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Unexpected life-detours can be hard — whether you thought you’d have ten children by now and you’re not sure how to do this singleness thing, or you planned to be single for awhile and now you’ve lost your vision.

As a thirty-something woman who is still waiting for marriage, what has made an enormous difference to me? Having a vision of what singlehood can be. I’ve read it in the Bible. I’ve seen it walked out in friends’ lives, or in biographies of women I look up to as my mentors from a different time in history. I find glimpses in books on singleness.

But most of all, I seem to need a story, whether true or true-to-life, to give me a hope-inducing picture of my single days as beautiful and fruitful.

In fact, fiction can be very powerful in this way. Louisa May Alcott’s novels frequently include cheerful, wise, hard-working, family-loving single women. Her book An Old-Fashioned Girl, for example, ends in romance, but the bulk of the story contains just such a single life. Elizabeth Goudge’s novels about redemptive suffering and sacrifice in marriage helped me value and emulate the same quality in singleness. And despite the theme of suffering, her stories are full of incredible beauty.

I’ve gathered here some of my favorite books for singles: ones that have given me the hope to keep walking this road with joy, just as long as God places it before me.

I seem to need a story, whether true or true-to-life, to give me a hope-inducing picture of my single days as beautiful and fruitful.

Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? by Carolyn McCulley

Don’t be distracted by the title of Carolyn McCulley’s Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? It’s a solid, encouraging, wise read that helps you desire marriage in a healthy way, live a Proverbs 31 life now and (as the subtitle adds) trust “God with a Hope Deferred”.

Finally the Bride by Cheryl McKay

Even if you’re not in the mood for the humor woven into Finally the Bride by Cheryl McKay, do check out chapter 15. I’ve never seen a better explanation of the difference between being led by God and being led by coincidences, and why you should be wary of coincidences without further confirmation!

Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen by Candice Watters

I read Candice Watters’ Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, and several years later, I’m still single! But that’s not the point. You may wish you were married and still need this wise and practical refresher course on a Biblical desire for marriage.

A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot

A Chance to Die paints the true-story picture of Amy Carmichael’s beautiful and intensely real single story, which she lived to the glory of God. She compared her fruitful single life to an airplane, which flies despite the law of gravity (the fact that we’re designed for marriage), because another power (God’s power!) is at work from within.

Patricia St. John Tells Her Own Story by Patricia St. John

In Patricia St. John Tells Her Own Story, this down-to-earth author of many children’s books begins with the loveliest and most unusual love story: her parents’, before moving on to a zestful account of her own single life. A wise and joyful read.

Emma and the Reasons by Natasha Metzler

I’m calling Emma and the Reasons a single-approved romance novel, because it wasn’t self-pity inducing; it was a real breath of fresh air!  I have more or less lived this book: I’ve been match-made, I’ve experienced the awkward, and I have some “reasons” of my own: some tasks for God’s Kingdom that have shaped and sweetened my not-yet-married days. Natasha’s book made me laugh, it was true-to-life, and it reminded me that as much as I value marriage, this gift of singleness is a felt gift, not something to be thoughtlessly thrown away. (Read my full review.)

The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller

I know, this is a book about marriage. And yes, The Meaning of Marriage has become my standard wedding gift. But it was written by a New York City pastor of a predominantly single congregation, and it was a blessing to me (yes, as a single woman) in its refreshed perspective on marriage as a call to see what beauty God is creating in someone else, and joyfully cooperate in that process. And guess what? That’s something we’re also invited do with friends, neighbors, students — with all sorts of people besides a spouse.

more books to give you hope on the journey of singleness

(some of our favorite books for singles, from Kindred Grace writing team)

Beyond Waiting by Rebekah Snyder

(reviewed by Rachelle Rea Cobb)

How many books can you say changed your life? For me, a book at the top of that short list is Beyond Waiting. With a conversational tone that drew me in as if I were sitting across from Rebekah herself, she draws you into her story–and encourages you to live your own. I loved that she shares my passion for fairy tales, especially the everyday kind.

Quest for Love by Elisabeth Elliot

(reviewed by Gretchen Louise)

When I was single, I loved reading and re-reading Quest for Love, a collection of real life love stories. It was such an encouragement to my single heart to see how God had brought so many couples together in so many different ways–all to His glory. I knew He always wrote a different story line, but I could be confident in my hope that my story would be just as beautiful–in His time. (More anthologies on love that I’ve enjoyed include Stories for the Romantic Heart by Alice Gray, as well as Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar by Amy Kass.)

Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot

(reviewed by Katie)

In Passion and Purity, Elisabeth shares her journey of uncertainty and surrender in following the Lord’s call on her life while loving a man she did not know if she could ever marry. It was a daily process of laying down her desires. She learned what it was to give her dreams back to the Lord, and find in Him a way to live life fully alive as a single. (Read full review.)

The Path of Loneliness by Elisabeth Elliot

(reviewed by Katie)

Elizabeth’s story of losing her first husband as a martyr and the second to cancer is a powerful testimony of learning how to handle the loneliness that can be found in every stage of life. (Read full review.)

What Are You Waiting For? by Dannah Gresh

(reviewed by Katie)

What Are You Waiting For? is the best book I have ever read on waiting until marriage for sex. Dannah jumps into the Hebrew word for intimacy “yada” and explains the “Why?” of waiting instead of just saying don’t. (Read full review.)

Sacred Search by Gary Thomas

(reviewed by Katie)

What if we treated our search for a spouse as sacred? What if we looked at the importance of finding a sole mate (someone to walk with), not just a soul mate? In Sacred Search, Gary Thomas explores in a practical and straightforward way what it would look like to seek first the Kingdom of God in our search for a spouse. (Read full review.)

What books–fiction or non–have encouraged as a single? Please comment and share!

(originally published in 2015; edited from the archives)

Photography: JenniMarie Photography

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6 Comments

  1. “But most of all, I seem to need a story, whether true or true-to-life, to give me a hope-inducing picture of my single days as beautiful and fruitful.” <— This quote I totally agree with and I'm thrilled with several new ideas for books to read! Thank you for sharing this list. I've read the Sacred Search and it's excellent! Looking forward to delving into some of the others.

  2. Another good one for me is “Fine China is for Single Women Too”, by Lydia Brownback.

    And my hands down favorite, most realistic book on being a single woman is: “Revelations of a Single Woman: Love the life I didn’t expect” by Connally Gilliam.

  3. Wow, girls, thank you so much for this list of books. I may be popping over to Amazon to look at a couple of them more closely … 🙂

    And, Elisabeth, you’re right about Louisa May Alcott’s books. Most of her books, I believe, include a beautiful single woman who lives a full and happy life in spite of her singleness. And although “An Old Fashioned Girl” ends with a (sweet!) romance, well, one of the nicest characters in the books is, we’re told, a merry spinster all her days … and I believe there’s a similar story promised for one of the girls in “Jack and Jill” too. Thank you for the reminder!

  4. Definitely “Passion and Purity.” It comforted me in different ways in different seasons. It fit my life to a “T.” I also found “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” helpful in a particular season. Sometimes you just need reassurance that Christ’s way is the best even when it’s not popular. Also, my husband was reading “Boundaries in Dating” right before he found the guts to ask me out (after 6 years), so I should give that book credit! And yes, I’m still working on typing up our courtship story. 😉

  5. I love those Elisabeth Elliot books! They have encouraged me many times and I’m thankful that I have them on my bookshelf whenever I need to re-visit them.

    Finally the Bride by Cheryl McKay sounds like a good read. It’s incredibly important to know the difference between being led by God and being led by coincidences or “happenstances”. I see a lot of that these days and it makes me pray even harder for God to make my path clear. 🙂

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