Thursday, May 27, 2010

Where Oh Where Have the Good Books Gone?!

It is a shame. Really, it is. In a way, I feel completely let down by the bookstores of today. Do you want to know why? I am disappointed with the itty-bitty amount of good Christian reads that large chain stores such as B&B and Borders allow on their shelves; it’s almost a crime.

Oh, don’t get me wrong: they associate themselves with some Christian books and publishers. If they didn’t they would lose a very large audience and of course they don’t want to do that. But they’ll try to get by with putting as few real and printed books as possible on their actual shelves and the rest they leave to E-sales.

I am ashamed. I knew it was bad before, but what can a person do, right?

I went into a Border’s store today and went to the “Religious” section hoping to find a good Christian Fantasy read (because, as many of you know, I enjoy reading fantasy above any other genre). In my personal opinion, a better name for that section would have been The “any-type-of-remotely-religious-looking-book-that-we-can-manage-to-fit-onto-a-single-shelf-and-not-be-called-bias” section.

I am totally serious here.

There were books on every religion from Budism to Wiccan stuffed on a single shelf and that was what they called the “Religious” section. Now, I admit that Christian books dominated that poor and lonely shelf, but more than half of these books were sappy western romances (and I apologize to those of my readers who enjoy western romances; I’m just not very fond of them). The good Thriller and Fantasy reads I could find, I already had and had no desire to re-purchase.

There was one new book I discovered: “Raven’s Ladder”, third (I think) in a YA series by Jeff Overstreet. That was it. And as much as I hate starting a series in the middle or near the end, I bought the book. Why? Because it was worth it. Not only does it look like a very good and intriguing read, but the Bookstores need to see that readers want these books, and we want the stores to sell them – not just on the internet, but IN THEIR STORES! I mean, let me see a show of hands: how many of you out there prefer going and sifting through the shelves and pages of a physical bookstore over clicking a link on the internet?

*waves hand frantically in the air, jumping up and down and shouting “me, me, me!!!”)

Christian fantasy writers, publishers, and readers really need to stand up. We need to. They’re not going to get the message otherwise. We want more than just a single shelf dedicated to every type of religion the world can throw their way with Christian stuff mixed in there somewhere. If they can dedicate an entire huge section to vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and demons and call it YA, they can give us the good, wholesome, Christian Fantasy we want to read!!!!

If you agree with me on this, let’s make sure that others get the picture. All I ask is that you post about this subject on your own blog, or else link to this page. Let’s get the message out there; we want the “good books” back!!!


Jaleh D said...

I'm right there with you on preferring to walk in to peruse the shelves instead of shopping online. Especially for titles I don't already know I want. Brick-and-mortar stores don't tend to carry any of my religion's texts, let alone the fiction. (Baha'i) When shopping on a whim, who wants to go online? Then you have to wait for it to arrive.

I hope you like the book you found, even if you didn't have much in the way of choice.

Brandi G. said...

I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't know there was such a thing as "Christian fantasy". What, exactly, does that entail?

Maybe it's the (admittedly bad) church experiences I've had, but I was always told that basically anything to do with magic or myth was NOT Christian. I guess I was misinformed.

Do you have any good Christian fantasies to recommend?

Jake said...

Both hands! I was at Barnes and Noble a couple of days ago and was SHOCKED at the lack of good books I could find in the Christian section. Almost all of the fiction books were, as you said, western romances... *disgusted look*

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Nichole, while I agree with your vision and especially your method (buying books in bookstores), I do want to mention that the amount of Christian fiction in general market bookstores must vary from area to area. In the Borders nearest me, Christian fiction is separate from Christian non-fiction which is separate from other religious books (many given their own space).

Christian fantasy, however, does remain under-represented, but that's changing gradually.

Actually this issue was the catalyst for a grass roots movement four years ago to promote Christian fantasy. CSFF Blog Tour came out of this. The Lost Genre Guild grew in force as well.

The latest is the Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction (currently taking nominations).

Anyway, I am so happy to see your enthusiasm and activism on behalf of our genre!


Celebrilomiel said...

I wholeheartedly agree! I don't get to go shopping for books much, but when I do, it's so much better to flip through a book than to stare at a computer screen. When I was at a bookstore, I too was shocked at how few actual good Christian books there were - and fantasy was the smallest section! Very vexing. >.<

Galadriel said...

I just read Cal-Raven's'll like it a lot. It is a bit more confusing if you haven't read Auralia's Colors or Cyndere's Midnight though.

Star-Dreamer said...

Jeleh, I have friends who are Baha'i! We used to homeschool together. And I haven't read the book yet, but I do hope it is good.

Star-Dreamer said...

Brandi: A lot of people don't know about Christian Fantasy, and a lot of people believe the same thing that you were told. But don't you believe a word of it! Myself, I read all sorts of stuff... (Artemis Fowl, Inhertance, Inkheart, any-other-good-read-I-can-get-my-hands-on...:D) I was always told the same thing: anything to do with magic or myth can't be christain... so, I didn't really start out reading christian books. But, the first fantasy book I ever laid hands on was Narnia; after that, I was hooked. And as popular as Narnia is, some people don't know (and others do) that C.S. Lewis wrote it allegorically. LOTR too, although Tolkien wove that it much more subtley. (And I'll say this... I've had some pretty bad experiences with the church as well... I doubt there's anyone who hasn't. It can get messy.)

It's still hard to find Good Christain Fiction though... I would start by looking into Frank Perreti and Ted Dekker. They write thrillers, but oh man! Their books are sooooo good! I also enjoyed reading Donita K. Paul's books (The Dragon Keeper Chronicles), Bryan Davis' books (Dragons in our Midst series, Oracle of fire series, and the Echoes on the Edge Trilogy). Wayne Thomas Batson has some good ones too, and a new several new ones (I've been looking into "Curse of the Spider King, and Venom and Song") There's also a new indie publisher called Marcher Lord Press that seems to be turning out some good reads. I have "Hero Second Class" and look forward to reading "Suma Elvetica", "By Darkness Hid", and "To Darkness Fled". I've heard that the last two are extremely good. Christain Fantasy is actually a pretty new genre, but it's comeing up fast. I hope this helps.

Star-Dreamer said...

Oh, and Christain Fantasy is basically the same thing as regular fantasy only there's usually less foul language and less sensual inuendoes, and usually there are some Christain/moral Values worked in somewhere. Some books are more allegorical (like narnia), others are just fun reads but with very subtle morals and beliefs thrown in (LOTR). Magic and Myth abounds though (wouldn't be fantasy without it). Some of the ones I've read are for a younger audience though with a decent plot; others are really complicated and aimed for a more advanced generation; still others fall right smack in the middle. It just depends on where you look. :)

Jake said...

Read COTSK, Star-Dreamer! You won't regret it. :)