Summer book lists are a dime-a-dozen, but most of them feature choices that might not tempt the Catholic reader. Fortunately, there are plenty of books out there that promise to bring your faith life up a notch, all while keeping you thoroughly entertained. Here are a few suggestions.
Fantasy: The Lord of the Rings
Tolkien is the father of the fantasy genre, and his beloved series, The Lord of the Rings is nothing short of a masterpiece. If you are a lover of fantasy (or even if you’re not) and haven’t read it yet, make sure to add it to your list this summer. A devout Catholic, Tolkien’s work was influenced deeply by his faith. Though you won’t find direct parallels to the faith like you do in C.S. Lewis’s works (Tolkien often poked his friend for his heavy-handed use of allegory), you will find a story built around an unmistakably Catholic scaffolding.
“The Lord of The Rings is, of course, a fundamentally religious and Catholic work, unconsciously at first, but consciously in the revision.”J.R.R. Tolkien
If you’ve already read the Lord of the Rings and want to dive deeper into Tolkien’s philosophy, check out his essay, On Fairy Stories. This sixty page essay digs into Tolkien’s views on imagination in literature and describes why “fairy stories” are vital to understanding real life—and ultimately, our faith.
Sci-Fi: The Space Trilogy
“As long as what you are afraid of is something evil, you may still hope that the good may come to your rescue. But suppose you struggle through to the good and find that is also dreadful?”Perelandra, C.S. Lewis
Chances are, you’ve at least heard of C.S. Lewis’s fantasy epic, The Chronicles of Narnia. Though I would certainly encourage you to give that a read if you haven’t already, Narnia is far from Lewis’s only masterpiece. Lover’s of Sci-Fi take note: C.S. Lewis’s lesser known series, The Space Trilogy, is a work of art. This bizarre tale about a language professor who ends up on a rocket ship to Mars (and later Venus) is utterly chilling and steeped in philosophy and religious allegory.
Spiritual: The Interior Castle by St Theresa of Avila
“The devil frequently fills our thoughts with great schemes, so that instead of putting our hands to what work we can do to serve our Lord, we may rest satisfied with wishing to perform impossibilities.”The Inner Castle, St. Theresa of Avila
If you are craving a read that will inspire you to go deeper in prayer and cultivate your inner life, check out The Interior Castle by St. Theresa of Avila. In it, St. Theresa describes the soul as a crystal castle containing seven rooms. Using this allegory, she explains how a person might journey from one room to next before finally arriving in the inner chamber—a representation of complete union with God.
Intellectual: Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton
“In a garden Satan tempted man: and in a garden God tempted God. When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. Let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.”Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton
Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton is a gold mine of philosophical thought. In Orthodoxy, Chesterton presents an explanation for how and why he became Catholic, and though that explanation, digs deep into Catholic apologetics. The book is beautifully written, deeply insightful, and at times, absolutely hilarious.
Whatever you choose to read this summer, make sure to include a few titles that will nurture your faith-life. Whether it be saintly autobiographies, apologetics and theology, or spiritually inspired fiction, you are sure to find something worth adding to your list.
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