In Lieu of Fifty Shades

I know the other day I rained on some book-club-parades (do they have those?  Instead of candy, do they throw wine?) when I suggested that Fifty Shades of Grey might not be appropriate Christian reading.

Oh, wait, I called it porn.  I knew it was more forceful than that.

But I love reading so much and I don’t want anyone to quit reading just to avoid those books (although if my choices were 50 Shades of Grey and illiteracy, I’d choose illiteracy).  So I thought I’d give you some alternatives that are just as addictive and much better for your soul.

Try this edition–or plan to cover the other one with duct tape.

If you’re a sucker for a love story, you won’t do better than Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.  The author was a romance novelist before she became a Christian, so she’s a good writer with a good message.  Redeeming Love modernizes the book of Hosea (okay, “modernizes”–it’s set in the gold rush), following Michael Hosea–who is hands down the holiest and most attractive male character I’ve ever read–as he marries a woman he knows is a prostitute.  She’s so broken but he’s so good.  Even on a shallow level, it’s a beautiful story; once you realize it’s about God’s love for you, it’ll break your heart.  After the Bible, it may be the most important book a woman can read.  Warning: if you buy it used, make sure it doesn’t have the ridiculous picture of a blonde woman in front of a sunset–you’ll be too embarrassed to read it in public.

If a perfect man doesn’t do it for you and you need more character development in your romantic interests, try Rivers’ Mark of the Lion series.  This series has some drawbacks (a really slow start, for one), but once you’re drawn in, you’ll be fascinated by the goodness of the Christian slave girl, the dramatic consequences of evil choices, and the desperate love that breaks down barriers.

Read them in order or you’ll be so sad and confused.

I think that what’s most touching in these books is the way that the love of good women inspires the heroes of the stories to become more fully themselves.  They don’t change for their women, they grow because they’re so well loved.  The series is set in the first century, so it gives you some insight into early Christian culture, as well as having one of the best Biblical defenses of Jesus as Messiah that I’ve ever read (book 2).  But more than anything, it’s a love story, and who doesn’t love that?

These books are so good I don’t want to reread them–I’m still emotionally exhausted from the first go-round.

If you have to be one of the crowd (which, in this instance, is just fine), why not try The Hunger Games?  Sometimes it’s fun to have the same experience half the country has had–and to know what they’re talking about when they go on and on about it.  I know people act like they’re just for 15-year-old girls, but these books are some of the most enjoyable books I’ve ever read.  Plus, Peeta is a close second to Michael Hosea as the most Christlike man in literature.  I won’t say any more for fear of giving anything away.  I assume you know the plot, so I’ll leave it at this: I LOVED these books and I honestly think they deepened my prayer life.

If you’re up for more of a challenge, try a novel about martyrdom.  Silence by Shusaku Endo and The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene are two of my favorite books of all time and they have the added bonus of being great literature.  Christian romance novels are all well and good, but there comes a time when you want to sound impressive when people ask you what you’ve been reading–or, you know, just to further your mind along with your soul.


Endo’s book follows a Jesuit priest fleeing persecution in 17th century Japan.  As he runs from his pursuers, you honestly feel as though you’re walking up Calvary with him.  This one’s great during Lent or for meditating on the Passion any time and ends with a powerful ethical dilemma that will get you asking the question: how far am I willing to go for Christ?

Greene’s hero is much less heroic: a “whiskey priest” undercover during a time of persecution in Mexico, you hate him and yet you love him.  His complexity makes the book alternately inspiring and infuriating, as is most of Greene’s work.  The Power and the Glory will challenge your perceptions of holiness and push you to evaluate what parts of you are just as bad as the whiskey priest.

Any other suggestions?  Books that changed your life/were addictive/inspired great discussion/were just plain fun?  I’d love to hear your book recommendations!



Before you run off to buy every one of these books, let me recommend DealOz.  I don’t get any kickbacks, I just buy all my books through that site because it searches more than 200 sites to find the best price.  And when prices are close, I always go with BetterWorldBooks, an organization that donates a book to someone in need every time they sell a book.  Cheap books and increased international literacy?  Win-win-win.

About Meg

I'm a Catholic, madly in love with the Lord, His Word, His Bride the Church, and especially His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. I'm committed to the Church not because I was raised this way but because the Lord has drawn my heart and convicted my reason. After 2 degrees in theology and 5 years in the classroom, I quit my 9-5 to follow Christ more literally. Since May of 2012, I've been a hobo for Christ; I live out of my car and travel the country speaking to youth and adults, giving retreats, blogging, and trying to rock the world for Jesus.
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14 Responses to In Lieu of Fifty Shades

  1. Mary says:

    Thank you so much for the 50 shades blog! You are the best.

  2. Melissa says:

    Now give us some Christian movies besides The Sound of Music, which can get just a wee bit cloying after 100 viewings. I have heard that For Greater Glory (originally named Cristiada) is terrific, but I haven’t seen it yet. Have you? Oh, and it has a really easy “cheer” that even people who don’t speak Spanish can say and understand—viva Cristo Rey!

    • Amanda says:

      Have you seen Romero? Sort of like El Salvador’s version of Mexico’s Cristero War. I haven’t seen it in some years, but remember being moved and heartbroken and inspired by it.

      Meg, I can’t wait to read some of these! As soon as I finish the Hobbit 🙂

  3. Jen Smoker says:

    You might really enjoy Neta Jackson’s Yada Yada Prayer Group and House of Hope series. Blows Francine Rivers out of the water and warning – you may find yourself unable to put them down!

    • Meg says:

      Just got the Yada Yada Prayer Group as an audiobook–they didn’t have it on Kindle and I won’t be near my library for a few months. Do you think it’s light enough to listen to as I drive? I could probably have someone check it out for me. I’m excited–thanks for the recommendation!

  4. I don’t want to read 50 Shades so why am I so interested in every post ABOUT it? 😀 Secret yearnings… I hope not! Seriously thanks for the other options. It’s refreshing to see that someone is writing about passion without porn!

  5. Sarah Deeney says:

    I would add Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. This trilogy will change your Catholic life, it is amazing! Kristin is a Sinner (with a capital S), which makes her both incredibly real and incredibly annoying. Even if you hate Kristin though, the depth of the author’s writing is incredible, it’s SO Catholic, in its imagery and characters…Undset actually converted WHILE she was writing the book. Her background was the historical aspect of the book (14th century Norway), but through totally immersing herself into that world she experienced conversion, which I personally find amazing. She was the first woman to win the Nobel prize in literature in 1920…so I think I can say it’s pretty well written.

  6. Cindy says:

    Great suggestions. I just ordered “Redeeming Love” on my Kindle. Thanks!

  7. Stevie says:

    Great post! I totally agree with your previous post about WHY you won’t read the 50 Shades triliogy. I have actually started reading a lot of young adult books (such as Hunger Games) because there is a much lower case of running into the ridiculous steamy scenes! But I have put Redeeming Love on hold at the library – really looking forward to it.

    • Meg says:

      I read almost exclusively YA books for exactly that reason. Mormon authors tend to be safe, too, and to have a strong sense of good and evil, which I find is also the case in YA books. Whatever the reason, I find that authors I like best tend to be from Utah and be alums of BYU 🙂

  8. JoJo says:

    I have to agree with you about “Redeeming Love.” A friend told me about it and convinced me to buy a copy. That soon led to every girl friend I know reading and and loving the book. It is such a beautiful story, and I keep re-reading it! I also enjoyed her Mark of the Lion series.
    I have to agree with Stevie- I have started reading more and more young adult literature because I don’t have to fear find steamy bedroom scenes in my stories!

  9. Maria G says:

    I want to read them ALL. 🙂

  10. bmonk says:

    I’d suggest books by Willa Cather (Death Comes for the Archbishop) or Taylor Caldwell, who has several novels based on biblical characters (Dear and Glorious Physician on St. Luke, and Great Lion of God on St. Paul), but others of both of theirs are also good.

  11. Pingback: What I Read in 2013; My first Link-up | Renewed day by day, in light.

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