Faith-filled summer reading recommendations

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Here’s what Archbishop Sartain and our other writers think you should be reading

What book would you recommend to Catholics in Western Washington? That’s the question we asked each of our regular columnists to answer in 100 words or less. Here are their answers. From popular novels to works on history, liturgy, prayer and spirituality, these nine books should keep you turning the pages — and growing in your faith — this summer.


Hannan Coulter

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

Recommended by Sarah Bartel

As Hannah reflects back over her ordinary rural life in the fictional community of Port William, Kentucky, her recounting of her joy and work, sorrows and enduring love becomes her “giving of thanks” for the gifts she has received. Though Protestant, Berry beautifully illustrates the concepts of “total mutual self-giving” and “communion of life and love” in sacramental marriage in a way that would make St. John Paul II nod warmly. St. Thérèse would rejoice at Hannah’s recognition that everything is gift. Hannah’s rich relationships and engaging story breathe truth and life. This novel will inspire you to love better.


The Power of Silence

The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise by Robert Cardinal Sarah with Nicholas Diat

Recommended by Michelle Bruno

The noise of humanity — not just bustling city traffic, but barrages of sound and talking, images and activities — pervades our lives to a dizzying extent, thanks in part to ever-expanding technologies. We no longer know how to be silent. In this book-length interview, Cardinal Robert Sarah explains that silence is the language of God, and in five chapters he tells us everything from why God is silent in the face of evil, to what silence is (and what it is not), how to obtain it, and why it is so urgent we pursue it.


Joshua and The Shack

Joshua by Joseph F. Girzone and The Shack by Wm. Paul Young

Recommended by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo

These two popular novels can help readers think about God from a different perspective. In Joshua, the title character arrives in a small town where his presence causes joy but also suspicion. While fictional, the book gives the reader an understanding of Jesus’ human side and his approach to people.


In The Shack, Mack, the main character, has a rather unusual encounter with the three persons of the Trinity following the violent murder of his youngest daughter. The experience helps Mack through the painful process of understanding and healing from his loss, as well as some ghosts from his childhood.





Anecdotes of Destiny

 Babette’s Feast by Isak Dinesen (included in Anecdotes of Destiny and Ehrengard)

Recommended by Angela Kim

A beautiful and deeply moving tale of perseverance, fortitude, gratitude, humility and love, this short story follows Babette, who flees political turmoil in her native France and finds asylum with a puritan Lutheran colony in Jutland. Little is known about her, but she commits herself to serving two poor and pious sisters — the daughters of the sect’s founder — and their aging and ailing community. When Babette wins an unexpected lottery fortune, they fear she will leave them. But Babette has a surprising secret, and rather than leaving, she prepares them a lavish and sumptuous feast.


Into your Hands, Father

Into Your Hands, Father: Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us by Wilfrid Stinissen

Recommended by Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg

Every Catholic can benefit from spiritual reading. Father Wilfrid Stinissen is an experienced spiritual guide who uses Carmelite spirituality, as expressed through the writings of John of the Cross and Teresa of Ávila, to foster healing, spiritual communion with God, and protection from damaging influences to the reader. This is a very short book that can easily be read in a few hours but that can make a lasting impact in the spiritual, emotional and psychological life of the reader.


What Happens at Mass

What Happens at Mass by Jeremy Driscoll, OSB

Recommended by Deacon Eric Paige

This is the kind of book that changes the way we see things. Don’t let the title fool you into thinking this is some kind of entry-level book just meant for newcomers to the faith. It’s much more than that. It lets Catholics old and new appreciate the Mass in a way they never did before. And it does this using language familiar to laypeople in just 144 pages. Read this book and you won’t regret it!


The Way of the Pilgrim

The Way of a Pilgrim translated by Nina Toumanova

Recommended by Mauricio I. Pérez

These are the notes of an anonymous 19th-century Russian peasant who sets out on a journey seeking how to fulfill St. Paul’s instruction to “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Through his encounters with different monks, he learns to make of the continuous chant of the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”) not only the means to reach intimacy with the Lord, but also his own way of life. A prayer and spirituality classic that has touched the faith and affected the prayer habits of many, Orthodox and Catholic alike — including mine. This reading is a must.


Bearing False Witness

Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History by Rodney Stark

Recommended by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain

Catholics have grown accustomed to conventional accounts of important periods in Church history, such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, the “Dark Ages” and World War II. Often these accounts are biased or seriously flawed. As one who loves history, I flinch when I read such inaccurate accounts and even more when I hear them repeated, even by Catholics, as true. Stark, a sociologist, sets the record straight with detailed research and analysis. Significantly, he writes, “I am not a Roman Catholic, and I did not write this book in defense of the Church. I wrote it in defense of history.”


Northwest Catholic - July/August 2018