Whatever is Right: Books that Build Character

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

If these are the things we are to think on, then surely this is an excellent guiding principle in choosing reading material. This third post in the Library Builders series is about choosing books which build character.

This is a vast subject, one which I could not hope to cover in a single blog post. I’m going to focus on Nonfiction character builders and Moral Stories, trusting that some of my readers might fill in the gaps with other suggestions in the comments.

Non-fiction Character-builders for women

These are the books I most typically pick up for myself. Although I’ve been reading some missionary biographies and even historical Christian fiction this year, nine times out of ten I grab something aimed specifically at challenging my character.

Here are some titles I’ve read this year, along with a few old favorites which I can recommend. It takes a long time to build links, and most of these can be found through a simple Amazon search, so please forgive me for listing more titles than links!

Passionate Housewives, Desperate for God by Jennie Chancey and Stacy McDonald was the first book I read in 2008. It was a great way to start out the year.

The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace is one of the best books on marriage I’ve ever read. Every wife should read it. My other favorite marriage book is Naked and Unashamed by Bill Mills. We read this book in premarital counseling, and have used it over the years in counseling others.

Another favorite marriage book is A Promise Kept by Robertson McQuilkin. This book isn’t a scriptural treatise on how to have a stronger marriage. It is an auto-biography that McQuilkin wrote about the years spent lovingly caring for his wife, Muriel, who was afflicted with Alzheimers Disease. This book will encourage you in your marriage vows. Get it, and a box of Kleenex. It will be two of the best hours you’ll ever spend reading.

I love anything by Sally Clarkson. I’ve read The Mission of Motherhood, Seasons of a Mother’s Heart, and The Ministry of Motherhood in the past couple of years and I was encouraged by them all.

Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit by Terri Maxwell

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs is slow reading, but well worth it. There is so much food for thought here that I had to pause frequently to chew on it!

Nonfiction character builders for Children

This year I read Do Hard Things before giving it to our oldest son to read. This book challenged me to raise my game in some areas where I have been complacent and lazy. My son found it very challenging and I have seen fruit in his character develop through reading this book. I’d recommend it for ages 12 and above.

We have not yet read Thoughts for Young Men by J.C. Ryle, but it has been highly recommended to me for teenage boys, so it is on my shelf for the future.

Last year we read the book Boyhood and Beyond with our boys. This book encourages boys to become the men God wants them to be as they develop their relationship with Him. There are questions for reflection or discussion at the end of each chapter. We have not yet read the author’s second book for boys, Created for Work, but it is on our to-read list as our boys enter the teenage years.

Moral Stories

Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss is my all-time favorite book for this category. I’ve read it many times myself at different stages in my life, profiting in new ways each time. This is a book I like to give to high school and college graduates, newlyweds, and expecting mothers.

Mother by Kathleen Norris and Jennie Chancey is about a young woman who has no interest in being a mother. She looks down on her own mother’s years of faithful service to the family and goes in search of fun and fortune elsewhere. In the end, her heart is changed. This was an encouraging book for me as a mother, and if I had older daughters I would share it with them, as well.

A Hive of Busy Bees
is an old book published by Christian publishers Rod and Staff. Each story has the children learning a moral lesson. My early elementary school-aged children loved this book and couldn’t wait for the next chapter.

Library and Ed has many inexpensive books that fit into this category. Our boys enjoyed Tiger and Tom by J. E. White. The same author has other books in the series Character Classics, including some geared toward girls, such as The King’s Daughter. You’ll need to join Library and Ed (which is only available to homeschoolers, teachers and libraries) to see the prices, but they are about $4 per book. Library and Ed also sells many individual titles from the D.L. Moody Colportage series for less than $3.50 per book. This series boasts many famous classic character-building titles, such as Teddy’s Button, Christie’s Old Organ and Whiter than Snow.

My boys like reading Character Sketches from the Pages of Scripture, Illustrated in the World of Nature. Each chapter tells about a character quality, including a Bible story which illustrates the quality and factual information about an animal which displays the same trait in its behavior.

This is just a sampling from a truly vast category. Life is too short to read worthless books. Redeem the time.

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16

My next post in the Library Builders series will be Whatever is Pure: Books that teach theology and illuminate the Scriptures.


  1. “Stepping Heavenward” is a good book. It is one that I would like my girls to read when they are older.

    We just finished reading “A Hive of Busy Bees” again, and our children also asked for the bee stories. We are now reading “Another Hive of Busy Bees”.