US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Reading list

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We couldn't include everyone's responses in the Feedback section of October 2010's Reader Survey, "Used books," so here is a selection of responses that includes some of our readers' favorite books and recommendations.

My favorite contemporary book addressing issues related to the Catholic faith today is...

Elizabeth Johnson's Truly Our Sister: A theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints. It strengthens one's love for Mary and helps to make Mary relevant in the lives of today's women.

Vanessa L. Ochs' Sarah Laughed. It's a beautiful, realistic picture of women in Scripture. 

Joanne Turpin's Women in Church History. It tells of the lives of many saintly women beginning with those in the Bible and ends with Dorothy Stang

That the World May Believe by Hans Kung. This, in my opinion, should be the new Catholic Catechism.

Joseph Ratzinger's The Spirit of the Liturgy.  This book had a profound effect on me, demonstrating that a longing for properly celebrated liturgy in accordance with the liturgical norms laid down by the church was not simply a nostalgic attachment to "externals." This book was the beginning of my serious study of theology.

Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To by Anthony DeStefano. It is more related to prayer life than the Catholic faith specifically, but that is a very important component of our Catholic lives.

Richard Rohr's Everything Belongs and The Naked Now. These books explore beliefs that go beyond the confines of dogma.

Fr. Ronald Rohheiser's The Holy Longing. This book has given me so much food for thought and has helped me to connect faith to life.

The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin, SJ. This book is an easy-to-understand explanation of Ignatius spirituality

The book that has had the greatest effect on my faith life is...

The Bible. Early on in my adult faith, it grabbed me, which led to deeper and more formal studies that have continued for the last 35 years.

Awareness by Anthony DeMello. After I first read his The Way to Love many years ago, I couldn't get enough of his writing. I would have loved to attend his retreats.

Romano Guardini's The Lord which has provided the most insight into the person of Jesus Christ than any book I've read to date.

Thomas Keating's Open Mind, Open Heart.  It changed everything about the way I pray and the way I see God at work in my life.

Praying With Saint Paul, a 365 day look into Paul's Letters with faith writings from both ordained and laity. 

The Chosen by Chaim Potok.  Ostensibly about Judaism, but really about God's care for us even when we don't understand.

Quest for the Living God by Elizabeth Johnson is an up to date look at various ways of encountering God, and has given me a new, broader, deeper and more open understanding of theology. 

Richard Rohr's Hidden Scriptures because it broke down for me old interpretations of Scripture and gave a much broader understanding of Jesus.

A Freedom Within by Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski.  As a manual for living the faithful Christian life in the most adverse circumstances, this cannot be bettered.

Soren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling.  It discusses the moral implications of what it means to have faith in light of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22. 

The Fifth Mountain by Paulo Coelho because it portrays a real relationship between God and Elijah.

Always We Begin Again, The Benedictine Way of Living by John McQuiston because it is a recipe for living a holy life.

The Wisdom of Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault, a remarkable writer (and Episcopal priest) who truly has the gift to uncover the real spiritual teachings of Jesus. In this book, she also teaches various ways to develop a deeper relationship with the Lord.

Dead Man Walking by Helen Prejean really awakened me to the realization that all life is sacred from conception to natural death.  Pro-life includes issues other than just abortion.

Peter Kreeft's The God Who Loves You.  One sentence in this book changed my entire outlook that I put pen to paper and wrote to tell him so.  He did indeed write back.

Practicing Our Faith. A Way of Life For a Searching People by Dorothy Bass, ed.  The book is a compendium of twelve practices integral to Christian living in modern society.  Each chapter is dedicated to a practice.  The book crossed my path at just the time when I was searching for ways to put my Christian beliefs into practice.

In the past few years, I had been looking for someone who shared my thoughts about God and His irresistible grace. I found a fellow traveler in William P. Young's The Shack.

God: the Oldest Question and Meeting the Living God by William J. O'Malley, SJ brought me back to God and the church after a 40+ year absence and inspired me to be confirmed at age 52. O'Malley is a brilliant writer and theologian.

Life of the Beloved. Henri Nouwen's small text packed with insights about what it means to be Christian.

The book I'd choose for a young person that would best express my hopes for their life would be...

Listen Children, edited by Dorothy Strickland. It's a real taste of variety and spice that is part of a life that embraces diversity and creativity. 

I'm OK You're OK because young people are so troubled by self-doubt at the same time as they roughly criticize others who don't fit their idea of "cool".

The Giving Tree.  It is a book of great love for a small child who grows into an adulthood while the tree has given it everything the child has requested, from top to bottom, with great love and sacrifice, simply because the tree wanted the child to know how much he or she was and is loved

The Little House series. The family values of that series is tremendous even today.

The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama because it calls forth the desire to allow love to triumph over cultural differences.

The Chronicles of Narnia--all 7 books.  This series can be read and reread and yet is simple for children.  It shows heroism and valor and at the same time, safely explores good and evil.  My hope would be contained in the growth and the real heroism of the primary characters.

The Way to Christ by Karol Cardinal Wotyla.  A retreat given for a mixed group of young people.

Before I Go:  Letters to Our Children About What Really Matters by Peter Kreeft, who shares with his readers, though written specifically for his children, the many and various things he has learned throughout his life. 

The Song of the Bird, by Anthony de Mello

The books on my "To Read List" include...

The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan

An Eagle Named Freedom by Jeff Guidry

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Led by Faith by Immaculle Ilibaciza

The Empathic Civilization by Jeremy Rifkin's

Dante's Comedia, The Church and the Age by Isaac Hecker, Forgotten Among the Lilies by Ronald Rolheiser

The Singer and the Song by Sister Miriam Therese Winter

Confessions of a Parish Priest by Andrew Greeley

Animal,Vegetable, Miracle  by Barbara Kingsolver

The Future Church: How Ten Trends are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church by John Allen

The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow

Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain

Mark Hart's Blessed are the Bored In Spirit: A Young Catholic's Search for Meaning

A Good Neighbor: Benedict's Guide to Community by R. Benson

God after Darwin by John R. Haught

Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird

Discernmetn: A Path to Spiritual Awakening by Rose Mary Dougherty

God Alone is Enough: A Spirited Journey with St Teresa of Avila by Claudia Mair Burney.

Christianity by Diarmaid McCulloch

Mother of God by Miri Ruben

Credo by Jaroslav Pelikan

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks--history and fiction about a Hebrew manuscript. 

Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr. I think the articles he writes are brilliant. I figured the book must be too.

Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth. I am curious about the relationships.

Living a Life that Matters by Harold Kushner. I like his other books and the title intrigued me.

The Catholic Church: a Short History by Hans Kung. This book gives a realistic history of the church, complete with honest political games explained. Especially important is the epilogue in the latest printing on the "Crisis in the Church."

Catholic Does Not Equal Vatican by Rosemary Radford Ruether. Don't read this if you're stuck in a pre-Vatican II mode. Rosemary is the Catholic feminist par excellance!

The Naked Now by Richard Rohr,  one of our most gifted Catholic (he's a Franciscan) spiritual guides. His writings will take you farther spiritually than any local Bible study group you may attend in your lifetime!

The Brothers Karamazov because it is referenced in so many theological books I read.

Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle

The Shack by William Paul Young

Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson

Henri Nouwen's Praying with Icons

James Martin's My Life with the Saints

Beyond Patching: Faith And Feminism In The Catholic Church
by Sandra Schneiders

Durable Goods by Elizabeth Berg

Second Nature by  Alice Hoffman

Heaven by Lisa Miller

Uncommon Gratitude by Joan Chittister

Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd

The Help by Kathryn Stockett


This is a web-only list that accompanies the Reader Survey "Used books," which appeared in the October 2010 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 75, No. 10, pages 18-21).