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September 28, 2009 8:49 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend authors who use fiction to convey religious beliefs, a la C. S. Lewis.

Not looking for religious books. Just books with a spiritual theme conveyed in a story. Lord of the Rings would fit.

The Shack would not.

Thanks MeFi!
posted by SLC Mom to Writing & Language (37 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Shiddhartha by Herman Hesse?
posted by lannanh at 8:53 PM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Golden Compass by Bill Pullman?
posted by lannanh at 8:54 PM on September 28, 2009 [4 favorites]

Oscar Wilde - many of his short stories are intensely religious (see, for example, The Selfish Giant).
posted by rodgerd at 8:59 PM on September 28, 2009

Flannery O'Connor and Evelyn Waugh
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:07 PM on September 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

A lot (if not all) of Max Lucado's books. Many are geared toward children. You Are Special, for instance.
posted by Sassyfras at 9:07 PM on September 28, 2009

You might try some of Lewis's own favorites, such as George MacDonald (Phantastes, Lilith), and Charles Williams.

G.K. Chesterton: Father Brown; The Man Who Was Thursday.

Giovanni Guareschi's Don Camillo stories are delightful.

Diane Duane and Madeleine L'Engle both have fantasy series with (a la Lewis) a somewhat obfuscated Christianity.

Seconding Philip Pullman, who seems to personally dislike Lewis while being very much like him.
posted by zompist at 9:09 PM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Not personally a fan of GK Chesterton, but he does this a lot.
Madeleine L'Engle does too, not as overtly as CS Lewis.
And of course, there is a lot of allegorical lit in this vein. A ton of pre-modern stuff, like Piers Plowman (Piers is a real snooze though, I cannot recommend it.) Pilgrim's Progress (haven't read it myself).
posted by phoenixy at 9:15 PM on September 28, 2009

Try the short story A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 9:21 PM on September 28, 2009

in a weird way, anything by Ayn Rand.
posted by philip-random at 9:29 PM on September 28, 2009

I'm not sure if these will meet your needs, but...

Morris West's novels (fiction, but in Christian settings and with Christian messages). I liked all of them, but perhaps The Clowns of God was my favorite.

Nikos Kazantzakis's Saint Francis, which is excellent. And perhaps, although controversial, his The Last Temptation of Christ.

Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory is very good.

An oddball one: I would argue that Stephen King's The Stand is the classic Christian good-versus-evil tale. It's definitely there, but it does not beat you over the head (in the same way that C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia are Christian stories without being too overt).

And of course, Dante's trilogy of Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.
posted by Houstonian at 9:31 PM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding Evelyn Waugh. Especially Brideshead Revisited.

Anything by Walker Percy. Especially The Moviegoer.

Dostoevsky, especially The Brothers Karamazov.

Hugo, especially Les Miserable.
posted by jefficator at 9:36 PM on September 28, 2009

Jorge Luis Borges--though on second though, I can't be certain at all about his beliefs. Still, well worth the trouble.
posted by LucretiusJones at 9:43 PM on September 28, 2009

I think the final book puts the Harry Potter series firmly into this category.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:05 PM on September 28, 2009

Many people argue that the Twilight series is strongly influenced by the author's Mormon faith.
posted by jacalata at 10:13 PM on September 28, 2009

Ouspenksy's "Strange Life of Ivan Osokin".
posted by Burhanistan at 10:27 PM on September 28, 2009

Attar's "The Conference of the Birds".
posted by Burhanistan at 10:30 PM on September 28, 2009

"The Ramayana" is a religious book but is also a great story.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:31 PM on September 28, 2009

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. R. A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn. Stephen R. Donaldson's The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever. For a pagan view dive into Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon.
posted by EnsignLunchmeat at 10:32 PM on September 28, 2009

What about Richard Bach books? Jonathan Livingston Seagull maybe.
posted by lannanh at 10:38 PM on September 28, 2009

Once you get past "The Lottery," a lot of Shirley Jackson's writing has real spiritual bite to it. Her stories remind me a lot of Flannery O'Connor's — not because their style is similar, necessarily, but because they both write very pointedly about the awful moral weight of everyday life without actually coming out and saying "God" or "religion."

Also, Maugham's The Razor's Edge. Best theological shaggy dog story ever.

And Salinger, increasingly so towards the end of his career, although for my money the sweet spot between "not there yet" and "off the deep end" in Salinger's writing was very brief. If you're going for overt religious content, you want Franny and Zooey, although I think that one's probably hard to swallow if you don't get to it when you're still a teenager — but it's at least got a coherent plot and a clear moral. If you like your religious messages more cryptic, try Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters, although that's already getting too loopy for some people. In case you can't tell, I've got a love/hate relationship with the guy.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:38 PM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I thought of another that might fit: Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz.
posted by Houstonian at 10:49 PM on September 28, 2009

The Life of Pi by Yann Martell is a sort of apologia for faith.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:52 PM on September 28, 2009

I'll second EnsignLunchmeat's nod to Stranger in a Strange Land, although you're in for a reread if you haven't yet read any Heinlein. And, to comment on lannanh's suggestion of Siddhartha, that one's almost a religious text for the lazy. For more Hesse suggestions, check out The Glass Bead Game or Demian ... then again, I don't think I've read one Hesse work yet that wouldn't be able to fit in this category.
posted by neewom at 11:04 PM on September 28, 2009

Given that you've already mentioned the Christianity-infused fantasy and science fiction of Lewis and Tolkien, I'll suggest Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun (actually a quartet of four books), as well as the related books, The Book of the Long Sun and The Book of the Short Sun. Futuristic stuff in the "dying earth" vein, heavily informed by Wolfe's Catholic faith and written brilliantly enough to put Tolkien to shame.

Also in the science fiction vein, the short stories of Cordwainer Smith, Walter M. Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz, and for a far less conventional take, Philip K. Dick's work, in particular VALIS, The Divine Invasion, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer and Radio Free Albemuth. And for more examinations of religious themes in science fiction, there's a great blog on the topic called Claw of the Conciliator.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:41 PM on September 28, 2009 [4 favorites]

I came here to post pretty what what infinitywaltz posted, except he did it ten minutes ago. So I'll just agree with infinitywaltz: Wolfe.
posted by Justinian at 11:50 PM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Rudy Rucker started doing this in his last few books. White Light is the worst offender, but Spaceland has a fair bit of it.

And if you want to call what Robert Anton Wilson is peddling a religion, he's got a zillion books about it.
posted by Netzapper at 1:36 AM on September 29, 2009

Peter Kreeft
posted by keith0718 at 2:01 AM on September 29, 2009

Not the usual "religions", but...

A lot of Ursula LeGuin's sci-fi projects or encapsulates Zen Buddhism, or at least the conflict between "do" and "be". See The Lathe of Heaven, starring a classic non-hero, for one of the most obvious examples.

As IW mentions, a lot of Philip K. Dick's work, especially the later stuff around VALIS, is both explicitly and implicitly about gnostic Christianity... on about nine intersecting levels that give me a headache.

All of Kurt Vonnegut is aggressively humanist.
posted by rokusan at 3:16 AM on September 29, 2009

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac. It's autobiographical, but still, fiction.

And yes, His Dark Materials triology is a defense of atheism/attack on the Church in YA form, much like Narnia is a Christian allegory.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:28 AM on September 29, 2009

Micheal Gruber with the Jimmy Paz series explores vodun and some other non-standard religions (oh, and Christianity in the second one) in a pretty serious way.

Also, maybe, Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt
posted by carmen at 6:01 AM on September 29, 2009

I think the final book puts the Harry Potter series firmly into this category.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:05 PM on September 28 [+] [!]

Definitely seconding this.
posted by atrazine at 6:37 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

"The Ramayana" is a religious book but is also a great story.

And, it's been rewritten into a variety of genres, including anime, soap opera, and pulp science fiction.

I've been a fan of R. Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing stuff. It's very dark and violent fantasy with prominent religious, political, and philosophical themes.

Also, Neal Stephenson's Anathem (Platonism, Religion and Science) or Baroque Cycle (Alchemy) might qualify. They're darn good reads in any case.

Also, seconding Russel's The Sparrow and its sequel.

Also, Frank Herbert's Dune has a lot of interesting stuff to say about ecology and religion. Just stay away from most of the sequels. I liked 1,2,5, and 6.

I also like E.L. Doctorow's City of God (not sci fi)
posted by reverend cuttle at 7:09 AM on September 29, 2009

Thanks everybody. These are some great ideas.
I have read some, am familiar with some others, and love hearing about the rest.
This is for a writing project of my daughter's but I am fascinated by all the ideas as well.
Thank you!
posted by SLC Mom at 7:49 AM on September 29, 2009

Charles Johnson's Oxherding Tale.
posted by sculpin at 9:41 AM on September 29, 2009

I'd argue that Melville's Moby-Dick qualifies, as would any of the American transcendentalists and most British romanticists.
posted by wheat at 11:07 AM on September 29, 2009

I've been reading about this fellow, Olaf Stapledon (and of course there's a Mefi post about him), but I haven't read any of his stuff yet. Sounds fascinating, and along the lines of what's being recommended here.
posted by Bron at 5:58 PM on September 29, 2009

Don't forget J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. It seems exactly what you're looking for.
posted by jayne at 11:58 AM on October 19, 2009

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