Monday, May 2, 2011

Reading on a Limb

Do you branch out with what you read?

There’s value in reading different kinds of books just as there’s value in reaching out to shake someone’s hand, who as it turns out has no hand.

How can we expect our minds to grow if we keep them under literary quarantine, if we are accustomed to only reading what’s safe, what we’ve liked in the past?

Let me be clear, I’m not suggesting we read books that will screw up our thought lives. I know to steer clear of certain Stephen King novels if I want to sleep through the night nightmare free. I also avoid reading overly saccharine romance novels because it tends to skew my expectations for what a real relationship is like.

But I am suggesting there is great value in branching out—value in Christians reading books written by non-Christian authors.

I’ve read books with swears and affairs. I might not always like what I’m reading, but I can always learn from it.

Here’s a list of what I’m reading:

Falling Home by Karen White
The Liars' Club by Mary Karr
Weird by Craig Groeschel
The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins
(I love the following description from The Outside Boy):
“I thought maybe grief was like an egg that had to be cracked open, and I just hadn’t smashed mine yet—I was still holding it, cradling it. Careful.”

Do you go out on a limb with the books you choose to read? What say you on this topic?

*photo by flickr

**find me on Goodreads
***author Mike Duran wrote several fascinating posts related to this topic. Worth checking out.
****my extra two cents: Discernment isn’t so much about avoiding everything muddy as it is knowing we aren’t impervious to mud. We’re already covered in it. Discernment is knowing the best source to rinse all our thoughts through and understanding when what we’re about to step in isn’t mud at all, but crap.
(check out all those ********)


  1. oh, yeah, I read everything from literary to strict fantasy. I love romance, but I love a suspenseful adventure. I read some historical fiction. And my daughter and I share many a young adult adventure.

  2. I love hearing and reading new authors. That's how I found Elizabeth Berg. But I still have my favs until they disappoint.

  3. Very interesting, Wendy! Funny, because I've been thinking about this lately. I tend to read what I write-Christian historical fiction. When I spoke to a friend about books we were reading, she urged me to read "Water for Elephants." So, admitting that I needed to span my horizons and read secular fiction also, I purchased the book, next on my to-read list. Thanks for the post, Wendy!

  4. I do think we need to branch out beyond our comfort zone and favorite genre. I'm always examining and taking plots and styles apart. I can't even watch a movie without thinking of these elements. Good question!

  5. Love your take on Discernment!! :)

    I'm often branching out in my reads. And I would hasten to say that just because it's written for the ABA market does not mean it is not written by a Christian. God calls us in all different paths to reach out, some of us without even knowing it's His urging that got us there.

  6. Love the tiny disclaimer at the end! I read everything. I don't read racy romance novels or scary books. I do find myself checking out the things in the middle when I'm not in my comfort zone.

  7. Since my reading time is limited, I read primarily inspirational historical fiction, which is what I write. However, I've read other genres, both CBA and ABA, and learned a great deal from those authors' works.

  8. I read a variety of things, but you're right--there are a few things that I know, for the sake of what my mind will lock onto and not let go of, that I'll do better NOT reading.

  9. I read lots of things. Currently I'm re-reading Elizabeth Peter's Amelia Peabody cozy mysteries. And a biography of gunfighter Jack Slade. And Jenny B. Jones' Save the Date.

    Eclectic. :)

  10. After history books, I read everything. I just read, Yesterday's Tomorrow by Catherine West - Outstanding book! I'm currently reading, The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund...and someone at work just handed me a used copy of a Danielle Steel novel, A Good Woman...takes place during Titanic to WWI time period. Haven't read a Danielle Steel in years...

  11. LOVED this! Especially your two cents at the end. That should be a famous quote by Wendy Paine Miller. Seriously! I also loved that snippet about grief. Beautiful. Absolutely.

    I agree - about branching out. Especially as writers.

  12. I read a lot of the genre I write to stay on top of the market, but I also read a ton of non-fiction and magazines. Just yesterday I read Havah by Tosca Lee. Not a contemporary inspirational romance, for sure, but a deeply moving romance nonetheless. I'd read Demon of hers a while back and loved it. I have another Hemingway on order from the library and a few new releases to add to my queue.

    The line you shared intrigued me. Good line.

  13. I'm very eclectic. While I don't read racy novels or ones that are vulgar for the sake of vulgarity, I'm pretty much open to anything else. Suspense, romance, historical (some, not my fav genre), sci-fi, fantasy--I love it all!

  14. Yup, I read anything that takes my fancy, whatever it may be--genre fiction of all kinds, travel books, literary fiction, Gothic romances (I feel like a hungry person thinking about a feast right now!). But when I'm feeling low, I usually turn to 18th C authors or British comedies of any age. I have to have my fallback position.

  15. For awhile I was stuck in 19th century literature, but now that I'm writing, it's been fun to branch out. :)

  16. Hi Wendy -

    I read a wide variety of genres from romance to action/adventure. I'm super choosey about my reading material.

    Susan :)

  17. I appreciate this Wendy. I've tried to branch out recently, and it is hard but necessary as a writer to have a good handle on culture and different readerships.

    I need to start using Good Reads!

  18. I'm with you on avoiding scary and racy. I enjoy challenging my mind, but whenever I'm in the mood to just 'veg', I read my go-to genre.

    Hope you have a great week, Wendy!

  19. I think it's imperative to have a clear perspective. Sure there are plenty of books that fall into our comfort zone but if we stay in our hidey-hole we will never experience anything new and subsequently have nothing new to draw upon. Avoid labels, just read what sounds interesting.

  20. I'm a stickler for fiction. And I really do tend to stick to a certain tupe of fiction. BTW - I saw you had a book by Craig Groeschel on your list. I saw him at my church conference last year, he was brill.


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