what book should I review next?

My extended review of Fascinating Womanhood is almost over– it should be done in about five weeks, unless something comes up. When I started this review project, I began it with the intention that this would be a regular feature on my blog– not just Fascinating Womanhood, but other Christian marriage-advice books or “biblical womanhood” books.

As this project is close to being finished, I’ve started doing research into what book I should do next, and frankly, it’s a little bit overwhelming. There are so many, and with very few exceptions the Christian-marriage-advice-book market is flooded with books that lean toward or outright embrace complementarianism, patriarchy, and traditional gender roles.

So, I’m open to suggestions in the comments, or you can pick one of the books in the poll above. Each of the books in the above poll came from some form of “best Christian marriage book” list– Amazon, goodreads, ChristianBook.com, etc. My reading through comments and reviews indicated that all of these books are popular in a variety of settings– that they’re assigned as “required reading” for pre-marital counseling sessions, that people read them individually, that they’re recommended by pastors for struggling marriages in a wide array of churches and denominations.

The poll will be open for a month.

Also, since this is the first time I’ve done something like this, let me know if you have any technical problems!

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  • I’m sorry. I’ve not read any of those. (Maybe, that’s a good thing!) Samantha, you have a gift for communicating what many of us are thinking. Anytime that someone says that ‘this is the definitive word of god on marriage, relationships, gender roles, etc.” it’s time for our red flags to be flying. Pick any of the above. Ok, maybe not ‘any.’ If it was up to me, I’d pick whatever was written by the most influential person(s). I’m really looking forward to reading your insightful posts on whatever piece you finally rest upon.

  • Oh man, Elizabeth Elliott was my heroine in high school, and unfortunately I got a lot of damaging messages in the process. Also, I happen to know the “Kendrick brothers” since I went to the high school that’s run by their church (the one that did Fireproof and other movies). It’s so weird that non-local people actually know who they are now. I remember Stephen doing a chapel service for our high school in which he talked about his upcoming marriage. He said that they were saving all their sexual intimacy for marriage and compared it to walking through a door: people who did “everything else” were banging on the door screaming let me in. He then said “here’s what I’ll do” and winked before walking from the middle of the gym to the door and throwing it open. I can only imagine what kind of advice his book would have.

    • Am I the only one who’s crossing my legs in overactive-imaginary sympathy?

      • Kreine

        No. No, you are not. O.o


      • sunnyside

        No, not the only one. Eek.

  • “To Train Up A Child” by Michael and Debbie Pearl

    I warn you: it’s pretty horrific.

    • Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism is already going through that one, but it’s a good suggestion, thank you.

  • I feel so conflicted. The Driscolls I’m sure will offer much headslapping and high blood pressure, but I also want to know if there’s dirt on John Piper because I hear a lot of people referencing him in my area. He’s supposed to be “deep,” according to this one dude I know, but I’m not sure how much our definitions of “deep” coincide.

  • Wild at Heart / Captivating. Those are really popular in my evangelical circle of friends.

    • Courtney

      Ditto. These were practically required reading in my evangelical youth group!

  • cm

    it looks like a list of books from my mom’s bookshelf. I couldnt really decide, lol, but voted for Elliot because my parents debated over whether she was too liberated/feminist, and later regretted letting me read her books. HAHA! i threw them all out a few years ago when i realized some stuff, lol.

  • Love & Respect. It’s subtle rather than blatant, which makes it pretty darn suspicious in my book.

  • Jon

    I would be most likely to read a review of either the Driscolls’ book, or wild at heart, as those would definitely make me want to scream. But on the other hand, I look forward to the day when conservative and fundamentalist evangelicalism takes its rightful place at the extreme fringe of society, so we don’t even talk about it anymore.

  • I… can’t really in good conscience recommend ANY of these, haha. I fear for your blood pressure.

  • I know that His Needs, Her Needs is still a popular book, but it is old and very outdated. I think its hogwash at best and dangerous at worst, but I’m very biased against it because a pastor and his wife drilled my ex-husband and I with its nonsense and used it to blame me for my ex-husband’s infidelity. Elizabeth Eliot is also from a generation or two ago, so her advice is also outdated. I think Captivated is interesting, and would love to hear what you have to say about it. I have the book and have only read about 3 chapters, but I have enjoyed it so far. I haven’t read any of the others.

    • I suspect that an in-depth examination of any of these books will find that they are hogwash at best and dangerous at worst.

  • Margaret

    I like Charlie Shedd. His books came from letters he wrote to his own two children, because they asked him to. I’m old (55), but my husband and i found his advice to be practical. Why read something that you know you will hate?

    • Because people need to know what are in these books, what lessons they’re unconsciously absorbing. That matters more.

      • Liralen

        I was going to say the same thing as Margaret. Maybe read something from the secular side and compare? Or would that make you feel worse? I don’t read these types of books so having nothing to recommend. However, the first time I was married was in a Unitarian Universalist church. The pastor gave us a copy of The Intimate Enemy: How to Fight Fair in Love and Marriage by George Robert Bach, Peter Wyden. I never read it (it wouldn’t have helped. Nothing would have, except to have taken the pastor’s advice to not marry him) so don’t know how good it is and it’s pretty dated by now. But maybe your readers can recommend something similar.

        P.S. Posting at work (lunchbreak!), if you’re checking IPs.

        • I did think about going through a book like Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus, but there are already many feminists who have been willing to tackle books like that one. It’s unlikely, tho, that secular feminists would take anything a Christian marriage advice book says seriously enough to critique it.

  • Oh man…a co-worker gave my husband “Love and Respect” when we got married last year. I hadn’t read it before, but I grew up in that culture. Our IM conversation went like this (SPOILERS!):

    Him: So-and-so gave us a book! It’s called Love and Respect.
    Me: Oh, by that guy with two “E” names.
    Him: Oh have you read it? It was a nice gift but I don’t really like books like this…
    Me: You don’t have to read it. I can tell you what it says.
    Him: What does it say????
    Me: I will give you a prediction and then we can test it tonight! You bring wine.
    Him: Ok.
    Me: It’s obvs based on Eph. 5:33, which means it’s probably not an egalitarian interpretation (they tend to not base entire books on that one verse). Woman primarily need love to feel they are in a successful relationship. This means that women need to feel taken care of and their husbands need to say a lot of really sweet things all the time and also surprise them with lots of things flowers and doing her chores. I bet it places a heavy emphasis on women’s “verbal” skills and “intuition.” I bet he says that wives may disagree with their husbands or even stop showing love (!) but they have to do it respectfully so that dude doesn’t feel emasculated. I bet the love/respect thing is presented as a vicious cycle.
    Him: Well the first chapter is called “The Crazy Cycle!”
    Me: I bet that “showing respect” is a lot more specific and harder than “showing love.” I also bet that there is an implication that women shouldn’t trust their emotions and that is why they need to be constantly told they are loved. Because they KEEP FORGETTING! They need reassurance! Men don’t!
    Him: I love reassurance!
    Me: Also I bet money that if/when he talks about men having affairs, the wife is blamed, either directly or because she “didn’t show enough respect” so he obvs had to find it elsewhere.

    So husband and I split a bottle of wine and read it almost all the way through in one night. I was right on every single point. Not because I have amazing literary insight but because I heard it so many, many times before.

    Tl;dr: I will read any/all of your reviews but will break out the wine for this one. 🙂

  • Kreine

    I’ve (unfortunately) read about half of those books. *twitch, shudder* You’d be doing a public service by reviewing any of them.

    I haven’t read anything by Driscoll, and although I’m morbidly curious, I don’t really want you to destroy your mental health by doing a review.

  • Seems like six of one and a half dozen of the other. Clones saying the same garbage.

  • I’m not familiar with most of the books, so I voted Love and Respect,,,,one I’ve actually read. Lots of gender stereotypes including women having pink hearing aids and pink eyeglasses which causes them to view the world differently than men…the men of course have blue hearing aids and blue eyeglasses.

  • G

    I would like to read some reviews of some good relationship books!

  • Sarah

    Definitely Love and Respect. My PCA church of very highly educated New Englanders shocked me by swallowing it whole. I submitted a paper to the session pointing out the falsehoods, but got nowhere. The author is a licensed therapist, with a PhD. Weirdly, he claims God directly revealed the L and R secret to him alone. He says that “secular science” at U of Washington has now “confirmed his discovery.” (Kind of like Joseph Smith claiming that the Egyptologist at Columbia University confirmed his translations.)

    Every single thing Emmerson Eggerichs says is clever twist. He’s kind of a smartypants who gets away with saying horrible things about women. But in a matchup, my money would be on you!

    • Caroline M

      The PCA denomination is explicitly not egalitarian. They teach the equal but different roles crap and will not allow women to hold positions of authority. So yeah that’s not shocking that they would like a book like that.

  • Tess

    “Strengthening Your Marriage,” by Wayne Mack. It’s dry and perhaps not as entertaining to poke fun of, but I suppose that’s its hook in a way. It’s the kind of cold, detached, compendium of mainstream complementarian ideas of which that CBMW would heartily approve, and the intellectual complementarians would have no way of painting it as a “strawman” argument, or “fringe” book–after all, it’s pretty much a straight compilation of their thoughts.

    My now husband and I were assigned it at our now former church, and honestly, the most depressing thing about it was knowing that these ideas were considered mainstream in evangelicalism. The church itself certainly wasn’t what I would consider fringe. :/