What are “Best Sellers” Selling? Part 1 of 2

Roaming a Christian bookstore the other day, I meandered down the aisles, greeting old friends – C.S. Lewis, Charles Swindoll, Elisabeth Elliot, Corrie ten Boom, Oswald Chambers and Charles Spurgeon, etc. – and looking for new ones.  And looking.  And looking.

It’s not that Christian publishers aren’t cranking out zillions of new titles every year, or that people aren’t snapping them up at warp speed.   But the kind of  “hot sellers” on display gave me “cause for pause.”  Here’s what I mean:

Fiction Best-Sellers

Fiction best-sellers included “an unforgettable story about family and faith, dreams and disappointments, and ultimately the resilience and tenacity of love” and “three short years, two best friends, one unbelievable dream.”  Also “a story of hope, heartbreak and the search for happy endings” plus  “A story of broken hearts, brilliant success and second choices” and “A desperate temptation, a driven determination, an undying dream.”

Apparently Christian fiction readers are big on dreams and heart break these days.  Why is that?  And why are “historical romance” and suspense/thrillers like The Bride Collection, Kiss, and Burn featured prominently among the top ten selling slots?

Non-Fiction Bestsellers

The Non-Fiction Bestsellers included books about love languages, marriage, “crazy love,” leadership development and “get(ting) out of that pit.”  Titles typically tell readers how to:

–         Get “the marriage you’ve always wanted”

–         “Get out of that pit”

–         “Take you and your organization to the next level.”

Now, don’t misunderstand.  Some of these non-fiction titles are helpful and instructive.  They may offer lifelines to folks grappling with real issues, real needs.  But have you noticed?  If the titles and topics mentioned here are what Christians are really interested in, drawn to, one might conclude that the average Christian book shelf represents a culture that’s little more than a tête-à-tête with Narcissus.  In other words, “It’s all about me.”  My prosperity.  My relationships.  My security, happiness, health.  Me, my, mine.  The  “Youniverse.” Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet observe:

Narcissus never had it so good than in best-seller Christianity, which has become self-centeredness wrapped up as ‘spirituality,’ which has become the latest fashion accessoryy for the person who has everything.  “

The Jesus Manifesto, p. 100

What Ever Happened To…?

What ever happened to titles focusing on God?  His nature, character, attributes?  His power, might, and majesty?  Books that focus not on what I can get from God as a kind of sanctified spin-off from my walk with Him – health, wealth, success, etc. – but on His glory and Who He Is?

I cruised the last aisle at the rear of the store later and found a few dusty tomes that usually fall into that category.  They were shunted off into the back corner, on a lone wire rack marked “Classics.”   I couldn’t help notice the contrast between what’s “hot” in the world of Christian publishing and what’s …. not.  Granted, this was an informal, unscientific survey of one store in one county, but best-seller lists aren’t store or county-exclusive.  Sweet and Viola put it note:

A survey of the Christian Book Association’s best-selling books as we began the twenty-first century found that family and parenting topics accounted for nearly half of the titles, with the rest focused mainly on self.  Of the top 100 books, just 6 were about the Bible, 4 were about Jesus, and 3 were about evangelism.  ‘The Christianity of the bestseller lists tends to be personal, private, and interior,’ wrote Gene Edward Veith, ‘with little attention to theology  to the church.'”

The Jesus Manifesto, p. 100


Join us next time for Part II


One Response

  1. The title “Crazy Love” is misleading, it’s not about marriage or self-esteem or even God’s “love for us” at all. Quite the opposite. It’s about the ways we have been lacking in our zeal and love for GOD, and the weaknesses that plague and deaden the firey faith we claim to profess.

    We have cause to be opimistic that Chan’s challenging book seeking to wake Christians–particularly American Christians, from “lukewarm” Christianity is a bestseller amidst all the other junk!

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