Welcome to the U.S. Catholic Book Club
compiled and introduced by Ron Marasco
Review: As a student of British literature and a fan of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, I found the William Shakespeare volume of the Literary Portals to Prayer series fascinating as well as helpful to my prayer life. In this book each left-hand page contains an excerpt from one of Shakespeare’s works, and the facing page illuminates the selection with a Bible verse. For example, under the theme “Love Never Gives Up,” a quote from Act I, scene 1 of Twelfth Night is coupled with 1 Corinthians 13:4–7. Other volumes in this series include the works of Herman Melville, Louisa May Alcott, and Charles Dickens. I recommend this series as a great resource for those seeking to enhance their prayer life—just start with your favorite author.
— John Molyneux, editor-in-chief, U.S Catholic
ACTA Publishing says, each book in this series takes 50 excerpts from a single beloved literary figure and pairs them with a passage from The Message for creative two-page “prayer-starters” for individual and group use.
Each Paperback: $10.95
Available at bookstores or from ACTA Publishing at 800-397-2282or actapublications.com
The Francis Effect
By John Gehring
Review: For nearly four years, Pope Francis has made incredible strides in the Catholic Church. His commitment to helping the poor and acceptance of those who have been excluded by the church have led newcomers to Catholicism and brought back those who have left.
John Gehring reflects on Francis’ monumental change with a
riveting look at the history of the church and how it has changed over the past 100 years. Gehring explores how Pope Francis’ style can create real change in the church, particularly in the United States. The Francis Effect is a read for fans and critics of Pope Francis alike.
—Shanna Johnson, editorial assistant, U.S. Catholic
Rowman & Littlefield says, this book explores how a church once known as a force for social justice became known for a few key wedge issues, then looks at the opportunities for change in the “age of Francis.
Available at bookstores or from Rowman & Littlefield at 800-462-6420 or rowman.com
Particles of Faith
By Stacy A. Trasancos
Review: Given how commonly the relationship between faith and science is discussed, it’s a wonder that anyone could still find them firmly at odds. And yet, as Stacy A. Trasancos recounts in her vivid and engaging memoir, Particles of Faith, there seems no end to debates.
A scientist and devout Catholic herself, she offers stories and suggestions for the faithful who are still working out their own relationship with modern scientific discoveries. With her pleasing prose, Trasancos invites the reader to experience the awe of a child whose early encounters with the world delight and inspire.
—Meghan Murphy-Gill, managing editor, U.S. Catholic
Ave Maria says, scientist, writer, and scholar Stacy Trasancos gives us ways to talk about how science and Catholic faith work together to reveal the truth of Christ through the beauty of his creation.
Available at bookstores or from Ave Maria Press at 1-(800) 282-1865 or avemariapress.com
When God was a Little Girl
By David Weiss, Illustrations by Joan Hernandez
Review: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. All too often, Christians picture an old man with a beard calling the universe into being with his words. But in When God Was a Little Girl, David Weiss reminds us to not get caught up in how we’ve heard or seen the story told. He gives us a new metaphor: A little girl, singing creation into being with imagination, smiles, and a little bit of glue.
The illustrations show children of all different ages and ethnicities, allowing the reader to see God in her own image and keeping us from getting too invested in any one depiction of God. The book is a profound reminder that how we describe God is important and different ways of expressing God reveal deep truths about creation. The book is lovely addition to any little girl’s (or boy’s) library.
–Emily Sanna, associate editor, U.S. Catholic
Acta says, a daughter asks her father, with “her eyes twinkling with this divine little twist,” to tell story about “when God was a little girl”...and he obliges.
Available at bookstores or from Acta Publishing at 800-397-2282 or www.actapublications.com
Dear Pope Francis
By Pope Francis
Review: Though a picture book, Dear Pope Francis is spiritual panacea for readers of any age. The 70-page release from Loyola Press features Pope Francis’ responses to 30 unfiltered letters and illustrations from children around the world, some of whom ask some pretty tough questions. But Francis—with humility, humor, and grace—answers them all.
The children wonder about all kinds of things (“If God loves us so much ... why didn't he defeat the devil?” and “Why are there not as many miracles anymore?”), and Francis celebrates and validates each child’s spiritual depth by thoughtfully answering each question, no matter how small . For many, Francis’ words offer not only answers but also a challenge. “I can’t resolve all the conflicts in the world,” Francis says to 9-year-old Michael from Nigeria. “But I’m going to try. And I ask you to try too.”
— Sarah Butler, Associate editor, U.S Catholic
Loyola Press says, in this unprecedented book, questions from children from across the world are presented to Pope Francis — and the Pope himself answers each letter.
Available at bookstores or from Loyola Press at 1-(800)621-1008 or www.loyolapress.com
American Catholics in Transition
By William V. D'Antonio; Michele Dillon and Mary L. Gautier
Review: Today, more than 75 million people in the United States identify as Catholic. But with an increasingly diverse church population—culturally, geographically, and even linguistically—what does being a Catholic today really mean? Using data collected over the past 25 years, William V. D'Antonio, Michele Dillon, and Mary L. Gautier try to shed light on just that.
In this fifth volume of surveys conducted since 1987, D’Antonio, Dillon, and Gautier hear from everyone—pre-Vatican II Catholics to Millennials—to explain not only the changes in attitudes toward Catholic identity but also the continuities in core beliefs. Especially timely during this election year, American Catholics in Transition is an enjoyable and informative read for anyone curious about how Catholics in the United States have viewed their faith over the last quarter-century.
—Rosie McCarty, Assistant editor, U.S Catholic
Roman & Littlefield says American Catholics in Transition paints a vibrant picture of the diverse church today, outlining changes in the past as well as looking toward continuity and change in the future.
Available at bookstores or from Roman and Littlefield at 1-(800) 282-1865 or www.rowman.com
By Charles M. Murphy
Review: When Pope Paul VI originally pointed to evangelization as the church’s essential mission, he said that “people listen more to witnesses than to teachers.” In Reclaiming Francis: How the Saint and the Pope Are Renewing the Church, Monsignor Murphy proposes St. Francis of Assisi as a preeminent saintly model for the new evangelization. Through thoughtful reflection on key aspects of Francis’s life and spirituality, Murphy reminds us that the priority of God, the preferential love of the poor, voluntary poverty, care of creation, and the pursuit of peace are the ways by which the Church will be rebuilt. As Pope Francis continues to call for the rebuilding of the Church, this book will contribute significantly to contemporary discussions of the New Evangelization.
—John Molyneux C.M.F., editor-in-chief, U.S. Catholic
Ave Maria Press says: As Pope Francis continues to call for the rebuilding of the church, Msgr. Charles M. Murphy offers a timely look at what today’s church can learn from St. Francis of Assisi about evangelization and renewal.
Available at bookstores or from Ave Maria Press at 1-(800) 282-1865 or avemariapress.com
The Preferential Option for the Poor beyond Theology
Edited by Daniel G. Groody and Gustavo Gutiérrez
Review: It’s been 43 years since Gustavo Gutiérrez wrote A Theology of Liberation. His book forever changed the face of Catholic theology, and yet the poor around the world are still suffering. Therefore, it is not enough to hold on to the theological idea of a preferential option for the poor; we need to put the idea in practice while acknowledging the multifaceted nature of poverty.
The essays in this volume show how poverty affects every aspect of human existence. Contributors write on law, economics, film, science, and education—to name a few of the many topics addressed—examining how their own lives and vocations have been shaped and guided by the option for the poor, no matter what their industry or academic discipline. Anyone, no matter their career or location in life, can live out a commitment to the world’s poor and marginalized.
—Emily Sanna, associate editor, U.S. Catholic
University of Notre Dame Press says: How can one live a Christian life in a world of destitution? This book addresses the option for the poor and the ways it can shape our social, economic, political, educational, and environmental approaches to poverty.
Available at bookstores or from University of Notre Dame Press at 1-(800) 621-2736 undpress.nd.edu.com
Order now from University of Notre Dame Press
The Psalms: Songs of Faith and Praise
by Gregory J. Polan, O.S.B
Review: The psalms, though ancient in form, always remind me how everything old is new again. These songs of prayer give voice to my spiritual praises and laments when I don’t quite have the words. But delving into scripture and personal prayer can be daunting. And so, the Revised Grail Psalter is where I turn when I need some assistance praying.
In this revised commentary and guide to the psalms, Benedictine Father Gregory J. Polan offers a brief but thorough introduction that makes the very prayers Jesus would have uttered relevant and accessible. Polan’s reflections on each psalm are at once inspiring and enlightening; they are an opportunity for intellectual and spiritual learning.
—Meghan Murphy-Gill, managing editor, U.S. Catholic
Paulist Press says: Graceful and inspiring, here is an insightful and moving introduction to the Book of Psalms as prayer.
Available at bookstores or from Paulist Press at 1-800-218-1903 paulistpress.com
Order now from Paulist Press
The Gospel of Happiness: Rediscover Your Faith Through Spiritual Practice and Positive Psychology
by Christopher Kaczor
Review: What is true happiness? Does Christianity provide happiness in a way other self-improvement paths cannot? In The Gospel of Happiness, Dr. Christopher Kaczor highlights seven ways in which positive psychology and Christian practices together can lead to personal and spiritual transformation. Focusing on studies that point to the wisdom of many Christian teachings, Kaczor provides not only practical suggestions on how to become happier in everyday life but also insights on how to deepen Christian practice and increase our love of God and neighbor in new and bold ways.
If you’re tired of flipping between best-selling self-help books that never seem to fully address your whole person—mind, body, faith, and soul—The Gospel of Happiness might be the “whole-person” answer for which you’ve been searching.
—Laura Whitaker, associate editor, U.S. Catholic
Image Books says: A simple approach to seven ways positive psychology can help us lead more spiritual, effective, and loving lives.
Available at bookstores or from Image Books at 1-800-733-3000 or ImageCatholicBooks.com
Order now from Image Books
Pope Francis: Life and Revolution
A Biography of Jorge Bergoglio
by Elisabetta Piqué
Review: To truly know Pope Francis, you must first know Padre Jorge. Few offer a better introduction than Argentine journalist Elisabetta Piqué, whose friend Jorge Bergoglio became Pope Francis virtually overnight. Piqué, who first met Pope Francis during an interview in 2001, paints a portrait of Francis in Pope Francis: Life and Revolution that’s based on more than 75 interviews with people who knew him before he became the Bishop of Rome in 2013. It’s this unparalleled insight that reveals Pope Francis’ personality, motivations, and revolutionary vision for the church. Piqué’s captivating narrative details unsung episodes of Pope Francis’ life that show why his peace and patience energizes so many.
—Sarah Butler, assistant editor, U.S. Catholic
Loyola Press says: Written by Vatican correspondent Elisabetta Piqué, who has known the Pope personally since 2001, Pope Francis: Life and Revolution offers unique insights into the Pope, his work for the poor, and his vision for the church.
Word by Word
Slowing down with the Hail Mary
edited by Sarah A. Reinhard
A History from Ignatius to the Present
Between the Dark and the Daylight
Embracing the Contradictions of Life
by Joan Chittister
Review: Joan Chittister’s signature wisdom and spirit are at it again in Between the Dark and the Daylight, her new book that speaks not only to seekers of faith but also of comfort. “There is a part of the soul that stirs at night,” Chittister writes, “in the dark and soundless times of day, when our defenses are down and our daylight distractions no longer serve to protect us from ourselves.” In these soul-soothing pages the beloved author of The Gift of Years dives into the chaos of life, exploring the questions and contradictions that mess with our minds and hurt our hearts. Chittister doesn’t have all the answers but willingly embraces the conundrum of life so that we might better understand ourselves, one another, and God. Her short reflections and simple meditations are the remedy for a ravaged soul. They’ll help you sleep better, too.
—Sarah Butler, assistant editor, U.S. Catholic
Image Books says: Getting at the heart of what it means to be human, Between the Dark and the Daylight is not about finding all the answers, but rather surrendering to self so that we can find rest in the arms of God.
Fly a Little Higher
How God Answered a Mom's Small Prayer in a Big Way
By Laura Sobiech
Review: When her 17-year-old athletic, fun-loving, and musical son, Zach, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, Laura Sobiech turned to God to help her and her family remain strong throughout the mental, physical, and emotional battle with Zach’s grueling disease. After given just one year to live, Zach decided the best way to say goodbye to his friends and family was by writing and performing music. His song, “Clouds,” became a huge success and helped his family turn such a devastating diagnosis into a joyous celebration of their son’s vibrant life.
What Are We Doing on Earth
for Christ's Sake?
by Richard Leonard, SJ
Review: Richard Leonard tries to avoid conversations with strangers on long flights. Inevitably, a fellow passenger will ask Leonard what he does for a living, and the Australian Jesuit dreads the reaction he will hear upon saying he’s a Catholic priest. Leonard thought he’d heard them all—that is, until he met a young man named Thomas on a flight from New York to Los Angeles.
This Economy Kills
Pope Francis on Capitalism
and Social Justice
and Giacomo Galeazzi
Five Years in Heaven
The Unlikely Friendship That Answered Life's Greatest Questions
By John Schlimm
Review: All too often, friendship carries connotations of jockeying for position, of “fitting in,” or of hiding your true nature in order to not be alone. But in Five Years in Heaven, John Schlimm reminds us that at its best, friendship is a relationship that can reveal the presence of God.
Mercy in the City
How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisioned, and Keep Your Day Job
By Kerry Weber
Review: I will start volunteering as soon as I finish getting the house clean. If you’ve ever used a similar excuse, Kerry Weber’s Mercy in the City belongs on your nightstand. In her honest, funny, and incredibly down-to-earth book, Weber—a young, single New Yorker—recounts her attempt to complete all seven Corporal Works of Mercy in 40 days (while acknowledging that life would be easier if she could instead achieve spiritual enlightenment by abstaining from ice cream).
—Sarah Butler, Assistant Editor, U.S. Catholic
Loyola Press says: A modern, young woman lives a "regular" life amid the daily pressures of New York City while also living a life devoted to service and practicing real works of mercy in a meaningful manner.
Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?
...and Other Questions from the Astronomers’ In-Box at the Vatican Observatory”
By Guy Consolmagno S.J. and Paul Mueller, S.J.
Review: What really happened to Galileo? Why did Pluto get bumped from being a planet? Jesuits Guy Consolmagno and Paul Mueller serve up an engaging and funny treatment of the science questions that people fire at these two Vatican astronomers. Especially refreshing is the pair’s understanding of how nonscientists tend to react to complicated scientific ideas like the big bang—Mueller likens it to how he, a non-artist, can feel alienated from a painting by abstract artist Jackson Pollock.
You will learn a lot of science along the way, but even more important, the book does a great job of shooting down the tired but unfortunately still popular view that science and religion are somehow opposed or contradictory. Au contraire.
—Catherine O'Connell-Cahill, Former Senior Editor, U.S. Catholic
Image Books says: A book about what it’s like when science encounters faith on friendly, mutually respectful terms sharing with the reader the joy, hope, and fun in exploring science and living with a real faith.
Imagine if a Martian showed up, all big ears and big nose like a child’s drawing, and he asked to be baptized. How would you react?”
—Pope Francis, May, 2014
Available at your favorite bookstore or online retailer or by visiting www.ImageCatholicBooks.com
Order now from Image Books
Dear Young People...
Inspiration from Pope Francis for Everyone
By Brother Michael O’Neill McGrath, O.S.F.S.
Review: Pope Francis is already one of the most quotable people on the planet, but somehow Brother Mickey McGrath found a way to make the words of Francis even more accessible and appealing. With his vivid illustrations, McGrath injects new life into papal quotes on topics ranging from poverty and peace to family and faith.
Dear Young People… is an excellent resource for introducing children to the Catholic faith through the eyes of Francis. But as McGrath notes in the introduction, the book could just as easily be called Dear Everybody Who Is Young At Heart. Indeed, readers of all ages are sure to find inspiration in McGrath’s artistic interpretation of an already inspiring figure’s words.
—Scott Alessi, Managing Editor, U.S. Catholic
World Library Publications says: Brother Mickey McGrath presents a new book for young people (of all ages!) containing inspiration from Pope Francis in the form of quotations and tweets.
Available online at wlpmusic.com or by calling 1-800-566-6150
Order now from World Library Publications.
Making a Case for God: Faithful Encounters
By William Clark, O.M.I.
Review: In this brief, clear, and creative work, Oblate Father William Clark reflects on the hiddenness of God, the possibility of making a case for God, and what encountering God involves. These reflections stem from two sources: faith and reason. Through examples from scripture and philosophy, Clark tries to understand God and what that means to an individual.
In the end, the examples of encountering God in Making a Case for God: Faithful Encounters show that our understanding of God is not about whether God exists, but how God exists in our lives. This little book will be of interest to all of us who struggle with “the problem of God.”
—Father John Molyneux, C.M.F., Editor, U.S. Catholic
Liguori Publications says: Does God exist? Father William Clark, O.M.I. uses scripture, philosophy, and literature to help us look beyond the question of God’s existence to how we can be open to and recognize encounters
From Camera to Pen: An Award-Winning Photojournalist Captures God in a Hurried World
By Matt Knisely
Review: In our increasingly distracted and plugged-in world, it’s tough to find moments to stop, slow down, and be present. But in Framing Faith, photojournalist Matt Knisely reminds us that although we have eyes, we often fail to see. Those spare moments exist, but they often pass us by as we flit from Twitter to Facebook, email to Instagram. Rather than filling our days with these distractions, Knisely encourages us to find God in those often overlooked spare moments. Framing this faith journey with photography, Knisely challenges us to shift our eyes from our screens and look through his lens. Not only does he show us what he’s found—he helps us realize what we’ve been missing.
—Sarah Butler, Assistant Editor, U.S. Catholic
Thomas Nelson says: Framing Faith is a book for people seeking to focus their lives, to find a deeper knowledge of God, and a more authentic Christian faith.
Available from Thomas Nelson at 800-251-4000 ex. 1176 or www.ThomasNelson.com
Master of Ceremonies: A Novel
By Donald Cozzens
Review: As a former vicar for priests, Donald Cozzens knows and understands the inner workings of the Catholic Church, and especially the clerical culture, better than anyone. In recent years his honest, courageous, and insightful writing has shed much light on the root causes and the cultural and systemic failures that led to the clergy sexual abuse crisis.
In his first novel, Master of Ceremonies, Cozzens now uses all that inside knowledge to spin a page-turning tale around the consequences of clergy sexual abuse, the machinations of a secret society of careerist and hypocritical priests and bishops, and a few good Catholics working to uncover the truth. There is scandal, murder, love, and intrigue—you’ll have a hard time putting it down.
ACTA Publications says: Father Donald Cozzens has written an unflinching story of clergy sexual abuse and its very personal consequences. A thriller of a novel, not for the squeamish or faint of heart.
Available at bookstores or from ACTA Publications: 1-800-397-2282 or shop online at www.actapublications.com.
Just call me Lopez: Getting to the Heart of Ignatius Loyola
By Margaret Silf
Review: A simple happenstance can change the course of the future. When Rachel finds herself injured in a bicycling accident, she’s lifted up by a stranger named López, whom we recognize as St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Margaret Silf’s Just call me López follows the unlikely friendship between the 16th-century saint and the 21st-century woman. Their journey together in this historical fiction centers on transformation: St. Ignatius’ shift from being a raucous youth to a devoted pilgrim of God, and Rachel’s change as her newfound friend gently guides her through the daily struggles of life. Their grace-filled and reflective conversations—over many cups of coffee—will slowly shape your heart and soul as well.
—Caitlyn Schmid, Assistant Editor, U.S. Catholic
Loyola Press says: In Just call me López, a twenty-first-century woman, Rachel, meets the man who becomes the saint, and both are transformed by their unlikely friendship and series of thought-provoking conversations.
Available at bookstores or from Loyola Press: 800-621-1008 or shop online at www.loyolapress.com.
The Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women's Movement
By Laura Swan
Review: This fascinating account tells the story of a little-known but surprisingly widespread movement of medieval women that started in the early 1200s. The beguines, active across Europe, were laywomen who formed their own communities, served the poor and sick, ran successful businesses, preached, wrote spiritual tracts, and achieved an unusual degree of independence.
Some of their medieval visions, practices, and reported miraculous occurrences may sound strange to modern ears, but Laura Swan tells the stories of these strong women leaders—their great resilience and success, as well as the envy, criticism, and persecution they suffered—with great sympathy. In the process she makes a compelling case that the beguines offer readers “hope and a fresh path … to live with prophetic courage.”
BlueBridge says: Beguines were medieval laywomen defined by their visionary spirituality, unusual business acumen, and strong commitment to the poor and marginalized. The beguines invite us to seek out their wisdom and to discover them anew.
Available at bookstores or from BlueBridge: 800-343-4499 or shop online at www.bluebridgebooks.com.
When Saint Francis Saved the Church: How a Converted Medieval Troubadour Created a Spiritual Vision for the Ages
By Jon M. Sweeney
Review: Jon M. Sweeney’s compact book sets the poor man of Assisi in the context of the church and society of his day, demonstrating how Francis often trod on dangerous ground—and why no pope had taken his name for 800 years. Early on, the author dispatches our weak, pious notions of Francis. In their place he describes a man whose revolutionary approaches to friendship, poverty, spirituality, death, nature, and people on the margins drew many to his side, even though few could hack what it really meant to follow him.
Sweeney deftly shows how Francis, ahead of his time, is also a man for our time, less interested in doctrines and debates than in how humans ought to treat the world and one another.
—Catherine O'Connell-Cahill, Senior Editor, U.S. Catholic
Ave Maria Press says: Bestselling author Jon M. Sweeney offers a surprising new look at the world’s most popular saint, showing how this beloved, but often-mythologized character created a spiritual vision for the ages and may very well have rescued the Christian faith.
Available at bookstores or from Ave Maria Press: 800-282-1865 or shop online at www.avemariapress.com.
The U.S. Catholic Book Club is a collaborative project of U.S. Catholic magazine and the Catholic Book Publishers Association. The titles featured in the U.S. Catholic Book Club are selected each month by the magazine’s editors from submissions by participating book publishers. The publisher provides a paid advertising in U.S. Catholic magazine for the featured book.