Catholic Lit: Seven Summer Reads

When it comes to summer reading, there are lots of options out there. Unfortunately, many of them, while fun and easy reads, lack depth. You finish reading a book and think, what did I just waste my free time on? Maybe the novel ended so poorly that you regret ever getting invested. Or maybe you turned the page and suddenly you were reading softcore porn. Whatever happened, reading a disappointing book is not how you like to spend your summers.

So here’s a list of interesting books that I’m willing to bet will leave you feeling uplifted and filled. They’re not all written by Catholics, but they all grapple with faith and the reality of everyday life. And they’re easy reads to boot, so you can definitely read them poolside or at the beach while your family splashes nearby.

If you like historical fiction …

Grab Helena by Evelyn Waugh. It’s a short book about an intriguing time in history … and a saint. Not only is Helen a saint, but she was a married woman, and mother to an emperor in Rome. A powerful and enjoyable story about a strong woman living in very interesting times.

If you’re in the mood for a thriller …

Read Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz (New York Times bestselling novel). A quick, charming, and sometimes terrifying read about a cook who’s able to communicate with the dead. The characters and romantic relationship in this book are memorable, as are the action-packed final chapters. This is a book rich with Catholic symbolism, and fun and endearing to boot.

If you want a self-help book, try this soul-help book …

This little book will speak truth to your soul with a beauty you won’t forget. Caryll Houselander’s The Reed of God focuses on Mary, the mother of God, and in simple and poetic language, reveals truths about womanhood, humanity, and ultimately, Jesus Christ. While reading it, I started to underline every other paragraph because there were so many places I wanted to remember to re-read.

If you want to be profoundly moved by a good story …

The Island of the World by Michael O’Brien is an amazing novel that is very intense and very long. The length makes the book a bit heavy for a poolside read, but because you won’t be able to put it down, you may just finish it more quickly than shorter books. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking, and ultimately triumphant book about suffering, war, love, faith, and life.

Bonus: If you’re on a World War II literature roll this summer, check out All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Pulitzer Prize-winning novel) as a follow up or precursor to The Island of the World. All the Light We Cannot See is very good, but shorter.

If you want to be moved by a good story, but more gently …

Check out Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (Pulitzer Prize-winning novel). Her writing is lovely, and her books are gentle invitations to come deeper. This isn’t necessarily a light read, but it’s a wonderful meandering story about family and faith to savor during several long summer evenings.

Bonus: In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden is a novel that explores religious life in a Benedictine community of women. It reveals the beauty and reality of this way of life, but in a page-turning, fascinating story of the women who are part of the community. It’s hard to put down, and a one-of-a-kind work in its topic and approach.

Happy reading! Share your best summer novels in the comments on the comments here. (I’m always on the lookout for new reads!)

This appeared at Aleteia.

Cecilia Pigg

Cecilia Pigg was a Gregorian Fellow and 2015 graduate of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. A former editor of Catholic Match newsletter, she is a wife and mother living in Topeka, Kansas, and writes weekly for Aleteia.