Survival Of The Fit-Test: Why Do Some Books Last?

Posted by Les Ellison  ·  Be the first to comment

Some books are never out of print. Some books are more popular now than the day they were first published. What is it makes a book written for one generation survive the test of time and be loved by the generations that follow?

Here are Seven +1 Magnificent Christian Books - novels, devotionals and commentaries, that have stood the test of time throughout the last 5 to 500 years... and are still standing !


5 years built and still standing strong  

the house you build out of your own pain… the thing where shame or hurt is centred" – William P Young

  • The Shack (William P Young -2007) This story of a man drawn by sadness and a loss into a conversation with all three persons of the Trinity became a 10 million copy bestseller within 2 years. The Shack offers readers an approachable, down-to-earth God. Exploring the places where hurting people get stuck in shame and guilt, the story meets the need for healing, assurance of justice, forgiveness, the reality of heaven and ultimate reunion.


10 years and still driving with purpose 

A blueprint for Christian living in the 21st Century" – Rick Warren

  • The Purpose Driven Life (Rick Warren - 2002) The 40 session personal and group study devotional that topped the bestseller charts with over 30 million copies sold in five years.The widely used and reprinted study steers a spiritual route with a clear and simple focus on God's five purposes for human life. Now after 10 years, the book has been re-covered and two additional chapters have been added for a new Christians to build a spiritually rich life.


30 years reviving the inner Christian life

By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done." - Richard J Foster

  • Celebration of Discipline (Richard J. Foster - 1978) Recently republished, this million seller was nameed by Christianity Today in their top ten books of the twentieth century. Uniting the inward disciplines of prayer, fasting and meditation with the outward and the corporate disciplines of the Christian life, this is the classic that launched and continues to drive the practice and application of the ‘new’ spirituality.


50 years cutting it on the streets 

You could cut me up into a thousand pieces and lay them in the street, and every piece will still love you." - David Wilkerson

  • The Cross and the Switchblade (David Wilkerson - 1962) The 15 million copy, 30 language bestseller hard-earned among the violence, drugs and gangs of New York. Adapted for cinema, stage, graphic novel and teaching aid, the story resonates with lives damaged by gang, crime or drug culture. With a track record for transforming lives - especially among prisoners and violent offenders, its themes of restoration, liberation - and a Christ with a real street-level presence, keep it an effective give-away witness.

60 years of charming grown-ups and children 

Let us suppose… that the Son of God, as he became a Man in our world, became a Lion there… what would happen.' - C S Lewis

  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C S Lewis - 1950) Included in TIME Magazine’s 100 Best Language English Novels from 1923 to 2005, and published in 47 other languages. Much debated by grown ups-as a theological allegory, it has all the essential ingredients of a perennially successful children’s book: a world where the writ of parents doesn’t run, where animals talk, magic rules and evil can be defeated by a childlike conviction of what is good and right and pure.


300 years influential comment on Bible study

It is easy to be religious when religion is in fashion; but it is an evidence of strong faith and resolution to swim against a stream to heaven." - Matthew Henry

  • Commentary On The Whole Bible (Matthew Henry c1708–1710) Rich in metaphors and memorable phrases, and an influence on Christian thinkers for 300 years later. The verse by verse commentaries take the King James as presented. Rather than criticism of the text, Matthew Henry offers explanation devotional purposes and a practical guide to the applying the meaning in daily life.


400 years of mapping the Christian journey

But brother ... I have it in commission, to comfort the feeble-minded, and to support the weak." – John Bunyan

  • The Pilgrim's Progress (Paul Bunyan - 1678) Written in a prison cell, translated into 200 languages and cultures and never out of print. The staunchly Puritan narrative describes the Christian spiritual life in terms of a long and dangerous journey to its ultimate goal: The Celestial City. With universally recognisable characters, and with physical as well as piritual dangers along the way, the story adapts readily to modern audiences and media.


500 years in print and still the one to imitate

How undisturbed a conscience we would have if we never went searching after ephemeral joys nor concerned ourselves with affairs of the world..." - Thomas a Kempis

  • The Imitation of Christ (Thomas à Kempis - c1418-1427) This devotional handbook for the spiritual life is out-printed and out-translated only by the Bible. Written mosly as a dialogue, the book provides spiritual instructions with an emphasis on the interior life and withdrawal from the world. This is contrast to insisting on the imitation of Christ’s outward actions sets the book apart from other instructionals now as it did then.


What is the fitness test for Christian books?

So what do these eight books tell us about enduring Christian classics that stand the test of time?

  • They answer a question, concern or need that always needs an answer.
  • Each generation sees a value for itself and for the one that follows.
  • It can be re-presented in another media such as film, theatre or graphic novel.
  • No matter what the setting, the story is timeless with a constant truth.
  • The form and content is simple enough to follow, but deep enough to explore.
  • The story or the ideas take you to a place where you can make discoveries.
  • Even when it's closed, its truths and meaning help you understand and live your life.
  • It stands re-reading, referring and has relevance to every walk and stage of life


Got your own long lived book or fitness test?

In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you." - Mortimer Jerome Adler

  • Have you got your own long surviving Christian book and how did you come by it?
  • What do you think gives a book 'survival fitness and which do you think has it?
1st November

November 1st, 2012 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison

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