The Clergy Speaks – Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

The Clergy Speaks – Archbishop Charles J. Chaput August 11, 2014

archbishop_chaputWelcome back to “The Clergy Speaks”, a recurring feature here at The Catholic Book Blogger. “The Clergy Speaks” is a column focusing on one question I have asked various members of the clergy. That question is: What five books would you recommend as must-reads for Catholics today? I left the responses open to current or classic books with the only restriction being that the Bible and the Catechism could not be used as they are a given. This week we welcome Archbishop Charles Chaput from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Archbishop Chaput was ordained Bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, on July 26, 1988. Pope John Paul II appointed him Archbishop of Denver on February 18, 1997, and he was installed on April 7 the same year. As a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe, Archbishop Chaput was the second Native American to be ordained a bishop in the United States, and the first Native American archbishop. He chose as his episcopal motto: As Christ Loved the Church” (Ephesians 5:25).

Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Archbishop of Philadelphia on July 19, 2011. He was installed as the 13th bishop and ninth archbishop of Philadelphia on September 8, 2011.

Here are Archbishop Chaput’s picks for must-read books:
I can’t narrow down the book list you requested to only five “must-reads.” But I’ll offer you these, in no particular order.

In non-fiction:

The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, by Flannery O’Connor. A wonderful collection of her letters, and a window on the soul of America’s greatest Catholic writer.

The Life of Thomas More, by Peter Ackroyd. A great popular biography, vividly written and grounded in excellent scholarship.

Augustine of Hippo: A Biography, by Peter Brown. The finest biography of one of my two favorite saints (you can guess the other – I’m a Capuchin).

Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. Still the best short work of Christian apologetics in English.

The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society, by Brad Gregory. The story of why and how the Reformation happened, and its impact on the way we live today.

Byzantium, by John Julius Norwich. Read the original three-volume version. It’s worth every minute of your time. This is the best kind of history-telling: absorbing, elegantly written and built on great research.

The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution, by John Allen. As a reporter on religious affairs, Allen has few peers. His work is always insightful and fair. And this book is important — especially now.

In fiction:

The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene. This is Greene at his best. It’s the great Catholic novel of the Mexican persecution.

Helena, by Evelyn Waugh. A novel of the mother of Constantine. One of Waugh’s own favorite works.

Viper’s Tangle, by Francois Mauriac. Mauriac won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1952. This is his profound, if harrowing, Catholic masterpiece; one of the great novels of the 20th century.

The Diary of a Country Priest: A Novel, by Georges Bernanos. Another of the great novels of the last century; winner of the Grand Prize for Literature from the French Academy. A Catholic classic.

Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset. A trilogy of life in medieval Scandinavia through the eyes of an extraordinary woman. Deeply, movingly Christian, and one of the great works of literature by any standard. Read the Tiina Nunnally translation. Undset, another Nobel Laureate, was born in Denmark, raised in Norway and entered the Catholic faith in 1924.

Love in the Ruins, by Walker Percy. Dated a bit now, but still a very funny, very telling, dark comedy from America’s other great Southern Catholic novelist.

I could go on – Augustine’s Confessions, Dante’s The Divine Comedy, Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. But the items above should be enough!

God bless you, and thanks for the opportunity to share these titles.


An appreciative thank you to Archbishop Charles Chaput for taking time out of his schedule to provide this list of must-read books.

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