Saturday, June 20, 2009

Top 10 list of books Catholics should read

I was asked a while back by someone beginning a book review site to give this list. They never used the list but I am going to give it to y'all here since I found it an interesting exercise. Need I mention that I was howling with frustration at what I could not cover? Of course not. You knew that already!

Keep in mind that this list may fluctuate but essentially I see that it reflects my belief that you can see echoes of Truth in many places, including fiction. Here you go, in no particular order, always assuming that the Bible and the Catechism are givens (links are to my previous reviews, excerpts, or commentary):
  1. In This House of Brede - Rumer Godden. One of the finest authors of our time, largely forgotten, but who always wrote from a deep background of faith.

  2. The Interior Castle - St. Teresa of Avila. A spiritual classic for good reason. Written for her sisters in the convent and much easier to read and understand than you may have been led to believe.

  3. Catholic Christianity - Peter Kreeft. Puts the muscle on the "skeleton" of the Catechism, so to speak. This is the book that I read after converting and which brought my understanding fully into line with the teachings of the Church. Eminently logical.

  4. Pardon and Peace - Father Francis Randolph. Fantastic book about the sacrament of reconciliation (or confession as I still like to call it). He takes interesting side trips in the discussion but they are always to the point and add depth.

  5. Inferno - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Science fiction authors update Dante's Inferno. This is somewhat like Dante "Lite" and is a wonderful introduction to the concepts Dante wrote about. It is the book that made me take a new look at self examination and then go on to read John Ciardi's translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. Not intended as such by the authors, it is a "gateway" book to Dante.

  6. A Still Small Voice - Father Benedict Groeschel. Common sense, psychology, and faith as applied to discernment when it comes to apparitions. Highly recommended.

  7. Angels of God - Mike Aquilina. Wonderful primer about angels and their relationship to us.

  8. Captain from Castile - Samuel Shellabarger. The classic story of a young Spanish nobleman, Pedro de Vargas, who goes with Cortes to conquer Mexico. Rereading it, Washington Post critic and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jonathan Yardley says in his introduction he "was astonished at how well it has survived. . . . It is accurate, meticulously researched history, and it is a sympathetic, nuanced account of a young man's moral education..." Precisely. Such is also the same of Shellabarger's other books. A prime example of how an excellent piece of fiction can communicate "Truth." (Excerpts are here and here.) Also a favorite, more than this book to be truthful, is Prince of Foxes by this author.

  9. Fr. McBride's Guide to the Bible - Alfred McBride. There are several excellent guides to the Bible, among them "You Can Understand the Bible" by Peter Kreeft and "A Catholic Guide to the Bible" by Father Oscar Lukefahr. I chose this above those because it looks at all the books of the Bible in light of salvation history. An excellent guide to looking at scripture on several levels and keeping the big picture in mind.

  10. Through a Screen Darkly - Jeffrey Overstreet. A masterful work by a noted film critic about bringing a spirit of discernment to the world of film. Overstreet invites us to consider how film as an art form affects one's soul and ultimately can be a work of God, even when it may go against what many define as "Christian." An excellent work that helps us learn discernment in our daily lives toward any sort of story telling.
Honorable Mention


  1. Wonderful list, Julie. I'd add one more title to the "honorable mention" list: Graham Greene's "The Power and the Glory". Yes, the mmain character is a deeply-flawed cleric. This "whiskey priest" is never even named. But his virtue, and Greene's point, sneaks up on you.

  2. That's a book I have never read, though many (probably including you) have told me that I should. I have a feeling it is going to come up for my Catholic women's book club at some point ...

  3. I would highly recommend," Light Over the Scaffold, The Letters of Jacques Fesch." It is an amazing story of Christ transforming a young man whom just killed a police officer in the early twentieth century. Jacques is now being considered for canonization. Every Catholic and every prisoner should read this book.