Sometimes there are books – not necessarily the non-fiction books that explain theology or scripture or the ones that fall under the “Christian fiction” category – that tackle concepts of faith and spiritually in such a profound way that we can’t help but think and question our own beliefs, even long after we’ve read them. These are well-written classic or contemporary pieces of literature that truly make us look into ourselves, reflect about our own lives, and maybe push ourselves into making positive changes.
Here are some examples of classic and modern books that touch on faith or spirituality and in some way help readers contemplate about their own beliefs and theology.
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky: This Russian novel is nothing like what you call “light” reading, but it’s a compelling and philosophical book about faith, doubt and morality. It is considered one of the great classics of world literature. The story revolves around three brothers, each representing different facets of human nature – the strong and reckless, the logical and intellectual, and the humble and moral. The book tackles some tough questions and can definitely get you thinking.
The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis: Although considered a literary masterpiece, this novel, unsurprisingly, was met with a lot of controversy when it came out because it explored the humanity of Jesus Christ. The Jesus Christ portrayed in the book is far more human than what we read from the Bible and that meant he wasn’t spared from the trappings of human emotions and weaknesses. The idea was that Jesus was not immune to fear, doubt, lust, and temptation, and that he also struggled to do God’s will. This book helps readers gain more understanding about Jesus as a man and as son of God.
My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok: This book explores the conflict between a person’s religious upbringing and his deepest passion and calling. The main character, Asher Lev, is a Hasidic Jewish boy who also happens to be gifted artist. His art creates conflict between him and his family and their community. The novel is very descriptive and paints a vivid picture of Asher’s struggle to stay true to himself and to his faith.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis: This high fantasy series is considered the author’s best-known work and is hailed a classic. Three films based on the books were released from 2005 to 2010. The book is quite symbolic and has different themes running through it, including traditional Christian themes. The main story of the first book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, is an allegory of Christ’s death, and talks about familiar themes like betrayal, sacrifice, resurrection and redemption. Christian and other themes aside, this fantasy series is filled with timeless stories that many people will enjoy for years.
A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet) by Madeleine L’Engle: This Newbery award-winning book is a mix of science fiction and fantasy and, though it’s been categorized as a book for young readers, it’s a story that can appeal to kids and grown-ups alike. It’s also a book that has had its share of controversy because of its complex, religious themes mixed in with scientific and spiritual elements. Like the others in this list, this book asks some major questions while pulling along its readers for an interesting ride.
A Prayer for Owen Meany: A Novel by John Irving: This modern classic, from which the movie Simon Birch was loosely based, is about friendship, faith, and fate. The story revolves around two friends – the orphaned Johnny and Owen who accidentally kills Johnny’s mother during a baseball game and believes he is an instrument of God. Their lives are deeply intertwined and as the opening lines of the book says, Owen is the reason Johnny believes in God. This book has been described as touching, emotional and thought-provoking.
Is there a book or novel that has touched you on such a deep level that it affected your faith or spirituality? Share with us in the comments!