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 Every month in 2024 Pope Francis has a monthly prayer intention. Every month we will release a book list that will draw your heart and soul deeper into prayer on these topics.

Our advice to book clubs & those seeking to deepen their spiritual life through literature: pick just one of these books a month, and pray this short prayer before or after each time you read, and at the start of your book club meetings. Then watch how story transforms your empathy, your prayer life, and your capacity to imagine God with you in any situation.

“Holy Spirit, who builds the unity of the Church and shows your infinite creativity through the diversity of charisms, fill the Church with your gifts, according to the marvelous God’s Providence design, so that we may learn to appreciate the gifts of others and work together for the good of all, sharing our charisms at the service of the community. May diversity among Christians never be a cause of division, but of mutual enrichment, because diversity gives depth and richness to life. Do not allow us to fall into the temptation to consider our gifts as superior to those of others, or ourselves as superior to them. May there be room for all in the Church and may we grow together in harmony, in faith and in love as one body, the Body of Christ.”

Pope Francis

Broken & Blessed by Fr. Josh Johnson

Only 2 in 10 Americans under 30 believe attending a church is important or worthwhile. Well over half of young adults raised in the Church have dropped out with many having a strong anti-Church stance, many even believing the Church does more harm than good.Fr. Josh Johnson was one of these people. In Broken and Blessed he tackles the harsh realities facing the Church in the 21st century.

With charity and courage he speaks to his own generation of Catholic “Millennials,” who often feel their needs and concerns are not being addressed by the Church, or who simply do not believe the Catholic Faith has any relevance to their lives. Using his own experiences, both as a former struggling young Catholic and as a priest, Fr. Josh offers an inspiring witness of how he came to know God, rather than just knowing about him—and presents practical ways for us to truly know God as well.

Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang

One of the greatest comics storytellers alive brings all his formidable talents to bear in this astonishing new work.

In two volumes, Boxers & Saints tells two parallel stories. The first is of Little Bao, a Chinese peasant boy whose village is abused and plundered by Westerners claiming the role of missionaries. Little Bao, inspired by visions of the Chinese gods, joins a violent uprising against the Western interlopers. Against all odds, their grass-roots rebellion is successful.

But in the second volume, Yang lays out the opposite side of the conflict. A girl whose village has no place for her is taken in by Christian missionaries and finds, for the first time, a home with them. As the Boxer Rebellion gains momentum, Vibiana must decide whether to abandon her Christian friends or to commit herself fully to Christianity.

Boxers & Saints is one of the most ambitious graphic novels First Second has ever published. It offers a penetrating insight into not only one of the most controversial episodes of modern Chinese history, but into the very core of our human nature. Gene Luen Yang is rightly called a master of the comics form, and this book will cement that reputation.

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature
One of Publishers Weekly‘s Best Comic Books and Best Children’s Books of 2013
A
New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2013 A Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book of 2013
An NPR Best Book of 2013

My Incredible Life's Journey by Dr. Margaret Price

This book contains the memoirs of an individual who originated from one of the smallest islands in the Caribbean and rose to the top of her chosen profession, while serving God and her neighbors in more than 17 countries and leaving a legacy of professionals, priests and other leaders who are committed to the service of others with joyful and happy hearts.

The book outlines her journey, starting with a showing of gratitude to her parents, siblings, extended family, church, village community and schools. These she identifies as the providers of the foundation that prepared her to face the world, with the challenges that she had to face and overcome in order to grow and succeed. Significant incidents, challenges, encounters and lessons learnt are articulated. Some life experiences are highlighted insofar as they help project her personality; for example, her propensity to smile in all circumstances and her belief in the benefits and value of a smile; her way of dealing with racist encounters; her love of dancing, visiting friends, going to the beach; her love of travel that took her to more than 20 countries on vacation or pilgrimages, and the benefits she derived from these.

Most importantly, however, the book highlights her encounter with Christ and the impact that this continues to have on her life. It is manifested in terms of her commitment to the service to the poor, the sick, needy, prisoners, widows and orphans. Chapter 7, the chapter on entitled legacy, reflects some of this impact. Her commitment to the greater good is reflected in the blessings and opportunities provided to her whenever she was at a crossroad and relied on the Lord for direction. Incidences of these are spread throughout the book. Opportunities to serve in Ghana as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, a member of the Archdiocesan Justice and Peace Commission, chairman of an Outstation Committee, an election observer, Mother of the Year, and to be able to spearhead the construction and initiation of a daycare centre for the aged, all happened because she was able to say yes and move by faith. However, that faith had to be strengthened and her ego had to be pruned. She believes that anyone who is willing to humble themselves and see every failure as an opportunity to grow can achieve what she has and more. Yes you can.

At age 85, she sees herself as still being a work in process. This book outlines some of the teachings and insights that she gained along the way that she believes can be of help to others in their growth and journey towards self-fulfilment

The Doha Experiment by Gary Wasserman

Gary Wasserman’s decision to head to Qatar to teach at Georgetown sounds questionable, at best. “In the beginning,” he writes, “this sounds like a politically incorrect joke. A Jewish guy walks into a fundamentalist Arab country to teach American politics at a Catholic college.” But he quickly discovers that he has entered a world that gives him a unique perspective on the Middle East and on Muslim youth; that teaches him about the treatment of Arab women and what an education will do for them, both good and bad; shows him the occasionally amusing and often deadly serious consequences his students face simply by living in the Middle East; and finds surprising similarities between his culture and the culture of his students.

Most importantly, after eight years of teaching in Qatar he realizes he has become part of a significant, little understood movement to introduce liberal, Western values into traditional societies. Written with a sharp sense of humor, The Doha Experiment offers a unique perspective on where the region is going and clearly illustrates why Americans need to understand this clash of civilizations.

 

Pilgrim River by Kenneth Garcia

—”Pilgrim River echoes Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain and Augustine’s Confessions. Yet, in its evocations of the natural world and its honest depiction of a tortured journey toward hope and love, it stands alone.”—MICHAEL N. MCGREGOR

Pilgrim River candidly narrates one man’s wandering but sincere attempt to come to terms with the overpowering experience of God—a journey from unbelief to nature mysticism in the deserts and mountains of Nevada and Utah, to sojourns through the country of marriage and the republic of letters, and finally to the Catholic Church. The road followed is crooked, plagued by a lack of spiritual guides and mentors, by isolation and depression, by a failed first marriage; but present throughout is a groping toward spiritual fulfillment—alternately tortured, hopeful, and bathed in luminescence. Many spiritual seekers, including those who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious,” will benefit from the telling of this unorthodox journey to Christianity.

“Written with the naturalistic zeal of Annie Dillard and the confessional spirit of St. Augustine, Pilgrim River is the story of an ordinary life’s extraordinary journey. It is a story of pursuing—and being pursued by—God. I finished the last page with a lump in my throat that won’t quickly go away.”—NANCY NORDENSON, author of Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure

“Ken Garcia’s Pilgrim River flows from the wild headwaters of youth, through the fretful meanderings of middle life, into the sometimes placid, sometimes turbid, waters of later years. At its heart is the story of an often-troubled soul searching for its footing, then its calling, in the wilderness of an immanent and increasingly resplendent God. Filled with profligate yearnings that, in time, mature into a balanced Catholic faith, it echoes Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain and Augustine’s Confessions. Yet, in its evocations of the natural world and its honest depiction of a tortured journey toward hope and love, it stands alone.”—MICHAEL N. MCGREGOR, author of Pure Act: the Uncommon Life of Robert Lax

“At once luminous, tragic, and hopeful, this memoir is balanced on the edge of belief and doubt, of knowing and unknowing. Pilgrim River invites the reader into the heart and life of a man haunted by the call of Spirit. This is a book to be read and reread, a companion for those who seek—for the God-haunted, the wanderer, the misfit. A sense of divine presence in all things—especially in the margins—hums within the pages of this memoir.”—LISA OHLEN HARRIS, author of The Fifth Season and Through the Veil

“Ken Garcia’s Pilgrim River is an extraordinarily fascinating memoir, brutally honest, often painfully so. Unlike many spiritual autobiographies, Garcia resists the temptation to paint a portrait of himself as hero, or as reformed reprobate, and avoids the lure of creating a false happy ending. The prose is full of grace and beauty, pain and confusion, and we realize that Garcia, though he speaks for himself, actually depicts us all. Pilgrim River is a postmodern Everyman tale.”—MICHAEL MARTIN, author of The Incarnation of the Poetic Word

Night by Elie Wiesel

The Silence of Bones by June Hur

June Hur’s elegant and haunting debut The Silence of Bones is a bloody YA historical mystery tale perfect for fans of Kerri Maniscalco and Renée Ahdieh.

I have a mouth, but I mustn’t speak;
Ears, but I mustn’t hear;
Eyes, but I mustn’t see.

1800, Joseon (Korea). Homesick and orphaned sixteen-year-old Seol is living out the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Indentured to the police bureau, she’s been tasked with assisting a well-respected young inspector with the investigation into the politically charged murder of a noblewoman.

As they delve deeper into the dead woman’s secrets, Seol forms an unlikely bond of friendship with the inspector. But her loyalty is tested when he becomes the prime suspect, and Seol may be the only one capable of discovering what truly happened on the night of the murder.

But in a land where silence and obedience are valued above all else, curiosity can be deadly.

Praise for The Silence of Bones:

ABA Indies Introduce Selection
Junior Library Guild Selection
A 2021 Edgar Allan Poe Award Nominee
A 2021 ALA Rise Selection
2020 Freeman Award Honorable Mention

Bravewater by Sarah Robbsdottir

Award-winning young adult novel!

Winner of several 2023 Catholic Media Association Book Awards!

Girls are disappearing on their way to the spring…

Will fear stop Talitha, the sole water gatherer for her hut, from searching for her friend—even if it means scaling the walls of the mine owners’ compound, where locals are shot on sight?

And will terror block Moses path—or can this teenage hunter battle an underground human trafficking ring with ties to the cities on the other side of Great Mountain?

Join Talitha and Moses on their journey, one marked with violent drug lords, crippling jealousy, blinding anger, but also…tremendous beauty. And, the flutters of first love.

Meet other villagers and colorful characters along the way, all of whom are grappling with dire loss after a recent mine explosion. Become acquainted with multiple generations of a missionary family who sacrificed all, moving out to the African bush to fulfill a driving passion—one that most would call a crazy dream. Listen, as ageless questions are carried in on the hot winds of the Great Red Valley: Do you know what it means to truly be brave? And, what if you had to risk your life for a simple cup of water?

Dive into Brave Water and decide!

In the Footsteps of St. Therese by Teresita Ogg

This book is about the “little way” of St. Thérèse, whose footsteps are presented as an answer to how one can find happiness in the single state of life. It is a light conversational illustration of a contemporary journey, discerning a vocation and realizing through “the language of prayer” that one can be “a bridesmaid never a bride,” and “live happily ever after.”

Big in Heaven by Fr. Stephen Siniari

“[These] stories begin to paint a new kind of Icon, that of a truly American Orthodox Christian, of regular people simply trying to be or tragically rejecting being regular human beings, the kind of people perhaps never even imagined by most American readers. . . . The stories break the mold of what a religious or non-religious story ought to be. They are not moralistic, nor are they irreverent in their honest portrayal of the realities of life in the Church. Rather they are just good, honest stories, and in being this they are sacramental, conveying and holding together elements of life that are seemingly disparate.” (from the Foreword)

Sometimes poignant, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes convicting, these stories of life in an inner-city immigrant Orthodox parish are guaranteed to shake your assumptions and make you see your life and faith in a new way. They are not for the faint of heart—but they are very much for all who want to embrace the truth more fully.

Silence by Shusaku Endo

The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch by T.M. Gaouette

10 year old Benedict has been moved from one foster home to another, and he’s hated every one. When he arrives at Sunshine Ranch, he doesn’t bother unpacking. What’s the point? But his new foster parents and siblings are very different from what he’s become used to. David and Martha Credence strive to instill love and Christian values in their family and it inspires hope in each child. Benedict is not into “religion,” but Sunshine Ranch is the home he’s secretly been yearning for. Still, he fears it’s all just a little too good to be true, and his sentiments are validated when he learns that they may lose Sunshine Ranch. Can the Credence children help save the Ranch? Will faith keep them together? Or will Benedict’s dream be shattered? The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch is a story about a family devoted to God. It relays the personal journeys of all the Credence foster children and their struggles to overcome past and present pain and adversity. In this novel, the confidence of the devoted is challenged, but an even deeper understanding of God and His love are revealed. “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:12-13

Earthquake Weather by Kevin Rush

The beloved coming-of-age novel for Catholic teens in its first digital release.

Thirteen year-old Kristine is the one person who knows her genius cousin Jamie’s involved with Raul, a thug on his way to joining a gang. Jamie insists “he’s not like that,” and even fixes Kristine up with Fabio, who turns out to be more Raul’s whipping boy than his friend. So begins a summer unlike any Kristine has ever known, full of intrigue, romance, and danger, culminating in a mistake that threatens to destroy her family. Through it all, Kristine finds the courage and faith to persevere and gain some wisdom about life and what it means to really love.

“Earthquake Weather is an incredible, thoughtful and brilliant revelation of teenagers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Kevin Rush is a talent you will be hearing much from in the future, because he is spiritual, emotionally connected and a brilliant writer.”

…Michael Pritchard, Emmy Award winning actor, Youth Advocate

A Hero for the People by Arthur Powers

“Set in the vast and sometimes violent landscape of contemporary Brazil, this is a gorgeous collection of stories-wise, hopeful, and forgiving, but clear-eyed in its exploration of the toll taken on the human heart by greed, malice, and the lust for land.” -Debra Murphy, Publisher of Idyll’s Press, Founder of CatholicFiction.net

Pink Noise by Leonid Korogodski

One of the best brain doctors of his time, Nathi lost his own brain five centuries ago when he became a posthuman. He is called upon to save a comatose girl. The damage is extensive, so he decides to map his own mind into her brain in order to replace the damaged part. But something unexpected waits for him within the Girl’s brain. She is a carrier of a Wish Fairy, an enigmatic sentient cyber being whose only purpose is to kill the Wish, a virus used by the ruling cyber Wizard Orders to enslave all posthuman minds, including Nathi’s. Liberated, Nathi forms a symbiotic union–“the Dancer”–with the Girl, discovers the true cause of her brain injury, and finds a way to break out of the Castle, their high-tech prison, and into the Martian polar night. But once outside, the real chase begins. They must resist the cyber wizards trying to remotely regain control of their minds, while also sending a force in pursuit. It is a battle that must be fought both in the physical world and that of the mind.

The Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell

The instant New York Times bestseller from the author of the international sensation The Rule of Four combines a lost gospel, a contentious relic, and a dying pope’s final wish into a “deliciously labyrinthine” (Providence Journal) intellectual thriller that “kicks off at ninety mph and doesn’t slow down” (Associated Press).

A mysterious exhibit is under construction at the Vatican Museums. The curator is murdered at a clandestine meeting on the outskirts of Rome a week before it opens. That same night, a violent break-in rocks the home of Greek Catholic priest Father Alex Andreou. When the papal police fail to identify a suspect in either crime, Father Alex decides that to find the killer he must reconstruct the secret of what a little-known, true-to-life fifth gospel known as the Diatessaron reveals about the church’s most controversial holy relic. But just as he begins to understand the truth about his friend’s death and its consequences for the future of the Christian church, Father Alex discovers a ruthless stalker is hunting him—an enemy with a vested stake in the exhibit that he must outwit to survive.

Rich, authentic, erudite, and emotionally searing, The Fifth Gospel is a riveting novel of suspense and a feast of biblical history that satisfies on every level.