Christmas present books for your Christian friend – 1
What books do Christians like?
I could recommend some books of prayers, theology, Christian biography and standard Christian fiction, much of which seems to feature bonnet-wearing American women. Except that this would be difficult, because I don’t read much official Christian literature. (My friends are working on me in this respect.) I look more for general stories that are entertaining, but for some reason strike a God-related chord that inspires, challenges, or leaves a warm glow!
The Man Who Was Thursday (A Nightmare) by GK Chesterton (Simon and Brown)
Chesterton is best known today for the “Father Brown” stories, also good. “The Man Who Was Thursday” is written in the same slightly purple prose which not everyone likes. But if you do… Kingsley Amis, in the introduction to my copy, says it “remains the most thrilling book I have ever read.” He doesn’t mention that it is also, I believe, a commentary on the Book of Job. (That’s why the chase scene goes through a zoo…) I honestly can’t remember if that thought is original to me, or if I read it somewhere, but if correct, this book is certainly the most entertaining Bible commentary ever.
There are a gang of “anarchists” (it was first published in 1908, so read nihilistic terrorists) who “have sworn to destroy the world.” Against them is pitted a solitary policeman/poet, Gabriel Syme, who has managed by cunning and cheek to get himself elected as “Thursday” to their seven-member Council. I haven’t got space for the preposterously daft plot, or the wonderfully funny dialogue, but it ends (in a chapter entitled “The Accuser”) with a formal but lively discussion of the problem of evil.
And at the end you will be left wondering if one of the characters is a picture of God… There is more to be said on this topic!
(I should however warn readers that the presentation of the character of the Marquis now sadly seems to me both racist and slightly anti-semitic. Please don’t let this put you off.)
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (Virago)
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, lauded by reviewers, and followed by two almost equally praised sequels, “Home”, and “Lila”, “Gilead” perhaps doesn’t need any praise from me. It is the narrative of a respectable elderly American country pastor in the 1950s, looking back at his life as he waits to die. The most exciting event is the return to Gilead, and then the departure, of his best friend’s disreputable son. Leafing through it, I find only one exclamation mark. It ought to be deadly dull.
But it isn’t. It’s about being good, about humility and self-righteousness, about America in the twentieth century (especially its reluctance to come to terms with slavery and racism), about faith and unbelief, about how hard it is to love people or to reject them, and about predestination. And most of all it tells the story of the Prodigal Son from the point of view of the Father’s friend. (“Home”, which takes place over the same time-frame, tells the Prodigal Son from the point of view of the Son’s sister. I haven’t yet read “Lila”, but I intend to soon.)
It still sounds as if it ought to be dull. But it isn’t. It is fantastically written, and it inspires, absorbs and moves.
Well… I’ve got a few more books I’d like to recommend, but what suggestions do other people have? Books that may or may not tick all the boxes for correct doctrine, but which delight as well as teach.
Partial, Prejudiced and Ignorant Blogger