5 Reasons I Don't Read (Christian) Chick Books

Data on this blog reports that married men, ages 25-35, with children are the biggest frequenters of this blog. I’m really flattered.

It’s a throwback to being picked by the neighbor boys to be quarterback for both teams during the zenith of my football prowess, ages 9-11. I guess they just trusted my skills. (Or, maybe I was bad at tackling.)

It seems I don’t write like a chick. A Lady. Or what have you.

BUT! I KNOW I don’t seem to read like one.

Case in Point:

I’d love to be involved with the women’s book club at my church. I love books and the discussions that ensue. I put one together for Blue Like Jazz. 3 people came, including me. One of them was a friend I drove to it, because I begged her to come at the last minute. She hadn’t even read the book.

The truth is, in general, I like the richness of mixed gender book clubs, and I like to hear various perspectives (unless it devolves into gender battles and insults, like Sunday School this past week. ACK! The men were PENT UP. Arrows were flying!) Plus, I think, this gender war stuff gets old, fast. Hello, John and Stasi Eldridge, can you hear me? Um. You’re causing infighting. It’s the truth.)

But for the exception of the wonderful Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God, that came up at book club, it’s been just a slew of girly books. I just cannot stop my gag reflex long enough to muddle through something Pioneer or Amish related. I can’t stomach “historical fiction/dreamy (and yet Christian-safe–in-all-the-right-spots) romance–with–a–God-twist”. This dominates our book club. Completely.

Thanks to a reader’s helpful link, you’ll find a really fascinating rendering of this issue here (Newsweek article).

(Bear in mind that my area can’t support a Walden’s Book store in the mall (which shut down a number of years ago) let alone something mainstream like a Boarders. Something like that is 31 miles away. And a cozy and bookish sole proprietorship? HAA! NEVER. So, it could be the situation that I’m just a fish out of water around here.)

So, in a measure of self-soothing, I’ve come up with a quick list-

5 Reasons I Don’t Read (Christian) Chick Books

1. I don’t care about reading gooey, implausible stories about the Amish. I live near the Amish. You know what? They aren’t that interesting.(Basically, they just dress weirdly, frequent “dent and scratch” bargain grocery stores, and have gaggles of children.)

2. I like history, and I like (good) fiction. But, it always seems like the category so-called “Women’s Christian Historical Fiction” is just a mash up that’s two levels closer to crap than anything else.

I feel insulted by everything from the predictable plot-lines, to the saccharine Christian-evangelism tactics that snake through like, well, “like a string of pearls snaking between ample bosoms”.

3. Since I’m not a big fan of the macho man/Christian book market, I can’t start getting aligned to closely with mushy, girly books. It’ll trash my street cred. (Guilt by association, obviously.)

4. If it makes a guy wince to see a chick book, it makes me wince. I just don’t like feeling I should defend my gender for enjoying overly sentimental tripe, that often sacrifices intellectual integrity for dramatic episodes that involve a high- stakes rescue, or a whore-come-home riff. Call me silly.

5. These books all seem to severely lack in the sense of humor department. This. is. not. okay. This is perhaps the biggest reason I just can’t do it. I need more. I want to be challenged. I want to laugh and cry, but not because “his heart has been too scarred to let her love in, despite their undeniable attraction…but he unknowingly gave himself a milk mustache on his curvaceous and stubbly upper lip, and her heart skipped a beat.” (You get the idea.)

If you are a fan of these books (or a writer of them, or an agent of them (like Chip MacGregor, my agent)), I apologize for being so brash. I’m not trying to be a guy about it.

It’s just my opinion that these books are for women what the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show holiday tv special is for men. They offer something superficial, that aims to scratch an itch, but ends up inflaming the whole thing. Less, not more, is the remedy, but no one wants to give it up.

victoria's secret fashion show 2010
Image by cattias.photos via Flickr

I realize writing this will mean I’ll never get a Christmas card from:

For a long list of these books, click here. If you start to feel ill, even at the sheer multitude, I wanna hear from you.

Here’s the surprise ending:
If any of these authors will have me over for dinner, and try to change my mind, I will indulge that. (In stereotypical male form, you may get to me through my stomach. And that’s a chance I’m willing to take, especially if there is PA German Apple crumb pie involved.)

What do you think about this genre?
Are you a woman who gets embarrassed by what’s available in the “Women’s genre”?

Ladies, if you like these books, have your say.

And guys, what’s your take on any of this? (If you were given $20, would you read a “bonnet ripper” and contribute at a book discussion? Or would you just break out in hives?)

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Spark My Muse

Lisa Colón DeLay writes often on matters of the attending to the inner life, creating a beloved community, spiritual formation, and consciousness. She is also a designer, teacher, speaker, and host of the weekly broadcast Spark My Muse since 2015. Lisa is Latina (born in Puerto Rico) and holds an MA in Spiritual Formation and is the author of "The Wild Land Within" (Broadleaf Books) and other books.

17 thoughts on “5 Reasons I Don't Read (Christian) Chick Books”

  1. Lisa: A friend of mine gave me a series of books by one of these authors. I tried to read them. I wanted to enjoy them, like my friends do. But by the second chapter of the first book, I knew I couldn’t do it. Contrived dialogue, slow moving plot, and (as you said) humorless characters had me bored to tears.

    I did read a good Christian romance book many years ago. It was a modern re-telling of the book of Hosea. I forget the name of it, but it was well-written and not sappy. However, I think books like that are far and few between.

  2. Wow. Seriously? I just had a conversation about this with a friend over the weekend.

    My take – As a general rule, I avoid these books like the plague. However, I consider myself a fan of Francine Rivers, but only because I heard her speak at a writers’ conference when I was in university, and she won my hard heart over. I should note that this occurred in 2008, and since then I have only read 2 of her books.

    (BTW Linda, I believe the book you’re referring to is “Redeeming Love.” It is by Francine Rivers, it is my favorite of the 2 books I have read. It is the only book of this genre that I have ever recommended to friends and family.)

    I am embarrassed by these books, but I am also embarrassed by Chick Lit in general. Sure, I like the occasional girly movie, but books bother me. They open up a part of my brain that suddenly transforms me into an overgrown preteen, and I don’t like that.

    I’m now seriously thinking of writing my own blog about this.
    Was this in any way inspired by Newsweek’s article?

  3. Linda: I have been encourage to read Rivers, “Redeeming Love” book as well.
    I considered it, but then I considered that the ladies raving about it are the same ones who read the lame stuff. Still, I just may do it.
    One question: Would it be legal to read it apart from a hot bath and without scented candles burning nearby? :o

    Emily: Thanks for your comments! It wasn’t inspired by that article, but I’ll be sure to follow your link, and read it. THANK YOU for posting it here.

    It’s seriously REALLY nice to know I’m not alone in this. As a woman, sometimes I feel there isn’t too much good stuff available. I’m on the academic side with my reading, but I also enjoy good (thoughtful/intelligent/non formula) fiction.
    When I wrote a non fiction MS on the (gender-nuetral) topic of loving the unlovable, I’ll never forget what the (male) editor told me. “You have a [writing] voice that could resonate with a lot of women”
    (?) huh? I’m a women, so only women will care to read my things? I don’t buy that.
    Besides my blog stats say Lots of fellas enjoy what I write.
    Be you a male or a female, I THaNK YOU for reading the posts here, regardless of my gender.

  4. I can’t easily explain my reaction to this post. I, too, used to gag at the idea of Christian romance novels, and there are some out there that are VERY bad, in my opinion, too. But I can’t lump Karen Kingsbury or Francine Rivers in that category. What I didn’t like about those other books is that the characters didn’t seem real. With KK and Rivers, I don’t see that. They take on hard, life issue type topics and everything doesn’t always turn out “happy” in the end. I feel like my faith has deepened from reading their books. But I also like Jane Austen, and I remember lit majors in college criticizing her for always having happy endings. So, to each his own. Have you read any of Liz Curtis Higgs’ fiction? She’s funny, and her historical stuff is phenomenal. Although I realize by recommending her after telling you I like KK and Rivers, you might dismiss that recommendation. Also, Jeanette Windle has some fantastic Christian fiction that isn’t at all mushy, set in the jungles of Colombia or on the front lines of war in Afghanistan. You don’t have to feel pressure to conform to some stereotypical Christian standard, and I’m sure you meant this to be funny, but I took it a little more like bashing. I’d come to your book club about Blue Like Jazz. At least you HAVE a book club. We don’t have anything of the kind here.

    OK. I hope I didn’t sound like I was bashing. I think you struck a nerve with me. Good writers will do that from time to time.

  5. Also, I just noticed Ted Dekker makes your n0-read list. Ted Dekker? How is that chick lit? OK, I’m done now. :)

  6. Hey Lisa,
    I’m so happy those books have helped you. Seriously. God is using those authors. I really believe that.

    Yes, okay. This post seems like bashing. It’s a critique kind of post. And Yes, I do have frustrations that I only can speak to other women (in person) about books I enjoy, when it is with (female) classmates/friends from seminary. Women at my church are fond of the fluff stuff. This bothers me.

    But, please know that instead of using a baseball bat here, I want to do a “beating” (if you will) with squishy rubber chicken. I don’t want to draw BLOOD, but maybe produce some *mild* redness.

    That list was from a Christian book site (Christian Book (dot) com) displaying the women’s fiction listing of authors. For some reason, he was listed with them. Yes, this could be in error, or he has crossover appeal.

    And thank you for those recommendations. I’m still learning, and I plan to be open to sincere recommendations from now on.

    Also—starting a book club is easy.
    Just make a flyer!

  7. I absolutely LOVE Christian fiction! And yes, I am a seminary graduate with an MDiv! The thing that appeals to me is that they are fast reads, have a positive message, help the reader face difficult situations with grace and faith, and are “no brainer” reads. Is this the only type of literature I read? No. However, when I want something that I can read while waiting at the doctor’s office or during my lunch time when it’s hard to concentrate, they’re perfect.

    Working in Christian retail, I often recommend fiction titles to customers who are looking for gifts for non-Christian friends and family members. It’s a great way to expose them to the love of Christ and the message of the Gospel. It’s also a great alternative to the lust in secular chick lit.

    They have their place, but they aren’t for everyone.

  8. Is this an estrogen-only zone or can a guy get a Y-chromosome in edgewise?

    Lisa – As always, your blogs are on-target and screwball funny.

    Full disclosure: I have to cop to having read and thoroughly enjoyed the entire “Mitford” series by Jan Karon. I’m not sure if that is more likely to get my man-card revoked or my English lit. major epaulets ripped off my shoulders in the middle of a hollow square of Trollopes.

    That embarrassing issue to one side, I don’t think this is a gender problem. Evangelical males also read a steady diet of the ink-and-paper equivalent of Twinkies. (I think you mentioned Brother Eldridge.) Check out Mark Noll’s “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” or Os Guinness’s “Fit Bodies Fat Minds” for more on the general malaise. If you can’t endure the tea-sipping, be assured I get sick of the chest-thumping.

    And this is a big deal. As C. S. Lewis said, “a cultural life will exist outside the Church whether it exists inside or not. To be ignorant and simple now — not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground — would be to throw down our weapons, and the betray our uneducated brethren who
    have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.”

  9. Prof Jackson: I was hoping a man would comment on this. (I did invite that in the post.) What a fantastic Lewis quote. Also thank you for admitting to the Mitford series. That’s gutsy in a a mannish way. You are a credit to your gender. Bravo. (I’m humbled by your daring….on all levels here.)

    Oh, and I’d like to see those epaulets! hahahaa :)

    Stephanie. I appreciate your take on it, and your perspective. What are some of your favorites?

  10. Wow! You really are funny, Lisa. :-) I’ve never been to your blog, but I think I’ll be back.

    I’ve had two novels published by Waterbrook in CBA Women’s Fiction, but I’m going to be brave anyway and make a few comments. I took many years off of reading CBA fiction. After majoring in English I decided CBA fiction didn’t have the type of material I wanted to read or write. When I checked back in years later, I discovered that my former opinions no longer held weight.

    There are many serious women’s fiction novelists in the CBA that write less “sweet” stories that are often more literary including Lisa Samson, Susan Meissner, Mary DeMuth, Patti Lacy, Alice J. Wisler, and Ann Tatlock to name just a few. Chip is my agent, too, and he represents some of the people I just mentioned. Yu might be interested in checking some of them out.

    The flaw in what I might be misunderstanding as your definition of the women’s genre is that it lumps every women’s book in the CBA into one Chick category, but neglects to mention mystery, suspense, and contemporary or general women’s fiction. There is not just one women’s genre in the CBA and women’s fiction that can be classified as literary is growing. You might not hear it called literary because CBA publishers don’t always like that term, but they are publishing. Just take a look at the Christy Award Winner’s list.

    The other point I wanted to mention, because I have had to learn it myself, is that there is an audience for Amish fiction and romance fiction. You not being part of that audience does not make it less of a genre. I have friends who write in those genres and some of them have advanced degrees. They write in those genres because they want to, not because they can’t rise above.

    It seems important to divide books for women into the categories they belong in rather than dumping them all together. While we can compare a romance to a literary women’s fiction novel or a mystery, it does not make sense to judge the romance by the standards of women’s fiction or to judge the women’s fiction by comparing it to a thriller. They don’t compare. They are for different audiences.

    Now, I’m no stranger to the debate about the worth of Christian Fiction. I’ve been listening to it for five years on the CBA loops and in industry circles. I have my own aspirations about who I want to read my books and it is not only a CBA audience, but I see both sides and I’m learning to understand that there is room for all at the table.

    There can be general snootiness in both the women’s fiction genre and the gemres that are more “popular” in the CBA. I know that as a women’s fiction author, I am sensitive to judgment against the type of material I write, but I am also sensitive to judgment of romance, etc. because I know how hard those authors work on their books.

    I appreciate the humor you shed on the issue, but I wanted to offer a different perspective. I know it has taken me a few years to have the perspective I do and I’m still learning how to respect the lighter genres even as I aspire to write more serious stuff.



  11. Tina,

    That was so well put. You raise excellent points, and their validity cannot be denied. You’ve contributed greatly here, and I appreciate that.

    Well done to tweak the silly thrust of this post with some well-informed, and intelligent debate. I hope you come back soon, b/c you are exactly the type of commentator I really enjoy hearing from.

    (Actually, I have read many of the authors you named, and get quite a bit out of them.)

    Thanks again, Tina.

  12. Lisa – I know that after this bold post you’ll be hesitant to read the copy of “Amish Ecstasy” that I sent you for Christmas (“Their love was forbidden. His beard was required. Now they must put the cart before the horse!”) so here’s some info on how you can go “stealth mode” -http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/09/books/09romance.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper

  13. Honestly, I used to love the Amish novels. But after about three of them, they all ran together. They are all the same, like a Harlequin novel I read in my teens.

    HOWEVER, I don’t believe Francine Rivers should be grouped with those other authors. Her works are amazingly detailed, true to history (as far as I can tell), and intriguing. Her Mark of the Lion series is amazing. I have a hard time reading about Ancient Rome (one of the reasons I struggle through parts of the Bible), but those books actually made it enjoyable! She’s the one who wrote Redeeming Love…one of my favorites. No, the humor isn’t usually there, but besides that, she’s an intelligent author who doesn’t insult OUR intelligence.

  14. At the risk of trashing any cred I might have in the Christian (or literary) blogosphere, I’m going to go ahead and extol the merits of Stephenie Meyer. I’m in the middle of “The Host” right now, and it’s just incredible. I think it would generate some awesome conversations in a Christian book club. Anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider among hostile insiders could put themselves in the place of the alien heroine. And I must add, the fact that the author is Mormon has me examining my own attitudes towards people whose theology I disagree with.

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