Dear Christian novelists and publishers:

For several years CT has asked me to serve as the preliminary fiction judge for the annual book awards. This means that every August, all the titles nominated by your publishing houses land on my front porch—roughly 40 titles or more.

They include the usual suspects: historical and biblical fiction, romance, family drama, suspense, and, yes, Amish love stories. But they also include some unique innovations: futuristic and dystopian lit, detective fiction, even the occasional supernatural thriller. Over the course of several weeks I read, power-skim, or glance through every single one of them. I then select my top four, which are sent on to a quartet of final judges who determine the winner and runner-up.

Given the fact that I’ve “met” so many of you through your books, I thought it would be fair to introduce myself and explain exactly how and why I make the decisions I do. After all, it’s hard to pass a test you don’t know you’re taking. And since most of you—even the editors—will not have read or even browsed all these titles year after year (who has time for that?), I thought I’d share some insights on what I see as the state of Christian fiction and the trends I’m noticing, for better or worse.

By way of introduction, a confession: Despite the fact that (or because?) I have an English degree from a Christian college, I don’t personally read much that falls within the contemporary marketing category of “Christian fiction.” I’m one of those grumpy English majors who walks into a Christian bookstore and wants to know why Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities or Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime ...

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