Books that meet high moral standards and contain limited foul language, sexual content, and descriptions of violence.

Austin, Lynn

All She Ever Wanted (Christian historical, Evangelical)

“A trip meant to salvage her relationship with her daughter changes course as Kathleen reexamines her own childhood. But even more enlightening are the stories of Eleanor, her once-vibrant mother, and Fiona, the grandmother she barely knew. The more Kathleen learns, the more answers she seeks concerning her family’s mysterious past. Yet with the past exposed, Kathleen is torn between her need to forgive and the urge to forget.”

Eve’s Daughters (Christian historical, Evangelical)

“Yearning for love and dignity, four generations of women must come to grips with the choices they’ve made—and those their mothers made before them. But breaking the cycle that has ensnared them over the decades will prove more difficult than they had ever imagined….”

Until We Reach Home (Christian historical, Evangelical)

“Life in Sweden feels like an endless winter to Elin Carlson after the deaths of her parents. When circumstances become unbearable, she determines to find a safe haven for her sisters. So begins their journey to America, the land of dreams and second chances.”

Brontë, Emily

Wuthering Heights (English classic)

“Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine’s father. After Mr Earnshaw’s death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine’s brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries.”

Eliot, George (pen name of Mary Ann Evans)

Daniel Deronda (English classic)

“Crushed by a loveless marriage to the cruel and arrogant Grandcourt, Gwendolen Harleth seeks salvation in the deeply spiritual and altruistic Daniel Deronda. But Deronda, profoundly affected by the discovery of his Jewish ancestry, is ultimately too committed to his own cultural awakening to save Gwendolen from despair.”

Mill on the Floss (English classic)

“Brought up at Dorlcote Mill, Maggie Tulliver worships her brother Tom and is desperate to win the approval of her parents, but her passionate, wayward nature and her fierce intelligence bring her into constant conflict with her family. As she reaches adulthood . . . she finds herself torn between her relationships with three very different men: her proud and stubborn brother, a close friend who is also the son of her family’s worst enemy, and a charismatic but dangerous suitor.”

Evans, Richard Paul

The Christmas Box (novella in book form, Christian fiction)

“. . . story of a widow and the young family who moves in with her. Together they discover the first gift of Christmas and learn what Christmas is really all about.”

Timepiece (historical fiction)

With the help of David Parkin’s diary, Richard discovers the mystery of the exquisite timepiece MaryAnne Parkin had given him eleven days before her death.  (Prequel to The Christmas Box.)

Forster, E.M.

Howard’s End (English classic)

“The Schlegels are intellectuals, devotees of art and literature. The Wilcoxes are practical and materialistic, leading lives of ‘telegrams and anger.’ When the elder Mrs. Wilcox dies and her family discovers she has left their country home—Howards End—to one of the Schlegel sisters, a crisis between the two families is precipitated that takes years to resolve.”

Gaskell, Elizabeth

North and South (English classic)

“Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret [Hale] becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man, John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction.”

Wives and Daughters (English classic)

Molly Gibson’s life is going along just fine until her father marries an ambitious, shallow woman with a beautiful and worldly daughter about Molly’s own age.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel

The House of the Seven Gables (American classic)

“Built over an unquiet grave, the House of the Seven Gables carries a dying man’s curse that blights the lives of its residents for over two centuries. Now Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon, an iron-hearted hypocrite and intellectual heir to the mansion’s unscrupulous founder, is attempting to railroad a pair of his elderly relatives out of the house. Only two young people stand in his way—a visiting country cousin and an enigmatic boarder skilled in mesmerism.”

The Scarlet Letter (American classic)

“An ardent young woman, her cowardly lover, and her aging, vengeful husband—these are the central characters in this stark drama of the conflict between passion and convention in the harsh, Puritan world of seventeenth-century Boston.”

Lewis, Laura Marie, a.k.a. Laurie (L.C.) Lewis

The Dragons of Alsace Farm (Christian fiction) 

“In need of his own redemption, Noah Carter finally confronts his childhood hero, the once-beloved uncle who betrayed him. Instead of vengeance, he offers forgiveness, also granting Uncle John a most curious request—for Noah to work on the ramshackle farm of Agnes Deveraux Keller, a French WWII survivor with dementia.”

Unspoken (Christian fiction, Latter-day Saint)

Estranged from his family for twenty-one years, social worker Jeff Johnson finds a service opportunity for a troubled teen at a children’s home in the same community where he grew up. As he spends time at the children’s home, the past and present begin coming together, and he struggles with the desire and courage to reveal his identity to those he loves and thinks he has lost forever.

Note: Despite the fact that nothing about this book’s title, cover or description says “Christmas book,” it is, in many ways, a Christmas book and will probably appeal most to readers who love the heartwarming stories that are in bookstores and on TV during the holiday season.

Newman, Marsha

1. The Lightning and the Storm (Christian historical fiction, Latter-day Saint)

“Charlotte O’Neill meets Joseph smith and dances with him and challenges even him in her head-strong, rebellious way. But Joseph sees into her heart and perceives her character. . . . From start to finish [The Lightning And The Storm] dramatically portrays the struggles of Charlotte’s passionate soul and her lifelong conflict with a man, stronger-willed than even she and determined to possess her. But Charlotte has a vision of love, a sweeter love, a tender love. Will she ever find it in this life?”

2. A Love Beyond Time (Christian contemporary fiction, Latter-day Saint)

“Shielah Sorensen had loved Stephen since they were children together. Stephen with his teasing ways, twinkling blue eyes, and tall, blonde good looks. He returned from a mission in Scotland and a year later was sent to Vietnam with the U.S. Army. Where did Paulo D’Agosta fit into her life? Why had he seen a vision of her ten years before?”

3. The Fire and The Glory:The Millennial Story, Parts 1 & 2 (Christian apocalyptic fiction, Latter-day Saint)

“Paulo D’Agosta’s life has been haunted by the vision of a woman—his eternal soul-mate. Is it Shielah? He has never stopped loving the guileless, tender young girl who blossomed into womanhood because of his love. But what of the portrait he glimpsed of Charlotte O’Neill. Shielah’s beautiful, mysterious ancestor from another century. In this book, both women return to tantalize him with that which he has never known—love and fulfillment.”

Potok, Chaim

The Chosen (Jewish fiction)

“Out of a baseball game that nearly became a religious war, two Jewish boys become friends. Danny comes from the strict Hasidic sect that keeps him bound in centuries of orthodoxy. Reuven is brought up by a father patiently aware of the twentieth century.”

The Promise (Jewish fiction, sequel to The Chosen)

“Young Reuven Malter is unsure of himself and his place in life. An unconventional scholar, he struggles for recognition from his teachers. With his old friend Danny Saunders—who himself had abandoned the legacy as the chosen heir to his father’s rabbinical dynasty for the uncertain life of a healer—Reuven battles to save a sensitive boy imprisoned by his genius and rage.”

Tan, Amy

The Joy Luck Club (historical/contemporary)

“. . . vignettes alternate back and forth between the lives of four Chinese women in pre-1949 China and the lives of their American-born daughters in California.”

Tolstoy, Leo

Anna Karenina (Russian classic)

“Married to a powerful government minister, Anna Karenina is a beautiful woman who falls deeply in love with a wealthy army officer, the elegant Count Vronsky. Desperate to find truth and meaning in her life, she rashly defies the conventions of Russian society and leaves her husband and son to live with her lover. Condemned and ostracized by her peers and prone to fits of jealousy that alienate Vronsky, Anna finds herself unable to escape an increasingly hopeless situation. Set against this tragic affair is the story of Konstantin Levin, a melancholy landowner whom Tolstoy based largely on himself. While Anna looks for happiness through love, Levin embarks on his own search for spiritual fulfillment through marriage, family, and hard work.”

Note: I read the English translation by David Magarshack.

Turgenev, Ivan

Fathers and Sons (Russian classic)

“Returning home after years away at university, Arkady is proud to introduce his clever friend Bazarov to his father and uncle. But their guest soon stirs up unrest on the quiet country estate—his outspoken nihilist views and his scathing criticisms of the older men expose the growing distance between Arkady and his father. And when Bazarov visits his own doting but old-fashioned parents, his disdainful rejection of traditional Russian life causes even further distress.”

Note: I’ve read the English translations by Constance Garnett and Richard Hare.

Wharton, Edith

The Age of Innocence (American classic)

The return of the beautiful Countess Olenska into the rigidly conventional society of New York sends reverberations throughout the upper reaches of society. Newland Archer, an eligible young man of the establishment is about to announce his engagement to May Welland, a pretty ingénue, when May’s cousin, Countess Olenska, is introduced into their circle. The Countess brings with her an aura of European sophistication and a hint of scandal, having left her husband and claimed her independence. Her sorrowful eyes, her tragic worldliness and her air of unapproachability attract the sensitive Newland and, almost against their will, a passionate bond develops between them. But Archer’s life has no place for passion and, with society on the side of May and all she stands for, he finds himself drawn into a bitter conflict between love and duty.

Ethan Frome (American classic)

Burdened with an unproductive farm and a hypochondriac wife, Ethan Frome becomes obsessed with his wife’s pretty young cousin.

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The featured image “Kwanzan Cherry Blossoms” is Copyright © 2022 by Katherine Padilla. All rights reserved.