The pros and cons of reading Christian fiction

The pros and cons of reading Christian fiction

Let’s talk about Christian fiction.

Personally, I enjoy making room for it in my reading life, but I’m not a diehard consumer of the genre—or is it a market niche? I’m not sure. 

Today, I want to discuss the pros and cons of reading Christian fiction. 

You might be thinking, “There are cons??”

Or, you might be thinking, “There are pros??”

But, most likely, your feelings are a mix of the two extremes.

No book is perfect, and Christian novels aren’t perfect, but they do have a LOT to offer for Jesus-loving readers who crave encouraging, faith-filled stories.

So, without further ado, let’s get started.

Before we dive into the pros and cons of Christian fiction, let’s get on the same page about what Christian fiction actually is. 

What is Christian Fiction?

For the purposes of this article, when I say “Christian fiction,” I mean the kind of books that you see in Barnes & Noble on the shelf marked Christian Fiction. I’m imagining books by Francine Rivers, Tim LaHaye, Frank Peretti, Colleen Coble, and Beverly Lewis. Don’t forget Terri Blackstock, Karen Kingsbury, and Robin Lee Hatcher.

You’ll see classic authors like C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald, and G. K. Chesterton on that shelf, too, but in this article, I’m looking more specifically at genre novels that are being written right now for a Christian consumer base.

So we’re all on the same page, here’s my one-sentence definition of Christian fiction:

A contemporary genre novel written from a Christian worldview and that contains Christian content and gospel-oriented themes.

Genre novels usually fall into a subcategory under the umbrella label of fiction. Examples of include mystery, romance, fantasy, historical, etc.

Christian content can include churchgoing, prayer, scripture reading, and evangelizing, especially in contemporary fiction. Or the story may be a retelling of scripture, as is often the case with historical fiction. 

Gospel-oriented themes lean heavily into redemption and forgiveness—no surprise there! The novel may depict unbelievers coming to Christ, or you may see believers struggling with aspects of their faith, such as trusting God and resisting temptation.

Sometimes Christian fiction is capital-CHRISTIAN with flashing neon lights, or it may be much more subtle. Most of the fiction I’m looking at in this article leans more toward the overtly Christian end of the spectrum.

Pros of Christian Fiction

Christian fiction has a lot to recommend it. Here are a few reasons why I like to include it in my reading mix.

1. Spiritually uplifting

Personally, I like the fact that Christian fiction gets me thinking about my walk with the Lord. It makes me turn to scripture for a deeper understanding of what’s being presented in the story. I love when books portray the power of God and the miraculous things He’s capable of doing—that gets me excited and boosts my faith. 

As a general rule, Christian fiction is incredibly uplifting and cheerful. Christian authors strive to offer hope in a dark world, and I tend to close the final chapter feeling encouraged—never depressed.

It’s also nice to read something written by an author who shares my worldview. When the reader and author share the same bedrock of belief, the story resonates.

2. Normalizes a Christian lifestyle

It’s nice to see characters praying, going to church, and sharing the gospel. That’s good for us as readers to experience. But what’s even MORE wonderful is when the author’s work is overflowing, not with the outward show of a Christian lifestyle, but the spirit-filled abundance of living in connection with God. 

Some Christian novels are “clean” and “sweet,” while others are almost scary in how they depict God’s power and glory. Wherever a book falls on this spectrum, it can be refreshing to see our lived experiences (inner and outer) reflected on the page. 

3. Points directly to the gospel

There’s almost always some type of redemptive message woven into the fabric of a Christian novel. This ultimately points to the gospel—the fact that Jesus Christ died to redeem us from our sins.

Non-Christian books contain themes of redemption, forgiveness, and unconditional love, but Christian fiction goes a step further by connecting the dots between these powerful concepts and their source (God). Readers aren’t left wondering where they can find redemption, forgiveness, or unconditional love—and there’s value in this. 

4. Doesn’t delight in graphic content

Not all Christian fiction is clean. Some of it is downright gritty. But, for the most part, you’re not going to get bombarded by F-bombs and open-door bedroom scenes. Christian authors typically don’t revel in R-rated material or offer it to readers like it’s something good for them to consume. 

When they do include evil, which they must, it’s there to show the good, true, and beautiful things in the clearer light of contrast.

5. Scripture comes to life

I love reading historical Christian fiction, especially books that depict stories from scripture or from history. It’s rewarding to “learn” while I’m reading, and I often see my ol’ Sunday school stories in a whole new light, when they’re painted in such vivid detail. 

Great Christian fiction uses narrative to drive home scriptural truths in a way that leaves an emotional imprint that sticks with us. I’ll never forget Haddasah, the Hebrew slave girl at the heart of The Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers. Through that character, Rivers showed me what it looks like to have the unwavering heart of a servant of God.

Cons of Christian Fiction

Why do we sometimes roll our eyes at Christian fiction? Let’s talk about its drawbacks. 

1. Cheese and cringe

Perhaps the biggest critique of Christian fiction is the cheese factor. So often, these books can get cringey. But you know what? The SAME can be said for a LOT of non-Christian contemporary genre fiction, too. So, let’s not pretend that we’ve got the corner on Velveeta. 

There’s a misconception that ALL Christian fiction is poorly written, and that’s just not true. There’s a huge variety. You’ll come across some books that feel hokey and flat, and you’ll find others that keep you hooked from start to finish. Again, it’s the same as with non-Christian genre novels.

2. Too preachy

Sometimes the “come to Jesus” message is too on the nose, and we get the feeling that the author is no longer telling a story but talking directly to us—gasp! The fourth wall is broken, and the story becomes a sermon, and the reader says, “Stop it!” 

Often, the author uses a certain character as a mouthpiece. At a certain point in the book, this character gives a Very Special Talk on the book’s primary theme. This can feel contrived and off-putting.

3. Romance is the driving force

Sooooooooooo many Christian fiction books are romances OR there’s a strong romantic plotline woven into a historical novel, mystery, or thriller.

Romance author Francine Rivers (probably) said,

“If you pull out the Christian thread from the plot, and the plot unravels, it’s Christian fiction.”

But this isn’t always the case, right? In some books, Christian elements are thrown into the mix, but the plot largely exists outside of those religious trappings.

The best Christian fiction hinges on the characters’ spiritual journey. The romantic tension between Male Lead and Female Lead is fun, but it isn’t the point of the book in good Christian fiction.

4. Scripture may be stretched beyond the bounds of truth

Just because the author is bringing a story from scripture to life doesn’t mean that the author’s portrayal lines up exactly with what scripture says. Most authors take artistic license, some more liberally than others. We can’t substitute reading scripture for reading novels that depict scripture.

One of the biggest mistakes that we make with Christian books is that we tend to relax our discernment. We assume that just because the author is Christian, then we can trust in the book’s total truth.

Orson Scott Card’s novel Rachel and Leah is a great example of this. The Bible tells us that Leah was “tender-eyed,” and Card says in his Author’s Note that he decided to interpret this as “near-sighted.” In his fictionalized account, Leah needs glasses real bad, and it handicaps her in a sense. Card thought it would be interesting to see how her near-sightedness would affect her behavior and attitudes, and he ran with it, flexing his artistic license to the max. Scripture isn’t crystal clear on what was going on with Leah’s eyes. As wise readers, we need to make sure we can separate the truth from the imagined.

Another thing: We may run into problematic theology embedded into the story. Not all Christians believe the exact same things, so when novels weave in points of doctrine, we’ve got to expect not to agree with every last jot and tittle. It’s the way it is. 

5. Doesn’t challenge the reader

I’m not talking about literary craft here. I’m talking about ideas—challenging the reader with healthy, hard-to-digest concepts and questions. Some Christian fiction books fall short because they strive to make their readers feel good about who they are rather than inspire them to grow.

Some Christian authors try too hard to make Christians look like the good guys instead of portraying Christians as flawed people, which they are.

Sometimes, God is portrayed as a genie in a bottle who grants wishes as soon as characters pledge allegiance to Him, which we know isn’t what scripture promises AT ALL. 

The result is a disingenuous portrayal of the Christian life. 

What influence has Christian fiction had in your life?

I’d really love to know what you think.

As you can see, my personal opinion isn’t overly nuanced or sensitive. I’m not in favor of bashing Christian fiction or praising it beyond it’s due, but I really DO want to know how you feel.

Let me know in a comment. 👇

Best Page-Turner Books, According to 12 Devoted Readers and Authors

Best Page-Turner Books, According to 12 Devoted Readers and Authors

Say goodbye to that reading slump!

Here are the best page-turner books, as handpicked by 12 of my reader and writer friends.

These books earned 5 out of 5 stars for page-turnability! 

We couldn’t put them down.

This is what I’d like to call a Book Tasting. 🧁🫖

The goal is to give you a little “taste” of why we devoured these books so voraciously!

The readers and writers who’ve joined me for this Book Tasting have read a LOT of books, and we all enjoy different types of stories. 

There’s a huge variety here! You’re sure to find something that calls your name. 

The readers and writers who’ve joined me for this Book Tasting are smash-a-homerun superstars! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

You’ll find ways to connect with each of them, and I hope you do! I have a lot of respect for their reading lives and how they shine the spotlight on great writing—not to mention that they’re great writers themselves.

Another thing! All of us have read Important And Smart Books—lots of them. But today, we’re sharing our best page-turner books. They may not be all that literary, and they don’t represent our overall taste. But we ripped through them like Taco Tuesday, and that’s why they made the list.

So, grab a coffee and cozy up with this amazing list of our best page-turner books.

Anna Recommends What the Moon Said by Gayle Rosengren

Genre: Middle grade historical fiction

You’ll love it if you’re a fan of cozy, old-fashioned family stories like All-of-a-Kind Family or Sweet Home Alaska.

Anna says: This was my favorite read of 2022 because of the highly engaging family and friendship dynamics, plus the 1930s Wisconsin farm setting. 

About Anna: Anna Rose Johnson grew up fascinated by the early 20th century and now writes historical middle grade novels that reflect her love of classic children’s literature. A member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Anna Rose enjoys exploring her heritage through her stories, including her debut middle grade novel The Star That Always Stays (Holiday House), which was named an NPR Best Book of 2022, a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection, and a 2023 Michigan Notable Book. You can find her at

Beth Recommends The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Genre: Historical fiction, mystery

You’ll love it if you like whip-smart female protagonists and unpredictable storylines set in far flung global locations one hundred years ago. 

Beth says I love unique, unpredictable plots with relatable characters. Perveen Mistry is a spunky, trailblazing lawyer who figures out how to navigate the challenges of 1920s India, where gender roles are different than they are today. A bonus is great writing and colorful descriptions of Indian culture. 

About Beth: Beth Gross reads to grandkids and blogs about books at Smart Mamas Read. Find her on Instagram, Facebook and Goodreads.

Elena Recommends The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

Genre: Classic romance

You’ll love it if you like witty humor, a sweet romance, a drastic transformation story, armchair-travel to a cabin in the woods—the safe kind!—and the phrase YOLO.

Elena says: I didn’t know another L.M. Montgomery novel could equal the love I have for Anne of Green Gables, yet here we are. Valency Stirling is a young adult, yet her mother and relatives treat her like a child, micromanaging every part of her life. When unforeseen circumstances threaten her life, she seems to take a cue from Tim McGraw and lives like she’s dying. She abruptly leaves her overbearing family and, much to their chagrin, befriends the three most unreputable people in town. This uncovers a whole new world of beauty and adventure in her life since it includes frolicking through the breathtaking wilderness of Ontario and even (dare she believe it?) falling in love. Along the way, the reserved Valency, who never had a voice, finds it and so much more. 

About Elena: Elena gushes about her monthly reads at Beautiful Hope blog. For a longer review (fangirl-ing) of this favorite book, click HERE.

Elsie Recommends The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Genre: Classic, drama, novel of manners

You’ll love it if you like watching clever, twisty, high-society period dramas like Downton Abbey or The Gilded Age.

Elsie says: There are some classics you meander and ruminate through, and others you practically inhale because you’re flying through them so fast! Wharton’s 1905 novel The House of Mirth was in the latter class for me! It follows the fortunes of New York socialite Lily Bart, a protagonist who’s almost an antiheroine, but someone you really root for. Lily must use all her beauty and brains to navigate a high-society world that deals in a complex currency of manners (and of course, plenty of money). It’s a novel steeped in nuance, wordplay, and cutting social drama that plays out against gorgeous “set pieces” like lavish ballrooms, New England countryside estates, and the French Riviera. The story pulled me in from the very first chapter and kept its pace right up to the end.

About Elsie: Elsie Callender writes the blog Tea and Ink Society, specializing in classic literature. She also helps readers match their reading material to the seasons with The Seasonal Reading Box, a quarterly subscription box for people who love books and tea!

Jodi Recommends Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

Genre: Historical fiction

You’ll love it if you enjoy the journeys of captivating characters whose lives are interwoven with the real events from history books.

Jodi says: This is my favorite of all Susan Meissner’s novels, revealing the fascinating time of the London Blitz and two sisters’ perseverance under enormous affliction and pain. The story begins with Kendra, a young student in Oxford, England, who interviews an elderly woman to learn more about World War II. Isabel McFarland had lived through the London Blitz, and had never shared her secrets of that time, until this particular interview. What Kendra discovered was far more than a first-hand account of life in the midst of war. Kendra listens as Isabel unfolds a complex story of love and loss, ambition and humility, and a bond between two sisters that was stronger than all the evil forces of Hitler and his regime.

About Jodi: Jodi Hiser is an author and editor for Kosmeo Magazine, an online publication that seeks to use the literary, visual, and musical arts to encourage women in their walks of faith.

Katie Recommends Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Genre: Romance

You’ll love it if you enjoy realistic romance with a dose of adventure.  

Katie says: This is a fascinating look into the life of Cassie, a female firefighter, and a realistic high-stakes exploration of how tragedy reminds us of who really matters in our lives. The characters and situations feel so real, and there is an emotional depth to the story beyond what is typically seen in romance novels. 

About Katie: Katie Fitzgerald is a former librarian and mom of five who blogs about books and homeschooling at Read-at-Home Mom.

Kendra Recommends Sisterhood of Sleuths by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

Genre: Middle grade mystery

You’ll love it if you cut your literary teeth on Nancy Drew mysteries and are seeking a nostalgic return to girlhood sleuthing with a contemporary heroine.

Kendra says: When our young protagonist discovers a box of vintage mystery novels, she launches into her own investigation…and introduces the wonder of Nancy Drew to a whole new generation of readers! Uncovered family secrets, complicated friendship, and literary history play nicely together in this intergenerational mystery that I zipped through in a day. With its inspiring characters and heartfelt story, it has all the makings of a modern classic that is suitable for middle graders and worthy of adult readers, too.

About Kendra: Kendra is a homeschooling mom of three who reflects on all things life, faith, and books at You can get the full scoop on Kendra’s latest reads at her always-bustling book corner.

Kori Recommends Realm by H.L. Gibson

Genre: Dystopian fiction

You’ll love it if you enjoy a good vs. evil story that transports you to a fantasy world with a unique landscape and lifestyle.

Kori says: This book contrasts two very different worlds: the planet Earth in the future, which is both morally and environmentally corrupt, and Realm, a world of beauty, collaboration, and community. The way the author manages the different timelines in the two worlds and the conflict the main characters face is dynamic, suspenseful, and artful. 

Note: Realm is expected to publish in April. Till then, you can add it to your TBR on Goodreads.

About Kori: I am a fiction writer and essayist who also runs Inkling Creative Strategies, an author services company that helps writers reach their full creative potential so they can impact and inspire readers. Find me on Instagram at @inklingcreativestrategies. If you’re a scribbler, grab a free copy of my Ultimate Writing Project Workbook!

Linda Recommends A Time for Mercy by John Grisham

Genre: Suspense

You’ll love it if you’re craving a bit of Southern courtroom drama and love rooting for the little guy

Linda says: Grisham’s exquisite character development, wry sense of humor, and spectacular plot twists make him my hands-down favorite mystery writer. You’ll get pulled right into the engrossing saga of a small town lawyer and his defense of a vulnerable teenager accused of murdering a local deputy.

About Linda: Linda’s been penning short online book reviews for 15 years.  She’s into listening well, emotional healing, and spiritual growth. Subscribe to her newsletter.

Lynn Recommends Devotion by Adam Makos

Genre: Nonfiction

You’ll love it if you love historical fiction and want to read more nonfiction. Or if you love books that take a little known fact and transform it into a page-turning story.

Lynn says: Adam Makos makes history come alive in this book about fighter pilots during the Korean War. His writing pulls you into the story. I could not put this book down. It reads more like a novel than it does a nonfiction military book. There are a lot of books about WWII, the Civil War, and even WWI, but there has not been a lot written about the Korean War. This book took me to a time and place that I knew very little about. It is about friendship, courage, strength, survival, and so much more.

About Lynn: Lynn and her daughter, Grace, share book reviews, book lists, history facts, and more at From Our Bookshelf. They enjoy reading and sharing a wide range of backlist books, nonfiction books, historical fiction, and more. They also love to share books that are hidden gems and that have not gotten the attention that they deserve.

Oceana Recommends If I Run by Terri Blackstock

Genre: Mystery with a splash of romance

You’ll love it if you enjoy a mystery story following a SMART main character and a skeptical private detective.

Oceana says: The plot was spurred on by the quick thinking of the main character, which kept me engaged the entire time. Despite looking guilty, she was the character I rooted for the most because of her kind heart and thirst for justice.

Michelle Recommends Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri

Genre: YA Memoir (officially categorized as fiction due to storytelling liberties taken)

You’ll love it if you like true stories that make you laugh through your tears

I’m not a memoir person, but I couldn’t stop listening to this on audio (narrated by the author). Daniel Nayeri’s mom converted to Christianity in Iran, and she had to flee with her kids. Daniel tells the story from the perspective of his middle-school self, and he pieces his memories together in the style of Shahrazad from The Thousand and One Nights. This story is a beautiful tribute to his indomitable mother.

About the reviewer: Michelle writes about books right here at The Book Devotions. Check out her printable and digital reading journals and trackers HERE.

Best Page-Turner Books—which will you read first?

Read to relax (here’s why it works)

Read to relax (here’s why it works)

I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of person who thrives in a calm, quiet environment. I have friends who crave hustle and bustle. They love it when their home is crowded with noise and people.

Not me.

I tire easily at parties. My mommy fuse is quick to blow when my kids are playing around wildlike and at top volume. I get a little blue when my calendar is crammed with this and that.

It’s no wonder that I love to read. It’s the perfect hobby for someone like me. A solitary space. A circle of quiet. A story to escape into.

I read to relax!

But did you know that reading is “scientifically proven” to reduce stress? (I have to put “scientifically proven” in quotes because I can’t personally vouch for the science, of course, and, really, who knows?)

Neva-theless, in 2009, researchers at the University of Sussex found that six minutes of reading—just SIX minutes—reduced stress by as much as 68 percent.


Reading worked better and quicker than listening to music, drinking tea, and walking.

Why is reading SO relaxing? Even more than those other activities?

Here’s one possibility: It requires the mind to do work.

Wait, what? How can work be relaxing?

Hear me out. Because the brain is busy reading, it doesn’t latch onto anxious thoughts as readily. Reading activates the imagination, which switches on the prefrontal cortex in such a way that it stops the body’s emergency response (or so I’ve read).

As a result, your heart rate goes down. Muscles relax. Your body burns through the remaining stress hormones in your system, and voila. Calm.

Dr. David Lewis, the cognitive neuropsychologist who conducted the study said, “It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination.”

It sure sounds to me like he’s referring to fiction—an enchanting story, a riveting narrative.

Now, if I’m reading something that scares or annoys the crap out of me, then I’m definitely NOT relaxed after. (I’m talking terrible Tweets or troubling news articles.)

But, if it’s a story, then I’m usually good. It relaxes me, even if it’s intense or heavy. And reading before bed is THE best prelude to slumber. When I read before bed, I go out like a light. (I always regret looking at my phone before bed—even with my blue-light blocker thingy.)

How about you? Does reading relax you? If you suffer from anxiety, does it offer any relief? Leave me a comment with your best reading relaxation routines.

Let’s lose ourselves in books!

Let’s lose ourselves in books!

You’ve heard it a thousand times, the phrase “get lost in a book.”

As in, “Oooh, I love to lose myself in a good book.”

What does it mean to “lose yourself” in a book?

It means to be so interested in the book that you don’t notice what’s happening around you. The book commands your complete attention, and everything else just sort of fades into the background.

What’s the best part about this?

For me, it’s that I literally forget myself for a while.

I’m a very self-focused person. I think about myself a lot. How do other people see me? Does this outfit make me look like I’m trying too hard? Does this email newsletter make me sound smart? Yada-yada, on and on forever. This has NOT been good for me, mentally or spiritually.

Self-care and self-love. I’m not fundamentally opposed to these concepts. (I don’t think we should neglect or hate ourselves.) But, for me personally, what I call “self-care” quickly turns to self-indulgence. Like immediately.

Reading a book is a blessed break from the habit of me-me-me thinking.

When I lose myself in a story, everything takes a backseat, including…me.

This HAS been good. Taking the focus off myself and putting it…um, anywhere else!

C. S. Lewis said that we read books because:

“We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own. In love we escape from our self into one other. This process can be described either as an enlargement or as a temporary annihilation of the self. But that is an old paradox; ‘he that loseth his life shall save it.’”

An Experiment in Criticism

What “old paradox” is Lewis talking about? He’s quoting the words of Jesus Christ recorded in Matthew 16:25:

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

I’m not going to get theological, but I feel like the simple, humble act of reading a book is a small reflection of this great gospel-command. It’s not the fulfillment of the command, no! It’s a shadow of it. It’s one small way that I can lose myself, or, in other words, take the focus off myself and put it elsewhere.

Here’s another paradox: The more I focus on myself, the less content I am with life (it’s just not enough). The less grateful I am for what I have (I need more). The tighter I hold to what’s mine (Share? No way).

Reading connects me to people, places, worlds, and conflicts that are beyond the scope of myself. It’s an expansion and an enlargement, as Lewis said. Instead of thinking only of “my story,” the one I’m living in this moment, the one in which I’m the main character, my eyes open wider, and I see that “my story” is one of many stories, past and present, and those stories—even the ancient ones, foreign ones, fictional ones—resonate deeply with me, and I am not alone, not the first nor the last to experience and feel these things. I remember that I am profoundly connected.

Ironically, it’s only in the self-forgetting that I make those gains.

I have not mastered this. Who has? I remain largely self-obsessed. But…when I’m losing myself in a great story, not quite so much. 😉

Books to lose yourself in

Here’s my megalist of immersive, unputdownable books to get lost in.

55 Reading journal prompts that work for ANY book (+free printable)

55 Reading journal prompts that work for ANY book (+free printable)

If you’re here for reading journal prompts, then you’re likely:

  • a parent searching for your kid
  • an avid reader (like me!) who keeps a book journal

Either way, you’re in the right place, and you’ll find loads of thought-provoking prompts here in this blog post.

Keeping a reading journal is a great way to remember what you’ve read, but it’s also one way to dialogue with your book and the author, like having a conversation. 

And it doesn’t have to be hard work—on the contrary, it should be easy and fun!

Scroll down and you’ll find reading journal prompts for:

  • Students 
  • Adult fiction
  • Adult nonfiction
  • Book clubs

Before we dive in, you need to know that you can grab a free printable with all of these prompts ready to go!

What is a reading journal, anyway?

It’s a notebook, bullet journal, or three-ring binder where you write things about the book you’re reading. That’s it!

If you’re an adult reader who simply wants to journal, then you do this for the sheer delight of it. A reading journal is a private, safe space (offline) where you can jot down your true feelings about a book, as they pop into your mind, without the pressure of anyone else reacting to you. 

For kids and students, it’s usually an assignment for language arts class. Why, oh heavens, WHY? To help students get into the habit of not just passively reading but responding to what they’ve read. That’s why it’s often called a “reading response journal.” And it’s the best way for busy English teachers with big classes to facilitate this learning activity (and grade it). 

But what to actually write in a reading journal? The possibilities are endless and therefore immobilizing. That’s why it’s super helpful to have prompt ideas at the ready.

Now for the good stuff!

Reading journal prompts for students

Here are my favorite prompts for your student’s reading response journal (or narrative journal, dialectical journal, independent reading enrichment, etc.) Use these to support your homeschool reading curriculum OR (my favorite) foster a book club atmosphere in your home.

11 Easy, imaginative reading journal prompts for kids

This is a non-traditional list of prompts with more of a book club vibe to them. The goal is for kids to respond with their own thoughts (instead of trying to get the “right” answer). 

  1. What’s something from this book that you never want to forget?
  2. Would you call this an “easy” book or a “hard” book? Why?
  3. What character in this book is most like (or unlike) you?
  4. Without thinking too much, write a list of words that describe how this book (or this chapter) made you feel.
  5. Does something in this book (a character, place, or object) remind you of something else from another book (or from your life)?
  6. What would’ve happened if a character had done X instead of Y?
    1. Example: What would’ve happened if Marilla hadn’t kept Anne Shirley?
  7. Would you like to live in this story world? Why or why not?
  8. Did this book teach you something new?
  9. Was this book what you expected it was going to be? Did it surprise you at all?
  10. If you could ask the author a question, what would it be?
  11. Would this book be more interesting if the events were NOT presented in chronological order?

If you’re a homeschool parent or if you simply want to connect with your kids through books, then you MUST check out Sarah MacKenzie at Read-Aloud Revival

10 Academic reading journal prompts for kids

This is a more traditional list of schoolish prompts that should satisfy your child’s reading teacher (but that won’t torture your student). To add more academic rigor to the mix, ask the student to provide textual evidence (quotes, page numbers) to support their answers. 

  1. At the beginning of the book, what does the main character want most? Does this change by the end of the book and how?
  2. Who (or what) is the antagonist (or antagonistic force)? What is it trying to stop the main character from doing? 
  3. Why do you think the author chose this title for the book?
  4. Was this book believable? Could it have happened in real life? Did the characters act like real humans act?
  5. Does a character’s name have special significance?
  6. Which fairy tale, fable, myth, or scripture story does this book remind you of?
    1. For example, are there any Cinderellas in this book? Is there a Christ figure who sacrifices for others? 
  7. Read the book’s back cover or inside flap. Does it accurately reflect the book or not?
  8. Which character had the biggest impact on the story and why?
  9. How would the story feel different if it was written from a different point of view?
  10. Would this book make a good TV show or movie? Why or why not?

BONUS! Reading-writing activities for homeschooling and distance learning

Take journaling to the next level with these creative writing prompts for kids. Use these in place of a tired, ol’ book report.

  1. Go to the library and check out a stack of wordless books. Invite your students to add words to the book based on the illustrations. Challenge them to write the book in a creative narrative format (for example, as a stage play, in epistolary form, or from the perspective of the bad guy). 
  2. Go to the library and check out a stack of books that are a few reading levels below where your child is at. Have your student rewrite the story for an older audience. Wouldn’t it be fun to read the 6th grade version of a super-simple Frog and Toad story? Or the 10th grade version of Strega Nona?
  3. Buy an inexpensive used copy of a book and have your student write their reading responses directly in the margins. You can even supply your student with emoji stickers that they can use to describe how they feel while reading certain passages.
  4. Try an interactive reading journal. This is where more than one student shares a reading journal, responding to the text but also responding to each other’s responses.

17 Reading journal prompts for adults (fiction)

You love to read books AND discuss what you’ve read. But you don’t always have another human being who is ready and willing to dive deep into your latest novel with you. The solution? A reading journal! Think of it as your own little Booklandia. 

Here are some of my favorite writing prompts for when I’m reading a novel.

  1. Why did you pick THIS book to read right NOW?
  2. Why is the title of this book the title? Is it straightforward or does it have shades of meaning?
  3. Do any of the characters’ names carry any special significance?
  4. Do any of the characters strongly remind you of people in your life? 
  5. Did this book hit on any of your “soft spots” or “sweet spots” as a reader? These are things that you just love and can’t resist. 
  6. Did this book hit on any of your pet peeves as a reader? 
  7. How would you describe the writing? Flowery, plain, poetic, emotional?
  8. Did you speed through this book or was it a slog?
  9. What morals underpin the story? Are they similar to or different from your own values?
  10. What does this book praise? Do you agree?
  11. What does this book put down? Do you agree?
  12. In what ways does the book nail its genre? In what ways does it depart from the typical genre conventions?
  13. Was this book what you expected it was going to be? Did it surprise you at all?
  14. If you could ask the author a question, what would it be?
  15. Would you consider this a favorite book? If not, what would it need to have (or what would need to improve) for it to make your list of favorites?
  16. What personality traits make the protagonist likeable? Unlikeable?
  17. What personality traits make the book’s villain likeable? Unlikeable? 

Starting a reading journal is a great way to get back into reading books if you’re rebounding from a slump. Also, many readers enjoy journaling at the end of the day. Responding to a couple of bedtime journal prompts is a great (screen-free) way to wind down, declutter your brain, and prepare for slumber.

11 Reading journal prompts for nonfiction books

It’s easy to inhale nonfiction—I’m talking business books, self-help books, and hobby books—and then completely forget what you learned or what you wanted to implement. Journaling as you go is one way to make meaningful connections to your life and get your creative juices flowing.

  1. Why did you pick THIS book to read right NOW?
  2. Without thinking too much, quickly write a list of Ah-ha moments you had when reading this book. Do it from memory first, and then flip through the book to remember any that you forgot. 
  3. Did this book teach you a lot of new concepts, or did it reinforce things you already knew?
  4. In what ways did this book inspire you (emotionally or spiritually)?
  5. Are you going to think differently or make any changes based on this book?
  6. Was this book what you expected it was going to be? Did it surprise you at all?
  7. If you could ask the author a question, what would it be?
  8. What does this book praise? Do you agree?
  9. What does this book put down? Do you agree?
  10. What important information from this book do you NOT want to forget?
  11. Did this book turn you on to other books or resources that you want to explore or check out?

6 Reading journal prompts to spice up your book club (FUN!)

Giving your book club members a few reading journal prompts upfront is an easy way to spark discussion when it comes time to meet up and actually discuss the book. First off, it gives you a place to start. And second, people arrive preloaded with a LOT to say because they’ve already been thinking about the questions.

The LAST thing you want is for your book club discussion questions to feel like a school assignment. Oh, no no no no. That’s why I’m giving you juicy questions that still manage to feel lighthearted and fun. 

You can print these prompts onto a journal page and give each member a copy to reference as they read. Or, if you’ve got a tech-savvy group, you can send out a Google form that contains all of the prompts, and everyone can respond electronically. Wouldn’t it be fun to read the responses aloud at your meeting but make everyone guess which response is whose?

  1. Do any of the characters in this book remind you of someone in our book club? BE NICE!
  2. If our book club could take the main character out for a night on the town, where would we go and what would we do?
  3. Pretend this book is being made into a movie or TV show, and you’re the casting director. Which actors would you pick to portray each character?
  4. Which type of social media account would each character in this book use the most?
  5. Which emoji (or gif or meme) best describes how you feel about this book?
  6. Choose one of the following to describe how you felt about this book:
    1. This was a good book, and I liked it.
    2. This was a bad book, but I liked it anyway.
    3. This was a good book, but I didn’t like it.
    4. This was a bad book, and I didn’t like it.

I hope that these reading journal prompts have you itching to grab your favorite pen and start scribbling!
If you want to save these prompts for later, then by all means grab the free printable version!

Why the world needs readers (like you)

Why the world needs readers (like you)

It’s m’duty to tell you that this article contains affiliate links, which earn me commission at no extra cost to you. Here’s my disclosure policy.

I’ll be honest. It’s in my own self-interest to say that reading is important. I am the author of a book blog, after all.

But I believe—passionately—that reading is more than your average pastime. Much more.

Here’s why I think that readers, people like you and me, are critical to preserving civilization—and helping it flourish.

Reading teaches you how (not what) to think

In How to Read a Book (yes, that’s the actual title) Mortimer J. Adler frets over newfangled modes of mass communication, such as radio and magazines. He worries about how they “package” intellectual positions with the goal of helping Average Joe make up his mind with minimum difficulty and effort. But, Adler asserts, Joe doesn’t make up his mind at all. 

“Instead, he inserts a packaged opinion into his mind, somewhat like inserting a cassette into a cassette player. He then pushes a button and ‘plays back’ the opinion whenever it seems appropriate to do so. He has performed acceptably without having had to think.”

Doesn’t this sound frighteningly familiar? When was the last time you had an original thought of your own? Something that wasn’t fed to you by social media or the news? It’s a sobering question for me, no doubt. 

But reading great books is the gateway to (real) free thinking. 

Reading teaches you to reflect before you react

How different would social media be if people thought for a minute before they reacted to something online? 

Tweets and bite-sized videos make short, snappy statements. If we trust the source, then we take the statement as fact. We don’t mull it over for a few days. We don’t take time to reflect on it and form our own individual viewpoints. We immediately react by tapping a button—we don’t even have to put our feelings into words—hello, emojis.

Tony Reinke says, “The temptation is to react, not to ponder. I am quick to Tweet and slow to think. I am quick to Google and slow to ponder.” 

As we mature as readers, we tend to choose challenging books that don’t lend themselves to simple “likes” or “dislikes.” They demand we switch on our brain and puzzle it out. And this is good—for us and the world at large.

Reading forms your character, cultivates virtue, and encourages empathy

So often, I find myself reading to get information. I need to KNOW something. But, more than informing my mind, reading forms my character.

Tell a teenage girl, “Don’t flirt with boys,” and you’ve succeeded in informing her of something you believe to be true. But show her Lydia Bennet in all her foolishness, tell her Lydia’s story, how it begins and how it ends, and you may succeed in a far greater way.

Karen Swallow Prior says it in the fewest possible words: “Literary characters have a lot to teach us about character.”

Reading allows us to see life through another’s eyes, exposes us to things beyond the scope of our own experience, and enlarges our view of humanity.

Reading forces you to slow down and savor

I confess, I sometimes plow through a book brainlessly, just trying to get through. But often, especially when I’m reading something truly great, I slow down and linger over the language, bask in the storytelling, and hope it won’t end too soon.

There’s enough “rush, rush, hurry” in my life. Reading, for me, is an opportunity to stop scurrying and pursue peace. 

Experienced readers know that it’s not a race to read the most and the fastest. It’s about hopping off the hamster wheel, stepping into the fresh air, and receiving the gift.

“Literature is a form of discovery, perception, intensification, expression, interpretation, creativity, beauty, and understanding. These are ennobling activities and qualities. For a Christian, they can be God-glorifying, a gift from God to the human race to be accepted with zest.”

Leland Ryken, Windows to the World: Literature in Christian Perspective

True readers are free thinkers. 

They reflect before they react. 

They cultivate character, virtue, and empathy by reading widely and well.

They know how to slow down and enjoy.

The world needs more readers!

I, for one, am grateful to be in company with so many, with you.

Be where the readers are

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What was THE book that made you a reader?

What was THE book that made you a reader?

I first fell in love with books when I was 6 years old. My mother decided to read Charlotte’s Web to me every night before bed.

It was our little ritual, unfolding the story together, one chapter a night. I loved snuggling close to her, smelling her smell, looking at the black-and-white illustrations of Fern, Wilbur, Templeton, and the rest of the barnyard gang. 

My tender heart broke when we finished the book, not because it was over but because of how it ended—with the death of Charlotte and the hatching of her children. 

The day after we read that last chapter, the story’s bittersweet ending was still tugging on my soul. I remember sitting sideways in a green upholstered armchair, trying to hide my tears and tiny sobs. 

My mom noticed. “Michelle, what’s the matter?” she asked. 

I burst into tears right there on the green upholstery. Mom patiently waited for me to cry it out.

“What’s wrong?” she asked again, clearly bewildered and, by now, a little concerned. 

All I could manage were the strangled words, “Charlotte died!

My mom stuffed a laugh. She was probably relieved that I wasn’t crying over some bad thing that was “real.” But, oh, it was real to me. Charlotte was as real as any person I’d ever known. Her death happened. And it deeply affected me.

You’d think, after that, I’d be too traumatized to read a book ever again. 

But nope. I was hooked.

Where can I get my hands on a book that will make me feel something like that again?

My next magical reading experience was Roald Dahl’s Matilda. I devoured as much Dahl as I could get my hands on. The BFG. The Witches. Boy.

After that, I had a love affair with Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. It twisted me in its fantastical grip. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it, but I kept checking the thick, pink-covered volume out of the library time after time. 

There was no doubt about it. I had become a bonafide reader. Reading has instructed me in many ways, but it’s also given me hours upon hours of delight (and it still does). 

Why does it?

Why do I like reading so much? Why do you?

The answer, I suppose, is because we’re irresistibly drawn to stories. Life is a story. We are all living a story right now at this very moment. Reading other people’s stories (true or made-up) helps me interpret the one I’m living day to day.

I don’t know about you, but I love seeing my life reflected in the stories I read.

I love seeing people from my own life populating the pages: my great-aunt Betty who lived through the Great Depression and washes and reuses every food container and bag from the grocery store. The unhinged-looking guy from the DMV with the wild hair who failed me on my first driving test. They show up in the books I read.

Most of all, I love seeing the person I want to be portrayed in stories.

Could I possibly have retained my optimism like Sara Crewe in A Little Princess, even after everything good was taken away from me? Would I have the self-discipline to keep my own counsel (and others’ secrets) like Elena Dashwood? Would I stab Caesar with the other senators?

Stories make me grab my inner magnifying glass and examine my heart, but they also help reorient my gaze beyond the fine points. They guide my eyes upward to the heavens, the vast expanse of life that encompasses everyone who lives, has lived, and will live. Stories force me to ask supersized questions like, “Where is my place in this constellation of souls?” They invite me to grapple with these cosmic queries using both the reason of my mind and the feeling of my heart.

God, the Master Storyteller, has been weaving the story of humanity since time began. It’s a story of redemption. It’s a story with pattern, foreshadowing, and fulfillment. I see my own small life reflected in its wide, shimmering pool. One star among the thousands Abraham saw. Like him, I’m a stranger here. Stories help me figure out where I belong and why I matter. 

I love reading because, when I do it wisely and well, it points me to God.

It shows me a sliver of His infinity. It inspires compassion, gratitude, and virtue within me. It makes me treat others better, increases my focus, and fortifies my courage in the face of evil.

Why do you love reading? What was THE book that started it all? Leave a comment with your story. I’d sure love to know how it happened for you.