Finding a good novel that isn’t either shallow, sinful, or just plain nasty is really hard to do. We all love to brag about how many theology and apologetics books we read in our free time, as an alternative to the vapid popular literature, but occasionally, we want to read some solid fiction that won’t leave us with a bad taste in our mouths! So here are 14 novels and series that will affirm your faith without dumbing it down or messing it up.
1. Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset
The three books on the life of Kristin Lavransdatter tell the story of a young girl who flouts both morality and tradition to follow her heart, and reaps the consequences, both good and bad. A classic tale of love, lust, betrayal, forgiveness, and salvation, these books will linger with you long after you read them. Buy it on Amazon here.
From Amazon: “Anne is a highly educated Englishwoman who arrives in British Columbia at the end of the First World War. Raised in a family of spiritualists and Fabian socialists, she has fled civilization in search of adventure. She meets and eventually marries a trapper-homesteader, an Irish immigrant who is fleeing the “troubles” in his own violent past. This is a story about the gradual movement of souls from despair and unbelief to faith, hope, and love, about the psychology of perception, and about the ultimate questions of life, death and the mystery of being. Interwoven with scenes from Ireland, England, Poland, Russia, and Belgium during the War, Strangers and Sojourners is a tale of the extraordinary hidden within the ordinary. It is about courage and fear, and the triumph of the human spirit.
3. Father Elijah, by Michael O’Brien
From Amazon: Father Elijah is a convert from Judaism, a survivor of the Holocaust, a man once powerful in Israel. For twenty years he has been “buried in the dark night of Carmel” on the mountain of the prophet Elijah. The Pope and the Cardinal Secretary of State call him out of obscurity and give him a task of the highest sensitivity: to penetrate into the inner circles of a man whom they believe may be the Antichrist. Their purpose: to call the Man of Sin to repentance, and thus to postpone the great tribulation long enough to preach the Gospel to the whole world. Buy the book here!
4. The Spear, by Louis de Wohl
“This panoramic novel of the last days of Christ ranges from the palaces of imperial Rome to the strife-torn hills of Judea-where the conflict of love and betrayal, revenge and redemption, and reaches a mighty climax in the drama of the Crucifixion. For this is the full story of the world’s most dramatic execution, as it affected one of its least-known participants-the man who hurled his spear into Christ on the Cross. Among his many successful historical novels (some of which are listed further on in this list,) Louis de Wohl considered The Spear the magnum opus of his literary career.“ (Buy it here!)
5.The Silver Chalice, by Thomas B. Costain
Young silversmith Basil is given a mighty task- make a silver cast and holder for the simple chalice that Jesus used at the Last Supper. He travels all around the ancient world to research this Jesus that used the chalice, and meets many of the men who followed Him, such as St. Peter, St. Luke, and Joseph of Arimathea, getting a front-row seat to the spread of Christianity in the ancient world. Beautifully written, and glowing with life, this classic book can be found on Amazon.
6. Citadel of God, by Louis de Wohl
“Another of the popular historical novels by the distinguished de Wohl, telling the dramatic story of St. Benedict, the father of Western monasticism, who played such a major role in the Christianization and civilization of post-Roman Europe in the sixth century. De Wohl weaves an intricate tapestry of love, violence and piety to recount with historical accuracy the story of St. Benedict and the tempestuous era in which he lived. Since there are no contemporary biographies of this major saint of history and the Church, de Wohl’s inspired account is of significant importance on the subject of saint’s lives for today’s spiritual seekers. Having lived in an era of great immorality and vice, not unlike our world today, Benedict’s story has a strong message for modern Christians who seek, as he did, to turn away from the wickedness of the world to find Christ in prayer, study and solitude.” (From Amazon!)
7. The Power and The Glory, by Graham Greene
“How does good spoil, and how can bad be redeemed? In his penetrating novel The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene explores corruption and atonement through a priest and the people he encounters. In the 1930s one Mexican state has outlawed the Church, naming it a source of greed and debauchery. The priests have been rounded up and shot by firing squad–save one, the whisky priest. On the run, and in a blur of alcohol and fear, this outlaw meets a dentist, a banana farmer, and a village woman he knew six years earlier. For a while, he is accompanied by a toothless man–whom he refers to as his Judas and does his best to ditch. Always, an adamant lieutenant is only a few hours behind, determined to liberate his country from the evils of the church. On the verge of reaching a safer region, the whisky priest is repeatedly held back by his vocation, even though he no longer feels fit to perform his rites: “When he was gone it would be as if God in all this space between the sea and the mountains ceased to exist. Wasn’t it his duty to stay, even if they despised him, even if they were murdered for his sake? even if they were corrupted by his example?” Get this classic now.
Father Brown is a mystery-solving priest. With his remarkable insights into human nature, his humility, and his wit, Father Brown entertains and educates readers of these beloved mysteries by one of the greatest minds of our time, G.K Chesterton. Get the complete set here!
9. The Fairy Tale Novels series, by Regina Doman
Beloved by adults and teens alike, these books by Regina Doman each take a fairy tale and turn it into a modern, yet never jaded or cynical, retelling. They follow young adults and the challenges they all face as Catholics in a world that hides supernatural good and evil behind mundane normalcy. Full of action and romance, yet still remaining quiet enough to teach subtle lessons about morality, theology, and really growing up, these books will be favorites forever. (I’ve already read my copy of the third book to absolute tatters!) Buy the books one at a time, or get the full set here.
10. Catholic Philosopher Chick Makes Her Debut, by Rebecca Bratten Weiss
Cate Frank is a recent convert to Catholicism who decides to leave her successful job in the fashion industry to study philosophy at a Catholic college. She somehow navigates through annoying roommates, chauvinistic classmates, sadistic professors, and the other crises of faith and fashion that plague every Catholic woman. Though, at first glance, this book may look like some fluffy bit of chick lit, appearances are deceptive- Catholic Philosopher Chick not only gives the reader a basic crash course in Thomistic philosophy, but also teaches valuable lessons about becoming an adult Catholic, no matter what your age is. Get it here!
From the back cover: “A novel that will take you to a future that is as current as today’s headlines. Nathan Payne. A troubled young securities broker from Chicago. Will Nathan find the faith to win the love of Joanie Wheat — a woman of deep Catholic convictions? Becky Macadam. A stunningly beautiful young woman, away from the faith since childhood, alone and pregnant in the heartless city of Chicago. Father Chet Sullivan. A fast-talking young priest from New Jersey with a penchant for getting into trouble. Tom Wheat. The foremost U.S. expert on Marian Apparitions, desperately trying to warn the world about The Coming Tribulations. Can Wheat reach the country in time? Lee Washington. A drug dealer from Cleveland, living in the fast lane in L.A. Will he keep his appointment with Our Lady? This sweeping new novel is set against the backdrop of historical and present-day Marian Apparitions. Join these unforgettable characters as their lives intertwine in a Divine Plan during the Great Tribulations! Pierced By A Sword will take you over the border between heaven & earth! Discover a new world. Change your life forever.” Here it is on Amazon.
From Amazon: “A Roman soldier, Marcellus, wins Christ’s robe as a gambling prize. He then sets forth on a quest to find the truth about the Nazarene’s robe-a quest that reaches to the very roots and heart of Christianity and is set against the vividly limned background of ancient Rome. Here is a timeless story of adventure, faith, and romance, a tale of spiritual longing and ultimate redemption.” Also made into a gorgeous movie (and sequel,) the original book can be found here.
13. Quo Vadis, by Henryk Sienkiewicz
“The title means “where are you going?” and alludes to a New Testament verse (John 13:36). The popular novel was widely translated. Set in ancient Rome during the reign of the emperor Nero, Quo Vadis tells the story of the love that develops between a young Christian woman and a Roman officer who, after meeting her fellow Christians, converts to her religion. Underlying their relationship is the contrast between the worldly opulence of the Roman aristocracy and the poverty, simplicity, and spiritual power of the Christians.” (From the The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature) Get it here.
14. The Book of Judith, God
In the Bible, this short, little-known book sits like a buried treasure. Judith is a wealthy widow in a city beset by an attacking army. When none of the city defenders can save their city, Judith trusts God and steps out in absolutely shocking courage. This book answers some of the greatest questions that are presented to Catholics, including how God can allow suffering if He really loves us. The book of Judith perfectly exemplifies the idea of all things working out for good for people who love and trust in God!