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Several people have told me they enjoy Christian Fiction (Inspirational Fiction) because they don’t have to worry about it containing explicit language or graphic scenes, yet they still get a great story. A few of those folks have even said they’ve chosen to only read Christian Fiction (CF) from now on, but struggle with knowing how to decipher them from the general market when shopping in places such as garage sales, flea markets, and even some used bookstores where the books aren’t separated by category. Here was my best advice:
*Get to know the authors by name. Authors can be found in a variety of places online such as Facebook and Goodreads, but a great way to get acquainted with Christian authors is through websites dedicated to CF like NovelCrossing.com, ChristianBook.com, and “Fiction Finder” at acfw.com (American Christian Fiction Writers). Just to name a few. By getting to know the authors’ names, you’ll be able to pick out CF books from a mixed pile.
*Get to know the Christian publishing houses. There are too many publishing houses dedicated to CF to name in this post with new ones sprouting every day. Bethany House, Thomas Nelson, Waterbrook Multnomah, Barbour, Revell, Howard, Pelican Book Group, and OakTara are just a handful of CF publishers that immediately came to my mind. By memorizing the names of CF publishers, you can watch for their mark on the covers and know you’re guaranteed a clean read.
*Look at the barcode on the back cover. This area isn’t just for the cashier. It tells the reader what genre the book is (suspense, romance, thriller) and sometimes—I do mean sometimes—it will tell if it’s Christian or not.
*Judge the book by its cover. I know golden rule warns against this, but in this case it can be very helpful by considering what the cover is “selling.” For example, if a romance cover dons a bare-chested man groping a barely clothed woman that’s a huge indication it’s not a clean read. Since I know you’re already aware of that, let’s contemplate more subtle clues.
§ The man is fully clothed and modest but only his lower portion is visible on the cover and is the main focal point regardless of the gorgeous backdrop (ocean, mountains, etc.).
§ If the characters are holding each other or even kissing does it look lusty or make you blush? That’s a good indication it’s not CF. Cover designers for CF books strive to focus on drawing the reader in by matching the feel of the cover to the story and concentrate on the characters as people and not their bodies. As mentioned above, what is the cover selling?
§ The title. I’m aware that this is another no-brainer, but a title like One Night Stand is a red flag. (I did not check to see if there are any books with the mentioned title, but I’m sure there is, and I mean no harm.) However, if the title is questionable, knowing the publisher can set your mind to rest because in some cases the title could be a play on words.
§ The book’s description on the back cover, better known as the blurb. Is there any indication of a faith message? Does the blurb use words such as steamy, hot, or passionate in regards to how the characters react to each other? This can be another indication it’s not CF.
*Read book reviews. If you’re not a member with Goodreads or Novel Crossing, you can read customer book reviews on Amazon and other book selling websites. If a person has been offended by the book’s content, they’ll generally say so in their review. Sometimes their description of the book put in their own words will clue you in on what to expect. This method is harder to use while at a flea market or garage sale unless you own a smart phone.
*Don’t be afraid to ask. You’d be surprised how many people love to talk books. I’ve had people stop me in a bookstore before and ask what I’d recommend simply because I’m there shopping too and love to read.
I hope this information is helpful to you. Do you have a method you use that wasn't mentioned above? Please, share it in the comments.