- Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy by Rumer Godden
This is an inspiring tale of conversion and redemption told in flashback sequence. We meet Lise when she is being released from prison where she has served her term for murder. She is going to join an order that ministers to those on the fringes of society. The reasons behind the murder become clear as the threads come together again in the people around Lise in current time. Threaded through the tale also is the rosary which Lise doesn't enjoy saying but comes to depend upon.
- Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Dante's Inferno told through a science fiction focus with Dante's role being filled by a writer who fell to his death at a science fiction convention. He insists that Hell doesn't exist and keeps trying to find scientific explanations for everything he encounters, which sometimes is very funny indeed. The theology in the book isn't completely sound but 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.
- Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis
Retelling the story of Cupid and Psyche, this shows Lewis's echoes of what is familiar in myth but which also is a bit of truth about Christianity. Suffice it to say that this story works as plain storytelling, as myth, as truth underlying myth, as character study, as unbelievably delicately written prose, and as fantasy. In short, this book is not nearly as difficult to read as I'd heard, while on the other hand containing rich layers that lend to repeated readings.
- Valley of Bones by Michael Gruber
In Miami, a man is hit on the head and thrown from a hotel balcony. When the homicide detective, Paz, goes up to investigate, he finds a woman, Emmylou Dideroff, in the room. She is in a trance, speaking to St. Catherine of Siena, which qualifies her as both a wacko and a likely murderer. This is a gritty mystery that contains a fascinating spiritual thread throughout that is interesting in itself as each character responds in their own way. This all is being told through four points of view, all of which show various ways of conversion and openness to God.
- Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger
This historical fiction tells of Andrea Orsini, who is one of Cesare Borgia's most trusted political manipulators during the Italian Renaissance. This is a swashbuckler that simultaneously shows Andrea's transition of a human heart from greed to love, selfishness to sacrifice, and power grubbing to nobility.
- Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simenson
Major Pettigrew is living a quiet life in the village of Edgecombe St. Mary when the news that his brother has suddenly died comes and sends him into a (very quiet) tailspin. It sparks a sudden friendship with Mrs. Ali who has also lost her husband. Both are struggling quietly with relatives who selfishly want to force them to behave differently. This is a brilliantly told tale in which no character is perfect but also no character is without a nuanced personality, which means no one is all bad either. It's a gentle tale of love, second chances, and self realization.
- Eifelheim by Michael J. Flynn
Imagine that in the 14th century a little village in the depths of the Black Forest has an alien space ship crash nearby. The aliens look like giant grasshoppers. Naturally, many of the local peasants think they are demons. Others, however, especially the village priest who was educated in Paris, take into consideration what makes a creature "a man." In other words, what constitutes a soul and therefore makes it incumbent upon us to treat aliens as we would wish to be treated? Flynn does an excellent job of recreating the 14th century mindset so this is not simply a story told with modern sensibilities in a long ago setting.
- Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
A real page-turner which many think they know because the cultural references are so embedded in our society. However, if you haven't read this book then you don't know it at all. First and foremost, Uncle Tom actually is a Christ-figure, a living saint. No wonder he is misunderstood by so many. Stowe does a good job showing many different attitudes toward slavery and how people excused themselves under the flimsiest of excuses. What is unexpected is how well she examines the varying levels of Christianity proclaimed and threaded solidly throughout the story.
- Silence by Shusaku Endo
Historical fiction centered on young Jesuit, Sebastião Rodrigues, who travels secretly to Japan in 1638 when Catholics have been driven underground by persecution. He and a companion are to provide aid and to investigate reports that his mentor, a much admired priest, has publicly denied the Christ. The result is, as a wise old friend of mine said, Christianity in a nutshell.
- Our Lady of the Lost and Found by Diane Schoemperlen
A writer who lives a quiet life walks into her living room one day to find Mary (yes, the Blessed Virgin) standing in her living room with a suitcase. She needs a vacation to rest up before May begins with all the celebrations devoted to Mary. They talk, clean, and shop but it is never boring and is an engaging combination of the history of key Marian apparitions and a personal journey of faith for the writer who tells the story. I think of this as a story of what Mary does in "ordinary time."