I love to read: Scripture, spiritual reading, lives of the Saints, novels, and my new favorite, narrative nonfiction. Growing up, I was the kid who read the Reader’s Digest front to back. Some of my dearest friends were Anne Shirley and Nancy Drew. As I grew older, I was drawn to spiritual reading, many works drawing me into prayer.
Sometimes, we want to read something light and easy. Although summer is not a liturgical season, it is often a season of renewal. It is a time to slow down, enjoy the outdoors, vacation, and often, go to the beach. You may have heard the term "beach reads," which refers to books that are enjoyable to read while you're meant to be relaxing. You can find dozens of lists of beach reads classified by being light and easy reads. Though light and easy, we don’t always want fluff. Sometimes, we want light, easy, and fulfilling. This seems to be a very narrow criteria!
Summer Beach Reads for Catholics
I have compiled a list of what I would consider to be Catholic beach reads. These books are engaging, easy to understand, and best of all, draw you deeper into faith.
St. John Paul II: His Five Loves by Jason Evert
This biography of Pope Saint John Paul II is framed in the perspective of what he loved, written by someone who loved him. John Paul II’s life was so full that it is hard to capture, but this book makes him easily approachable.
The Bones of St. Peter by John Walsh
This true story reads like a mystery. It tells the story of the discovery of Saint Peter’s bones under Saint Peter’s Basilica. This is a history, but told in an approachable way.
Jane Austen’s Genius Guide to Life by (BIS friend) Haley Stewart
I have long been a fan of Stewart’s podcast and was thrilled when I saw this book as I am a huge Jane Austen fan. Stewart frames Austen in a Catholic perspective. She links the main characters to virtues and then ties in Our Lady in a masterful way. If you love Austen like I do, or even if you are a casual fan, this one is for you. I also recommend her other book The Grace of Enough.
Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Von Trapp
If you love The Sound of Music and haven’t read the true story, this book is for you. Maria Von Trapp is an inspirational writer in her own right, having written multiple books about life and faith. To hear the story from her perspective is delightful.
Spoiler alert: the engagement is very different from the movie.
Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy by Simone Troisi
You are not likely to forget the picture of Chiara Petrillo when you see it: her evident joy while she wears a patch over her eye. This book tells the story of her life and marriage. I walked away feeling like we could have been friends, as we are about the same age. There were so many pieces of this book that I loved: the witness of her marriage (including the struggles) and her heroic battle with cancer (including a striking similarity to Saint Gianna). You might need tissues, but you will finish with a full heart.
He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Ciszek
Father Ciszek has an incredible story of survival in Soviet prison camps after World War II. He tells that story in With God in Russia, which is also a great read, but not exactly a light read. In He Leadeth Me, Father Ciszek shares the journey of his prayer during the 23 years he was imprisoned. It is honest; and in a situation you think would lead to despair, Father Ciszek shares a story of hope we can learn from.
Hiking the Camino: 500 Miles With Jesus by Fr. Dave Pivonka, TOR
Whether or not you are interested in hiking the Camino, this book is a great read. I felt like I learned many spiritual lessons without having to get the blisters of the walk! Father Dave shares both the physical and spiritual side of the Camino pilgrimage, in an engaging and humorous way. I also recommend Father Dave’s books on the spiritual life.
Searching For and Maintaining Peace by Fr. Jacque Philippe
This little book manages to be both simple and profound. I love all of Father Philippe’s books, but this one is my favorite. He gives practical guidance for facing anxiety with the Lord’s help. The Gathering Place did a podcast episode on this book, so don’t just take my word for it!
The Chronicles of Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis
Overlook my inclusion of seven books in a single recommendation. Perhaps you read this series as a child. But do not write this off as a children’s series. In reading or re-reading it as an adult, you can deeply enter into the allegory of Narnia as Heaven and find yourself learning about yourself from the characters. If you have only read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, read the rest. If you read the series as a child, read it again! My favorite of the series is The Last Battle, the last of the series.
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
At the risk of fan-girling C.S. Lewis too much, this allegory kept me pondering Heaven long after I put it down. Told as a fictional journey that could be read in a day, it’s a profound insight into our humanity, surrender, and holiness. I had long avoided this book because the premise and genre are not my typical preference, but now it is one I return to frequently.
The Hidden Legacy by Carrie Sue Barnes
This lovely multigenerational fiction novel by Catholic author Carrie Sue Barnes is a refreshing, clean story that weaves the journey of faith that will keep you reading. It smoothly weaves the journey of a granddaughter entering into her grandmother’s story during World War I.
Reading is a Delight
I often give thanks to the Lord for reading. From characters who reveal myself to me to books who introduce me to Saints who become friends, I find reading consoling. It resets my heart. Combine that with time away, and what a true gift it can be! I hope you can find a gift among this list!
What are some favorite Catholic books that you would consider to be summer beach reads? Share your recommendations in the comments below!
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