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Friday, May 20, 2016

Christian Fiction Readers Advisory And Genre Considerations

Earlier this week, during the Massachusetts Library Association Conference, there was an excellent program on Christian Fiction Readers’ Advisory. I was following it on Twitter and saw my colleague Anna tweeting out an awesome list of genre specific, Christian Fiction Authors.  I asked her to compile all the Tweets in one place so they could be easily accessed as a resource.  Here is that link.

Christian Fiction is extremely popular with readers both religious and not, but the resources are scarce, especially for the readers who are less religious.

In my 15 years at the RA desk, I found that my religiously focused readers were very good at identifying authors on their own.  They talked about them at church or in their book groups and then came in to request we purchase the titles for the library.  They also followed many of the popular Christian Fiction publishers (some of the biggest of which are located just bit West of Chicago). I never had any trouble helping these readers. And after only a few years, I was able to competently cultivate this portion of our collection and stay on top of new authors and trends all on my own. [Not bad for a Jewish girl.]

However, I also am seeing a growing trend. A surprising number of readers, especially genre readers, are turning to Christian Fiction because they can get everything they loved about crime fiction or SF, for example, without the increasing violence and sexual situations they were coming to dislike in their favorite main stream genres. But identifying authors for this non-Christian focused audience has been difficult.

At first, I turned to the growing number of suggested reading lists for “gentle reads,” but many of these lists only consider contemporary fiction, women’s fiction, historical fiction, of romance. I kept seeing readers of crime and speculative fiction asking for more books like Irene Hannon or Ted Dekker-- decidedly GENRE authors with a more gentle bent than their non-genre counterparts.

These are authors that are excellent in their genres but also have a Christian Fiction grounding that make these readers feel comfortable.  They can get lost in the story without worrying about it taking them down a more graphic path than they wanted.

They do not want the quality of the story to be sacrificed, but they want a gentler touch. Currently the writers who are fulfilling this need the best are in the Christian Fiction world, but the current resources do not help me to identify these authors for readers very easily.

The list Anna was tweeting did give me a good starting point for helping these readers.  The discussion covered the wide range of appeal for Christian Fiction as well as lots of genre authors.

So thanks to Christine Sharbrough of the Chelmsford Library for the presentation and Anna for compiling the tweets. Christine also puts out The Christian Fiction Daily. If you want to know more on this topic, contact her.

Now go use these notes to help a reader.

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