Here’s my list of best Catholic books I read and reviewed in 2014 — best kids’ books, love stories, lives of the saints, and even mysteries. There should be something here for everyone. Enjoy!
Best Kids’ Books
Children of Terror, by Inge Auerbacher and Bozenna Gilbride. Children of Terror is an autobiographical account of two survivors of the Nazi death camps — Inge, a German Jew, and Bozenna, a Polish Catholic. The nearly unimaginable details of their young lives present a gripping portrait of the horrors of World War II. For middle school and up because of the subject matter. Click here for my review and link to buy.
Saint Nicholas and the Mouse of Myra, by Jay Stoeckl. This fun and appealing graphic novel retells the story of every kid’s favorite saint. The fictional Mouse of Myra is a real dramatic foil for St. Nicholas, who quietly converts this pagan and skeptical mouse to Christianity. Written at a third- to fifth-grade level but enjoyable for all ages. Click here for my review and link to buy.
Mission Libertad, by Lizette M. Lantigua. Threats to religious liberty are nearer to us than most young people imagine, and the story of Castro’s Cuba brings that lesson home in a powerful way. Born of Cuban exiles, journalist Liz Lantigua has written an eye-opening fictionalized account of a Catholic family escaping Cuba on a small raft with a mission to achieve freedom in the United States. For teens. Click here for my review and link to buy.
Best Love Stories
Chastity Is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin, by Arleen Spenceley. Love is not about what you get (or what you get to do between the sheets). Love is about what you give and how you give it. The culture tells us that love means having sex, but sex doesn’t mean having babies. In this excellent rebuttal of current cultural mores, Arleen Spenceley explains that single people love in lots of ways that don’t include sex, and married people (in most cases) share love through having sex and having babies. But both single and married people can achieve happiness through loving and being loved. Click here for my review and link to buy.
Tobit’s Dog, by Michael N. Richard. The Biblical story of Tobit’s marriage to Sarah, whose previous seven husbands had been slain by demons, has been cleverly reimagined in this new novel set in the backwoods of Depression-era North Carolina. Tobit’s Dog combines elements of a young man’s journey into adulthood, a love story, and a murder mystery. Click here for my review and link to buy.
The Lion’s Heart, by Dena Hunt. Almost certainly the first of its kind, this gay Catholic romance novel was published by Full Quiver Publishing, a small Canadian company dedicated to promoting St. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body mainly through the medium of fiction. The book is part of a growing effort of faithful Catholics to reach out to the gay community. The Lion’s Heart acknowledges that homosexual love feels like true love to those experiencing it. But true love requires what’s best for the beloved, and in the case of homosexual love, as dramatically depicted in the story of Paul and Max, what’s best for the beloved is to walk away. Click here for my review and link to buy.
Best Stories of Saints and Graces
Seven Saints for Seven Virtues, by Jean Heimann. Seven Saints for Seven Virtues particularly recommends St. Augustine as a role model for cohabiting couples who feel that marriage is unnecessary, pointless, or even constricting. St. Augustine cohabited with his mistress for 15 years, never marrying her and never attaining true happiness. Then he learned that true love is unsatisfied by anything less than a total and definitive self-surrender either to God in celibacy or to each other in Holy Matrimony. The book’s other chapters similarly highlight one saint whose example can teach us one virtue. Seven Saints and Seven Virtues provides an excellent road map to the quest for virtue. Click here for my review and link to buy.
American Saint: The Life of Elizabeth Seton, by Joan Barthel. Calling itself “the definitive biography of Elizabeth Seton,” American Saint, by New York Times best-selling author Joan Barthel, is the first full-length biography of St. Elizabeth Seton to be written in nearly fifty years. Drawing heavily from the saint’s own collected writings, American Saint traces Elizabeth’s life from her childhood as a wealthy Episcopalian to her death as an impoverished Catholic who founded the first order of American nuns and became the first American-born canonized saint. Click here for my review and link to buy.
The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living, by Lisa Hendey. Even healers need to be healed. Even teachers need to learn more. And even those who advise perfection aren’t perfect. If we’re willing to admit that, then we have the grace of integrity, explains Lisa Hendey in her fourth book The Grace of Yes. Integrity is one of the many hidden graces that Lisa introduces us to in The Grace of Yes. Others include creativity, vulnerability, and even the strength to say no to a good that we are not called to do. Throughout the book, Lisa’s encouraging voice reassures and inspires us to dig deeper, reach farther, and keep fighting the good fight. Click here for my review and link to buy.
Best Mystery Novels
The Truth and Nothing but Lies, by Chéri Vausé. This issue-driven mystery novel about the bombing of an empty abortion clinic falls within the tradition of pro-life novels such as Elizabeth Schmeidler’s The Good Sinner, which centered around the murder of an abortionist. Considering how much the issue of abortion divides our country, it’s surprising that more authors don’t use it to dramatic effect. The book does an excellent job of presenting arguments for both sides through the characters, and then letting the reader decide. Click here for my review and link to buy.
The Night Shadow, by Chéri Vausé. This film noir style detective novel stars a female, Catholic version of famous fictional private investigator Sam Spade (remember Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon?). She and her partner are hired to discover whether a young and talented ballerina was burned to death by arson or accident. The main characters’ Catholicism is understated and primarily cultural, but it has the gritty realism of people trying to do their best with the sometimes lousy situations life has handed them. Click here for my review and link to buy.
Copyright 2015 Karee Santos