Books to inspire your Catholic literary imagination

Tim Drake recommends:
“An Episode of Sparrows” by Rumer Godden

I love the multiple layers of this story. A child could read the story and get one thing from it, an adult something else, and a Catholic would get something else. On its surface it’s about Lovejoy Mason, a girl who creates a garden, but it’s about much, much more. Set in post-World War II England, the depth of this short novel is amazing. I could read it again and again and not tire of it. It’s a beautiful story, beautifully told.

“A Cry of Stone” by Michael O’Brien

This massive modern Canadian novel tells the story of Rose Wâbos, a female Native American artist. Like all of O’Brien’s books, it captures the larger cultural war we find ourselves in, passing along truths in an epic story of a small, forgotten life, but the large impact a loving person can have on so many others. Knowing that it was based in part on real people whom the author knew gives it even more meaning.

“The End of the Affair” by Graham Greene

The most adult of my recommendations, this book is a masterpiece. It’s clever and moving and is written like a mystery. It doesn’t shy away from our sinful human nature, but epitomizes the Catholic literary imagination by demonstrating how God can use all things to bring about grace. It tells the story of an ended affair. It’s a deeply Catholic novel ultimately about redemption.

Ann Jonas recommends:
“Simon’s Night” by Jon Hassler

“Simon’s Night” features a retired professor who has moved into a rest home, fearing he can no longer take care of himself. He reflects on his life, worried that his new way of life may be worse than suffering from dementia.

“North of Hope” by Jon Hassler

“North of Hope” has as its main character Father Frank Healy, a priest of more than 20 years, who returns to his home parish on an Ojibwe reservation in Northern Minnesota and encounters a woman from his past. Hassler’s books have such rich storylines, genuine characters and great writing.

“LaRose” by Louise Erdrich

When Landreaux Iron accidently shoots and kills the 5-year-old son of his friend and neighbor, he turns to an old Ojibwe tradition and gives his 5-year-old son to the parents of the boy he killed. Landreaux is a devout Catholic who is shattered by the accident; his wife seeks help from their priest to intervene and offer guidance. Again, a creative storyline, interesting characters, and rich writing make LaRose an excellent Catholic read.

Steve South recommends:
“The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis

For my first recommendation, I will cheat somewhat and recommend a whole series: “The Chronicles of Narnia.” I don’t know a better series that relates the deep truths of Christianity in a way that would not only captivate a child, but also enthrall an adult with the deep currents of its allusions and symbolism — and sacramentality.

“The Light Between Oceans” by M.L. Stedman

This book is not explicitly Christian or Catholic at all on the surface. However, the story beautifully illustrates the Catholic themes of both redemptive suffering and self-sacrificial love.

“The Seven Story Mountain” by Thomas Merton

The book’s description of a man tired by the pleasures and distractions of the world, and seeking something deeper, something more beautiful, and something more fundamentally true, is even more relevant in the modern world than it was in the world of the 1940s in which it was written.


Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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