Wednesday 23 September 2015

Our Love for Reading... and our Changing Reading Habits

How did you start reading? Were you still in primary school, or did your love for reading come about much later? Have your reading preferences changed much over the years? When did you first discover Christian fiction?

For me, I’ve always loved books. I have a school report from when I was very young (about 7) that says if the teacher ever lost sight of me, the first place she would check for me would be the class library, and that’s always where I was. However, reading chapter books came about much later than my peers. I had difficulty with comprehension, and when I started to fully understand the words I was reading and imagine the story playing out in my mind, and not simply rely on the pictures, that was when my reading took off.

However, it was many years before I discovered the existence of Christian fiction. With being homeschooled for part of my teen years, I knew about the existence of children’s Christian fiction, as it was part of our curriculum, such as titles by Patricia St John (“Treasures of the Snow”, “Twice Freed”) and the Sugar Creek Gang series. But I didn't know about adult Christian fiction. At about the same time, I was introduced to Janette Oke’s “Love Comes Softly” series, and Frank E. Peretti’s “This Present Darkness” and “Piercing the Darkness”. Both polar opposite in genre, but wow, once I knew these books existed, I had a feeling there would be many more. And I was so right. Before long, I was reading Bodie & Brock Thoene’s Zion books, and many of Gilbert Morris’s titles. And of course, collecting every Janette Oke title I could find J

Fast forward a few years, and while I devoured as much Christian fiction as I could find from my local public library and church library, I also searched out Christian novels in the local second hand bookstore. I had a method of going along every shelf and book bin glancing at the publisher icons on the spine – the quickest way to find books published by Christian publishers. This was the only way I could afford to grow my personal library at the time. Over the years, my library has grown with both new and second hand purchased novels until it’s now an untameable beast.

Step forward a few years more, and the existence of eBooks on Kindle, read both via the Kindle app on my phone and my actual Kindle, has changed the way I procure books and read them. It’s also made my “library” more mobile, as wherever I go, if I have my phone with me and enough battery power, I can continue with my latest read if I’m waiting somewhere.

Yet, I still prefer an actual physical copy of a book. There’s just something about it that cannot be replaced by convenience. It’s also a wonderful thing to read a good book and be able to share that book with someone else – something that I haven’t been able to do with my Kindle library as the ones who borrow my books don’t have a Kindle for me to share my Kindle reads with them. I’m finding that there is a place for both physical books and digital editions in my ever-growing library. They both have their advantages and disadvantages, and I wouldn’t be without either of them.

How about you? 

When did you discover Christian fiction? 

Did you easily find more of it once you realised it existed? 

Do you read both physical books and digital editions? 

Do you have a preference for either?

Narelle Atkins also touched on the topic of book buying habits in June last year. For those of you who responded in the comments on that post, have your book buying and reading habits changed in the past year? 

The attached images are ones of my personal library in it's current chaotic state. The huge gaps on some shelves are where books normally reside, but are currently out on loan. As you can see, the majority of shelves are two rows deep...

ELLIE WHYTE is a long-time supporter of Christian fiction and is the founder and owner/operator of Soul Inspirationz // The Christian Fiction Site which relaunched after a 5-year hiatus in January 2013. Ellie also has aspirations for her own writing career, and has begun working on a project set in New Zealand in the 1850s. 
Pinterest: SoulInspiredNZ


  1. I'm in my thirties and have been reading Christian fiction since I was about ten years old. My older sisters started reading it (I think) when we started attending a church that had a library. I followed their examples and started checking out the CBA young adult books. Those would have been the Mandie books by Lois Gladys Leppard and the Adventures of the Northwoods books by Lois Walfrid Johnson. I was always on pins and needles just waiting until church was over so I could go see if a new Mandie or Kate book was in the library!

    The first adult CBA book I remember reading was Sean Donavon by Lori Wick. I may be mistaken about that being the first, but that seems to stand out in my mind. I was probably about twelve or thirteen then. My sisters were reading those books and I picked that one up. I loved the cover with the many scenes from the story on it (not just a single person) and I thought the hero was soooo good looking. After reading it, I was hooked and took off reading Lori Wick's books. I tended to re-read those over and over again without branching out. After that my sisters and I discovered Robin Jones Gunn and went nuts over her books. Even as adults we still re-read her teen and adult books and faithfully purchase each new one that comes out. Each of us own our own copies of most all of her books. Our mom even reads them!

    I've been fortunate growing up to have had a Christan neighbor who loved to read. She would buy lots of new Christian fiction and let us girls borrow them from her. Our public library has had Christian ladies working there for years. They have faithfully kept the library supplied with all the latest Christian fiction. My oldest sister works there, so I give her long request lists. The digital library lets me request one book a month, so I take advantage of that as well. I suppose since the church library only has Christian fiction, as well as my neighbor, I began to recognize Christian publishers and automatically begin looking for those. Our public library has a little cross sticker on the spine to let one know that it's an inspirational book. A spy glass or footprints sticker is added to let you know it's also mystery/suspense. Now days I weed through all the Christian fiction on line, read reviews and blurbs, and only read the ones I think I will like. I don't read all Christian fiction that is available.

    I own a Kindle and enjoy using it, but probably prefer paper or hardcover books. There are some books though, that have such small type or are an awkward size to hold that I prefer reading those on a Kindle.

    There's a big smile on my face seeing your bookshelf pictures. I just had to enlarge them to see what books you own. :)

    I have about five authors whose books I automatically purchase. For the others I always check the books out of the library to read. If I love them or think they will be re-reads I usually put them on a wish list or purchase them on sale or used. The books I own (besides the free Kindle books) are ones I will probably re-read and want to keep. If it's a nice book and I only read it once I don't buy it.

    1. I love reading your "story of reading", Sylvia! Much of it mirrors mine - re-reading the books first discovered (in my case, Janette Oke's "Love Comes Softly" series, "Canadian West" series, and "Seasons of the Heart" series) and slow to discover anything else; revelling in finding all-new favourites; scouring the local library looking for those stickers on the book spines; and having a few authors on "auto-buy". :-)

  2. Great post, Ellie! Mum was a frustrated teacher, so she started teaching me to read when I was three. By the time I started Kindergarten, I'd already read not only the Kindergarten books but the First Class books too! I read everything I could get my hands on, and borrowed up to the maximum allowed from both the school library and the local library. I was that kid who read while eating, ready while walking, read by torchlight under the blankets after lights out, even managed to read in the shower without damaging the book (that does make me wonder how much of a shower I got!).

    I read Christian fiction without realising it in my early teens. CS Lewis, Tolkien, Madeleine L'Engle. Then after I became a Christian at 16, I also discovered Christian bookshops! As much as I could afford of my student nurse wages was spent on books. I scoured every second hand bookshop I could find.

    My biggest regret when I left Australia and moved to the UK wasn't leaving my family, I could fly back and see them anytime, it was having to sell off all my books, carefully collected over so many years. And as my English husband and I are thinking of moving country again soon, I just had to do it again :(

    Thank God for Kindle and ebooks! I prefer the feel and the whole experience of reading a "real" book, but I'm so glad to be able to carry so many of my books with me wherever I go.

    1. Aha! Reading by torchlight under the blankets was something I did too! I even remember the little torch I had. Reading while showering is something I could never do though! Reading in the bath however - a bit safer than in the shower LOL And I hear you about moving away and having to say goodbye to your book collection - even knowing I have many of my physical books also on Kindle, I would be so reluctant to part with my physical copies. I don't know how you did it! And twice!

  3. Ellie, it's always fun reading someone else's love for reading. Most of us have eclectic reading habits as evidenced by what's on our bookshelves. I grew up reading boys adventure books mostly but Wind in the Willows is still one of my all time favourites. Then through high school was introduced to the classics: Dickens, Austen, etc. Studied a few English Lit subjects at uni as part of my Economics degree where I read a mix of Nabokov, Kafka, Joyce to Elliott and Shelley to name a few. I also read a lot of plays as I love theatre. It was in the late 80s I was introduced to Peretti's Darkness duo.

    Besides the Left Behind series which I read (all 16 of them) my passion for Christian fiction has really only come to light in the last 15 years.

    Thanks Ellie for this post.

    1. Ecelctic is right. For many years I used to catalogue all my books,a nd keep a record of when I bought them. Many of them I even covered with clear duraseal to make them last longer. That turned out to be an expensive and time-consuming task so I stopped. Plus, I couldn't keep up at the rate I was collecting books at the time LOL

      I think also our tastes change as time goes on. What were my favourites 25 years ago are no longer my favourites. So many wonderful stories have been written since then that have captured my heart and imagination in a much greater capacity. However,. those early favourites I would now class as "classic faves", as they were the stories that set the bar for all those stories that were yet to come. Without them, I wouldn't have the favourites on my current list today.

  4. Had to smile at your slightly sagging shelves, Ellie. My husband's shelves have that to a greater degree with all his tomes. My collection of 'real' books remains much the same as I pass them all onto the church library. However my Kindle collection just keeps on growing for the convenience that it is. It's nice to be able to read in bed at night on my Kindle Paper White. It reminds me that when I was a child and told to turn out the light and, like Autumn, I'd burrow under the covers with a torch and continue reading my Biggles books and anything I could get my hands on.
    Also like Ian, it was quite some years into adulthood before I discovered Christian novels and began with the Thoene's series. Then I knew I had to begin writing my own historical romances.

    1. How fortunate your church library is to receive all your books, Rita! That's the beauty of the physical copy - being able to pass it on - whether that be permanently or on a borrowing basis. Either way, the blessing of Christian fiction is perpetuated... ready to be found by new fans. Without there being a library or friends for me to borrow from, I wouldn't have been able to read as much Christian fiction as I did in those early years. Such a privilege only fuelled my desire to own as many as I could afford, and share them from my own shelves.

      And yes, the shelves are quite saggy. I would love to afford good quality shelves one day - but that would mean culling the collection a fair bit! LOL

      I agree about reading Kindle at night - I don't have a Kindle Paper White, just a Kindle Touch, so that means having a torch attachment. However, my phone has a decent sized screen so the Kindle app on there works just as well as a Paper White. And it truly is reminiscent of reading by torchlight after being told to turn the lights off ;-)

  5. As a child I loved reading but struggled with it. My first books I loved after fairy tales were Enid Blyton. In Primary school they use to give us a Christian book for Sunday School so use to read them but I think the teachers didn't have any idea about series and what comes first as they would give each person a book in the series and often it wasn't number one. I know between a couple of us we read the Narnia series. I ended up buying my own series. The Peggy series is another Christian series I read so many times.

    As an adult it was the Canadian West Series by Janette Oke that got me back to reading and then I found some more books. My reading I also eclectic from historical, to contemporary, to light suspense to cosy mystery to light fantasy.

    1. Ah, Enid Blyton. Some of my first chapter books were the Secret Seven series. For some reason, I never like Famous Five. I've never been able to work out why. I just couldn't get into them as easily as Secret Seven. I also remember reading her 8-book Adventure Series.

      We're fortunate to be spoiled for choice these days in every genre when it comes to Christian fiction - historical, contemporary, suspense, cozy mystery, fantasy, and so much more. I'm so grateful the publishers took a chance on all these genres to give us the variety we can choose from as readers today. And very thankful for self-publishing as many authors have been able to republish their books that had gone out of print, which means we can still discover them today without having to scour the earth for second hand copies.

  6. So happy there is Christian fiction! Love reading good clean books!

  7. Ellie, great post! In recent months I've tried to be more selective in the Kindle ebooks I buy and download for free. I haven't purchased many print books, either. I used to keep lists of print books so I wouldn't accidentally buy the same book twice. I love how Kindle reminds us when we've already purchased a book :)

    1. I hear you Narelle - I've done something similar myself - not so much which freebies I buy, but which ones I have loaded on my Kindle. With so many freebies collected over the years, along with titles I've paid for, my Kindle came to a stand-still as it quickly ran out of memory. So all those freebies I sent back to archives - only to be downloaded when I'm ready to read them.


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