Fiction Books Every Catholic Should Read

catholic book list

As a bibliophile and as a Catholic, I have spent my life searching for the best Catholic fiction. Not books that are necessarily explicit in their Catholicism, but good books. Books that are beautiful and that elevate one’s heart to the Good and Beautiful Himself.

Fiction Books Every Catholic Should Read

Most people are familiar with Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, as well as C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, but here are 6 other fiction books that you can add to your TBR list:

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder follows the life and romances of Charles Ryder over a twenty year period. This includes his friendship with the Flytes, a family of wealthy English Catholics who live in a mansion called Brideshead Castle. Brideshead movingly shows the ways in which grace can affect different people and the many ways in which God can draw souls, even those undeserving, to Himself. The novel is gorgeously written, the story haunting, and a book that has left me better for having read it.

The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor

Is a list about Catholic Fiction even complete without Flannery? Flannery O’Connor is a Catholic Southern-American writer known for her sass and violent tales of grace. While O’Connor also has two novels, her short stories really represent her as a writer (and bonus, some you can read in one sitting!) She writes dark and oftentimes bizzare stories full of ironic humor—making them a bit difficult for some to stomach. However, O’Connor’s works spins powerful tales of redemption. O’Connor believed that violent, or extreme situations, reveals our essence revealing the Truth in things. Her stories are reminiscent of the Cross, in that violence brings about healing for the characters.

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The Brothers Karamozov by Fydor Dostoevsky

If you are like me, the thought of reading a 700+ page Russian novel might overwhelm you. But The Brothers Karamozov is worth it. Some of the greatest thinkers of all time lauded the novel (Einstein called it “the supreme summit of all literature”) and our three most recent popes referenced it in homilies and encyclicals. Considered by many the greatest book ever written, The Brothers Karamozov is a family drama centered on a coarse and vulgar father and his three sons. It tackles the fundamental question of how to live best one’s life in an engaging way. The Brothers Karamozov contains a wealth of beauty, making it a must read!

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

As a new mom, it’s been awhile since a book has kept me up late reading. But this novel is a real page-turner! The Power and the Glory tells the story of one of the last priests living in Mexico during the 1930s when being a priest was considered an act of treason. The priest is hunted both by the sins of his past and a paramilitary group wanting his execution. With no other priest to hear his confession, our main character—the unnamed “Whisky Priest”—fears death. This book powerfully and timelessly scours the depths of the human soul and of God’s mercy. Do yourself a favor and read it.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

When we think of Frankenstein’s monster (yes, that is actually what he is called), we think of a bumbling, grunting, square-headed creature. And when we think of his master, Dr. Frankenstein, we think of a mad scientist hidden in a lab somewhere. But this couldn’t be further from the truth in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In this novel, the mostly sane Dr. Frankenstein obsesses over the progress of humanity; while Frankenstein’s monster has intelligence and personality, and a sincere desire to please his creator. Frankenstein’s monster shows us what life would be like to have a creator who didn’t care for his creation, illustrating to us the gift we have in a Creator who loves and delights in us.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

You may have read Of Mice and Men or The Grapes of Wrath in high school, but may be less familiar with this title by author John Steinbeck. East of Eden retells and reshapes the Book of Genesis. Set in Salinas Valley, California, this story follows two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—who have reenacted the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel for generations. It centers around the idea found in Genesis 4:7 that, “You may turn away from evil and do good.” East of Eden presents humanity in all its radical freedom, freedom given by God, and illustrates that this freedom has dire consequences. It shows how the way you use your freedom affects, not only yourself, but those around you for generations to come.

Have you read any of these books? Which has been your favorite? And what’s next on your list?!

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Carissa Pluta is a wife, mother, bookworm, and blogger currently living as a missionary in Birmingham, Alabama. She has Bachelor’s Degrees in English and Communication Arts and has a deep desire to create and cultivate beauty in everything she does. Carissa enjoying hiking, Paul Simon, and drinking copious amounts of herbal tea. You can learn more about her here.

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  • Reply
    November 13, 2018 at 11:54 am

    How about Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, the Tiina Nunnally translation? It’s about a Catholic Norwegian woman in medieval times. It’s beautiful and long.

  • Reply
    November 15, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    Ditto Kristin Lavransdatter… Tina Nunnally translation is very readable… Sigrid Undset won the 1928 Nobel Prize for Literature a few years after this trilogy was published. What a beautiful epic depicting all the romance, adventure, trials and joys to be found in a story of a Catholic marriage and family life!

  • Reply
    January 4, 2019 at 4:53 pm

    Great list, and thank you for the suggestion of Kristin Lavransdatter. I will be adding these to my list.

  • Reply
    February 13, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    Great list – have only read one of these!! As for your next read…although it is narrative non-fiction (so reads like a story), I just finished “The Chicken Runs at Midnight” (Oct 18, Tom Friend) and could not put it down, gobbled it in a little over 24 hours. Amazing book with a Catholic who falls away and eventually has his faith restored. Will be recommending it to a lot of people!

  • Reply
    Jon Koelker
    May 19, 2019 at 4:30 am

    Another re-telling of the Creation story that’s excellent is C. .S. Lewis’ ‘Perelandra’, the second book of his ‘space trilogy’. Although part of a series, it can be read by itself without losing any of the context. Lewis shows what could have happened in Eden, how innocence could have been protected.

  • Reply
    Carol (Reading Ladies)
    May 25, 2019 at 4:19 pm

    I think From Sand and Ash is a compelling read from a faith perspective! It references how the Catholic Church hid Jews during WW11, includes several passages about faith, and also seriously explores an interfaith relationship (catholic and Jew). Have you read it? I reviewed it on my blog.

    • Reply
      Melissa Galanopoulos
      October 12, 2019 at 5:47 pm

      I really enjoyed this novel! Very compelling are hard to put down.

  • Reply
    August 4, 2019 at 11:39 am

    ISLAND OF THE WORLD by Michael O’Brien is my favorite book of all time. It’s by a Catholic author who has written many beautiful novels. They’re usually long but well worth it.

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