Favorite Nonfiction from My 2011 Reading

Last year, I read over 60 books (though someday I want to read as many as Julie Davis of Happy Catholic or Jeff Miller of Curt Jester. Maybe when the kids are older…).

I thought I’d share highlights from my favorites. Last week, I shared my favorite fiction reads. This week, I’ll share the best of the best in the nonfiction I read.

Most of what I read is nonfiction, and much of the nonfiction I read is Catholic in nature, so I guess it’s no surprise that my “best of” list includes Catholic titles!

Theology for the rest of us.

  • Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith, by Robert Barron – After reading Father Barron’s book, though, I found myself renewed and reenergized. Throughout the entire book, I was turning the page, wondering what was next. Great book, and one of the best of the best, period. When’s the last time a theology book kept me turning the page like a novel would?
  • A Biblical Walk through the Mass: Understanding What We Say and Do in the Liturgy, by Edward Sri – Reading this book, I was even more touched by Sri’s passion for the Mass than I was when I heard him interviewed. Here’s a man who not only loves the Eucharist and the Mass, but who can speak about it. His writing is like a glimpse at a lover’s heart–and I mean that in the highest possible sense.

The lighter side of faith.

  • Happy Catholic: Glimpses of God in Everyday Life, by Julie Davis – This book isn’t just a good read, though it is that. It’s also the perfect devotional for the busiest person you know. It’s a great resource for the practice of finding faith right in front of your face. It’s an indispensable handbook for a moment with the God who took the time to get down and dirty by becoming one of us.
  • Sinner: The Catholic Guy’s Funny, Feeble Attempts to Be a Faithful Catholic, by Lino Rulli – Lino keeps it real, but he does it in a way that had me laughing and snorting and nodding the whole book through.I find myself inspired by how Lino is so honest, and I want to share this book with everyone I know, especially those people who may struggle with how perfect they’re not. Because, after reading this book, I’m struck by the fact that hey, it’s not just me.
  • Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life, by James Martin, SJ – Laughter is medicine, but it’s also, Martin maintains, an often-overlooked element that’s needed in our spiritual lives. This is the kind of book you’ll want to buy two copies of: one to keep and reread, one to share with at least one person who could use a reason to smile.

Reflecting on what’s important.

  • Prayer in the Digital Age, by Matt Swaim – Swaim takes his own experience and applies it humorously and humbly, guiding his reader toward a greater detachment. Brilliant for its brevity and insightful because the author is one of the rest of us.
  • Weightless: Making Peace with Your Body, by Kate Wicker – Hands-down, one of the most needed books of our time, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Even if you don’t struggle with body image, there’s great insight for you as you interact with those who, inevitably, do.
  • Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues, by Robert J. Spitzer – Spitzer’s book is not easy reading, but it is, I believe, very necessary, especially if you want to understand the logic and the true horror of our non-logic in the culture of death that we’re living in right now.
  • Women, Sex, and the Church: A Case for Catholic Teaching, Edited by Erika Bachiochi – Not only do you get the debated topics, but you get a clear, concise treatment of the reasoning and teaching of the Church. This book will teach you, even if it tackles topics both difficult and misunderstood. The credentials of the contributors doesn’t keep them from being able to explain what they begin, and well.

Mary, Mary – quite lovely reading on the Mother of God.

  • Wholly Mary: Mother of God, by Chris Padgett – In this writing I saw so much of what gets me emotional and passionate about the Mother of God. Padgett outlines Church teaching without being overbearing, he encourages devotion without sounding overly pious, and best of all, he makes the reader laugh.
  • Fatima for Today: The Urgent Marian Message of Hope, by Fr. Andrew Apostoli – This book outlines, brilliantly, the message of Fatima and how it matters to YOU, to ME, to each of us. It gives purpose to our prayers, explains the first Saturday devotion so clearly I can probably teach it to others now, and, in general, is a handbook we should all read and reference as we dive into the most important praying we can do.

My favorite finds of the year.

  • Expecting a Miracle: A Companion Through Pregnancy, by Jaymie Stuart Wolfe – I got to know the author, which is how I got my hands on a copy of the out-of-print book. Though it’s a pregnancy book, I found it so insightful and meaningful in my non-pregnant life that I urged the author to redo parts of it and repackage it. I don’t know if she or the publisher will, but if you can get a copy of it, it’s GREAT!
  • Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Frances de Sales – This was written HUNDREDS of years ago, but it was so applicable to my 2011 life that I felt like St. Francis was standing over my shoulder. This book goes on the “reread every year or two” shelf. It would be perfect for a group study, a daily devotional, or just a shot in the spiritual arm.
Chime in! What were your favorite nonfiction reads from 2011?
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