Books on Christian living form the core of many Christian publishers’ programs, with titles across a broad spectrum of topics that are meant to help believers deepen their faith and reflect it to others, not just in church but also in daily life.
“These titles are a solid meat-and-potatoes menu; they are timeless in many ways,” says Jonathan Merck, v-p and publisher of Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. He estimates that half of its nonfiction list is books in the Christian living category, noting that “topics such as faith and following God will still be needed 10 years from now.”
“These are the books that backlist well,” says Andrea Doering, executive editor for Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. “We are looking to build a list that a decade from now will still be in print.”
Justin Taylor, executive v-p of book publishing at Crossway, calls Christian living books “a crucial part of our mission.” He adds, “It’s not the only genre we publish, but it is the heart of what we do and who we are.” These books “correct us, challenge us, convict us, and strengthen us,” he says.
Though Christian living books have historically been bought and read primarily by women, today these publishers strive to appeal to a broader spectrum of readers. “Our audience has always been largely women buying for their families and husbands, but we’re also looking toward millennials,” says Kathleen Kerr, acquisitions editor at Harvest House. “We’re focusing on needs of the millennials and how to help them see the Gospel in their lives.” Kerr says roughly 22% of Harvest House’s list falls in the Christian living category.
Many Christians turn to books as they seek peace and contentment in their lives, and authors are there to help, with titles such as Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World (Bethany House, Oct.). Author Shelly Miller is leader of the online community Sabbath Society; her book offers simple and practical ways to rest and refresh mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Another book on creating a personal Sabbath is Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat (Kregel, Nov.) by Letitia Suk, who provides budget-friendly guidance and tools for planning time away from the daily grind.
Next year brings more such advice, with Never Enough Time: A Practical and Spiritual Guide (Rowman & Littlefield, June 2017). Author Donna Schaper, senior minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City, has pragmatic and hard-won insights for dealing with “time famines.” In Chasing Contentment: Trusting God in a Discontented Age by Erik Raymond (Crossway, Mar. 2017), readers can discover that the key to contentment and encouragement is trusting in God rather than being oppressed by circumstances.
The old saw has it that chasing happiness is a sure way not to find it, and in The Sacrament of Happy: Surprised by the Secret of Genuine Joy (B&H, June 2017) Bible teacher Lisa Harper reminds Christians that happiness is God-given. This knowledge frees readers to feel and express genuine joy, she writes, regardless of what is happening in the world or in their own lives.
Life’s detours and roadblocks can be good things that often feel like bad things, writes pastor and author Tony Evans, who puts a new spin on taking the side roads in Detours: The Unpredictable Path to Our Destiny (B&H, Jan. 2017). And in I Didn’t Sign Up for This: Finding Hope When Everything Goes Wrong (Revell, June 2017) John Westfall shows readers how to survive the storms of life with courage, faith, and surprising joy.
In Nothing to Fear: Principles and Prayers to Help You Thrive in a Threatening World (Tyndale, Feb. 2017), Senate chaplain Barry Black outlines seven principles Jesus taught the disciples before sending them into a dangerous world to spread his message. The book contains insights to help readers live bravely in perilous times.
Also from Tyndale is No Easy Jesus: How the Toughest Choices Lead to the Greatest Life by Jason Mitchell (Mar. 2017), which promises to hold the key to moving forward for those who are bored, disillusioned, and beaten down by faith-as-usual. The book is a call to choose Jesus every day.
Anyone can face deep loneliness in our so-called connected culture, a yearning addressed in Finding God in My Loneliness by Lydia Brownback (Crossway, Feb. 2017), who offers women encouragement from a biblical perspective. You Can Do This: Seizing the Confidence God Offers by Tricia Lott Williford (NavPress, June 2017) intends to help women believe in themselves and gain confidence.
Help with Bad Habits
Struggling with bad habits is a universal problem, and books in the category offer Christians ideas to overcome them. Many people are addicted to comfort, from whatever source, writes author Erin Straza, and in Comfort Detox: Finding Freedom from Habits that Bind You (IVP, Feb. 2017) she urges readers to become God’s agents of comforting others.
Control freaks will find insights into their tendencies and come to understand that God is in charge in Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible by Shannon Popkin (Kregel, Jan. 2017).
Women sometimes need reminders they can’t be everything for everyone; in Choosing Real: An Invitation to Celebrate When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned (Barbour, Dec.), Bekah Jane Pogue offers help for frantic schedules, life-stage transitions, and dealing with feelings of unworthiness.
Allison Bottke, author of the Setting Boundaries series (more than 150,000 copies sold), addresses dwelling on the past in Setting Boundaries with Negative Thoughts and Painful Memories: How to Stop Hoarding Your Hurts (Harvest House, Mar. 2017). She encourages Christians to leave troubling memories behind and find freedom in the present.
Self-involvement can also be a bad habit, and in Finding the Lost Art of Empathy (Howard, May 2017) fifth-generation pastor Tracy Wilde reflects on the absence of empathy today and tells Christians how they can renew their compassion for others to reunite the fragmented church and society she sees everyday in her work at City Church’s Los Angeles campus.
Stephen Arterburn, founder of New Life Ministries, and coauthor David Stoop offer a new look at transcending unhealthy relationships and loving others well in Take Your Life Back: How to Stop Letting the Past and Other People Control You (Tyndale, Oct.).
Can You See the Real Me?
Christians sometimes seek to discover their authentic selves through a human personality system or paradigm, as with The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile (IVP, Oct.). The authors give readers a look inside the nine Enneagram personality types designed to help reveal their real selves and move them toward spiritual self-knowledge.
Another option is Your Personality Potential (working title) by Anne Bogel, creator of the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy. Bogel helps readers understand themselves and others by exploring personality frameworks and offering practical application (Baker, Sept. 2017).
Joan Chittister, a Catholic nun and social activist, prods readers to take control of their emotional lives and redirect their spiritual destinies in Radical Spirit: 12 Ways to Live a Free and Authentic Life (Convergent, Apr. 2017).
Singer-songwriter Matthew West also encourages Christians to connect with their best selves and realize they are truly found in Hello, My Name Is: Ditching the Old Name Tags, Discovering Your True Identity (Worthy, Apr. 2017).
She Believes: Embracing the Life You Were Created to Live by Debbie Lindell helps readers understand what they believe about who they are, and how those beliefs affect day-to-day decisions and shape the future (Revell, Oct.). Along the same lines is You Are Free: Be Who You Already Are by Rebekah Lyons (Zondervan, Feb. 2017); she reminds Christians that God has a plan for everyone, not just a chosen few. Esther Fleece, named in 2012 one of CNN’s “Five Women in Religion to Watch,” writes in No More Faking Fine: Ending the Pretending (Zondervan, Jan. 2017) that God meets believers where they are, not where they pretend to be.
Soul Mates: Friendship, Fellowship, and the Making of Christian Community by David Horn (Hendrickson, Mar. 2017) encourages believers to redefine the relationship they have with their church and with the people in their lives.
David Chadwick urges Christians to redefine success by God’s measure in From Superficial to Significant: What It Means to Become Great in God’s Eyes (Harvest House, May 2017). Reimagined classic faith stories inspire a more just way of being in the world in Better: Waking Up to Who We Could Be by Melvin Bray, an Emmy winner for his work on Atlanta public television’s MindBusters program (Chalice, Jan. 2017).
The True God
How Christians see God is foundational to their faith, and in Lies We Believe About God (Howard, Mar. 2017), William Paul Young—author of the 20-million-copy-selling The Shack—writes about 33 common and seemingly innocuous things Christians say about God, arguing that they are lies that keep us at a distance from him. Young wants to foster new thinking about religion, hell, politics, human rights, and more.
Those searching for God’s voice will find guidance in Hearing from God: 5 Steps to Knowing His Will for Your Life by David Stine (Howard, Jan. 2017). The book includes Scripture passages, reflection questions, worship ideas, and space for journaling.
Also using the battle analogy is Put Your Warrior Boots On: Walking Jesus Strong, Once and For All by Lisa Whittle (Harvest House, May 2017), who encourages readers to discover how to live fearlessly.
Fox News religion correspondent Lauren Green draws on a wealth of stories and her extensive study of theology for Lighthouse Faith: God as a Living Reality in a World Immersed in Fog (W, Mar. 2017), which explores God as more than an intellectual idea.
The New Believer’s Guide to the Christian Faith by Alex Early (Chosen, Oct.) focuses on issues such as what Christians are supposed to feel and what God wants from us, to paint a realistic picture of the Christian life.
Faith can grow and mature as we age, a fact noted by Jane Sigloh in Gracious Uncertainty: Faith in the Second Half of Life (Rowman & Littlefield, Aug. 2017), an intimate, at times humorous, guide through the unknowns of the later years of life. And bestselling author Barbara Brown Taylor (An Altar in the World) has her newest, Holy Envy, coming from HarperOne in September 2017. She addresses how Christians are to deal with people of other faiths and the reality of other Gods.
Faith in Practice
Prayer is the central spiritual practice in Christianity, and next year Catholic publisher Loyola Press releases Busy Lives, Restless Souls: How Prayer Can Help You Find the Missing Peace in Your Life by Becky Eldredge (Mar. 2017). She offers a fresh perspective, based on Ignatian spirituality, on satisfying emotional restlessness by making space for prayer in demanding lives.
Another cheerleader for prayer is Beth Guckenberger, whose Start with Amen: Cultivating Spiritual Maturity by Keeping the End in Mind will be released by W Publishing in May 2017. Guckenberger writes that amen is more than just what people say to finish a prayer—it is a declaration of who God is and who we are in relation to him.
Weaving spiritual practice into daily life is a central message in the Christian Living category, and readers can find guidance in Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren (IVP, Dec.), who ties daily events to spiritual practice and Sunday worship.
The Bible’s New Testament book of Ephesians depicts the “armor of God” available to believers, which is the subject of Linda Evans Shepherd’s Winning Your Daily Spiritual Battles: Living Empowered by the Armor of God (Revell, Oct.). Shepherd describes each piece of armor and explains how and why to wear it.
Author and speaker Max Davis offers a new perspective on experiencing the sacred of the ordinary and loving others as Jesus loves us in When Jesus Was a Green-Eyed Brunette: Loving People Like God Does (Worthy, Nov.). Another book on the topic is The Golden Way: Why Following the Golden Rule Makes Us Happy, Peaceful, and Surprisingly More Productive by Jonathan Morris (HarperOne, May 2017).
Finally, two books to pique interest on specific topics include A Wanted Man: Winning the War Against Your Soul by Jason Cruise (Barbour, Nov.)—written specifically for men eager to do battle with Satan—and 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke (Crossway, Apr. 2017), who identifies a dozen ways smartphones have changed our lives.
Ann Byle is a freelance writer who often covers religious issues.