Twelve Books for the Thinking Catholic Woman
We suggest plenty of book lists on this blog. That’s because I am a firm believe in the power of literature to shape the heart, mind, and soul.
Recently we posted an article on 50 Books for the Boys and Men In Your Life. Today we are doing twelve books for the thinking Catholic woman. What do I mean by “thinking” Catholic woman, and why is it necessary to add this descriptor?
The fact is, popular book lists for women tend to list lighter fare. Simple books on mothering and our spiritual lives. These books are important. These books have improved my life and assisted me in my vocation. But sometimes I need something of stronger substance to bite down on. Some days, after reading countless picture books to little children, I need to be reminded that I still have an adult brain. I need something that challenges me and fosters my intellectual development.
So this booklist is meant for women who specifically want something more substantial, more intellectually stimulating.
1. The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know—and Men Can’t Say (1st Edition) by Suzanne Venker and Phyllis Schlafly.
Forty years since feminism “liberated” women, American females are more lonely, depressed, and medicated than ever before. In The Flipside of Feminism, Suzanne Venker and Phyllis Schlafly provide readers with a new view of women in America—casting off the ideology that preaches faux empowerment and liberation from men and marriage. Their book demonstrates that conservative women are, in fact, the most liberated women in America and the folks to whom young people should be turning for advice.
2. The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day.
The Long Loneliness is the autobiography of renowned Catholic activist Dorothy Day. This fascinating exploration of Day’s political and spiritual journey takes the reader from her origins as a Greenwich Village socialite in the 1920s, through her conversion to Catholicism, and her lifelong struggle to bring about “the kind of society where it is easier to be good.” It is an engaging book that weaves political thought, spirituality, and women’s issues in together in a single compelling narrative.
3. Three by Flannery O’Connor (Signet Classics)
Three by Flannery O’Connor is a compilation of three of Flannery O’Connor’s pivotal works: Wise Blood, The Violent Bear it Away, and her collection of short stories, Everything That Rises Must Converge. O’Connor’s particular style of southern fiction is unique, combining humor, intensity, religion, and the macabre. If you’ve never dug into Flannery O’Connor, the greatest 20th Catholic author of the American south, Signet Classics Three by Flannery O’Connor is an excellent place to get started.
4. The Story of a Soul by Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
Woman or not, every Catholic should read The Story of a Soul, the spiritual autobiography of Therese of Lisieux, undoubtedly one of the greatest spiritual masters of the modern Church. But I specifically like this as a woman’s book because it tackles the sort of themes you often find in women’s spiritual literature, but in ways infinitely more compelling than you get in any pop-spirituality book marketed to women. This one really digs into you in the best kind of way.
5. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
Kristin Lavransdatter is actually a trilogy of books written by Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset, a Norwegian-Danish novelist and convert to Catholicism. The trilogy follows the life of Kristin Lavransdatter, a fictitious Norwegian woman living in the 14th century. Kristin is the daughter of a well-respected and affluent farmer. The books follow her experiences through a number of conflicts in her relationships with her parents and husband, in medieval Norway.
6. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
This classic tragedy by Leo Tolstoy centers on an extramarital affair between the protagonist Anna and dashing cavalry officer Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky. This scandalizes the social circles of Saint Petersburg and forces the young lovers to flee to Italy in a search of happiness. After they return to Russia, their lives further unravel. This is an intense and engaging book, and the disastrous actions of the protagonists may just make you feel better about your own chaotic life.
Scott Hahn is one of most prolific and beloved Catholic authors writing today. His 2018 book The First Society discusses the problems endemic in western civilization and connects them to our acceptance (or rejection) of the graces available through the Sacrament of Matrimony. It is an excellent and profound study that demonstrates the intimate bonds between family and society.
8. Socrates Meets Jesus by Peter Kreeft
This is an older book by Peter Kreeft (1987), but its an absolute classic. In Socrates Meets Jesus, Kreeft envisions what the ancient philosopher Socrates would have thought if he woke up on the campus of a 20th century university—and how he would have reacted to the claims of Jesus Christ. This is one of those rare books that makes you laugh and think deeply simultaneously.
9. Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila
This is the masterpiece of St. Teresa of Avila, the 16th century Carmelite nun and Doctor of the Church. The book is a vivid description of the entire spiritual life from the first release from mortal sin into Sanctifying Grace through the Mystical Marriage of the soul with Christ as a journey through what St. Teresa called “The Interior Castle.”
10. Essays on Woman by St. Edith Stein
Edith Stein’s Essays on Woman is a collection of the saint’s reflections on womanhood, femininity, and spirituality seen through the lens of her trademark phenomenological philosophical approach to life. These essays present a synthesis of her teachings on woman’s nature, challenges and opportunities, including female education and professional opportunities; spirituality; the church, woman and youth; and women’s value in national life.
11. Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves by Helen M. Alvare
Catholic women are facing unprecedented questions about sex, money, marriage, work, children and the church itself. Helen Alvare’s book presents the stories of nine Catholic women—varying widely in age, occupation and experience—share personal stories of how they struggled toward the realization that the demands of their faith actually set them free. Their stories—full of honesty, but ultimately hope—shed new light and new clarity on women’s continued attraction to the Catholic faith.
12. The Ball and the Cross by G.K. Chesterton
Like much of G. K. Chesterton’s fiction, The Ball and the Cross is both witty and profound, cloaking serious religious and philosophical inquiry in sparkling humor and whimsy. The plot of The Ball and the Cross is about hot dispute between two Scotsmen, one a devout but naïve Roman Catholic, the other a zealous but naïve atheist. Their fanatically held opinions lead to a duel that is proposed but never fought with many comic adventures along the way.
More book lists that may pique your interest…
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