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August 14, 2003


Nick ALexander "The Catholic Weird Al"

Just finished Novo Millenio Innuente (Pope John Paul II's encyclical "At the Dawn of the New Millenium" for the second time. It resonates even more today than it did when it was first published in the Jubilee Year 2000. It's prophetic, especially when he reminds us that the cross is the combination of both agony and bliss. That's exactly where the church is today.



The book that laid the foundation for me to become Catholic was "The Lord of the Rings." I read it several times as a teenager, unaware at the time that the author was Catholic. It so informed my worldview that when I read "The Teaching of Christ" at age 19, it was a very short step to Rome. When I re-read the book in 1999, it amazed me how much I had missed as a teen, and as a non-Catholic. It is probably the most thoroughly Catholic book I have ever read that didn't mention God, Christ or the Saints.

My Babdist family were (and remain) NOT amused. But one of my sisters converted as well and now has several Irish Catholic children.

Simon Russell

Possibly the best book I have read is the book length interview with Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger by Peter Seewald called:

"God and the world: A Conversation with Peter Seewald"

Please read this book. The Cardinal discusses the entire Faith and it will encourage you to press on in following Christ our Lord. Cardinal Ratzinger is amazingly eloquent in speaking about the Faith and one year after its publication in English, I continue to regularly read excerpts from the book.

John Weems

St. John's Gospel has had a profound effect on me since I was a teenager. The sixth chapter had an a huge impact in keeping me Catholic when I was seriously considering swimming the Tiber the wrong way.

A fair reading of this chapter drove me to the conclusion that the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist is correct. Therefore....

Scott Hahn's Rome Sweet Home was very influential at that time also.



Louis Bouyer's "The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism" was the tipping point for my becoming a Catholic.

Written by a convert from Protestantism, the book is a loving exploration of the strengths of Protestant theology and spirituality and how these need the institutional framework of Catholicism to thrive.

Therese Z

"New Seeds of Contemplation" by Thomas Merton came into my life when I was in college and, affected by physics courses and the attractiveness of sin, seriously doubted if God existed or cared. At that time, in that place, that book was sheer holiness to me. I was completely and permanently changed after reading it and reaching out to God.

And I picked it off the library shelf "only" because it had a cool shaggy burlap cover!

Ted Fischer-Toerpe

After I returned to the faith nearly a year ago, reading Mike Aquilina's The Fathers of the Church helped me tie current practice to Scripture, and helped me lay a foundation for a historical approach to apologetics.

An interest in Genesis (as mythology I told myself) probably kept me tenuously connected to God during the 29 years I rejected Him. The bold, broad, mysterious motifs fascinated me:

"Let me go, for the day breaketh."
"I will not let thee go, except thou bless me!"
"Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for thou hast power with God and with men, and hast prevailed."

Finally, I am just finishing Frank Sheed's Theology for Beginners which has convinced me of two things: I'm not as clever and insightful as I thought I was; and Catholic Christianity requires reason as well as faith.

PS: Great site, Amy! -TFT

Patrick Quinlan

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen has consistently helped me to live my faith over the past few years.


I have just completed reading for the third time a small book with the strange title, "Hustling God," by Dr. M. Craig Barnes. Dr. Barnes was for several years pastor of the National Presbyterian Church here in Washington, D.C. and now teaches and writes from a seminary in Pittsburgh.

The book is very much within the tradition of Christian inspirational literature (e.g., Max Lucado, A.W. Tozer, etc.) but lacks the "breeziness" of style that can make so many of the books in this genre insipid and instantly forgettable.

Barnes uses the lives of Jacob and Joseph to show us how our struggles for "better and more" seldom amount to much, and more to the point, fail to produce the blessings we long for. The story of Jacob, Esau, Rachel, and Leah is put by Barnes in a contemporary setting where Jacob becomes almost the embodiment of the American Dream. The life of Joseph in all its marvelous complexity and heartbreak is offered to the reader as an alternative where "faith in God's faithfulness" can replace the frantic strivings of Jacob. The contrast carries the reader through struggles with work, love, ourselves, and God.

There is nothing particularly "Catholic" about this book. I read it during a period of deep disappointment with life, and with God, and came away each time more aware of my own efforts to "hustle" blessings from God and why such hustles are doomed to failure.


Two books: Thomas Merton's "Seven Story Mountain" and Andrew Greeley's "The Great Mysteries."

Claude Muncey

The problem is that there are just stacks and stacks of such books (and many of them are in stacks next to my desk right now . . .)

Early on as a Christian I read just about everything that C.S.Lewis wrote. I love Narnia and other books but the Space Trilogy hit hard and I have reread it with great profit. Today many are writing religious fiction in what they think is the tradtion of Tolkien and Lewis, but few come close to these three books, each good for different reasons. The strongest influence was from Perelandra.

There are lots more, including many stated above. Another I would list would be Newman's On The Development of Christian Doctrine.


gk chesterton-orthodoxy and everlasting man


I like the Navarre Bible's which take one book of the Bible, and add commentary for each section. It has helped me be able to read the Bible for the first time in my life.

I also like The Good News About Sex and Marriage by Christopher West and Beyond the Birds and the Bees by Greg Popcak. Both of those books have helped me see the beauty in the Church's teachings on sexuality and given me real directions on teaching it to my children.

Two other books which really affected me were The Robe by Lloyd Douglas and Christ is My Life which is an in-depth interview with Fr. Maciel, founder of the Legionaires of Christ.

I could go on and on (and I did!). I love books and pretty much constantly read.



Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis - it finally placed me in a position of having to fish or cut bait, so to speak. The Lord of the Rings runs as a close second. Kreeft's Summa of the Summa has turned me into an admittedly amateur Thomist.

Neil Dhingra

I've really liked _Ways of Imperfection_, a sort of historical look at Christian spirituality, by the Dominican priest Simon Tugwell. A characteristic paragraph:

"There is, as has been said, an 'anti-mystical strand' in Egyptian monasticism; the Egyptian monks were probably quite right to react against the naive supernaturalism which was found in earlier generations of ascetics. Their concern was to bring us down to earth, rather than to encourage exalted asprations. 'If you have a heart', said abba Pambo, 'you can be saved.' This is the essential thing. It does not matter so much what we do; what matters is that there should be a real human being there to do it. Salvation is offered to real people, not to fictitious saints."

A temptation for me has always been the lure of "naive supernatualism" or "exalted aspirations" that, when resulting in obvious delusion or failure, tend to leave one in despair. Father Tugwell showed me, to my relief, that this has been a perennial temptation in the Catholic tradition. For example, regarding some medieval English mystics, he concludes,

"Affective, imaginative piety could certainly make Christianity very vivid to people, and it provided an easy, human, access to Christ and to his Mother and the saints, but it ran the serious risk of reducing God to the dimensions of essentially unchanged human affections. The gospel was coopted into the joys and pains of everyday life, but it is not clear that it did not lose in the process its capacity to raise people above themselves to the mystery of God."

So, sometimes things are better imperfect than vivid. That's good to know.


I've found Chesterton's "Orthodoxy" is the perfect antidote to the spiritual lukewarmness that I too often get mired in. It is written with a perfect blend of reason, humility and sense wonder. Somewhere (not in "Orthodoxy") Chesterton wrote that gratitude is the greatest virtue. Reading this book, you're grateful for God's magnaminity, for the Church, and for Chesterton.

Dave Pawlak

St. Therese's "Story of a Soul".


It's ironic that this question is being asked today. Twelve years ago, while in RCIA, I picked up a book entitled A Man For Others, a biography of St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast day we celebrate today. I was touched greatly by the heroic death of this holy man. While in Aushwitz during WWII, he volunteered to take the place of a condemned fellow prisoner, whom he did not know. This story touched me so that I chose Maximiian to be my confirmation name and it started a love affair with the saints, whose lives are an example of what God can do through holy souls. I pray for their intercession daily, that I and the whole world may have the strength and courage to follow in their holy footsteps.

Steve Cavanaugh

When I was in high school the book that had the most influence was "Imitation of Christ"...it was the pocket edition, black covers, with 19th century engravings scattered throughout. I remember buying several copies to give to friends as a senior (who mostly didn't know what to do with it).

Over the last decade, I have been very strongly encouraged by the Starbridge series of novels (Glittering Images, Glamourous Powers, Glittering Images, etc.) by Susan Howatch.

And throughout all this time, I turn often to Victor Gallancz's compilation "God and Man". The story of Bonzye still makes me cry.


As an unhappy child who had difficulty making friends and who moved a lot, I was given C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by a kindly neighbor lady when I was 11. I started it reluctantly, but by the time I had finished the first chapter I couldn't put it down. I eagerly read all of the Chronicles of Narnia. In fact, I can't imagine anyone who has been more affected by a book than I was by these books. They gradually led me to Christ; I began attending church by myself as a teenager -- my parents were very nominal protestants -- though at first it was the Episcopal Church because that was the church Lewis belonged to. Gradually I was led into Catholicism. One of the most important books helping me to take that step was The Meaning of Grace, by Charles Journet.

Dave P.

About 10 years ago, while at a Steubenville summer conference, I finally picked up Augustine’s Confessions. It was one of those books I, another Catholic "revert" from evangelical Protestantism, had long known I had to read because it fit Mark Twain’s definition of a classic: something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read. To my great surprise, I was hooked the moment I opened to page 1. I can remember reading the passage about the theft of the pears aloud to my conference roommate, thrilled all to pieces over this dusty old character from the 5th century perfectly articulating my persistent, neurotic, 20th-century regrets over the delight I once took, many years prior, in meaningless acts of vandalism. What a guy!

As that summer went by, the more I read, the more I related. (I took my time, not wanting the experience to end.) The conversion, the insights, the wisdom, the personal anecdotes -- I’ve read a lot, but had never before had a reading experience that plumbed the depths of my Christian consciousness so deeply. By the time I got to Augustine’s dense meanderings on the nature of time and memory, I realized I truly *was* in the virtual presence of one of the greatest and liveliest intellects who ever lived: the person I’d most like to be hanging out with when I’m gazing at the stars on a cloudless night and contemplating the meaning of it all. (Favorite question: "How could God have always existed; how could *anything* that exists not have had a beginning?")

Separately, one book passage that has stuck with me with especial resonance over the years is from Thomas Howard’s "Evangelical is Not Enough." It’s the part where he describes his discovery of the saints as people who had been praying to Christ and reading Scripture all through the centuries "and might have something to teach me." It wasn't long after reading that book -- and triple-highlighting that passage -- that I came home to the Catholic faith myself.

Finally, my single favorite Scripture passage is Philippians 3:13-14: "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Thanks for asking this thought-provoking question, Amy. Great fun!

Joseph D'Hippolito

I did an intense study of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy 18-24 months ago. It affected me in a number of ways:
1. It showed the relationship between Christ and the Mosaic Law
2. It demonstrated how the specific manner of Christ's sacrifice was necessary to achieve redemption through His atonement
3. Most of all, it taught me that God seeks to initiate a relationship of trust with all men. This is why he performed the various miracles (plagues to the Egyptians) for the Israelites: to develop trust in an enslaved, abused people.

Sean Gallagher

Being a Benedictine at heart, I'd have to say that St. Benedict's Rule has had a profound impact upon me and will, hopefully, have a continuing impact upon the way that my family will live amongst each other.

Merton's Seven Storey Mountain and Thoughts in Solitude had a real effect on my life.

Various of Cardinal Newman's Parochial and Plain Sermonas as well as his Apologia pro vita sua stand out for me as well.

Sandra Miesel

THE HEART OF MAN by Fr. Gerald Vann was a big influence on me in college for its limid, gracious picture of God.
C.S. Lewis's THE FOUR LOVES was also memorable and his A GRIEF OBSERVED helped me through a personal tragedy.


"You Set My Spirit Free: a 40 Day Journey in the Company of St. John of the Cross" by David Hazard.

It's based on the writings of St. John of the Cross. Of course, I should probably go on and read the actual writings of the man. But, this little book came at a pivotal time in my spiritual life and really made an impact on me.

Tim Ferguson

Henri de Lubac's "The Splendor of the Church" - a beautiful book on what the Church is, written while de Lubac was in trouble with Church authorities, which I read when I was in trouble with the seminary authorities. It helped me to realize that the Church is so much more than the individual priests, bishops, etc. who happen to be in charge at the time.


I am a convert, and first got interested in Catholicism as a teenager when I read two books: a biography of Ethel Kennedy, and the autobiography of Karen Armstrong (a theologian who's an ex-nun). I was impressed by the way faith permeated every aspect of Kennedy's life and helped her through the hardest of times. And in regards to Armstrong, I was impressed by the cloistered life she lead even though her book was meant to repudiate it!

I also always tell people I became Catholic in the library of my good Lutheran high school . . . the library had a lot of materials about various Christian churches available, and I read them voraciously.


Great list so far... I'll add C. S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces, his foray into mythology. Of all his works (which I love dearly), this one probably had the greatest impact on me. Amazing things to say about suffering, doubt, and above all, love, both human and divine.

One of my favorite lines: "Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like coming back."



"Orthodoxy" by G. K. Chesterton, "Jesus Rediscovered" by Malcolm Muggeridge, and "Making Sense Out of Suffering" by Peter Kreeft. These are about the only books I have read more than once. They are packed full of wonderful things - faith, reason and meaning shining through... And the authors are all converts I noticed!

ita o'byrne

It may be trite but my love for history led me to the lives of the saints, both Butler's oout-dated version and newer ones and it gave me a new appreciation for those who sincerely followed Christ and wanted me to just like them.

As far as a single book goes I think it was Vita Sackville-West's Saint Joan of Arc. She wasn't even Catholic but Sackville-West's book made me entranced with Joan forevermore and you can't be entranced with Joan without wanting to know more about the Faith that was the center of her being.

John Mulcahy

Short Story: "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," by Ursula LeGuin.

Read it at:(www.geocities.com/su_englit/leguin_omelas.html)

It's very short and kind of mythical style. It describes our future (present?).

What institution in our world has a visceral understanding of the truly hellish nature of the mythical Omelas? (Hint: It isn't the UN.)

I hit the confessional the next day and haven't turned back...


Being a cradle Catholic here amidst it appears quite a few converts I would have to say, being stranded on some island, I would select for one book only "The Diary of St. Faustina" also a favorite of John Paul II's. This book coming to its popularity at such a time is very providential. It offers to us who were raised with very strict interpretations of all things holy the greatest attribute of our God and that is Mercy. In these particular times it is truly a life saver for all.


Could one add Williams to Lewis and Tolkien? They are meat and strong drink, and i'm glad i *didn't* run into these as a youthful Christian, but they carry images and visions of the reality of faith and the illusions of this world that have molded me.

I'd also like to second the vote for Howatch's "Starbridge" series, still technically going forward with the more recent "The Wonder Worker" and "The High Flyer." As a Protestant pastor, their depictions of ministry, church, faith, and the communion of saints in what are usually fairly Anglo-Catholic settings are quite meaningful to me.

Can't help wondering what Susan Howatch thinks about the current Anglican/Episcopal foundering. . .

Jim McCullough

Background: I converted in 1970 and have been a DRE in Greensboro, NC, for 29 years. Key books in my pilgrimage: Mere Christianity-CSL; Apologia Pro Vita Sua and Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine-J. H. Card. Newman; The Documents of Vatican II (especially on Non-Christian Religions, the Laity, Scripture, Modern World, Church, Ecumenism, and Religious Liberty) the Fr. Bertran Conway, CSP, 1962 edition of The Question Box; the original version of the Jerusalem Bible with all the great footnotes; The Cost of Discipleship-Bonhoeffer; We Hold These Truths-John Courtney Murray; The Lord of the Rings-JRR Tolkein; Lay People in the Church- Yves Congar, OP; The Spirit of Catholicism-Karl Adam; and, an inoculation (though it took a while to become active) against the Christ Among Us catechism given me by the priest who received me, The Peasant of the Garrone-Jacques Maritain.


Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot"


"In the Beauty of the Lillies" by John Updike. A quirky choice, perhaps, but it is a powerful and profound novel--honest as hell--for people who struggle with their faith, as I sometimes do.

Tom Kozal

Chesterton's "Orthodoxy". Like a clean blow delivered right to the brain.....brought me back, that and the Didache...

T Cook

I would like to mention Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales. I cannot believe how good it is. It is, I think, an owner's manual for the Christian soul. Every time I read it I think that de Sales must have been an astonishing confessor.


The Heart of the Matter, by Graham Greene. Because it elucidated the complexity of faith and sin as realized by the Catholic Church


1. William Buckley, "Nearer, My God."
2. C.S. Lewis, "Mere Christianity."
3. Michael Novak, "Tell Me Why."
4. Mark Shea, "By What Authority."

All four brought me into Catholicism from mainline Protestantism, or nothing.


In a an Ethics/Philosophy class in college, one of the assigned readings was a little book by St Augustine on Evil in a dialogue format. I can't remember the title. One passage talked about how people kill themselves because they are unhappy, not because they hate life. My father committed suicide years ago and I was also going back to practicing my faith. It brought a little peace to my mind and also solidified my faith that the Church and Christ understand human nature. Our Lord was not just making abstract, esoteric teachings.

This was in a state university. I don't think that I would have encountered this book and St. Augustine in a "Catholic" college.


The first books that come to mind are
C.S. Lewis' Narnia stories (Loved Aslan)!
A biography of St Maximillian Kolbe
(I don't like your photo of him)!

I reread whenever I need to remember.


1. The Confession of Augustine

2. Lost in the Cosmos by Walker Percy (a bit dated, wickedly funny and ultimately profound)

3. (Don't laugh okay)Etienne Gilson's study of Heloise and Abelard.

4. Various treatises of Augustine, especially those on marriage.


St. Thomas More's _Sadness of Christ_.

Fr. Garesché's _Everyday Apostle: Commonsense Ways to Draw Others to Christ_.

And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Christifideles Laici. (But you knew that already.)

Donald R. McClarey

Soldier, Ask Not by Gordon R. Dickson. One of the most moving evocations of religious faith I have read. Ironically it is a work of science fiction, a field dominated by atheists and agnostics. God rest your ink-stained soul Mr. Dickson!


Sebastian Brock's "The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life": the introduction on Oriental Christianity opened my eyes to the fact that Western Christianity is just one among many valid takes on the Gospel message and the readings from the Syriac Fathers opened my heart to the Spirit.

David Walker

Non-Catholic Authors:
C.S. Lewis. Just about everything he ever wrote.

William Barclay. His "The Mind of Jesus" and "Jesus as They Saw Him" were life changing.

J.B. Phillips "Your God Is Too Small" is a brief yet profound, power-packed little book.

Catholic Authors:
Mark Shea (By What Authority),

Robert Barron, Ralph McInerny (both for their wonderful books about Aquinas)

And, of course, Thomas Merton (Seven Storey Mountain, etc...)


An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales, Life and Death in a Venetian Convent: The Chronicle and Necrology of Corpus Domini, 1395-1436 by Bartolomea Riccoboni, St. Augustine's Confessions, and Catholic Converts: British and American Intellectuals Turn to Rome by Patrick Allitt .

Paul Pfaffenberger

CS Lewis - Mere Christianity
Henri Nouwen - Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secualar World
Jean-Pierre De Caussade - Abandonment to Divne Providence
Rich Mullins - An Arrow Pointing to Heaven

John Murray

Eamon Duffy, Stripping of the Altars, Yale UP 1992. Popular piety in pre-reformation England was rich and beautiful. The subjects of the study were truly our brothers and sisters in faith.

Jimmy Mac

2 golden oldies that give away my age. Both are from the 1950s !!!

Late Have I Loved Thee, by Ethel Mannin

The White Stone, by Carlo Coccioli

Both are undoubtedly available only through a book-finding service. They might be languishing on a dusty shelf in some library where it is a SIN to throw away old books, no matter when they were last read.


Back in my early teens "The Secret of the Rosary" by St. Louis De Montfort and "Playboy to Priest" by Fr. Kenneth Roberts were influential.

Earl E. Appleby, Jr.

There are, Deo Gratias, all too many Catholic treasures to mine and, alas, all too few hours to do so.

I'll forebear naming those noted by others that struck a cord in this convert's heart, but as a husband and father, I need the real life examples of the Lives of the Saints more and more each day.

Books by saints are indispensible. As a slave of Mary, St. Louis De Montford's "True Devotion to Mary" has changed my life in more ways than I can tell.

As a member of the Church Militant, who does not believe Catholics should crouch in the catacombs as our society descends into the sewers it celebrates as "freedom," I find Dom Chautard's "Soul of the Apostolate" and Plinio Correa de Oliveira's "Revolution and Counter-Revolution" trustworthy field guides to spiritual and cultural combat.

As a Catholic and an editor, I conclude: God bless Catholic authors who defend our Faith and Catholics who read them!


Great question -- but this could get to be a really, really long list.

Actually, before I read the other comments, most of my tip-of-the-tongue answers were fiction . . .

On the non-fiction side:

  • St. Augustine's Confessions

  • St. Ignatius' Exercises

On the fiction side:

  • Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion
    Two things stick out from this -- the reverent beauty of it, what Tolkien calls "subcreation"; and especially from the Silmarillion, mortality, time, and eternity put into perspective by the Elves who are bound to the world's time, while Men "escape the circles of the world", and the rebellion/redemption cycles -- Galadriel's "I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel."

  • Lots of C.S. Lewis, but especially Till We Have Faces

  • Bernanos' Diary of a Country Priest: "God will break you!"

  • Flannery O'Connor -- nearly anything she wrote, but (back into non-fiction) I loved the letters especially.

  • Walter Miller's Canticle for Leibowitz -- it helped light in my imagination a deep love for the Church persisting through time and circumstance

  • Bolt's Man for All Seasons, though in many ways deeply flawed, when I read it, helped me to recognize heroic faith

  • The Brothers Karamazov, especially Zosima

  • Hopkins' Wreck of the Deutschland

All right, probably enough.

I should also mention, in my first year of college, reading First Things (the journal) helped me immensely in becoming a more critical thinker and submitting my faith to the teachings of the Church.

Rod Dreher

Two books for me, both read as a freshman in college, were key to my conversion. A thin volume called "Kierkegaard's Philosophy: Self-Deception and Cowardice in the Modern Age," by John Douglas Mullen, used the thinking of that gadfly Protestant to demolish all the self-serving defenses I'd constructed around myself to avoid the hard questions of life. My skepticism of Christianity, I came to understand, came from both a fundamental misapprehension of what Christianity really was (i.e., not a dull, rote adherence to an ethical system), and an adolescent determination to employ a pseudo-intellectual agnosticism to protect my own moral and intellectual autonomy.

Around the same time, I read Merton's "The Seven Storey Mountain." Merton was a young man a lot like me when he was surprised by joy, and found his way into the Catholic faith. I had no idea that this was what Catholicism was, and that it could speak to my inmost needs and desires. I finished that book knowing that some day, when I had the courage, I would become Catholic. I lingered in Egypt for a few more years, but in retrospect that might have been a good thing; had I turned up at the campus Catholic center right after reading Merton's 1940s classic, and seen that wan, pitiful, dogma-free, hugger-mugger post-conciliar liberal Catholicism on display there, I might have despaired too much.


So Rod, we do have something in common. I almost listed Either/Or by Kierkegaard, but in truth, it was the graduate seminar, more properly, the professor's wisdom on the subject that really made the difference. In its time, Kierkegaard's work was like a streaker at a Victorian tea party. And it's still very thought provoking. I wish I had that professor to motivate me to read it again!

Robert Gotcher

The two books that sparked the fire for me my senior year in college were St. Bonaventure's Itinerarum (Soul's Journey to God) and J.H. Newman's A Grammar of Assent. I was reading them both at the same time as assignments for two different classes and everything came together. I wrote a paper comparing the two and began praying and going to confession (much needed!) again.

Mark Shea

My crucial books (in no particular order):

The Lord of the Rings
Mere Christianity
Screwtape Letters
Lots of Lewis' fiction (provides a sort of private iconography) - Lewis
Evangelical is Not Enough - Thomas Howard
Orthodoxy and St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox - Chesterton

All played critical roles in my mental formation.

Also vital: The Mind of the Maker - Sayers
Listen to the Green-Luci Shaw
Lots of stuff by Peter Kreeft
Various other stuff listed on my Book recommendations page (www.mark-shea.com/br.html)


part of my conversion:
-Jacques Maritain (www.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/ndjmc)
-Josef Peiper
-social encyclicals
-Theology of the Body - JPII


Books I read over the course of about 20 years that contributed to the deepening of my faith:

*James Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" and "Ulysses". Great examples of the sacramental imagination.

*Merton's "Seven Story Mountain."

*The Gospel According to St. John.

*"Love in the Ruins" by Walker Percy. Also, Percy's mock-interview essay, "Questions They Never Asked Me."

*The encyclicals "Evangelium Vitae" and "Veritatis Splendor."

*JP II's Theology of the Body

Tom Hynes

The two books which set me on fire:
"Seven Storey Mountain" when I was 16 and
"Raissa's Journal" by Maritain's wife.
Most of Graham Greene and C.S. Lewis' works in graduate school, then "Lord of the Rings' as I took data for my dissertation ( I should have dedicated it to him). Plus many others mentioned by the rest above.

c matt

Chesterton, particularly Everlasting Man and his conversion story (can't remember the title).

Last Days of Socrates - relentless and uncompromising search for Truth (where else could such a search lead?)

The Catechism - gots all the answers, just need to look it up.

Weigel's The Courage to be Catholic

St. Blog's Parish, of course.

Jimmy Mac

I'm glad that someone else enjoyed "A Canticle for Liebowitz" as much as I did.


I'm in there with Dave P, Barbara and Sam

The Confessions of Saint Augustine.

How can a person in the 21st century connect with a person from the 4th century so completely? Augustine is my brother.


1. The passage in the Bible that comes up in a few places: "...nothing is impossible to God". The Angel Gabriel mentions this to Mary at the annunciation speaking of Elizabeth. Jesus said it to the incredulous apostles after having just given the rich young man the goods on attaining the eternal life - "For men this is impossible: for God everying is possible."

2. Lev Shestov's work (he was a russian jew), basically all his books are essentially a meditation on that biblical phrase. He fought the idea that prideful human reason could answer everything. A sample of his prose - "Not long ago a cemetery guard was caught in the act of desecrating corpes. But don't be horrified: the sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles. Not long ago a man's only son was killed in battle. But never mind: the diagonal is greater than the perpendicular."

3. Nietzsche said that madness is rare in individuals but often the norm in society at large: our Western culture's particular madness and a formidable obstacle to people's faith including my own is the idea that human reason has all the answers. Shestov's insistence helped me to punch out of that box. Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground, a great little book, goes along the same lines.

4. The psalms read and prayed before the blessed sacrement.

fr. jim

My last re-reading of Franny and Zooey spurred me to seriously try using the Jesus Prayer as a springboard to deeper prayer. I've always loved the Glass Family chronicles (much, much more than Catcher in the Rye), but now I owe Salinger an even greater debt. My adoption of the Jesus Prayer and the desire to make that discipline more central in my prayer life led me to Lev Gillet's On the Invocation of the Name of Jesus, and to The Art of Prayer (an anthology compiled by Igumen Chariton of Valamo), and these have made a huge difference for me. (I liked The Way of the Pilgrim. I really did. But I don't go back and back and back again to that like I do to these other books.) In this regard I should also mention a pamphlet by Kallistos Ware called, The Power of the Name; and, while I'm at it, his The Orthodox Way.

The Imitation of Christ (using the Knox/Buckley translation side by side with the "conceptual translation" of Bill Creasy was revelatory for me)

Lewis and Chesterton started to open my eyes and heart and spirit when I was a junior in high school, and have continued to be on my nightstand. Whenever I am in a tough patch, I return rather predictably to Narnia, and it helps me through whatever that adventure is that is Aslan's joy for me.

Not a great book, but a good one that left its mark on me when I was a senior in high school: Mr. Blue by Myles Connoly.

Also when I was a senior, I remember surreptitiously brushing the tears from my eyes in the library of my public high school as I finished Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory, and thinking "Then I guess God can use even me, too, as His priest..."

Reading Scripture As The Word of God by George Martin was a huge hug from God as I started my first year in the seminary. It kept me, I'm sure, from much silliness that I might have entered into without Martin's solid direction, and got me started on a habit of lectio.

I return again and again to Therese, Charles de Foucauld, to Dorothy Day, to Carryl Houselander, to Merton----I treasure their friendship and pray that they're having more of an effect on me than at present I recognize.

Thanks for giving us the chance to share these, Amy. Maybe more later. It's time to hit the sack.

fr. j.


Oddly enought, it was a Protestant evangelist (Billy Ghram) who pushed me to enter the Church once again. His book "How To Be Born Again" really helped me understand what it means to "repent". I was living the lie that if I was not so good but not so bad, and if I only say sorry after my sins, I'll get a pass into heaven. It was Billy Ghram's book that showed me that to repent is not just to say your sorry, but to say your sorry and radically change your life. I made the decision to go back to Confession, and the rest is history. Thanks a lot, Billy Ghram, for leading my back home to Rome.


So many wonderful books! Here are a few more which have shaped me and provide daily conversion:

The Liturgy of the Hours, especially the psalms and the 2nd readings in the office of readings.
Praying the psalms just opens the heart so, and the 2nd readings have been/are a terrific introduction to the thought of many Church Fathers and Saints.

"Thoughts Matter" and "Tools Matter" by Sr. Mary Margaret Funk, OSB. Great books on the teachings of the early desert fathers on the 8 thoughts and how to deal with them, and spiritual practices to do so.

Thomas Merton again! The 7 Story Mountain, of course, but for me most recently and even more, "No Man Is An Island". I swear you can open the book and point to a page and get food for thought to chew on in the presence of God.

Beverly Donofrio, "Looking for Mary, or the Blessed Mother and Me" This is a book that started my return to the Church. It is her journey of faith.

Anything I have ever read of St. Therese, esp. her "Last Conversations"

As my interest in Carmelite spirituality grows, I am beginning to read St. Teresa of Avila's "Interior Castle" and I just want to go deeper, grow closer to God and this book is making me very hungry for that!

Scott Hahn's "Hail Holy Queen". Makes me appreciate the unfathomable riches of scripture and tradition; gave me a better grasp of certain aspects of marian theology, and is just plain beautiful.

So many more, but I gotta get busy.

Reading this comment thread has also introduced me to others that I can't wait to ferret out and read. Praise the good God!

Bill White

In the last years of my Protestant life, 1987-1991: Merton's Seven Storey Mountain; my late father's little black prayer book by Fr. Lasance (ca. 1900?); a Jesuit martyrology I found at the University of Illinois library; Fr. Hardon's The Catholic Catechism; and volume 1 of Henri Daniel-Rops' The Church in the Dark Ages with its small biography of Saint Augustine that led me to take his name as my confirmation name.

Since Easter 1991: Homer and the beauty of his filial piety; Christopher Dawson with his insights into the history of Christendom and the crisis of our civilization; William F. Buckley's non-fiction; Chesterton and Belloc; everything I read from Cardinal Newman; the Psalter of the Liturgy of the Hours; everything from Frank Sheed; Alba House's Rosary booklets; everything by J. S. Bach; various Gregorian chant booklets I've picked up at used book sales; St. Blog's parish; and criminy, I've barely scratched the surface! I like Gerard's junkyard analogy.

Shaun Gallagher

I'm glad to see some of my favorites listed by others. Here's my list, in no particular order:

• C.S. Lewis's "A Grief Observed." Since so many people have listed Lewis's works as influential to their Catholic faith, I'm curious whether many of the commenters would agree that Lewis is one of the more "Catholic in spirit" non-Catholic writers.

• The Bible's "Song of Songs." In college, my Biblical and Classical Lit professor called it "the most R-rated book in the Bible." It really improved my understanding of the Bible as a whole, and I was glad that it touched on sexuality as an important component of our lives, if only in an allegorical way to explain higher-level desires.

• Fr. Ken Roberts' "Playboy to Priest." Of course, when I read it for the first time in eighth grade, I thought the title meant he had once worked for Mr. Hefner.

• This isn't a book, but it's a piece of writing that greatly influenced my faith: "A Prayer for Humility" by Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val. It's only 10 lines long, but it's probably the hardest prayer I've every tried to pray. You can read it here, along with a couple of my other favorite prayers.

Keith R


Thanks for that link.

Trish J

So many overlaps with people who have already posted. Here are three favorites:
1. The later poetry of Denise Levertov, especially in the collections The Sands of the Well and Breathing the Water
2. Annie Dillard's essays in Teaching a Stone to Talk and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
3. Habit of Being, the collected letters of Flannery O'Connor, ed. Sally Fitzgereald

Stuart Buck

I'll add my vote for:

1) C.S. Lewis. Everything by him. (The only thing I haven't read is his OHEL volume.)

2) Chesterton. Again, everything he ever wrote. (My college library had his collected works.)

3) Sheldon Vanauken, especially Under the Mercy. I also corresponded several time with Vanauken before his death, and his letters to me were quite thought-provoking.

4) Scott Hahn -- Rome Sweet Home, which I read despite the title (which would be perfect if the aim was to repel Protestants).

Kevin Dyer, SJ

While an undergraduate at Saint Louis University, I read Walker Percy's The Moviegoer. It helped direct some of my self-absorbed college angst in more fruitful directions. "St. Walker" helped save my soul. And I'm not alone. When I give the book to others, they all identify with Binx.

prakash patra

it is a good artical but being a hindu it istough to understandit but ican relate many thing with existancialism

jeff reedy

hi there! what a great group of new friends i just met. :) i am a certified (or, at least, certifiable) bibliophile, and read constantly. i'd like to add my two cents:

the 5 best books i've ever read.

1) first, anything by cs lewis. i've read all of his fiction and most of his nonfiction, and he's simply the best there is, or i haven't seen it yet.

2) anything by frederick buechner - if you haven't read him, do! he's very profound, very wise, and really shows how to connect humanity to divinity, and all that that entails.

3) celebration of discipline by richard foster. i've read this one 3 times en entirety, and many many times in sections. makes you want to practice the christian disciplines NOW.

4) les miserables. i laughed, i cried...it moved me, bob. great story of redemption, great action, great romance. just a great tale.

5) father elijah - by michael o'brien - fantastic. witty. deep. sobering. dry. charming. the kind of book you put down each time you get to a new page and absord the depth and wisdom being conveyed.

i also love chesterton, tolstoy, dillard, joyce, proust, hahn, douglas adams :) graham greene, turgenev, nabakov, dumas, augustine, brian mclaren, kreeft, and aquinas. that's all i can think of right now. i'm leaving out many great authors that i've enjoyed over the years. but those come readily to mind.

feel free to drop me a line about anything. anything.


V. pol

The Psalms and anything by St.Teresa of Avila have been instrumental in deepening my spirituality.

Also "The ascent to Mount Carmel" by St.John of the Cross and "My only friend is darkness"- a commentary on the same book by Barbara Dent.
This last book has helped me so much in understanding the many difficulties and joys of a deeper walk with Christ.

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