Happy Friday, friends! Today I’m discussing some books that incorporate religion. I’ve always found religion and people’s relationship to religion really interesting. I’ve always been interested in how religion shapes people’s lives, so it’s always particularly interesting when that’s an aspect of books. So I thought it could be interesting to discuss some books where religion is an important part of the book.
For this post, I’m using the term “religion” fairly broadly, and am also including things like cultural traditions that are rooted in religion. I also didn’t include books that are heavily reliant on religion, if that makes sense. I know there are a lot of books that heavily incorporate religious imagery into the meaning or mission of the story, but being honest, I haven’t read the bible and don’t often pick up on those images. So instead, I focused on books where religion or culture is an important part of the character’s lives.
The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir: in this book, the main character’s father is a television pastor and her family are stars are a religious TV show. Religion has a really important influence on her and her family’s actions, as well as some of the side characters. There’s a really interesting discussion about religion and these influences, especially on young people.
Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin: the two main characters in this book, Ayesha and Khalid, are Muslim and are observant in different ways. Khalid is very traditional, and while he is open-minded about a lot of things, he is fairly unwilling to waver on a lot of his beliefs. Ayesha is less traditional in a lot of ways, but still follows many important traditions. The exploration of Islamic culture in modern society was one of the most interesting parts of this book, particularly Khalid’s views. He was so traditional about certain things, yet so open-minded about others, yet so judgemental of those who were less devout than he was, yet able to recognize that that was their personal decision. I essentially enjoyed everything about this book, though, and highly recommend it.
Women Talking by Miriam Toews: this book follows eight Mennonite women attempting to determine whether they should leave their faith for their and their families’ safety, or stay in the faith as they are told to do. The discussions in this book were so interesting. I also really appreciated how the women were portrayed: they are subservient in their faith, and yet they were real people. They had opinions and wanted to stand up for themselves, and grappling with what they’ve been told they can do and what they wanted to do was really interesting.
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki: one of the narrators, Nao’s, aunt is a Buddhist nun who lives in a secluded monastery. Her aunt’s influence on Nao’s life was really interesting and one of my favourite parts of this book. Buddhism is such an interesting religion/belief system, and seeing it incorporated into this book was really interesting.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel: the titular character of this novel, Pi, practices Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. His relationship with and coming into each of these religions is so fascinating, and I loved reading about it. His convictions and devotion to each religion, even when stranded on a boat in the middle of the ocean, was really interesting to read about. This is one of my favourite books, and I cannot recommend it enough.
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline: the Marrow Thieves is an Indigenous-inspired dystopian novel and draws on Indigenous beliefs and myths. A lot of Indigenous stories are told by the characters to each other, and a lot of their actions and decisions are based on traditional Indigenous teachings. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book and thought it made it much stronger. It was really interesting to see how Indigenous ways would be influenced by a dystopian society, and I highly recommend this book.
The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant: this book follows a Jewish woman growing up in Boston during the early 1900s. Obviously, Judaism is a really important part of her life, but so are the religious and beliefs of her friends. The religious aspects of this book are definitely not as prevalent as they are in some of the other books I’ve mentioned, but it’s still really interesting to see their presence. I really enjoyed everything about this book and cannot recommend it enough.
So, those are some books with religious aspects in them! Have you read any of them? What were your thoughts? Do you have any recommendations for similar books? Do you also enjoy religious influence on books? Let me know!