven't even read Northern Light that many times, and I was debating last night whether or not "Dreamland" didn't come ahead of "A Northern Light" in my favorites list. So, I've decided the two are tied. I couldn't tell you why "Dreamland" is so enthralling to me, but the writing is Dessen's darkest (even darker than "Just Listen" which runs in the same vein as Laurie Halse Anderson's "Speak"), and I know I rave about "dark" writing (I'm not even sure why I call it "dark"), and I don't know if this makes me come off or a problem child (well, problem adult since I'm 19 and technically not a minor anymore). Maybe I just have some bizarre appreciation for "dark" writing. I promise I'm not a scary person, in fact far from it. :p I'm silly, am prone to giddiness, laugh too much and about everything, have girly tendencies. Don't get me wrong, I love happy, chic-lit-ish books (Mary Kay Andrews, Dixie Cash, Emily Giffin), but - I don't know - the "dark" side of the force is calling me.


    God Bless!

  13. I just finished all of Joanne Fluke's cozy mysteries. The first was Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, and the last was Cherry Cheesecake Murder. Somehow Strawberry Shortcake Murder hasn't tumbled into my hands from the library yet--I fear it's *missing*, like forever. I liked them because the heroine, Hannah Swensen, is a little overweight, runs a fabulous bakery called The Cookie Jar, has a beautiful mother and two beautiful sisters, but Hannah is just average, but she's really smart and funny. I actually laughed a couple of times as I read. Bonus- at the end of many chapters, there are wonderful cookie recipes with explicit directions, so there's no way you can screw up the cookies. These books are fun but smart, and I enjoyed them very much. PS Average looking Hannah has two very different eligible bachelors competing for her hand in marriage, but she's taking her time. The chick lit factor is not the prime attraction for me, but it's there.

    I also just finished After the Leaves Fall and Summer Snow. I liked the titles and the covers--read about them on some blog and got them from the library. They were at times painful to read--very bittersweet. My hat is off. I have to say, I'm kind of left hanging at the end of Summer Snow. Where are Spring Break and Lo, the Winter, or the much better titles that you will come up with? Because your next two books are not about Julia, are they? Did you get tired of her? I have the first two books of a trilogy out, but the third book is extremely hard to write, so I'm curious. And I'm also thinking I really need Breath for the Bones. :-)

  14. Oh, my. I've gotten a bit behind at responding this weekend! You all have amazing book suggestions... Where to start?

    I loved Life of Pi, Kiterunner (and A Thousand Splendid Suns, too), and Jane Eyre. The Help and Olive Kitteridge are on my Amazon wishlist. And many of you brought up books and authors I've never heard of--and that's kind of the point: to introduce each other to new and previously unknown authors who don't necessarily get the publicity their books deserve! ;)

    To those of you who commented for the first time: Thank you! I'm feeling a bit behind right now, but usually I take the time to respond to everyone. Please stop back again--especially because Breath for the Bones is only the first of more up-and-coming giveaways.

    A few specifics:

    LynnyMama - I always lose long posts/comments right before I'm ready to post! Argh.

    Danette - I'm so glad your book club is getting ready to read. :) Let me know if you want to do a Skype thing.

    Amy - I'm sorry Amy and Isabelle was traumatic!

    Stephanie - I didn't get sick of Julia's character, but I didn't want to beat a dead horse. I was thinking of trilogies (and series in general) and trying to remember the last time I loved the final book. It seemed to me that the first was always the best and the series only went downhill from there. It's probably crazy, but I wanted to quit while I was ahead. And, The Moment Between (my third book) had me in a stranglehold. It was either write it or choke. Anyway, will I go back to Julia's story? I'd love to, but I don't know if Tyndale would be interested in going back to an old series. I guess time will tell. :)

    Okay, I think that's it for now. There's still time to leave a comment and enter the drawing for Breath for the Bones! I'll pick a winner tomorrow at noon.

    Have a fabulous Monday!