Best Catholic Books of All-Time

As a Catholic bibliophile I'm always hunting for the next must-read book. But with a religious tradition spanning two millennia, thousands of saints, and millions of titles, where to begin?

One place I often turn is a list composed by Fr. John McCloskey. He's an Opus Dei priest and fellow book-lover, and he's put together what he calls the "Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan" including the best Catholic books of all time (the late Fr. John Hardon has a book with the same name.) From biography to literature, history to spirituality, the list includes something for everyone.
 
If you're looking for a new book to read, check out one of these best Catholic books of all time:
 

Theology and Basics of Catholicism

Adams, Karl - The Spirit of Catholicism
Bouyer, Louis - Spirit and Forms of Protestantism
Catholic Church - Catechism of the Catholic Church
Guardini, Romano - The End of the Modern World
Guardini, Romano - The Lord
Hahn, Scott - Rome Sweet Home
Kreeft, Peter - Christianity for Modern Pagans
Newman, John Henry - Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine
Newman, John Henry - Parochial and Plain Sermons
Ott, Ludwig - Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma
Pieper, Josef - The Four Cardinal Virtues
 

History and Culture

Belloc, Hilaire - The Great Heresies
Belloc, Hilaire - How The Reformation Happened
Belloc, Hilaire - Survivals and New Arrivals
Carroll, Warren - Christendom I: Founding of Christendom
Carroll, Warren - Christendom II: The Building of Christendom
Carroll, Warren - Christendom III: The Glory of Christendom
Carroll, Warren - Christendom IV: The Cleaving of Christendom
Crocker III, H.W. - Triumph
Dawson, Christopher - Christianity and European Culture
Knox, Ronald - Enthusiasm
Leclercq, Jean - Love of Learning and the Desire for God
Walsh, William - Our Lady of Fatima
 

Holy Men and Women

Chesterton, G.K. - St. Francis of Assisi
Chesterton, G.K. - St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox
Day, Dorothy - The Long Loneliness
John XXIII, Pope John - Journal of a Soul 
Merton, Thomas - The Seven Storey Mountain
Muggeridge, Malcolm - Something Beautiful for God
Newman, John Henry - Apologia Pro Vita Sua
Suarez, Federico - Mary of Nazareth
Trochu, F. - The Cure of Ars
Wegemer, Gerard - Thomas More: A Portrait of Courage
Weigel, George - Witness to Hope
 

Literary Classics

Alighieri, Dante - The Divine Comedy
Benson, Robert Hugh - Lord of the World
Bernanos, George - The Diary of a Country Priest
de Cervantes, Miguel - Don Quixote
Eliot, T.S. - Christianity and Culture
Endo, Shusaku - Silence
Hopkins, Gerard Manley - Poems and Prose
Newman, John Henry - The Idea of a University
O'Conner, Flannery - The Complete Stories
Percy, Walker - Lost in the Cosmos
Percy, Walker - Love in the Ruins
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - Quo Vadis
Tolkien, J.R.R. - The Lord of the Rings
Undset, Sigrid - Kristin Lavransdatter I: The Bridal Wreath
Undset, Sigrid - Kristin Lavransdatter II : The Wife
Undset, Sigrid - Kristin Lavransdatter III: The Cross
Waugh, Evelyn - Brideshead Revisited
 

Spiritual Classics

Aquinas, St. Thomas - My Way of Life/Summa Theologica
Augustine, St. - The City of God
Augustine, St. - Confessions
Catherine of Siena, St. - Little Talks with God
Chesterton, G.K. - The Everlasting Man
Chesterton, G.K. - Orthodoxy
John of the Cross, St. - Dark Night of the Soul
Lewis, C.S. - Mere Christianity
Lewis, C.S. - The Problem of Pain
Lewis, C.S. - The Screwtape Letters
Oursler, Fulton - The Greatest Story Ever Told
Teresa, Bl. Mother - Meditations from a Simple Path
Teresa of Avila, St. - Interior Castle
Teresa of Avila, St. - The Way of Perfection
Therese of Lisieux, St. - Story of a Soul
 

Spiritual Reading

A'Kempis, Thomas - The Imitation of Christ
Aumann, Jordan - Spiritual Theology
Baur, Benedict - Frequent Confession
Baur, Benedict - In Silence with God
Boylan, Eugene - Difficulties in Mental Prayer
Boylan, Eugene - This Tremendous Lover
Burke, Cormac - Covenanted Happiness
Chautard, Jean-Baptiste - The Soul of the Apostolate
de Caussade, Jean-Pierre - Abandonment to Divine Providence
de Montfort, Louis-Marie - True Devotion to Mary
de Sales, St. Francis - An Introduction to the Devout Life
de Sales, St. Francis - Treatise on the Love of God
Escriva, Jose Maria - Christ is Passing By
Escriva, Jose Maria - Friends of God
Escriva, Jose Maria - The Way, Furrow, The Forge
Escriva, Jose Maria - The Way of the Cross
Faber, Frederick - All for Jesus
Garrigou-Lagrange, Fr. Reginald - Three Ages of Interior Life
Liguori, Alphonso - The Great Means of Salvation and Perfection
Liguori, Alphonso - Uniformity with God's Will
Louis of Grenada, Venerable - The Sinner's Guide
Lovasik, Lawrence - The Hidden Power of Kindness
Manzoni, Alessandro - The Betrothed
Martinez, Luis - True Devotion to the Holy Spirit
More, St. Thomas - The Sadness of Christ
Perquin, Bonaventure - Abba Father
Rohrbach, Peter - Conversation with Christ
Scupoli, Lorenzo - Spiritual Combat
Sheed, Frank - Theology and Sanity
Sheed, Frank - Theology for Beginners
Sheed, Frank - To Know Christ Jesus
Sheen, Fulton - Life of Christ
Sheen, Fulton - Three to Get Married
Tanqueray, Adolphe - The Spiritual Life
von Hildebrand, Dietrich - Transformation in Christ
 

Miscellaneous

John Paul II, Bl. Pope - Crossing the Threshold of Hope
Masson, Georgina - The Companion Guide to Rome
Monti, James - The King's Good Servant but God's First
Rice, Charles - 50 Questions on the Natural Law
Sertillanges, A.G. - The Intellectual Life
Stein, Edith - Essays on Woman

 
I've read a number of books from this list already, and I try to always be in the middle of at least one of its titles. My personal goal is to finish the entire list by the time I turn 35. Being 25, that shouldn't be too difficult--about one book per month.
 

Which of these have you read? Which are your favorite and why?

 



Update:

I have two more follow-up posts where I explain how to build a Catholic eBook library on the cheap and list out of more of the best Catholic books.


 

 
  • John Rose

    For Dante, my students and I use Anthony Esolen's version: http://www.amazon.com/Anthony-M.-Esolen/e/B001ITX3JW

    Esolen's three volumes have everything: Powerful new translation (lightly rhymed), Italian on facing pages (to keep everybody honest), Doré illustrations, sparse footnotes and thorough chapter notes, masterful interpretive essay (from a sympathetic world-view), and generous primary source appendices, including Aquinas and Dante himself. For the general reader or undergraduate, no other edition comes close.

  • Margaret

    Why don't you have anything by Matthew Kelly?

  • George Mathew

    Hi,

    Brandon, this is a great list.... With your permission, I'm putting this list in my blog giving due credit to you and your blog site address. I believe all Christians -- even non-Christians -- should read them.
    Thanks in advance.
    George Mathew
    Mumbai, India.
    http://www.christianmonitors.blogspot.com

  • Emily Dupnick

    I have read Lord of the Rings (twice) and Story of a Soul. I am currently reading Rome sweet Home, and it is really good. I would just like to say that this is the best list of Catholic books I have seen, and I am so excited to read more of them! Also, I don't think I saw YouCat on the list, but it is a very good book for young/new Catholics since it provides key facts about Catholicism in a question/answer format, and it would be a great addition to the list.

  • Maria

    Thank you for this list! I pinned it for future reading! I really needed a "place to start" with good books and authors other than the basic Bible and Catechism...so thank you!

    • Maria

      I meant "basics" like the Bible and Catechism. spelling...ugh!

  • Stephen Sparrow

    The Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel. Very entertaining and enlightening as well

  • Paul J Burnell

    Don't forget Michael O'Brien's seminal novel Fr Elijah

  • Laurel

    I've read The Seven Storey Mountain, the C.S. Lewis books, Rome Sweet Home and Lord of the Rings - but that list is pretty intimidating. Could you possibly make a list of say - 25 books or so that you consider the most important? I'm reading "Orthodoxy" now and it's great.

  • Richard Grebenc

    I would definitely add Sheen's "The World's First Love" and Aumann's "Christian Spirituality in the Catholic Tradition" (full text available online). Also, you may wish to add a Bible Commentary/Biblical Theology grouping that we could load up.

  • Artur Sebastian Rosman

    Too many 20th and 19th century authors to count for best of all time. It's a pretty good start, although maybe try less converts in the next draft?

  • Ben Morales

    I would recommend Pope Benedict XVI's 3 books on Jesus of Nazareth (no library is complete without these). JPII's Love and Responsibility (a must). Catholic Christianity by Kreeft is a good companion to the Catechism. Someone already mentioned What we Can't Not Know by Budziszewski (very good).

  • kiki

    your spiritual list needs The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence :)

  • Enigma

    WHAAAAAT??... You guys never mentioned this book??? -- The Way of Interior Peace????? http://archive.org/details/wayofinteriorpea00lehe

    • Caroline

      What about this book? please review this book there is any review on amazon. Thanks for sharing this book. I have read lots and lot of catholic book and i have never never heard about this book. :)

  • David Breitenbeck

    Allow me to reccomend Luigi Giussani's trilogy: "the Religious Sense," "On the Origin of the Christian Claim," and "Why the Church."

  • MARrshh

    Thanks for a great list of books. Was happy to see the two that contributed so much to my conversion many years ago. It was a steep slope for me, coming from a particularly virulent branch of fundamentalist protestantism and burdened with a lot of emotional instability. I was, by my reckoning, 3/4s of the way into the Church, but still fighting it. Then I read, at about the same time, Frank Sheed's "Theology And Sanity" and Thomas Merton's "The Seven Storey Mountain." That propelled me over the hump, safely home, and I am still so very, very thankful.

  • CJBlitzen

    Nino, you took the words right out of my mouth (or keyboard):) This book has been the foundation on which I have built my marriage and what I plan to teach my children as they get older about how sacred our bodies are and that they truly belong to Christ until we enter the sacrament of marriage.

  • nino

    Good List. I would also add JPII's "Theology of the Body".

  • Nescience1

    I love books....and I love my Catholic faith.....and yet I have read or have in my library very few of these. I don't see any of the Anne Catherine Emmerich books, or Mary of Agreda's City of God. Perhaps because I am a woman they speak more easily to my heart.

    • S A Robinson

      I was delighted to see a book listed that i had picked up a long time ago... in my quest for Catholic reading and spiritual healing i found a copy of the Imitation Of Christ by Thomas A Kempis... it is a very old copy, looks to be 30s or 40s, and in wonderful condition... i kept it shelved thinking it protestant, but lovely to look at... Now that i know it is recommended reading by Catholics i will be unshelving it! It has no Impramateur, and no date of publication (still speculating its printing) but it does say Translated from the Latin and New York, The Mershon Company Publishers. What a treasure! Thank YOU!

  • Dwestrick

    Fantastic list - someday I believe many Michael D O'Brien books will be included in the "literary classics". Maybe a "Modern Catholic Fiction" list would be nice too - there are many good ones!

    Enjoy your blog - God bless you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002077656637 Ro Freeman
  • "There is only one tragedy in the end, not to have been a saint." - Léon Bloy