The 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge

“The 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge” is locked The 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge" by Jessica Ptomey (

Copyright 2017 Jessica Ptomey. All rights reserved.

Do you want to read more in 2017? Do you want to broaden your Catholic perspective and read some authors that you might not pick for yourself? If so, I have a reading challenge to share with you guys: The 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge (which I shared on my blog a couple of weeks ago.) Here’s the deal. There are 12 categories. I’m giving you the authors (with a few exceptions), and you get to pick the specific books. I have also included a mix of literary works and theology/spirituality. Oh, and by the way, you certainly don’t need to be Catholic to enjoy this reading challenge.

Here’s the list:

A book by Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger)

Some heavy hitters would include Introduction to Christianity or Eschatology: Death and Eternal life, which a couple of priests have told me might be Benedict’s best work. If you want to start small, his book on Marian theology, Daughter Zion, is a quick read.

A short story by Flannery O’Connor

O’Connor is a master at her craft. Her writing will shock you . . . but that’s the point of her style. If you are new to her, you might enjoy a recent Fountains of Carrots podcast where Haley and Christy discuss “Why We Love Flannery O’Connor and Why You Should Too.”

A novel by a Catholic author

There are lots to choose from here…Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor, Graham Greene, Tolkien, Evelyn Waugh, Sigrid Undset…so this list might help you. I just started Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter.

A book by C. S. Lewis or G. K. Chesterton

Two quick points: (1) I almost gave both these men their own category…so if you want an extra challenge, read both! Orthodoxy and Mere Christianity make a lovely pair. (2) No, Lewis is not Catholic, but that is entirely irrelevant. You must read him, for he is wonderful.

A book by Scott Hahn

Hahn is an accessible theologian, gifted Bible scholar, and delightful teacher. He reads his own books on Audible too, which is how I recently read The Lamb’s Supper.

A book by Bishop Robert Barron

Barron’s Catholicism video series had a big impact on our journey to Catholicism, and he has a book by the same name. He has many great titles. My husband has been recommending his book on Thomas Aquinas to me.

A Catholic memoir or autobiography

Again, lots to choose from here. This could be anything from Augustine’s Confessions or St. Therese’s Story of a Soul to Fulton Sheen’s Treasure in Clay or Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain. I’m going to read Dorothy Day’s The Long Loneliness.

An encyclical from one of the last three popes (Francis, Benedict XVI, or John Paul II)

Obviously you are going to be educated and exhorted by reading any of these popes. However, it might be good advice to pick an encyclical from the pope you know least.

A book by one of the 33 Doctors of the Church

This is a pretty exclusive list, and these men and women have tremendously blessed the Church with their writing. Some might be easier to read than others, but all of them have contributed important things. Here again, you might want to pick an author you don’t know very well.

Something written by one of the early Church Fathers

If you have no idea who to pick, then flip to the index of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and start looking up some names. You might get inspired when you discover what these Church Fathers have contributed to church doctrine and tradition.

A book on Catholic spirituality written more than 100 years ago

Catholicism has such a rich history of spiritual writing and practices, and we are often missing out on it because we don’t read enough old books. One I would strongly recommend is Fr. De Caussade’s classic Abandonment to Divine Providence; it is short and so very applicable to our lives today.

A book by a female saint

I included this category so that you don’t miss out on some of the greats: Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, Edith Stein, St. Therese, etc.

Okay, that’s the list! Here’s a printable of it, if you’d like. Please post some of your own recommendations for these categories in the comments.

From time to time throughout the year, I may be blogging on a book I’m reading from each of these categories; be sure that you are signed up for my emails so that you don’t miss those posts. Happy reading in 2017!

Your purchase of the resources mentioned here through our Amazon affiliate links help to support at no cost to you!

Be sure to check out our Book Notes archive.

Copyright 2017 Jessica Ptomey


About Author

Jessica Ptomey is a Catholic convert, wife, mom, writer, Communications scholar and professor, and homeschooler. She blogs at She is the author of Home in the Church: Living an Embodied Catholic Faith, and her research in inter-faith dialogue has been published in the Journal of Communication and Religion (JCR). She is also the co-host, with her husband Mike, of The Catholic Reading Challenge podcast.


  1. This is great list that covers a lot of bases! I’m going to make this part of my reading challenge this year.

    The only thing I’d add is that Catholic novelists don’t have to be dead people. By all means, the classics are important, but if we hope to have any modern or future classics, it’s good to try some contemporary fiction. A good place to start is with the Catholic Writers Guild, which you can follow on social media or through the listing of books that have earned the Guild’s Seal of Approval.

    • Thanks, Carolyn! That’s a great reminder. I think it’s a good idea to mix old and new novelists in our reading life. We can discover new voices and see how they hold up to the classics. Thanks for commenting!

  2. I love this list! Kristin Lavransdatter is my goal this year, and I’m so glad to see you’re starting it! I would love to discuss it with you when I make it through. The rest of these may have to wait for 2018–KL is wonderfully huge.

    • Yay, Lindsay! Let’s do it. I will most likely blog about it once it is read…so keep an eye out for that, and maybe we can get a good discussion going! Don’t underestimate yourself though; people I know have said that the story is quite captivating. You may sail through the 1000+ pages in record time. I’m only 50 pages in, but enjoying it so far.

  3. What a great list! I am nearly finished with the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, which I started last year. I discovered Sigrid Undset through another of her books earlier last year and was immediately captivated. Some of the other suggestions are on my want-to-read list this year, including Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton, A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, and Amoris Laeticia. Thanks for the inspiring ideas!

  4. This is a good start, thanks! Only thing I’d disagree on is O’Connor. I don’t think she’s essential or even, for some, good. Not to say she’s harmful, just that she does not impact me personally in a good way. It’s more disturbing that anything and, when I can spend my limited reading time on things that are edifying and enlightening and helpful and enriching, why read someone who will not be those? All that being “said”, I’m very sure that she has been all those things for others, so I’m not saying she should be excluded or not read. So really no point to this comment except to comment ;] And say thanks for the list!

    • I understand your perspective on O’Connor, Maria. She isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but she does have the perspective that to wake certain people up in the modern world you have to “shout,” and I think that is the goal of her writing style. So for some people, the violence in her writing will “wake them up” to their own human depravity. But feel free to skip her for yourself. 🙂

  5. Greetings! It’s arch but still…there’s ime to do the challenge! Accepted!
    I wanted to say in se you are unaware, that many, many books by &about the Fathers of the Church are offered free. There are audio recordings on I am going to find some links and share them here in the near future. Thank you so much for this challenge hope to be blessed by it and I’m going to share it with others. May the Lord God bless and keep thee in Christ.

    • Awesome, Amber! Yes, I love for that. Please do share those links when you find them. Also, use the hashtag #2017CatholicReadingChallenge on social media. Glad to have you on board!

  6. I would include Caryll Houselander’s Rocking Horse Catholic in the memoir section. There is also a collection of her letters, edited by Maisie Ward, which is wonderful.

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