Genre Inquiry

I’ve been doing some thinking about the kinds of stories that are most popular with readers at large compared to the kinds of stories that some Christian publishing insiders claim Christian readers want. It’s true, of course, that we Christians do look at the world differently from others. But it’s also true that we live in this world and are wired with the same wants, needs, desires as are other people. So are we really all that different?

Tough question. We are sinners like everyone else. But the blood of Christ has cleansed us. We have become new. So does this newness mean we are separated from the rest of mankind in our likes and dislikes?

Not really. Because we all are made in God’s likeness, we all have the capacity to enjoy beauty. So Christian and non-Christian alike love chocolate, appreciate Pavarotti, glory in fall leaves, rejoice at the sight of a rainbow. Sure, those aren’t universal. A minority would choose caramel over chocolate or Justin Bieber over Pavarotti. But the point is, those likes and dislikes aren’t determined by our being Christians or not being Christians.

There are some things that are, however. Pornography is one such thing. Granted, an untold number of Christians engage in pornography, but as yet, I haven’t heard any professing Christian advocate for pornography or say that this is pleasing to God and something we should embrace. In other words, there are objects and activities that set Christians apart from non-Christians, or ought to.

Reading is not one of those things. So why would we have the culture at large interested in certain kinds of books and Christians interested in a different kind? I don’t think we do, apart from erotic books that are the equivalent of porn. But that’s my theory. What do you think? Do Christians want to read a different kind of fiction than non-Christians?

I’m not referring to stories with Christian conversions or ones with themes uniquely Christian. I’m asking about genres–romance, historical, mystery, fantasy, adventure, horror, suspense, science fiction, contemporary. Do Christians want different genres from non-Christians?

Let’s expand the genres–dystopian, romantic comedy, urban fantasy, supernatural, contemporary romance, thrillers, crime fiction, epic fantasy, cozy mystery, post-apocalyptic, space opera, cyperpunk, romantic suspense, women’s fiction, family saga, historical romance, political, coming of age, ancient history, dark fantasy. Do Christians spurn some of those genres because we are Christians? Do we choose others because of our Christianity?

Here’s a poll to measure what you all think. I’ll be eager to see the results. Please feel free to leave comments here as well.

Published in: on October 12, 2012 at 5:59 pm  Comments (4)  
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  1. […] You might also wish to vote in a poll about genre choice. […]


  2. I’d say the answer to this is both yes and no. There are some books that some Christians wouldn’t think of breathing on much less touching, while others embrace every book that is on the NY Times top 100 list.

    I work in a library and can observe the reading habits of people. I think the biggest factor in the reading habits when it comes to Christians seems to be that they want less graphic violence, language and romantic encounters. This is very true of the over 70 age group and those raised in very conservative households.

    I think what seems to free a lot of people in their reading choices is when a book is discussed on a media outlet with a large audience. Case in point the “Fifty Shades” trilogy – no one was asking about this book until the morning news shows started talking it up and then suddenly there were hundreds (700+) of requests for a book that only 1 library owned (this is in a Library System of 53 libraries). The power of the media is quite clear.


  3. I’ll be interested in hearing the results of your poll. My personal belief is that there is no difference, aside from some obvious things like not wanting to read stuff that might cause you to think or behave in a non-Christ-like manner, (whatever that might be, for an alcoholic, it might be a guide book to breweries!).
    That said, as a bookseller, I do frequently get asked for “Christian” books. Usually, that means the person wants a book by Karen Kingsbury, or another writer who includes a Christian message in their story. But not always. Sometimes they just don’t want to read something with a lot of graphic sex or violence.
    Like I said, I’ll be interested in hearing your results.


    • Kathy, not sure if the “view results” link only shows up for me or if anyone can see it (located at the bottom of the survey). An overwhelming 72% if those responding said they do not think Christians want to read a different kind of fiction from non-Christians.

      Interesting that you’ve had buyers looking for books with less graphic sex or violence. Some have postulated that this, in part, explains the popularity of young adult fiction.

      As to the message issue, I think all fiction contains a message. That some are asking for the Christian message is interesting. It brings up a point I was thinking about in my post yesterday at Spec Faith–do we read fiction that reinforces our belief system or informs us of something new?



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