“We become the books we read.” —Matthew Kelly
From my teens until about age 30, I was not a reader of books. A year could easily go by (and many did) without me reading a book (that wasn’t required for school). I may still not be a prolific reader, but in 2012, with a growing desire to know and live my Catholic faith more fully, I read more than 20 books (not counting books like Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia that I read with my kids)—by far the most books I’ve ever read in one year.
The first book I read that year was Searching For and Maintaining Peace by Fr. Jacques Philippe which really set the tone for me for the year.
With regard to choosing what to read, Saint Josemaria Escriva, in #339 in The Way, gives this advice:
“Books. Don’t buy them without advice from a Catholic who has real knowledge and discernment. It’s so easy to buy something useless or harmful.
How often a man thinks he is carrying a book under his arm, and it turns out to be a load of trash.”
With that in mind, here are 3 book recommendations I received from priest who I talked to about spiritual direction.
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis
The Faith Explained by Leo J. Trese
Reasons to Believe by Scott Hahn
Having read these three books, here is my far-from-perfect description of how I perceived them to be connected. Reasons to Believe is both like directions to a house and the foundation that the house is built on. The Faith Explained is all the details about the house itself, including details about all of the appliances, furnishings and everything else that makes it useful, meaningful, and beautiful. The Imitation of Christ is the house full of activity, an example of what it looks like to live inside that house.
Briefly about some other books:
- A Biblical Walk Through the Mass by Edward Sri helped me understand, appreciate, and ultimately love Mass more deeply.
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and Catholicism by Fr. Robert Barron are two books that I think everyone should read.
- Happy are You Poor by Fr. Thomas Dubay, Good News about Sex and Marriage by Christopher West, and Jesus Shock by Peter Kreeft are three more books I think everyone should read to understand how to have a proper relationship with two of the world’s biggest driving forces (money and sex), and with the person who should be the world’s biggest driving force (Jesus).
- May Crowning, Mass, and Merton is a beautiful collection of the objects, people, devotions, etc. that author Liz Kelly lists as 50 reasons she loves being Catholic. It’s steeped in Scripture, Tradition, the Catechism, and her personal experience and love for each topic she writes about.
- 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley is a self-directed retreat guided by the teachings of St. Louis De Monfort, St. Maximillian Kolbe, Blessed Mother Teresa, and Saint Pope John Paul II to help prepare readers for consecration to Jesus through Mary.
I also think there’s a genius to the way Matthew Kelly is able to engage so many people and share the Genius of Catholicism (to borrow his phrase), and so his books Rediscover Catholicism and The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic are also both great books to read.
On the lighter side of things, I really enjoyed Lino Rulli’s book, Sinner: The Catholic Guy’s Funny, Feeble Attempts to Be a Faithful Catholic as well as his follow up, Saint.
“You asked me to suggest a book for you to read. Read these: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Then, when you are finished, read them again”