Thinking Out Loud

January 11, 2011

Top 40 Christian Books

I grew up on bestseller charts, especially ones dealing with popular music and various sub-genres. I read them, studied them, and at several stages of life was involved in preparing them. For me, Billboard Magazine was like a textbook; and I carried this love of charts into my still-growing affection for books and readings.

If you spend any time at all in the Christian blogosphere, you tend to get focused on a collection of titles that is both eclectic and esoteric, but one that doesn’t always reflect what’s going on in the trenches; what books are being scanned at the cash registers of various Christian stores. Furthermore, because the Christian blogosphere is not balanced denominationally — I’ve written about this before — certain publishers’ products tend to dominate.

So here’s a look at the top 40 Christian book chart from my part of the world — sans any additional commentary — which I think is fairly reflective of national trends in North America. The comment section is all yours to discuss any of the given authors or charts in general, but on the latter, remember that for Christian retailers, awareness of what people are buying is a necessary evil, and objectively,  nobody is presupposing that one book worthy of more  honor than any other on the list.


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9 Comments »

  1. Industry change- #28 stuff CHristians like. Sales expectations and publication decision based on the success of a blog. Wonder who will be next with a book rising from an existing ‘tribe’ of readers rather than the push and promotion from a publisher.

    Comment by Brian — January 11, 2011 @ 9:20 pm

    • Honestly, I think it’s always been this way. We have new words to describe the phenomenon — Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt talks about “platform” — and the blogosphere meant there was a big push on for younger writers in the last half dozen years; but really, ’twas ever thus. How many of the top Christian authors of the last 50 years rose to prominence because they were on Christian radio?

      Publishers aren’t going to sign unknown commodities.

      That said, SCL probably won’t make the list a few months from now.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — January 11, 2011 @ 9:57 pm

  2. What would the list look like if ‘Rev’ was added in front of the various guys who are pastors…? Having to preach regularly to a congregation provides ready content and a ready audience… books are relatively easy decisions … Does this make it harder for new, non-clergy, to get the sales?

    Comment by Brian — January 11, 2011 @ 9:24 pm

    • Yes, the content is already there in the sermons. And the books are actually penned by ghost writers from the notes.

      But people also want to hear from other “regular” people. I think the “Rev.” would be a detriment to sales and that’s why nobody does it.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — January 11, 2011 @ 9:58 pm

  3. Women are big readers of … fiction! Beverley Lewis, Karen Kingsbury and Francine Rivers are names I recognize…

    Comment by Brian — January 11, 2011 @ 9:27 pm

    • I thought, as far as the last half the year went, it was a rather tough time for fiction. I would have expected more to make this list, but they didn’t.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — January 11, 2011 @ 9:59 pm

  4. How many years has Wild at Heart been on the list? Published in 2001!! I guess this book has become the definitive tome on Christian masculinity… New writers need not try to deal with this subject. You’re not wanted by the reading public.

    Comment by Brian — January 11, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

    • I rarely respond to comments here at T.O.L., but you’ve touched on some good things in these four comments, Brian.

      It’s interesting to watch a book make the jump from short-term chart action to perennial. Boundaries is an example of a book that was just under the top 40 here, and it’s been out for about a dozen years, I think.

      Then there were our two long haired friends who just missed out on being on this: Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution and Bruxy Cavey’s The End of Religion. One I’d like to see make a resurgence is Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala. Or Inside Out by Larry Crabb.

      I was involved in the preparation of this chart, and I know of one newer book that almost made it, Grace Notes by Philip Yancey; I’m a huge fan of Yancey and should have fudged the numbers!!!

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — January 11, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

  5. thanks for the replies.

    Love your blog.

    I read it every day in my RSS feed.

    Comment by Brian — January 12, 2011 @ 9:18 pm


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