Your Help Needed: More Books for Reluctant Readers

I love books.  Big fat books, old worn books, illustrated children’s books, coffee table books.  I like the smell of old paper and the feel of soft leather and the sprawling, tumbling cacophony of words and ideas highlighted on earmarked pages.

But I’ve noticed that not everyone shares my penchant for paperbacks.  In fact, there are a whole lot of people out there who chuck reading completely—preferring to click the remote or rock it to an iTunes video.

So how do you reach someone who NEEDS guidance and information, but is resistant to reading?

Right now on another post, secularist readers are trying to convince me that public nudity is no big deal.  This convinces me that they have not learned to appreciate the intrinsic dignity of the human body; but what shall I say?  “Here—Enjoy this copy of Mulieris Dignitatum”?  Umm…. I don’t think so.

This may seem obvious, but I think there’s a problem in that so many good Catholic books are written for readers—that is, for people who are already on the same page, and people who enjoy learning more about their already-held positions.  But for the uninitiated?  It’s tough sometimes to find good teaching materials that won’t be summarily dismissed, tossed into the recycle bin, by their intended audience.

Fiction can sometimes sneak in under the rails and impart a message; so when sci-fi author Dean Koontz’ 20-year-old short order cook Odd Thomas heads to the mall, wary of bodachs and hopeful about his future with Stormy Llewellyn, you learn a lesson about character and faithfulness.  I was pleased when a friend of mine, an enthusiastic Koontz fan, exclaimed, “What?  Koontz is CATHOLIC?!”  Proof-positive, I thought, that the novel could reach its intended audience, teaching values without overt religiosity.

Here are just a few of the titles I’ve recommended for Un-Readers.

I need more ideas, though.  Please tell me, what books should I tuck into my gift drawer, ready to present when the time is right?

  • Lisa

    Kathy, I know you’re asking for ideas, but first I wanted to thank YOU for the ideas! Both the literary suggestions, but also the “gift drawer.” Perfect! I’ve had a shelf of little “gifties,” but your drawer idea is exactly what I need!

    In terms of books, several of the classics would be appropriate in illustrating virtues (or lack thereof, and its consequences,) but may require discussion with the recipient of the gift. Works like The Great Gatsby, or Crime and Punishment come to mind. But if you can’t discuss it with them, it may not have the intended effect, even though it may get them thinking.

    I also think there is a continuum to be considered, in how overtly religious the works are, and how likely they are to be picked up and read because of that–so one may want to have a wide variety of works in that drawer–from not-at-all recognizably religious, to very obviously religious.

    In the latter category, a number of books (or even booklets) on the lives of various saints could be very helpful. These also can be nearly-seamlessly introduced if a person is a fan of genres like biography, historical fiction, stories about familes/gnerations/communities, etc (my best description–sorry,) and possibly even romance. Also, there are many really well-written stories written specifically for younger people, which could serve as a less-intimidating introduction to the Saints.

    One that isn’t amazingly religious at first, but draws the reader in very quickly, is “A Soldier Surrenders,” by Susan Peek (the story of the conversion of St. Camillus de Lellis). I have found that any story of a Saint who may have struggled greatly has resonated more with friends who are not Catholic; or who are, but are not living their Faith; than stories of Saints who led cloistered lives or who were amazingly holy from the time of their youth. Those (the second type of Saint) stories have great value as inspiration if one is already wanting to grow in holiness, but can be off-putting if one is not at that point in their life. In our Rachel’s Vineyard site, our retreatants have found great “friendship” with Saints like Augustine, Margaret of Cortona, Mary of Egypt, Mary Magdalene, etc.

    I don’t know if any of this is what you’re looking for, but again, thank YOU for the great ideas!

  • Kathy Schiffer

    Lisa, thank you! I looked up “A Soldier Surrenders” and read a few pages on Amazon–it does seem exactly right. I added it to my Wish List.

  • christine

    For the young and not so young, anything by George MacDonald, especially “The Light Princess”, and “The Back Of The North Wind”. If you’re not familiar with MacDonald, he was a protestant minister who lived in Scotland in the late nineteenth century . He’s not overtly religious and his stories are about real love told in a most beautiful, enthralling way. For older “un-readers”, maybe Tolkein’s The Hobbit. There’s short stories by writers like Frank O’Connor and Flannery O’Connor. Poets such as Gerard Manley Hopkins. Father James Martin has written quite a few books about Catholicism and about the saints that are very enjoyable and lighthearted. But definitely check out George MacDonald, you and your intended readers won’t be disappointed !

  • Roaming_Roman

    Off the top of my head, the first things that come to mind for people who are “seeking without really seeking” (as I call it… the type who reads the “soft” kind of Christian self-help books) are the books by Anthony DeStephano, especially “A Travel Guide to Heaven” (, “Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To” ( and “Angels All Around Us: A Sightseeing Guide to the Invisible World” ( DeStephano writes in easy to read and engaging language, and is a complete Catholic without sounding like one. :) I have given many copies of Travel Guide to Heaven, especially, away.

    Another great author of this type of book for a quasi-seeker (but who would NOT be comfortable with getting anything that looks TOO Catholic or holy) is Thomas Craughwell especially his “Saints Behaving Badly: The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil-Worshippers Who Became Saints” (

    For people who are looking for relationship advice, try this one out by Matthew Kelly, “The Seven Levels of Intimacy: The Art of Loving and the Joy of Being Loved” ( Or this one by Edward Sri, “Men, Women and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights from John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility” (

    And nothing quite beats CS Lewis’ short fiction “The Great Divorce” ( as a fun and potentially soul-changing quick read for people who (maybe) only know him as the “Narnia guy”.

    And then there’s “Mr Blue” by Myles Connolly, one of my all time favorites that I have given away more times than I can count, which you really all HAVE to read! (

    I could go on and on and on…. :)

  • Max Elliot Anderson

    Excellent post, Kathy.
    Even with a father who published over 70 books, I grew up as a struggling, reluctant reader. Now I write Christian action-adventures & mystereis especially for readers 8 and up. Here’s a link to my author page on Amazon
    Also, a new page called Books for Boys has been set up on Amazon at

    At this point, 10 of my books have been published and 10 more are contracted.


  • Kathy Schiffer

    Christine, Roaming, Max– These are all good suggestions! I hope my readers will take note, and I hope others will continue to build our “Best Of” Booklist.

  • Kirsten Houseknecht

    err… as one of those “readers” i suspect my list would be a bit over most folks interest levels

    (to parody the song “i love big books and i cannot lie”)
    but ANYTHING by CS Lewis is a good start… The Screwtape Letters, especially the audio book with John Cleese…
    that said?
    anything, anything at all, on the Rosary.
    The rosary is the armour against heresy, and was a TEACHING tool… i happen to love the picture ones, with a picture for each mystery… but as a Historical recreation person (SCA) the history of the Rosary got me…
    as a jeweler the JEWELRY aspect of the rosary got me…

    off hand find out what your intended “not a reader” is interested in, and see if any books touch on that.