Top Ten Tuesday: Books that Tackle Tough Issues

Disclaimer: I tend to avoid books that get lauded for Dealing with Tough Issues, generally because—as noted yesterday—I prefer stories without agendas. To be fair, sometimes the agenda is in the marketing or even the reviews. Unfortunately, it annoys me there, too.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Do come join the fun...

So I simply haven't read most of the currently-popular issue books. But here's a list of well-told stories that provide beautiful and redemptive coverage of some of humanity's deepest difficulties.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee). I love it for its immense compassion toward the vulnerable, and it also shows a heartbreaking picture of human injustice.

2. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoevsky). Here, there is hope and redemption for the murderer and the prostitute, and therefore all of us.

3. Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling). If this series doesn't make you consider your own heart and make you want to be braver, kinder, more loving in the face of weakness and need and death, I don't know what will.

4. Speaker for the Dead (Orson Scott Card). The man who unintentionally destroyed a race of sentient beings shows understanding to an abusive husband, an angry and faithless woman, a family of desperate children, and a species that murders its honored citizens. And he searches for a way to right his own wrong in the process. It's beautiful.

5. If You Love Me (Patricia M. St. John). Amid war, hatred, and loss, an Arab Christian girl finds healing through self-sacrifice, forgiveness, the love of a Muslim baby, and her murdered brother's best friend.

6. Kristin Lavransdatter (Sigrid Undset). The consequences of Kristin's sexual wrongs as a teenager have a startling reach into her relationships and outlook as she ages, yet she still finds redemption.

7. Christy (Catherine Marshall). A seventeen-year-old city girl chooses a missionary life teaching in deep Appalachian poverty, and learns a very active form of faith and love.

8. Till We Have Faces (C.S. Lewis). Lewis lets his main character wrong others again and again through her all-too-powerful jealousy, controlling nature, and insecurity. All the while, of course, walking her toward grace.

9. That Hideous Strength (C.S. Lewis). While the world shudders under threat of cold totalitarianism, Ransom and Mark and Jane deal with gender roles, loveless marriage, the use of magic, and the various temptations of power.

10. Les Miserables (Victor Hugo). All right, Hugo does soapbox way too much. But I'm letting him into this list for his exquisite pictures of justice and mercy.

What do you recommend?


  1. I've never heard of That Hideous Strength by CS Lewis. I a fan of his writing. Does it have a Christian theme?

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  2. Thanks, Anne!

    That Hideous Strength is the last of Lewis' Space Trilogy (the first two are Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra.) All three have Christian themes, and are intriguing sci-fi books besides. :)

  3. Oh, I love your list! You've got some different books that others didn't pick like...Christy, Les Mis, and The Hidden Strength. Good job!!!

  4. I love that you included To Kill a Mockingbird.

    Reading Lark's Top 10

  5. Mm, some fabulous books here. Another one that deals with some tough issues-- death, wanton cruelty, and the sad state of the world-- is Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. I love that one because it gives such a feeling of hope. I also love My Name is Asher Lev, because it deals with some tough issues of family, religion, and being who you are.

    Thanks for sharing these!

  6. Thanks, Kathy! It was a fun list to write. :)

    Andrea, the list wouldn't have been complete without that one!

    Shallee, ooh--I haven't read Donnelly's Revolution! Sounds good. I'll add it to my reading list. I have read My Name is Asher Lev, and thought it an incredibly beautiful and painful story. Its sequel was good too, though I liked the first one best.

  7. A few of these I haven't heard of.

    My Top Ten


  8. I'm with you on this one. I don't like books with agendas. Probably why I hated reading The Borrower. And I hate that I hated that book.

    Here's my Top Ten Books Tackling Tough Issues. And don't forget to enter my July giveaway!

  9. Late again.

    The Giver trilogy by Lois Lowry. And Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman, a very unsettling read. Both are terrific.


  10. I haven't read The Borrower, Deb! But then, there's probably a good reason for that. :)

    Arabella, someday I will actually read The Giver! That's one of my shame-on-me-for-not-having-read-its. I don't think I've even heard of the Trueman book. I looked it up, though, and it sounds fantastic.


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