Mission Round Table 16:3 (September–December 2021): 10
Reading Evangelicals: How Christian Fiction Shaped a Culture and a Faith
Daniel Silliman. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2021. ISBN 978-0-8028-7935-6. 286 pp.
Reading Evangelicals presents an insightful historical account of best-selling Christian fiction and a thought-provoking analysis of how American evangelical pop culture has been shaped by the changing book markets that it helped to build. Silliman looks in turn at five best-selling novels—Love Comes Softly, This Present Darkness, Left Behind, The Shunning, and The Shack—and analyses the imaginative worlds each novel conjures, its appeal to readers, and how it connects people into community. He examines the major forces at work in these fictional worlds, how they operate, and how they manifest God.
Through his well-researched discussion of these novels, Silliman assesses the meaning of American evangelicalism and perceptively draws out what these novels reveal about their authors, publishers, the bookstores that sold them, and the masses who read them.
He further guides readers through the broader contexts and trends surrounding the changes in evangelical publishing in the past few decades as well as the impact of marketing best-selling Christian fiction by Walmart, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. More than an engaging documentary history, Reading Evangelicals raises important questions about evangelical identity and will benefit readers who wish to understand the past and future of one form of Christian pop culture.