I’m reminded that Lent is around the corner, and that means you want a book to read. I put together this list in 2012, and looking back every one of these titles remains a top pick of mine. I’ve added a few updates to my comments. Good books just don’t get outdated. They don’t. Enjoy!
1. Pure Lenten Fiction Poke-n-the-soul:
The Gargoyle Code. I love this book. Readable, fun, insightful. Think Screwtape of Catholic parish life. It is designed to be read an episode a day through Lent, but that would take more Lenten discipline than I could ever muster. Every time Fr. L. asks people about this or that new idea of his, I tell him, “Write more fiction.” One day either he’ll cave and give us more, or maybe just ban me from his combox.
–> To see a few samples of the genre — not from the book, but written as bonus material, check out the Slubgrip Instructs Series on Patheos. Suitable for teens and adults.
2. If you only buy one devotional, this is the one:
For G-rated daily Lenten reflections that will kick your sorry slothful rear, you can’t go wrong with my friend Sarah’s booklet Welcome Risen Jesus. It is like its author – cute out on the outside, farm-woman practical realism on the inside. Good for elementary-age and up, independently readable from about 3rd grade. Very inexpensive, probably the best Lenten value going this year. My original review is here, and you can see my slightly less self-centered Amazon review here.
3. Sex, Money, and Everything Else:
Who am I? What are my priorities? How do I make my actions match my values? You don’t think of it as a “Lenten”, but the Theology of the Body for Teens series will get your head on straight. Strong PG-13 warning. If your brain has been warped by the wider culture, this is the antidote. Not just for teens. NOTE: I don’t think kids should take this class without their parents. Just no. No. But if you’re looking for something to do with your teen, here you are.
If you struggle with money problems, this book will not teach you how to budget, choose good investments, or pay off your house and credit card debt in ten easy steps. It will teach you how to put money into it’s proper place spiritually — how to live your vocation fully, and not let money get in the way of becoming the person God wants you to be.
–> If you don’t struggle with money, this the perfect book, because it uses the example of something you do understand (cash!), to help you then see how to address the vices and stumbling blocks that plague you in other areas of your life.
My original review of Why Enough is Never Enough is right here. I say the same thing only in more detail.
4. Proof that some people can watch TV without rotting their brains:
We’re not supposed to be gloomy when we fast and pray, right? Good spiritual reading, not how you’d expect it. Highly recommended. My Amazon review of Happy Catholic is here.
5. If you have a crush on Ronald Knox:
Msgr. Knox is whom you read after you’ve sailed your way through Chesterton and CS Lewis, and are still hungry for more. He’s readable, and hilarious, but listen if you don’t say the same think about Lewis and GKC, forget it. If you are new to these authors, you can see a ton of GK Chesterton for free at the Christian Classics Etheral Library. [You do not need to love Chesterton's longer fiction. Skip that. Skip skip skip.]
I can vouch for The Hidden Stream because I’ve read it and loved it. Another good one is A Retreat for Lay People. Can’t go wrong with either. Also in my personal backlog is A Biblical Walk Through the Mass by Edward Sri, which comes very well-recommended but I can’t make any promises yet.
6. Because you aren’t dumb, and you don’t need big words to prove it:
I suspect Eric Sammons is smarter than almost anybody. But his book is written for normal people, and to prove it I tested my copy on the parish secretary, a smart and literate ten-year-old, and the owner of my local Catholic bookstore. Who fell in love and next thing she knew it was the book club book for her shop, again attended by regular Catholics who just want to know more about God. Interesting, readable, well-written, can’t-go-wrong Lenten pick. It won’t feel penitential, it will help you grow closer to Christ. Great book. My original review of Who is Jesus Christ? is here.
7. Pure Popery Goodness for Everybody.
In 2012, B16 was the Pope — and look, just in time for those “One Year Post Benedict” reflections, a handful of timeless works.
For normal people, I am told the book you want is Come Meet Jesus by Amy Welborn. I don’t own it and haven’t read it, but I’ve never known Amy to go wrong, so I say it’s worth a look.
For about seven people I know, The Doctors of the Church, would be just the thing. But don’t even think about touching Doctors until you are 100% at home with The Catechism of the Catholic Church, and have a firm grasp on the broad outline of Church history and the lives of the more well-known saints.
Normal people wanting a decent, approachable Catechism, don’t let the goofy name fool you, The Youcat is a great book.
8. Insert Your Recommendation Here. What are you reading this Lent? What should other people read? Speak up!