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I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

A Christian Woman's Guide to Finding Clean & Captivating Fiction Books

Reading a book in a lap

To say that I'm an avid reader is a bit of an understatement. On any given day, I can have ten or so books stacked up on my nightstand awaiting my attention. My TBR list feels more substantial and overwhelming than the national debt. (That may or may not be a bit of an exaggeration. I'll let you decide.)

For years, I gravitated towards non-fiction. As a Christian woman who's compelled to honor the directives found in Philippians 4:8, I found fiction books to be tricky to navigate. They were either clean but not very captivating or captivating but not at all clean.

 

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Whenever I spoke up about my plight to other Jesus followers, I was told to just stick to the Christian fiction side of the bookstore. And while there are several really great gems among that lot like the Mark of the Lion series or No One Ever Asked, so many Christian fiction books have flimsy and predictable plots with uninteresting characters. 

It took me a long time to realize that I could use some of the same filters for adult titles as I did for the books I vet for my kids. This simple aha moment gave me the courage to explore fiction again. Since then, I've discovered countless new-to-me authors and titles that meet my two-fold criteria. Turns out, clean and captivating fiction books aren't quite as elusive as I had once thought. 

If you desire to fill your mind with stories that are true, honorable, just pure, lovely, and commendable--as cited in Philippians--then I'd invite you to consider the following resources and tips for screening fiction books.

A Christian Woman's Guide to Finding Clean & Captivating Fiction Books

Consider the source of that booklist


Name a female celebrity or online personality and I'll show you her booklist or reading guide! There's no shortage of famous book peddlers. It seems like everyone and their cousin's sister's aunt creates annual reading lists these days. But just because a booklist exists doesn't mean it's worth your time and attention. Consider the source. Does the person compiling the list share your same values? Do they avoid salacious or crude language in their everyday conversation? Did the books they've suggested in the past match up with your reading convictions? If not, give that popular book list a hard pass and look for one whose curator shares your same reading habits. 

Here are a few worth considering:

Well-Read Mom (This is an international book club that hosts a new list every year. Their selections are a mix of traditional classics and "instant" classics. Please note: Some of the books lean towards a Catholic faith perspective.)


Tim Challies Annual Reading Challenge (This challenge mostly focuses on non-fiction, however.)


Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson

Reading on the couch

Use trustworthy vetting sites


When you stumble upon a new-to-you book or author and aren't sure if the book will be worth reading, consult the following trustworthy review sites. Some are more user-friendly than others, but all use presets to evaluate titles according to profanity, violence, and sexual content. 

More Than a Review- To go directly to the review section of the site, click here.

Rated Reads- To find a review of a particular title, enter the title into the search bar found at the upper-right side of the home page.

Common Sense Media- This site is mainly for parents to use when vetting movies and books for kids, but it also reviews a variety of YA and adult novels.

Compass Book Ratings- Hover over the "Search for a Book" drop-down tab to access several different search options. 

Novel Book Ratings- To go directly to the review section of the site, click here. Be sure to click on Ratings/Reviews to set your own personal standards for profanity, violence, and sexual content. 

stack of books

Consult the endorsements section

Birds of a feather flock together. Authors tend to forge writerly friendships with other writers who share their same writing style, genre focus, and overall tone/voice. These connections come in handy when they need to garner endorsements for their work. Endorsements are personal stamps of approval. Someone who writes clean and captivating fiction is not going to endorse dark erotica and vice versa. 

So after finishing a great book, check the inside flap or back cover to see which authors have endorsed it. Chances are an author who has appreciated the writing of that book writes his/her own books with similar convictions. Compile a list of those endorsers and start reading their offerings.

While not a fool-proof way to find new-to-you authors, an endorsement list can be like a trail of bread crumbs, leading you to your next great fiction adventure. 

Join clean online reading groups


When word-of-mouth recommendations aren't forthcoming from your friends, check out the recs of online reading groups. Similar to book clubs, these are online groups where real people (as opposed to professional book reviewers) with similar reading interests can gather to discuss what they're currently reading. Unlike in book clubs, members aren't assigned particular titles. They read books of their own choosing and share about them in discussion forums and social media threads.

If, say, you are on the hunt for a cozy mystery similar to Smoke Screen, you can simply ask for recommendations. Folks who share your love for Terri Blackstock's work will chime in with all their opinions.

Here are two groups that gravitate towards clean fiction:
Clean Reads on GoodReads

Reading a fiction book

Feel free to follow me


If all of these other suggestions seem too complicated, you can always follow my lead. Once a month, I write a What We're Reading blog post where I share all the titles that my kids and I happen to be reading at that moment. I've been writing these monthly diatribes for nearly seven years, so I have a huge back catalog of recommendations awaiting your exploration.

Additionally, you can check out my GoodReads page. While I rarely have time to post lengthy reviews, I add ratings to books nearly every week. And be sure to watch my Stories over on Instagram where, like any true bibliophile, I talk about books almost daily.

Friends don't let friends read bad books. I'll always steer you in a good direction. Pinky swear.

A Final Word


Curating a personal reading list that honors the Philippians 4:8 charge can feel like a daunting task at times. It would be so much easier if books came with a rating system similar to movies. But, alas, they don't. 

With just a little bit of direction and simple vetting from trustworthy sites, however, you too can have a mounting TBR filled with clean and captivating fiction. 

7 comments:

  1. thank you so much. it is quite tricky to navigate fiction books. i appreciate your hard work

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    1. Happy reading! I hope you're able to find lots of great titles.

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  2. I appreciate your post as I, too, feel good clean books are elusive. I do wonder though at your forewarning on the Catholic leaning list but you do not include any such warning for the list compiled by the lady whose reading group is comprised of attendees of the church of Latter Day Saints. Faithful Catholics also desire to follow Christ & His Word as found in Philippians.

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    1. I have no doubt that they do. However, as I was a part of the Well-Read Mom and know that several of their books suggestions focus on Catholic saints and priests and are mandatory reading selections for the group members, I think it's only fair to be forthcoming with that information to my predominately protestant blog readers. An online group whose members are Latter Day Saints may have book suggestions that lean towards that faith persuasion, but the books would not be required reading. It's one thing for member of a group to have suggestions and another thing altogether for the leader of the group to have mandatory selections.

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  3. I often find Christian Fiction lacking too (I really liked the Mark of the Lion series too). Thank you for the suggestions and resources.

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    1. Thanks for reading. I hope you're able to find some good books from my suggestions.

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