Booking Through Thursday: Best Bad Book?

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The weekly Booking Through Thursday question for today is:

Suggested by Janet:

The opposite of last week’s question: “What’s the best ‘worst’ book you’ve ever read — the one you like despite some negative reviews or features?”

I’ve been pondering this question for the last hour or so while going about my morning routine. I can’t think of anything recent, though there might be something not coming to mind. I don’t really choose books based on what the general public or professional reviews say, but I do like to read reviews and recommendations of people I know to some degree.

In that vein, I’ve been surprised to see through various book challenges and memes that a lot of people don’t like Dickens. I love Dickens. His were some of the first classics I read as an adult. I recently saw David Copperfield describes as somewhat vapidly standing still while all the action happened around him. I was shocked. To me David Copperfield is all about character development. Here is a child starting out with several strikes against him — his father dies before he is born, his mother marries the cold, hard, authoritarian Mr. Murdstone who eventually sends David away, he faces cruelty at boarding school and a brief stint in factory work, his mother dies — he could have turned into a criminal, a “victim,” or a hard and bitter man, yet he becomes a man of character and decency. In fact, he is one of the few normal people in the book amidst the almost caricatural Micawber, Uriah Heep, and Aunt Betsey Trotwood.

I’ve also been surprised to discover that a lot of Christian women don’t like Janette Oke, and the term “prairie romances,” which I think must be aimed at her work since her first series (Love Comes Softly) and many of her other books took place on the prairie, used derogatorily. (I don’t know why we can say a certain genre just doesn’t appeal to us without having to be negative about it). Though I had read Not My Will by Francena Arnold and a couple of Eugenia Price books beforehand, my love of Christian fiction began with Mrs. Oke. Her books weren’t just simple stories to me, or even “romances” — there were illustrations of spiritual truth fleshed out in both the crises and the everyday lives of her characters. To me that’s what the best of Christian fiction does.

Some time I’d love to revisit both Dickens and some of Janette Oke’s earlier works to see if they still speak to me as they did years ago. I think they would: I think that’s what defines a classic.

If you like, you can visit the Booking Through Thursday site to see what others thought about this question.

(Updated to add: since I mentioned Janette Oke, I thought some might be interested in reading about author Kim Vogel Sawyer meeting Janette at the Christian Book Expo here.)

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12 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday: Best Bad Book?

  1. I find that I also enjoy Dickens. I’ve been looking for some of his books and cannot even find them which I’m finding surprising.

  2. Did you know Janet Oke has started a new series with another author, I think Davis T. Bunn, the first one being “The Centurion’s Wife”. I enjoyed her “prairie stories” too for the same reasons as you. I would have to really think about this question too.

  3. I love Janette Oke, she was the first “adult” book that I picked up (when I was maybe 8 or 9???) and I fell in love with her writing! I’ve read pretty much everything that she has written LOL

  4. I read Love come softly years ago and totally forgot about her. I’ll have to check out some of her other books. I have yet to read Dickens though we have his books on our shelves. It is one of those “I will read it someday” books. 🙂

    My post is up now here

  5. I see a big difference in Francena Arnold and Janette Oke. To me there is a quality of layering and depth in Arnold’s characters that is not present in Oke’s. I’m glad that you enjoy her work greatly; that’s just my own honest take on the two.

  6. I suppose last week’s and this week’s question are really the same one. It depends on how you look at the question. A good book can be bad and vice versa.

  7. Dickens is a great literary writer; history has proven that. However, I do not like to read him. He’s too wordy for me, although I appreciate his ability.

    Some early Christian writers wrote in a nonliterary manner–so simplistic than even children could “get” it. (One of your earlier commenters said she was 8 or 9 when she first read Oke’s works.)

    I like literature–something more complex–with round characters and complex, compound sentences. So this Christian doesn’t care for Oke.

  8. Ann and Sally, I kind of look at it like “Trust and Obey” and Handel’s Messiah — they each have their place and each show forth God’s truth. Some might like one better than the other, but God uses both. One isn’t necessarily better or worse because it is simpler or more layered.

  9. I very much enjoyed Janette Oke’s “prairie romances”. They are simple stories without the layering referred to above — but they provide a glimpse of love, marriage and romance from a Christian rather than a worldly prospective, and that is important in today’s society where too much focus is placed on sex, and almost none is placed on other aspects of relationships.

  10. I can’t believe I missed this week’s btt… I was out of town yesterday!

    I too love Dickens. I can understand being impatient with his style (along with other Victorian novelists!), but as long as I’m prepared for that I always come away from his stories feeling very satisfied.

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