Brandon Vogt

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


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?



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.


  • Don E

    Just finished Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. I love his mid century British writing style. The book starts out with easy explanations and builds. It really helps you to understand the meaning of life, your relationship with the Trinity, and what is in store for us in the next life. Thank you for the reading list Brandon! After books by Rohr, Merton, Lewis and Bonhoeffer, I’m ready for something new.

  • David Brandt

    On this list, Confessions, by St Augustine That book hit me hard. My top book not on the list, Catholic Myrters of the 20th Century by Robert Royal.

  • Our Lady of Guadalupe

    Hold on, where is “Divine Mercy in My Soul???” I don’t want to say you left off the best for last, but that’s gotta get on the list for sure. It has done incredible things for me!

  • Johann du Toit

    Denzinger’s Enchiridon Symbolorum or Compendium of Creeds, Doctrines and Declarations on Matters of Faith and Morals (Denzinger-Hunermann, Ignatius Press, 2012). Best “Source Book” on Catholic Doctrines and Dogma (after the Bible) and a good companion to Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma.

    If you want a definitive pronouncement on anything pertaining to faith and morals, Denzinger will likely have it.

  • phaedrus

    Given recent news concerning Father McCloskey is it appropriate to include references to his recommenadtions? I suppose the books on his list are obviously no less valid but wouldn’t your lists and others overlap his?

  • disqus_jBEpE9kZ5Q

    Over the past several months while praying in our parish Perpetual Adoration chapel, I have read “the Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ” by BL. Anne Catherine Emmerich. If you really want to know and even to a degree, vicariously experience, Christ’s unbelievable sufferings that He endured during His Passion ( there is even enlightening commentary on His Resurrection), I strongly recommend this book. Blessed Anne was granted a singular grace of extensive and detailed visions of many who were involved in Christ’s horrific ordeal. So vivid are the accounts that I find it very helpful when saying the Rosary while contemplating the Sorrowful Mysteries. It is such a treasure of Christ’s love for humanity and I have decided to purchase a copy for myself. I am also surprised that the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska was not one of the recommended books. That certainly qualifies in my list.

  • Michelle Pitts

    What book would you recommend to give to someone so they can easily look up a subject and it would lead them to where they can find it in the Bible?

  • crisleem

    Brandon, Do the links you’ve provided for each book go to the translation you feel is best? I have some of these, but one is a terrible translation I got for …cheap…and regret buying as I just couldn’t read it. I’d like to get the translations that others feel work best for the modern American to understand. Yes, I’m showing my ignorance. But that’s just life 🙂

  • Matthew Sawczyn

    Mark Twain’s “Joan of Arc”!

    Also, “The Silence of Mary” is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read

  • Richard Felipes

    Hiya from Gibraltar . Wonder if you can help me. I am a Catholic and am looking for a book on St Paul the Apostle his life, his personal struggles … etc is there anything you could recommend . What I have found to date is written by non Catholics that have concepts and beliefs we do not share.
    My mail is richardfelipe[email protected]

    Thanks very much

    Kind regards


  • Tanya Maitland

    Hi, can someone help me I have this word in my head and I cannot stop thinking about it. The word is clvotav and if someone could tell me the meaning of it I would really appreciate it. I googled it and found 1 reference to it in “Patrologiae cursus completus” but it didnt shed any light on the word.

  • Charles Lewis

    I’ve read many of these books. My first real introduction to Christianity in its fullest sense was from C.S. Lewis (especially Mere Christianity) and Thomas Merton’s “Seven Storey Mountain.” I’ve read Theology for Beginners several times and love anything by St. Teresa of Avila. But there is one book missing from this list and lists like it: “Death On A Friday Afternoon.” Fr. Richard Neuhaus was a beautiful writer. This particular work are really extended meditations on Christ’s seven last words from the cross. What I loved about it, besides its incredible spiritual power, is that it’s brilliant, intelligent and accessible. I’ve grown weary of books with massive footnotes on the page and sudden swings into Latin, which most readers will not understand and could simply be translated — even if it’s not as clear as the Latin, if you happen to be fluent in Latin. Give this book a try. I’ve bought it for many people who fell in love with it. For those who don’t know, Neuhaus was the founder and longtime editor of FIrst Things. He died in January 2009. A great loss to the Catholic world.

  • Holly Denman

    I have read a great number of these and was pleased to see Sigrid Undset listed. When I was a young mother It was recommended to me many years ago by a librarian and it was the beginning my intellectual and faith conversion.

  • Michael Ariawan Tandy

    Hi.. This books references are really interesting for me. I am a rookie and about to read more about Catholicism. Are this list you recommend to read from the top to bottom? Or people can pick randomly from the list? If you could recommend one for me to start, where should i start?

  • Federico

    Is this list a good one for Protestants wanting to investigate the Catholic faith?

  • Charles Lewis

    From the list I would have to go with three: Kristin Lavransdatter (I bought a beautiful Penguin edition with all three volumes), Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (especially good for someone discerning Christian faith and worth reading when we get a bit lost in the culture) and Frank Sheed’s “Theology for Beginners.”
    I know Flannery O’Connor is on the list but I’m not 100% sure why. Still, I think she was and remains the greatest short story writer of all time. Her “Complete Stories” is a treasure. I go back to it all the time.

  • Charles Lewis

    One wonderful book that never makes these kinds of lists is Fr. Richard Neuhaus’s “Death On A Friday Afternoon.” It’s an extended reflection on the seven last words from the cross. I read a lot about the faith, and I’m not put off by “challenging” works, but Death On A Friday Afternoon is the best combination of deep and accessible I’ve seen. It helps the late Fr. Neuhaus (also a founder of First Things) was such an elegant writer. I can’t tell you just how powerful this book is. When it was written I think it was seen as something to he read during Lent. Fr. Neuhaus wants his readers to spend time on that Friday when Jesus was on the Cross. But it could be read anytime. If you’re reading if for the first time (I’ve read it three times as I love it so much) buy it now and start reading it as Lent starts.

  • Orthodox Catholic

    I know every such list is a matter of personal opinion. I find these lists helpful and am thankful for them. Stiil, I find them too much centered on some names that come up repeatedly in the lists.

    Some examples:
    – “Theology and Basics of Catholicism”. In a list with only 11 works I find it exaggerated to have Newman and Guardini mentioned twice. Alternative e.g.: Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity
    – “History”: 7 out of 12 works are from Belloc and Carroll. Alternatives e.g.: Jedin, History of the Church. Or more recently: James Hitchcock; Thomas F. Madden…
    – “Spiritual Classics”: I love C.S. Lewis, but 3 out of 15 considering the whole of the history of Christianity?

    Anyway, I mean this as a constructive criticism and thank you for your work.

  • RCIAguy

    Sorry, my earlier post should have indicated that Brant Pitre is the author of the two named books. The list provided in this blog/sight is remarkable, containing some works I have never heard of. I have a large Catholic library, and obviously have to find room for yet more books. My wife is going to lose it!!!

  • RCIAguy

    I am surprised that Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, and Jesus, the Bridegroom, didn’t make this list. Also, more works by George Weigel and Scott Hahn should be there.

  • Kathy Lamb

    I’m reading Father Garribou-Lagrange Three Ways to Interior Life for the fourth time. It’s my link to Jesus, to heaven.

  • Diana West

    Discerning the will of God by Fr Timothy Gallager, and his other books on Ignatian Spiritual exercises—- tremendous!

  • Nick

    The literary classics list is woefully lacking. James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner. He doesn’t even have the chronicles of narnia, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the poetry of TS Eliot, Shakespeare (many think he was Catholic, all think he was Christian)! You need Gene Wolfe and Tim Powers for the sci-fi side too. These are just the big names that should certainly be included.

  • Love the list, Brandon!

    I posted my 25 favorite Catholic books (six of which are by my favorite author, Peter Kreeft) on my webpage for anyone interested:

    Brandon, hope it’s okay, but I linked to your list at the above link as well. Keep up the great work!


  • Matt

    Fantastic list! Thank you! A good addition to the list could be some of St.Bonaventure’s work….. Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, The Life of St.Francis, and the Souls Journey into God. Peace and all good ~

  • John Rose

    For Dante, my students and I use Anthony Esolen’s version:

    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?

    • Dorothy Krietemeyer

      Yes, Margaret, my question, too. Several years ago my home parish, Saints Peter and Paul in Collinsville, Illinois, started a reading program with a Christmas gift to each one beginning with Matthew Kelly’s REDISCOVERING CATHOLICISM. THE FOUR SIGNS OF A DYNAMIC CATHOLIC came later. Now I’m reading one of his earlier books A CALL TO JOY. As a member of his Dynamic Catholic Institute, I have acquired and read his Confirmation material DECISION POINT. Have I missed any? Alan Hunt’s CONFESSIONS OF A MEGA CHURCH PASTOR was another Christmas gift my husband and I enjoyed. When I locate in Atlanta permantly, I will miss these treasures.

  • George Mathew


    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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • A Convert


  • 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?????

    • 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. 🙂

  • BobTanaka

    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!

  • Betty

    I would add to your Classics section The Little Flowers of Saint Francis by Brother Ugolino di Monte Santa Maria written around 1325. The edition by Raphael Brown is the best one I’ve seen.

  • another Joe

    Fr. James Schall’s ‘Order of Things’ is a must-have!

  • JoAnna

    I have read Sertillanges’ “Intellectual Life” many times, and always keep it close for reference. Often a single paragraph or even a sentence provides enough fruit for contemplation or inspiration. I try to read at least parts of “The Intellectual Life” and Chautard’s “Soul of the Apostolate” once of year.

  • Teresa Grodi

    Just pinned this list onto my Pinterest homeschooling board (and my “personal Enrichment” board ;o) Thanks for the fantastic recommendations!

  • I’ve read several of these – I would also recommend Sickness unto Death by Soren Kierkegaard. The only problem I have with one man’s view is that it is one man’s view. Too narrow in scope even for the most learned. Who else advises you?

  • Phil

    Might I also suggest One Lord, One Faith by Vernon Johnson published by Ignatius Press

  • ForChristAlone

    Thanks for your list. May I add one more: What We Can’t Not Know – A Guide by J. Budziszewski. He, too, is a convert, and this is one of my all-time favorite books on the natural law.

    • Carlo Dante

      This is one if the most important books I’ve ever read.

  • Kevin Heldt

    I was so happy to see Cormac Burke's Covenanted Happiness on the list — one of the greatest books I have ever read!

  • KathY

    Another by Fr. Frederick W. Faber is The Precious Blood, a panoramic sweeping breathtaking lyrical nearly beatific account of our heritage. It explodes in slow motion.

    Ditto Ruth Ann's suggesstions: Caryll Houselander and Jessica Powers; and the book The Way of a Pilgrim.

    And there are soooo many more.

  • Dim Bulb

    While Newman's Parochial and Plain Sermons are justly famous, I'm not sure they belong on the list under the heading "The basics of Catholicism". They are from his Anglican days and the theology reflects this.

    St Thomas More's The Sadness of Christ I enjoyed greatly, but his Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation is also a must read.

    Pierre Camus' The Spirit of Saint Francis De Sales deserves to be under the heading Holy Men and Women.

    A Scripture Category would have been nice. Aquinas' Catena Aurea and his commentaries on John and Romans would deserve to be on the list (I'd include his whole pauline corpus). Also, Bernardine de Piconio's Exposition of the Epistles of St Paul, Maldonado's commentaries on the Gospels, and Lapide's Great Commentary (ponderous at times, but its influence was significant). Finally, I'd recommend the three volume Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis (This Should make Mr. Olson very happy).

    Combining Patristics and Scripture I'd recommend Chrysostom's homiletic commentaries; the previously mentioned Catena Aurea and the commentaries of Jerome and Bede.

    Quasten's multi-volume Patrology provides a comprehensive introduction to the lives and thoughts of the Fathers of the Church.

  • Catholic Mommy Brain


  • Sr. Helena Burns, fsp

    More recent "Best" Catholic Books: "A Travel Guide to Heaven" by Anthony DeStefano & BJP2G's "TOB" and "Love & Responsibility"! Thanks for the list, Brandon!

  • Victoria

    I did not read a Catholic book until forty years after I left school. I would have to live to be about 200 given the number of books I wish to read and the speed at which I read to remember! lol I have read 14 of the books from your list but two I count as reference boos – The Catechism and Ott's book.

    We have over 2000 years of writings to chose from so of course everyone has different favourites. I love Sheed, not just because he is a fellow Australian, and so I would add A Map of Life (available to be read online) to the list. I like anything written by Peter Kreeft. The Fulfilment of All Desire is great and to that I would add Divine Intimacy and the In Conversation With God set by Fr Francis Fernandez. Fr John Bartuneks's The Better Part is also great for meditation. I love Thomas Howard's poetic prose imbued with such a love of the Catholic Faith e.g. Being Catholic and If Your Mind Wanders At Mass. Along with Harry Crocker's Triumph I have read Thomas Wood's How the Catholic Church built Western Civilisation. The first book I read when I returned to the practise of my Faith was Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine by Abp Sheehan edited by Fr Paul Joseph. This is a good book for getting the real deal about the teachings of the Catholic Church. For an understanding of the roots of the sexual abuse crisis After Asceticism: Sex, Prayer and Deviant Priests by Linacre Institute is good. The Trivium by St Miriam Joseph is great for those who wish to learn about Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic and how the study of these gives one the "tools to perfect the mind". This is all based on Aristotle who I am not likely to read. I will stop now but how good it has been to mentally caress my beloved books.

    My list is not an academic one and so may be useful for the lay person with no particular education in thelogy or philosophy.

  • Brother Paul Mary

    Sorry for the really late reply on Thomas Merton, I did not think to check back due to other kinds of research.

    I think that he had too great a fascination with the eastern religions and that anyone reading him has to be well grounded in theology and knowing well what Christian prayer is not before reading him.

    Personally I will never read him devotionally because there are far too many saints whose wisdom is well acknowledged for me to waste time reading someone who may or may not be in error because of an undue fascination with false religion.

    If I do read him it will be with a hermeneutic of suspicion.

    God Bless

  • Manny

    Great list but you forgot all the great novels by Graham Greene: Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter, and The End of the Affair. And don't forget Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange, The Wanting Seed.

  • Douglas Dobrozsi

    Of course we want to mention titles left out. What an incredible intellectual heritage we are heirs to!

    The Spiritual Life (Tanqueray) is remarkable for its clarity of exposition on sin, helping immensely to know one's self.

    Chesterton – I found "Heretics" as useful as "Orthodoxy".

    "Love and Responsibility" by Pope JPII is challenging but so rich as an antidote to the modern idea of who a man is. Probably the one I most wish for my college age children to absorb.

  • tom hanson

    Under miscellaneous I would add another book by Sigrid Undset : her biography of St Catherine of Siena; beautifully and briefly written, beautifully translated in the Ignatius Press paperback, and makes you understand and feel that what you thought was just bizarre and maybe crazy in the way Christianity was sometimes practised had real logic and real humanity in it.

  • Jeff Miller

    Have read 48 of what is a solid collection.

    Just off the top of my head:

    I would add Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory, though Endo's Silence explores similar themes.

    Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov is remarkable, even if he was a bit of an anti-Catholic in his Orthodox perspective. Certainly a must read.

    One category missing is the liturgy. I would recommend both Romano Guardini's The Spirit of the Liturgy along with Cardinal Ratzinger's book of the same title. In fact not having Ratzinger's "Introduction to Christianity" is a serious knock against this list.

    On the Church Fathers I would recommend Rod Bennetts "Four Witnesses" along with Jimmy Akin's "The Fathers Know Best", but of course Carl's suggestion is great.

    Urs von Balthasar's Heart o the World is also amazing, but i guess I could go on and on.

  • Anonymous

    Has Warren Carroll completed his final volume yet?

  • Just Jeff

    Great list! Might I suggest A Canticle for Leibowitz (for us Catholic/Sci-Fi buffs) under Literary Classics?

  • JustJohn

    A wonderful list. I would however suggest the addition of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, which many consider one of the greatest literary classics of all time, and no slouch in the spiritual and theological realms either.

  • Christian

    So many books, so little time… I'm sure we all have our own list of classics to add. I will say that Shusaku Endo's 'Silence' struck me in a profound way at a time when I was losing my faith — and made me hang on with the thinnest of tethers. It was a true gift of the Holy Spirit.
    I waded through the Seven Story Mountain only to be thunderstruck at the beginning of part 2 as Merton spoke seemingly to me alone.
    And today, Escriva's The Way and The Furrow are genuinely remarkable in keeping my head and soul screwed on straight while my parish is in the process of suppression.
    Thanks for the Post!

  • Carl E. Olson

    Brandon: The ACC set is very nice; I use it quite often in writing my OSV "Opening the Word" column. And the Ancient Christian Doctrine set, also from IVP, is an excellent resource as well. But spendy, alas.

  • Pam H.

    Personally, I think Fr. Dubay's Fire Within is his best book (of the ones I've read), and it should be on the list. Also missing is Blessed Columba Marmion (I like Union with God best). What about Dietrich von Hildebrand's Transfiguration in Christ? Fr Raoul Plus is good, too.

  • Brandon Vogt

    Carl: Thanks for all the recommendations! I've had my eye on Bennet's book and have read many good reviews–no doubt through Ignatius Insight.

    As for the ACCS set published by IVP, I almost peed my pants when I walked into my local used bookstore and saw an almost-complete, pristine set of the NT volumes in that series. I snatched all of them up (except for the Gospel of John and Revelation, which they were missing…someone must really have loved the beloved disciple!) and have been dipping in and out of them with some regularity.

    I like that set more than Jurgens' since it walks you through the Fathers scripturally rather than chronologically (though I find use for both sets).

  • Carl E. Olson

    As for the Fathers, I've been slowly making my way through the Jurgens three-volume set. You have any favorite books on patristics?

    Jurgens is a great resource, or any of the various selected collections of the Apostolic Fathers or early Church Fathers, among them Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words by Rod Bennett (Ignatius, 2002). I would also highly recommend two books by J.N.D. Kelly: Early Christian Creeds and Early Christian Doctrines, which are very helpful studies that contain a wealth of quotes. Another helpful book (that might be hard to find) is Handbook of Patrology (Herder, 1951), by Rev. J. Tixeront. And while I've not read it, I assume that Jimmy Akin's new book, The Fathers Know Best, is a good introduction. Finally, a pretty good resource for those interested in both patristics and Scripture is the Ancient Christian Commentary set, published by IVP.

  • The Sanity Inspector

    A caution: Chesterton was notoriously slapdash when writing his biographies. His insights and style are treasures and joys, of course, but a lay reader wishing for accuracy and thoroughness should not let GKC be the only title on their list.

  • Brandon Vogt

    Donna: As a Lewis fanatic, I count "The Great Divorce" as one of his best books: it highlights both his imagination and his sharp theological mind.

    Brother Paul: Why the distaste for Merton? I know some criticized his rubbing shoulders with Eastern religions, but is there something beyond that?

    Carl: I'll agree with each of those. And as an Ignatius man, you'll be pleased to know that my BoC–Bible of Choice–is the RSV, 2nd Catholic edition (especially the Ignatius Catholic NT).

    As for the Fathers, I've been slowly making my way through the Jurgens three-volume set. You have any favorite books on patristics?

  • Carl E. Olson

    A nice list. I would also suggest:

    • The Bible (THE Catholic Book!)
    • Some works by the early Church Fathers (there are many good collections)
    • Some good books on Scripture

  • Brother Paul Mary

    Don't waste your time with Thomas Merton, other than that the list is great.

  • Donna

    Thank you. It is always good to have a good compilation like that, as people occasionally inquire about good Catholic reading.

    May I add three more: 1) The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis; 2) The Evidential Power of Beauty – Where Science and Theology Meet – by Fr Thomas Dubay; and 3) The Fulfillment of All Desire – A Guidebook for the Journey to God Based on the Wisdom of the Saints – by Ralph Martin.

  • Brandon Vogt

    If you're looking for 'great books', you can hardly do better than the Great Books of the Western World:

    A few months ago I was lucky enough to find a complete, pristine set of all 60+ books on Craigslist for $100.

    I see partial sets all the time at used bookstores and library sales, though.

  • Anonymous

    Yesterday, I thought of creating a "great books" reading list for personal enrichment. I searched the Internet and found the curriculums of the College of St. Thomas More, Thomas Aquinas College, St. John's College, and Wikipedia articles to help me. Now, I find this blog post for even more material from which to choose from. The Lord works in mysterious ways. I give thanks to Him for His providence and abundance.

  • Anonymous

    It's not on the list but try Fr William Doyle by Alfred O'Rahilly. Fr Doyle was an Irish Jesuit who was a military chaplain in WW1. It is an astounding book which combines adventure and deep spiritual insight. St Josemaria Escriva read it as a young priest and was deeply moved.

    You can find a link to the book at this site dedicated to Fr Doyle:

  • Anonymous

    For younger readers and adults who don't mind simpler concepts, the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis should also be considered. The stories take less time to go through than Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and can be read, a chapter at a time to children ten or younger as a bedtime story

  • Jamie

    So happy Kristen Lavransdatter is on there! They're some of my favorite books, and too many people don't know about them.

    Thanks for compiling this list! 🙂

  • Rosemary

    Thanks for your informative list! I love the classics listed. I'm longing to dig into some Merton.

    I'd like to add two to your list: Fr. James Martin's spiritual memoir, "My Life with the Saints." Martin takes you through the lives of saints like Joseph, Mother Theresa, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, and Dorothy Day, while discussing his own spiritual journey, from business school to volunteering in Kenya. Martin has an easygoing, humorous style that's appealing to all ages. I can't stop reading this one-it's soothing before bed.

    Michael Leach's "Why Stay Catholic?" is also a winner, addressing why to stay Catholic amidst scandals in the Church and in this day in age. He invites us to "taste and see how good the Lord is" and reaffirm spiritual routes for all Catholics.

  • Anonymous

    Adrian Fortescue wrote some great history books that are very readable. Check out his work on the Eastern Orthodox Church

  • Brent Stubbs


    Sounds like a plan!

    The best,


  • Brandon Vogt

    Ruth Ann: Wow! Thanks for the extra recommendations. I'm already preparing a post with other classic spiritual books that didn't make this list.

    And I'm envious that you jumped on spiritual literature at such a young age. I wish people would have encouraged such a pursuit when I was in high school in college. I'm going to recommend the same books that you read as a young adult to my own children when they reach that age.

    Brent: Yeah I try not to read too fast, for the very reasons you mentioned. A good book is one that has been chewed before digested. Nevertheless, I've already read 14 of these titles, so I can make my goal by reading one per month-and-a-half.

  • Brent Stubbs


    Fantastic list. One book a month? Of those titles? You might want to finish that list by 35 and then re-read it by 45 to allow for proper digestion. : )

    Further, I've been told that some of those books, in particularly St. Francis de Sales "Treatise on the Love of God" shouldn't be read until later in life lest one miss it's essential meaning. An "Introduction to the Devout Life" is a good precursor.

    That said, thank you for sharing this wonderful list. I must get to reading now!

  • Ruth Ann

    I have read 30 of the titles you listed, so I won't write them all out here. I have also read some of the other authors, but different titles. It's not easy to pick favorites, but I'll try. These are not in any particular order:
    Anything by Chesterton, I read all of those listed before age 25.
    Journal of a Soul made a huge impression on me when I was in college.
    I loved The Seven Story Mountain when I was in high school.
    The Diary of a Country Priest helped me understand priests are human.
    I like Flannery O'Conner's compiled letters in A Habit of Being even more than her stories.
    My high school teacher gave me Spiritual Combat, and it was very helpful in taming me down.
    I loved Sheen's Life of Christ.
    The Imitation of Christ is probably an all time favorite.
    Story of a Soul is tied with Imitation.

    I feel there are wonderful books missing from the list. You might one day try these, too:
    The Way of a Pilgrim
    The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena
    The Practice of the Presence of God
    Ascent to Love by Ruth Burrows
    Reed of God by Houselander
    Mr. Blue by Myles Connolly
    Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers

    You most likely have a long life ahead of you, so take your time. No need to rush!

© 2019 Brandon Vogt