What recent books tell us about the world and the Church today
There’s an adage that you can tell a lot about a person by their bookshelves. In a similar way, you can tell a lot about the Church and the world based on the books being published. In our annual spring book review, we feature new releases that address some of the biggest problems our world is facing: how to handle money, dealing with anxiety and depression, understanding Scripture, how to raise kids so that they stay faithful to the Church, learning to forgive, knowing how to navigate seasons of transition — all from a Catholic perspective. Additionally, there has been a surge in Catholic books for kids and teens, many about popular and new saints, such as Blessed Carlo Acutis and St. Bernadette. This spring, equip yourself and your family to live with a Catholic worldview by surrounding yourself with faith-filled books. Happy reading!
Author: Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt
Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co.
Summary: In his latest book, Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt, a professor of theology at Loyola University Maryland and a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, offers 38 homilies — edited with a poetic style — that highlight the truths of the Scriptures as seen through the lenses of current events from the past decade. Reflecting on elements of the liturgical year and Catholic occasions — such as baptisms, weddings and funerals — as well as key events, including the coronavirus pandemic, Deacon Bauerschmidt helps readers remember that life is beautiful when seen in its larger context: the light of eternity. As Samuel Wells wrote in a review of the book, “To read these homilies and commentaries is to clothe oneself with wisdom and grace.”
Author: Father Jeffrey Kirby, STD
Summary: Be honest: Do you think that the Bible is accessible, understandable, livable and enjoyable? If not, the newest book by Father Jeffrey Kirby is for you. In “Understanding the Bible,” Father Kirby provides easy-to-read summaries of different books of the Bible, touching on the history and themes, applying the book to our own issues and struggles today, and offering guidance for getting started with reading that specific book. So, instead of diving into Revelation and quickly feeling overwhelmed, let Father Kirby give a basic overview and some tools to navigate this book of the Bible — along with every other book of Scripture. Each chapter is only a few pages, just enough to give the essentials for stepping into Scripture with confidence.
Author: K.V. Turley and Fiorella de Maria
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Summary: “When dark worlds of horror films and war experiences collide, the outcome can be downright terrifying,” writes the press release for “This Thing of Darkness.” The story follows journalist and war widow Evangeline Kilhooley, who is assigned to write a “star profile” of the fading actor Bela Lugosi. While the actor’s stories offer their own tinge of horror, things get stranger when Evi meets another English expatriate, Hugo Radelle — a movie buff who seems to know more about her past that he is letting on. As Michael D. O’Brien, author of “Father Elijah: An Apocalypse” and “Island of the World,” wrote in a review, “This novel’s deft blend of fantasy and chilling realities presents a warning about where pride and willfulness can lead, especially when combined, in the beginning, with the subtler seductions of the occult that lead step by step into spiritual and mental territory of utmost peril.”
Author: Lisa Cotter
Publisher: Ascension Press
Summary: Growing up, Lisa Cotter was anything but a “girly-girl.” So, when she became a wife and mom and tried to play the part of a “perfect Catholic woman … [a] Pinterest-worthy woman who balanced her vocation as wife, mother … with perfect ease and domesticity,” well, she began to feel like a fake. Cotter decided to find out what the Church taught about authentic femininity, and what she found was much more than what the culture had told her growing up. She uncovered the hidden gem of Pope St. John Paul’s teaching on the feminine genius. In this book, Cotter unpacks what this term means, looking at the lives of women saints throughout history and what feminine virtues they especially emulated, such as receptivity, maternity, sensitivity and intuition. This book is perfect for young women trying to figure out what it means to be authentically feminine.
Editor: Heidi Hess Saxton
Publisher: Ave Maria Press
Summary: “The Ave Prayer Book for Catholic Mothers” is the spiritual lifeline all Catholic mothers need, with prayers for almost any occasion or need. Broken up into four sections — “Prayers for Encountering God,” “Prayers for Getting to Know Mary,” “Prayers for a More Intimate Marriage” and “Prayers of a Mother’s Heart” — women will find a collection of original and traditional prayers and reflections from dozens of moms just like them. As a reviewer wrote on Amazon: “When life is too busy, the inspiration of this prayer book beautifully draws you back to the divine to refuel for your hectic life. It’s beautifully designed and lovely to hold. So when you cannot make it to church, or you need a quiet moment, [it’s] a perfect read to bring you closer to Jesus while your children are napping.”
Author: Ellen Labrecque; Illustrator: Dan Wegendt
Publisher: Pauline Kids
Summary: As part of the Pauline Kids line of books for young Catholics, “Carlo Acutis: God’s Computer Genius” is the latest in the “You Can Be A Saint!” series of kid-friendly biographies about the many inspiring, diverse and holy people on the path to sainthood. Combining many artistic forms of illustrations, Dan Wegendt’s drawings and choice of images of the young Carlo make it feel like a scrapbook about the saint — detailing the 15-year-old techie who loved coding, video games, animals, and also lived a life that put him on the highway to heaven. This book is great for young readers who want to be inspired that they, too, can be a saint.
Author: Father Donald Haggerty
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Summary: St. John of the Cross has earned the title “Mystical Doctor” for his writings on spirituality and contemplative prayer. The saint’s writings can be a bit daunting to the average Catholic, but in “Saint John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation,” Father Donald Haggerty guides readers in style that is easy-to-comprehend. Father Haggerty is renowned as an author who can shed light on the intense and fruitful aspects of contemplative prayer and intimacy with God. “Saint John of the Cross” is a resource that provides a step-by-step introduction to the way of contemplation as St. John understood and taught it. And Father Haggerty has a knack to effectively summarize and organize the deep spiritual truths of contemplative prayer that St. John revealed.
Author: Cardinal Robert Sarah
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Summary: Couples needing some advice to mend a broken relationship or reinforce their relationship with a deeper appreciation of self-sacrifice may find Cardinal Robert Sarah’s book “Couples, Awaken Your Love” just the tool to fight the forces attempting to tear families apart. The book is a compilation of the cardinal’s preachings to couples on retreat in Lourdes, France. He challenges couples to rediscover the love between each other and offers some tools to pursue holiness. He pulls no punches. He calls out abortion, “counterfeit marriages,” gender ideology as direct threats to the family. The so-called gender revolution, Cardinal Sarah says, turns an individual into a “zombie,” and he adds, “This is the hour of combat between these shadows into which humanity sinks.”
Author: Joel Stepanek
Publisher: Ave Maria Press
Summary: If you are starting a new job, retiring, getting married, expanding your family or making a significant change in your life, then Joel Stepanek wants to show you how being shaken out of your routine and starting something new can free you to become a better Christian. Change can be a blessing. In “Beginning Well,” Stepanek offers seven spiritual practices to pull you through life’s transitions. Readers will learn to let go of what you left; use what you have learned; ask, listen and watch; create routines to bridge the old and the new; pause and assess; find a good mentor; and seek and embrace joy. Stepanek helps you refine your thoughts and behavior in a way that aligns one’s life to the Gospel.
Authors: Father Thomas Berg and Dr. Timothy Lock
Summary: When we face some of our deepest hurts, forgiveness can seem impossible. In “Choosing Forgiveness,” Father Thomas Berg, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and professor of moral theology, and Dr. Timothy Lock, a Catholic psychologist and director of the Goretti Center for Healing and Forgiveness, will guide readers toward forgiveness. Readers will discover the pathway of healing, peace and interior freedom, which will release them and those who have wronged them from the bondage of unforgiveness. Deacon James Keating writes that the book “will stand the test of time, as it is anchored in an authentic Catholic anthropology, psychology and spirituality. It is a complete and robust presentation on forgiveness. Every page invites realism and hope.”
Author: Msgr. Kevin Sullivan
Publisher: Paulist Press
Summary: Are you intimidated by the Bible? In “What’s the Message,” Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, a priest from the Archdiocese of New York, provides a brief and accessible guide to the Bible. The book delivers a concise and lively explanation of key Bible passages and encourages readers to continue studying the Bible. “What’s the Message” has an approachable style where one can find readings from the Old and New Testaments and “ponderings” on how to apply Scripture to life today. The book is targeted at religious believers, nonbelievers and those challenged to keep focus. Its 119 pages is a “humble attempt at the CliffNotes or SparkNotes version,” and can serve as a cheat sheet that allows the reader to become familiarized with the Bible’s central themes.
Author: Ulrich L. Lehner
Publisher: Baker Academic
Summary: Our world is dominated by half-truths, illogic and intellectual laziness, but “Think Better” will help readers understand reason as a powerful tool to help us grow intellectually and emotionally. This 184-page volume unlocks the dynamics of human reason, helps readers to think critically and to use reason confidently to solve problems. Readers will be enabled to think more clearly and precisely about the world. “Think Better” tackles profound philosophical questions but does not get bogged down in jargon. Lehner covers the topics of knowledge, identity, leadership, creativity and empathy. He integrates philosophy, illustrations, personal anecdotes and statistics in a way that is well suited for undergraduate, classical school and home school contexts. It is an invaluable guide for anyone interested in gaining reasoning skills.
Author: Mike Aquilina
Price: $14.95 each
Summary: OSV continues its “Fathers of the Faith” series, by Mike Aquilina, with two new offerings. The St. Augustine book introduces St. Augustine of Hippo — who he was, what he taught, where he lived — and draws out his importance as a figure in Catholic history. This fourth and fifth century North African converted from a sinful young man to become a Catholic priest and bishop. St. Irenaeus, named a Doctor of the Church in January, was a friend of St. Polycarp, who is tied to the apostle John. Irenaeus is unique as a witness of apostolic doctrine. He was known to refute the heresies of the times, and his foundational writings, “Against Heresies” and “The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching,” are relevant works for today.
“A Christian Miscellany: Terrible Jokes, Curious Facts, and Memorable Quotes from the Garden of Eden to Armageddon”
Author: Tim Dowley
Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Summary: In a 2006 interview with a German radio program, Pope Benedict XVI — who, during his pontificate, was seen as stern and serious, said, “I think it’s very important to be able to see the funny side of life and its joyful dimension and not to take everything too tragically.” Author Tim Dowley’s latest book takes the retired pope’s advice and runs with it. “A Christian Miscellany” is chock full of random (but imminently entertaining) lists, facts, quotes, jokes, anecdotes and more, covering everything from how a pope gets elected, to selections of faith-focused movies, to a list of all of the Crusades. It’s not a book you’ll read from cover to cover, but one that you’ll have a hard time putting down once you start flipping through it.
Author: Connor Gallagher
Summary: In the introduction to “Parenting for Eternity,” author Connor Gallagher quickly gets to the point of his latest book. Gallagher, the father of 14 living children, writes: “As a parent, you must examine your conscience: do you give greater attention to your child’s physical or spiritual well-being? Have you gone to great lengths to construct your entire life around your child’s health, education, social life, and sports so they can be well-rounded, productive and successful citizens? A resounding yes comes to mind. But have you given even 10 percent of such effort to their spiritual formation?” In “Parenting for Eternity,” Gallagher gives parents the tools to teach their children to live with the heart of the Church.
Authors: Hwang Jung-sun and Ahn Jin-a
Publisher: Pauline Kids
Price: $15.95, $14.95
Summary: For more than 100 years, the Daughters of St. Paul have lived out their charism to spread the Gospel message through modern means of communication. Two of their newest books show that these “media nuns” continue to live out this mission, as their imprint Pauline Kids has published excellent, anime-style graphic novels on the lives of two of the Church’s most beloved saints: St. Nicholas and St. Bernadette. In “Saint Nicholas: God’s Gift-Giver,” author and illustrator Hwang Jung-sun shares how the bishop of Myra served God by serving the poor in the fourth century. Author and illustrator Ahn Jin-a offers readers a modern look at the familiar story of St. Bernadette’s visions of Our Lady in Lourdes, France.
Editor: Brandon Vogt
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Summary: Throughout the centuries, the Christianity has boasted great writers and thinkers — men and women who have helped the faithful explore the Gospels in the context of the modern world, such as St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Sienna and, more recently, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and others. In “Wisdom and Wonder,” the writers of a new collection of essays would certainly put Dr. Peter Kreeft on the short list of today’s most influential thinkers. Each essayist explores the life, legacy and influence Kreeft has had on their spiritual lives through his prolific work as a longtime professor of philosophy and the author of more than 80 books on Christian philosophy, theology and apologetics. The book is quite a tribute to the man whom Bishop Robert Barron calls “one of the great teachers of the Catholic faith of our time.”
Author: Tommy Tighe
Publisher: Ave Maria Press
Summary: Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, studies have shown that the occurrence of depression, anxiety, grief and other mental health struggles have risen dramatically. To help combat such troublesome statistics, author Tommy Tighe offers readers a thoroughly Catholic approach to maintaining mental and emotional well-being. Sprung from a podcast of the same name, Tighe writes that each chapter of “St. Dymphna’s Playbook” is “dedicated to a different mental health experience we may be going through.” These include depression, anxiety and trauma. With unique gentleness, Tighe helps readers lean on their faith as they strive to find not only healing, but inner peace.
“How to Attack Debt, Build Savings, and Change the World Through Generosity: A Catholic Guide to Managing Your Money”
Authors: Amanda and Jonathan Teixeira
Summary: Apart from having to calculate our weekly offering or when we’re asked to contribute to our parishes’ annual fundraising appeals, rarely do we as Catholics talk about money or how to handle it. However, in their new book, “How to Attack Debt, Build Savings, and Change the World Through Generosity,” Amanda and Jonathan Teixeira have put together a playbook for Catholics on how to handle personal finances. If you’re tired of living in debt, stuck in the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, stressed out when emergencies pop up and wish you could be more generous, this is your step-by-step guide to building a budget and gaining control of your money so that, as a Catholic, you can live your life in freedom and generosity according to God’s will.
Author: Father Gregory Pine, OP
Summary: Day in and day out, it seems that we are inundated with decisions that must be made — from major, life-changing choices to the small, day-to-day selections each of us face. While the time we spend making these decisions will vary, the Church calls us to make each choice with prudence — a virtue that St. Augustine said “is the knowledge of what to seek and what to avoid.” In his new book, Dominican Father Gregory Pine helps to give readers the tools to carefully — prudently — make the choices that will guide readers to true happiness. Father Pine writes in the first chapter: “If God is the goal, our trajectory toward him needs to shape every dimension of our existence. The point is not merely to end up well. The point is to live well.”