Category Archives: Book Reviews

Meet a Reader: Father Timothy Hepner

How you know me:

I’m one of the Directors of the Office of Priestly Vocations for the Diocese of Peoria. I traverse the Diocese speaking about vocations, spending time with young people, and helping young men who feel a call to the priesthood. You may have seen me around – I am kind of a hobo priest.

Why I love reading:

When I was younger I would often flip through the encyclopedia searching for random articles just for the joy of learning something new. I thought this was weird until Wikipedia was invented. Now lots of people do it! Besides my love for learning new things, reading helps me grow closer to the great minds of the world and of the Church, it helps me become more contemplative, and it helps me always have something new to talk about.

What I’m reading now:

The Angels and Their Mission: According to the Fathers of the Church by Jean Daniélou explains the role of the Angels through salvation history and in our own lives. It’s fascinating to read about how the Church Fathers believe the choirs of angels reacted to the incarnation and rejoiced at the ascension.

I’m also reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, the founder of behavioral economics, explains the different biases that creep into the way we make everyday judgments.

I’ve also been listening to Moby Dick on audio book as I drive across the diocese. It’s a long book, but I’d like to see what happens at the end.

My favorite book:

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I could read that book a hundred times and have a different approach. As literature, t’s incredibly compelling, and Dostoevsky shows how only the forgiveness and solidarity found in Christ can save society. If you read it, get the translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky.

Praying the Angelus Offers Moments to Sanctify Everyday Life

Following is my April column that appears in this issue of the print edition of  The Catholic Post.

My friend Michele is a busy mom of many kids, who in the last year has worked very hard to take better care of herself through diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes. One of her starting points was the “Whole 30,” a month-long eating plan of whole foods that forbids sugar, dairy, grains, among other restrictions. “Challenging” would be an understatement for this.

At the beginning of her journey, when she wanted to cave on her resolutions, Michele repeated to herself, “I am worth it and I deserve to be healthy and strong.” She said this helped her get over some of the bumps in the road, and saying that to herself has helped her stick with healthy habits for many months.

Researchers call this a “virtuous circle,” where one choice to do the right thing helps one make better choices in other areas. These choices eventually become good habits, a good routine, and a healthy pattern. And a brief affirmation like, “I deserve to be healthy and strong,” can aid greatly in momentum to keep that virtuous cycle going, and help a person succeed in big goals.

I had Michele and this “virtuous cycle” when I read Jared Dees’ new book, Praying the Angelus: Find Joy, Peace, and Purpose in Everyday Life.

Yet at first, I admit I was skeptical. How does one write a full-length book about the Angelus— that humble prayer that combines short Scripture/prayer statements on the Incarnation and Redemption (“The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary…”) with three repeated Hail Marys, and a closing prayer? The simple prayer that takes about a minute to say? The devotion that Christians have been saying for centuries at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. each day? An entire book?

The answer? Absolutely, yes.

Praying the Angelus is an instructive book about the origin and importance of this modest prayer, and how it can be transformative in shaping a “virtuous cycle” that can promote spiritual growth and an openness to grace.

Dees, a religious educator and founder of website, begins Praying the Angelus with a short preface on how like many Catholics, he was ignorant of the Angelus, but learned about it when he was a young teacher from a newly ordained priest. The priest explained how the Angelus was begun in the Middle Ages as a way for laypeople to share in the regular structured prayer life of religious in monasteries, whose lives revolve around times of prayer.

After listing the prayers and order of the prayers of the Angelus and the Regina Caeli (the substitute for the Angelus during Easter season), the book is divided into three sections.

First is “An Invitation,” with an explanation of the origin of and how to pray the Angelus, what to expect, and why it’s important to pray in today’s hectic world.

The second section is “Angelus Meditations,” contains a short and incisive meditation and prayer for each line of the Angelus. The third section echoes that in “Regina Caeli Meditations,” with prayers and reflections for each line of that prayer.

I’ve prayed the Angelus and the Regina Caeli for years, but very inconsistently. Reading this book helped me re-set my phone alarms to remind me of the Angelus, and to make an effort to focus on the prayers, and encourage those who are around me to do the same.

Contemporary Christianity, including Catholicism, has tended more towards spontaneous prayers and praise in recent years. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But Dees makes a provocative but compelling case that structured devotional prayer is vital to a healthy prayer life.

To me, the nucleus of the book is contained in the “lessons” Dees shares of the Angelus & Regina Caeli, such as “We are called to be humble,” Repetitive prayer is more powerful than spontaneous prayer,” and “Time is a gift from God.”

Among these lessons, “time is a gift from God” is one of the most-needed in our current culture. An openness to “Angelus moments” is a positive “side effect” of praying the Angelus, Dees writes.

He makes the case of how stopping at “inconvenient times” regularly to pray the Angelus primes a person to be available for “Angelus moments,” a receptivity to others and situations in which a person can be a conduit of God’s grace. As Dees writes, “Praying the Angelus trains you to welcome interruptions as a possible gift from God.”

Reading Praying the Angelus and putting it into practice can help readers to learn the prayers of the Angelus and their beautiful message.

“I did not take up the Angelus hoping to solve a specific problem or curb some specific bad habit,” Dees writes. “But through my prayer my habits did change, and the sinful temptations and tendencies in my life were made plain. Here’s why: when you recite these same holy words again and again, they sink into your psyche.”

Meet a Reader: Kim Padan {@TheCatholicPost}

Following is the “Meet a Reader” feature that appears on the book page of the current print issue of The Catholic Post.

How we know you:

I currently serve as President of the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women. You may also know me from the evangelization column “Called to Witness” found periodically in The Catholic Post. My husband Bruce and I are members of St. Paul parish in Danville.

Why I love reading:

I grew up in a home where reading was encouraged and valued. Our family was working class with very few extras. However, every month in grade school my siblings and I could order books off the Scholastic order form. There was nothing like taking home 4 or 5 brand new books…each! We all enjoyed reading then, and still do, but because I was physically unable to participate in many activities with my peers, I would just soak up a good book whenever I had the chance.

As I grew older, I remember hiding out in my room to read a Nancy Drew novel on a single Saturday, always trying to solve the mystery before the last chapter. For most of our lives my parents would give each of us a new hard cover book for Christmas, signed with the year on the inside front page. To this day, I look forward to my mom calling in October or November, asking for a book wish list.

What I’m reading now:

Currently, I am reading multiple books. This wasn’t my style before (except when required for school) but it is what I enjoy doing now. I am reading The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech by Kirsten Powers. She is a liberal journalist who articulates her views respectfully and with much-needed balance. When she called out the mainstream media for ignoring the Kermit Gosnell scandal, I became a fan of hers.

For fun, I am reading Nameless which is the second part of The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan by Erin McCole Cupp. It is a futuristic re-telling of the classic Jane Eyre. For my Lay Dominican group, I just started another von Balthasar, Heart of the World. Finally for Lent, I am reading Eucharistic Adoration: Holy Hour Meditations on the Seven Last Words of Christ by Charles M. Murphy. I generally have a mix of fiction and non-fiction beside my comfy chair.

My favorite book: It is impossible to pick one favorite book, so I will mention a few. The first book that I can remember deeply impacting me was Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther. I read it in eighth or ninth grade so the details escape me, but it is the story of a teen’s battle with cancer. I just recall being moved by the courage of this young man. Reflecting on it now, I believe it is worth rereading.

For a quick Saturday read, I enjoyed Don’t You Forget About Me by Erin McCole Cupp. This book is a contemporary mystery-romance with Catholic themes woven in beautifully. I am Facebook friends with the author, a fellow Lay Dominican, and I encouraged her to get going on the sequel! For spiritual reading, I would have to list The Confessions of St. Augustine and Prayer by Hans urs von Balthasar. Both are beautiful in their entirety, but also can be appreciated in small portions for reflection.

“Hurting in the Church” a Must-Read {My March column @TheCatholicPost}

Following is my March column that appears in this issue of the print edition of  The Catholic Post.

“The reality of the Catholic Church today in developed countries, and certainly in the United States, is that we are a church of the hurting.”

Does that quote make you a little —or a lot —uncomfortable? It’s meant to be—-not as a provocation, but as an invitation to dialogue and healing.

The quote is from the must-read new book, Hurting in the Church: A Way Forward for Wounded Catholics, by Father Thomas Berg.


I know I’ve said before that not every book is for every reader. Sometimes a book is intended for a specific audience, like moms, or young readers, or new Catholics.

But: every so often, a book is published that is so noteworthy and whose message is so significant that I believe nearly everyone should read it. These books are written that a wide range of readers—from professional theologians to average Catholics (like me!) — can and should read them to glean many good insights and grow in faith.

Forming Intentional Disciples  by Sherry Weddell is one. Remembering God’s Mercy: Redeem the Past and Free Yourself from Painful Memories by Dawn Eden is another.

Hurting in the Church: A Way Forward for Wounded Catholics  is the latest of these books.

Fr. Berg is a seminary professor and diocesan priest in New York. He was originally a member of the Legionaries of Christ, but discerned out of the order after disclosures of the founder’s decades of sexual abuse and many other misdeeds. Fr. Berg writes that he felt devastated by the revelations about something to which he had devoted much of his young life. As a result, he experienced a years-long crisis of faith and vocation. Writing “Hurting in the Church” was a major part and process in his own healing.

Hurting in the Church does tell Berg’s own story, as well as the stories of others that have experienced harm within in the church, whether through clergy sexual abuse or other issues.

But it’s much more than a narrative of horrifying experiences. Instead, it offers the stories of others as a way to heal, understand, and integrate the reality of evil in the world, and even in the Church, within one’s faith.

As Father Berg writes, many Catholics are “hurting in the church,” either in small ways or giant ways, from parish issues to lack of community to clergy sexual abuse. How to reconcile those hurts with our faith life and experience of Christ is vital to wholeness and peace, and “Hurting in the Church” is devoted to that process.

The book is divided into three parts. Part 1: “The Ways We Hurt” identifies the problems and hurts we can experience as members of the Church. Helpful here is Berg’s assertion that we not minimize our hurts just because others have been “hurt worse.”

Part 2, “Toward Personal Healing” outlines Fr. Berg’s own process of recognizing himself as a “wounded healer,” and also shares the stories of others who have worked to heal thoughts and memories and use those experiences and healing to serve others who have been hurt.

Finally, Part 3, “Towards Healing a Church,” proposes ways to continue to have faith in Christ & the Church, to ensure that children are protected. The final chapter, “A Revolution of Tenderness,” beautifully offers ideas for the Church in being more responsive to hurts, as well as a caution to all of us in “controlling our tongues,” especially in a digital world, and avoid being knee-jerk in our reactions to others.

One vital message from “Hurting in the Church” is that each person—without exception—is affected and changed by the things that happens to that person. But it’s how each of us handle and integrate those experiences in a psychologically & spiritual healthy and truthful way that affects our well-being and ability to live whole lives.

In the chapter “First Steps,” Fr. Berg shares how spending time with friends who were Hurricane Katrina survivors, and who told him he had been through his own “spiritual Katrina.” Those friends helped show how their acceptance, continued hope, and faith that God would help them endure and thrive.

“The wound and how I chose to deal with it would have a lasting influence on who I would become from that point on in my life.”

One of the most helpful messages was Fr. Berg’s recommends a robust and multi-faceted approach to working through trauma. He describes a combination of spiritual and emotional tools, including just plain time, that assisted in his healing. Restoration is not just about “praying it away,” or “offering it up,” though prayer and sacrifice are part of this. It’s about the entire process, and not rushing it.

It’s may seem strange to say that you love a book with such intense content and forceful message for us all. But I did love it, and I believe a book like Hurting in the Church is so needed in the Church right now. Read it if you’ve been hurt, or you’ve known someone who was hurt, or if you love the Church. That covers just about everyone.

Meet a Reader: Hannah Schinkel {@TheCatholicPost}

Following is the “Meet a Reader” feature that appears on the book page of the current print issue of The Catholic Post.

How you know me:

I hail from the great state of Nebraska, but I have lived in Illinois for nearly two years. I have the great privilege of serving the students at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois as a FOCUS missionary. FOCUS is a Catholic campus ministry that invites students into a lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church through group bible studies and one-on-one discipleship. I have loved my time in Champaign and wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

Why I love reading:

I’ve loved reading since I was a little girl. My dad always had a book by his bedside growing up and would always get me books for Christmas presents—it’s always been “our thing.” My grandma (my dad’s mom) passed away when I was about four years old, but every memory I have with her is sitting on her lap little corner chair in the library, and listening to her read me a story. For me, it’s a way to honor her and always keep my mind engaged!

What I’m reading now:

Thankfully I had a lot of time last semester to do my own personal reading.  Right now I’m reading: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and The Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis. 

Big Magic is all about how to live a creative life and how to practically use that creativity in everyday life. This books speaks to my artist heart and has been such a great read about a subject that plays a huge role in my life! 

I’m also reading is Pope Francis’ encyclical The Joy of  the Gospel. I have picked this book up about three or four times, but I’ve finally finished it. Being a missionary, it is always good to have a renewed zeal in the missionary effort of evangelization for the whole Church, and this encyclical provides that.

My favorite book:

One of my all time favorite books is one called The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It is a timeless book that can be read over and over again. I’ve been reading it almost every year since I was a sophomore in college and it always strikes a chord in my heart. It is a book in the form of a parable about a young shepherd boy who has a prophetic dream about finding treasure in Egypt. Along the way, he meets multiple people who impact his journey and his life. There are so many amazing themes in this book. Everyone who reads it will get a little nugget of knowledge and inspiration from it! 

Let the Fire Fall {My February column @TheCatholicPost}

Following is my February column that appears in this issue of the print edition of  The Catholic Post.

When Father Michael Scanlan, the legendary president of Franciscan University of Steubenville, died last month at 86 years old, there were an outpouring of tributes to him.

Like many Catholics, I know quite a few people who have attended Franciscan University of Steubenville, and many of them paid tribute on social media such to his personal influence in their spiritual journeys and lives. A few highly recommended reading, Let the Fire Fall, Fr. Scanlan’s autobiography.

Inspired by these friends, I read the book, which was first published in 1986, but updated in 1997 and 2016, and co-authored by Jim Manney.  I loved it.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to learn more about this holy priest and how he allowed himself to be used by God to do so much good throughout his life.

Catholic memoirs—and really, any narrative about how someone lives out their convictions— are an especially powerful way to share the faith, rather than just a description of Catholic belief and practice.

Hearing the story of how one person struggled through the ins and outs of faith over the course of a long, active life lived largely for God, is not just interesting to read, but also can be inspiring and instructive for one’s own life.

Let the Fire Fall is Fr. Scanlan’s personal history, from his early life as a child of divorce, to Harvard law graduate, to a Franciscan priest. But the book is also the story of American Catholicism in the late 20th century, and how Franciscan University at Steubenville came to have such a large influence in the American Catholic culture and the country at large. 

Fr. Scanlan was willing to obey his Franciscan leaders’ guidance to leave behind his dreams of foreign missionary work to enter the world of academic administration.  As a result, he not only becomes involved in the Catholic Charismatic renewal, but makes a critical difference in one small Catholic college that’s become a leading Catholic university.

Each relatively short chapter of the book covers a theme, with titles ranging from “Vocation” about how his realization he was being called to be a priest; to “Power in the Spirit,” in which Fr. Scanlan became involved with the Catholic Charismatic renewal and healing ministries, to the chapters, “Rebuild My Church,” and “The Way, the Truth, and the Life,” detailing Fr. Scanlan’s obedience in coming to the College of Steubenville. 

That obedience, and his hard work and collaboration with others, led to its renaissance as a distinctly Catholic institution with a large influence over the decades on the life of the Catholic Church in America.

Fr. Scanlan narrates how “dynamic orthodoxy” came to be a hallmark of Franciscan University from the 1970s on, as he attracted other Franciscans, prominent theologians, and faithful Catholics to live and work in the University.  Fr. Scanlan and others worked hard to make the theology department a vibrant part of the University’s renaissance.

As he writes, “Theology at the University has become what John Henry Newman called it—the Queen of the Sciences.”

This renewal did not come without hardship, and Fr. Scanlan wrote honestly about his own struggles over the years, and his own mistake and failings.  But overall, Fr. Scanlan’s story tells of how a person willing to devote his life to the Lord and continually trying to use his gifts and talents to serve, can work wonders and do so much good for so many.  It can be an inspiration for any one of us to reflect on how we can listen to the voice of God better, as well as serve in our own corner of the world.

Let the Fire Fall also includes an afterwords with a short history of Franciscan University, both before, during, and after Fr. Scanlan’s tenure there from 1976-2011.

A Commonplace Book {Talk to St. Jude Moms Group}

As promised, following are the notes of books & resources I mentioned during my talk today to the St. Jude Moms Group.

Father Solanus Casey, “Gratitude is the first sign of a thinking, rational creature.” and “Thank God ahead of time.”

Father Solanus Casey Guild 

St. John Bosco

Philippians 2:15-16 (read entire passage)

Mini-Weapons of Mass Destruction 

Night Prayer (and the entire Liturgy of the Hours, daily plus Mass Readings)


Ephesians 4:26

1 Peter 5

Humana Vitae

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk 

The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age by Catherine Steiner-Adair 

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr 

Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Kids (highly recommended)

John Milton’s Commonplace book

John Locke’s “A New Method of Making Commonplace Books”

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen 

The How of Happiness

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin 

Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery 

(but if you haven’t read the rest of the series, consider starting with a $0.99 Kindle version of the whole series, starting with Anne of Green Gables . 

The Mistmantle Series by M.I. Mcallister 

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (highly recommended):

Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace 

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

Rumer Godden:

The Kitchen Madonna 

The Story of Holly & Ivy 

In This House of Brede

Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell

an incomplete list of “Catholic memoirs” from a talk I gave last summer 

The New York Times Crossword app

The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain) by Lloyd Alexander 

Meet a Reader: Sister M. Benedicta Bourke, FSGM {@TheCatholicPost}

Following is the “Meet a Reader” feature that appears on the book page of the current print issue of The Catholic Post.

How you know me:

I am a Sister of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, I teach science at Alleman High School in Rock Island, and I help with Youth Ministry at St. Pius X Parish in Rock Island.  I am Canadian—raised in the prairies near the Rocky Mountains of Alberta— and I love the outdoors.

Why I love reading:

To be honest, I am a “convert” to reading.  I did not find a good book until I was 25, did not like reading until I was 37, and did not start really reading until recently.  I have struggled with reading, going over the same paragraph several times before I get it. Now, the books I read the past few years have had a great influence on me and my spiritual life.  A book can speak a prayer, or capture what I want to say but cannot find the words, or they can teach me exactly what I need to do to overcome a challenge.

What I’m reading now:

I am finishing The Way of Humility by Pope Francis, which is very convicting. 
I have two books that I continue to read. The first is one of my passions: Praying for Priests by Kathleen Beckman – this has wonderful meditations to pray the rosary for priests and explains spiritual motherhood. 

The second is O Jesus, Prayers from the Diaries of Catherine De Hueck Doherty – she writes with openness and power that is like my heart song, a book that you can read one paragraph and be inspired.  “Bible Roulette” (to pray to the Holy Spirit, open a book randomly and read a quote) is how I share Scripture and spiritual books with my students and co-sisters.  Often the result is quite timely and speaks to the soul.

My favorite book:

I would choose the two above, but I am also particularly drawn to the writings of Father Jacques Philippe and Father Michael Gaitley.  These were introduced to me through a “book share”.  One Lent, a friend and I chose to read a book in 40 days.  We would meet each week, discussing the treasures we found; this inspired me to grow in holiness and kept me accountable.  We read several books by this method, resulting in my desire to read more.  Reading has definitely impacted my relationship with Christ.

Why We Need to Listen if “The Walls are Talking” {my January column @TheCatholicPost }

Some concepts, good or bad, are timeless. More than two millennia ago, Sophocles wrote in the Greek tragedy, Antigone, “No one loves the messenger who brings bad news.”

Today, we know that as the phrase “don’t shoot the messenger,” but in reality, it’s much easier and far more common to “shoot” the messenger than to work against this natural inclination.

Part of the human condition has been to recoil against not just bad or ugly news, but the person who brings the news. This can be small, as in half-jokingly cursing the people behind those calorie counts on menus at your favorite restaurants. Not that I have any experience with that.

But it can also loom large, and impair our ability to see a situation clearly.

Here’s one example:

I was with a group of young people at the 40 Days for Life last year in October to witness outside the local abortion clinic. Several of the teens felt deeply uncomfortable because another person was holding a sign with a photo of an aborted child. (the person was not with the 40 Days for Life, which forbids such images in its prayerful witness to life). I understand that discomfort, and share in it. A graphic photo held up in such a circumstance hurts the cause of life rather than helps it.

At the same time, I felt the need to point out gently, “But she is against what she is showing, and she didn’t create this reality. An abortion clinic did.”

Reading, or even a cursory glance at The Walls are Talking: Former Abortion Clinic Workers Tell Their Stories by Abby Johnson with Kristin Detrow, can stimulate strong “shoot the messenger” emotions. We recoil at details of abortion, or even knowing how horrible it is.

We might be thinking, “Ugh. Why do we have to focus on this?”

Here’s why: to understand our need to work to end abortion, not just for the unborn children whose lives are ended, not just for the women hurt, but for those workers at all levels involved in this industry.

The Walls Are Talking by Abby Johnson with Kristin Detrow is actually a pretty short read. It’s the story of 17 former abortion workers and what they experienced, and how they found a path towards healing, in leaving that work. It has graphic content, as you might imagine, but it’s not overly so, and overall it’s more about the workers, and how their lives and perspectives changed.

Abby Johnson wrote the best-selling, Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line, about her conversion from Planned Parenthood abortion clinic director to pro-life activist.  In this book, she’s interviewed other workers who have left the industry, and shares their stories in first-person format. Today, Johnson now runs the non-profit, And Then There Were None, (ATTN), which provides financial and other assistance for workers who want to leave the abortion business.

Three common elements that ran through many of the stories stand out:

*the devastation of the products of conception (POC) lab. All abortion clinics have a POC lab, where it is the job of the technicians to piece back together the parts of the baby. This is to ensure that a woman will not have after-abortion complications such as infection if there are any human limbs or other body parts left behind. Just hearing about how routine it was, and how abortion workers found ways to live with it, is heart-wrenching.

*coping strategies: abortion clinic workers have adopted strategies to avoid the reality of what they are doing. There is an obvious cognitive dissonance between sincerely wanting to help women, which is how many workers get into the abortion industry, and also actively participating in the death of human life. Abortion workers can shield patients, but they are forced to confront the reality of abortion themselves on a regular basis.

*advice for those involved in pro-life work. Some of the clinic workers give genuinely helpful advice for those who work in the pro-life movement about what to say and do, and more importantly, what not to say or do, to help change hearts.

Abortion is a great and terrible evil.

The people who are involved in this industry are not evil.

They may be broken, blinded, and far from truth and love, despite their sincerely held beliefs. All the more reason they need our prayers rather than our condemnation, and our sacrifices rather than our shouting.

Reading The Walls Are Talking helps people understand the depth of the evil that is abortion, and some ideas about how specifically to pray for and reach those in this industry.

As St. Paul said in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not be weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

It’s so, so easy to give up, and to forget the important work that is involved in ending abortion. Let us not grow weary.

You might also be interested in:

*Here is a link to my review several years back of Unplanned.  

*I also did a Q&A with Abby Johnson at the time.

*And Then There Were None has a well-designed and beautiful website outlining the services the group provides to workers who want to leave the abortion industry.

Gift Fiction Ideas for Christmas & Beyond

If you’re looking for ideas for a book gift for kids or adults, there are a lot of newer releases, as well as some old standbys, that could fit the bill. Here’s a round-up:

Treachery and Truth: A Story of Sinners, Servants, and Saints by Katy Huth Jones is a fictionalized account of “Good King Wenceslas,” the martyr Vaclav I, as told by his servant Poidevin. It would be great for middle-grade students on up, and is exciting as well as informative about the 10th century in Eastern Europe and Christianity’s spread there.

For even younger readers, The Wolf & the Shield: An Adventure with Saint Patrick by Sherry Weaver Smith and illustrated by Nicholas McNally, follows 11-year-old Kieran as he struggles between wanting the power of a clan leader, and learning about the goodness of St. Patrick and his faith. “What does your heart hunt for?” Patrick asks him, and his adventures in this book helps him discern the right path.

For fans of historical fiction, Ignatius Press has two newer releases that are satisfying for fans of historical fiction:

The Time Before You Die: A Novel of the Reformation by Lucy Becket, tells fictionalized stories about real-life people in 16th century England, a period when choices about living one’s faith were not just difficult, but life-altering.

General Escobar’s War: A Novel of the Spanish Civil War by Jose Luis Olaizola, and newly translated into English by Richard Goodyear, is a fascinating account of the real-life Antonio Escobar, a devout Catholic and faithful general who upheld his oath to support the legal government. His imagined “diary” as he awaits trial and execution from the new government is well-drawn depiction of life in that time and why people choose from among impossible options in wartime.

For Kindle readers, a formerly “local” writer, Angie Sue Dobbs, has published her first novel.
Perfect Timing: A Catholic Romance is the story of two young professionals wanting to find an honorable soul mate, and how they connect is by turns funny, sweet, and fairly realistic. The Catholic perspective of the characters, their friends and family members, is refreshing and natural.

Finally, here’s are a bonus of two family friendly read-aloud during the days leading up to Christmas:

Paraclete Press has a lovely new edition of A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Yes, we’ll be watching “The Muppet Christmas Carol” like many families, but nothing compares to reading the original. This handsomely formatted edition includes illustrations from the original 1843 edition. Try not to choke up as you read the last chapter.

Rumer Godden’s The Story of Holly & Ivy, her classic tale that I often recommend to people as a Christmastime read-aloud.

All of Rumer Godden’s books are tinged with a kind of melancholy joy, as well as a sense of wonder and magic of the everyday. That is what makes them so worthwhile to read. “The Story of Holly & Ivy” follows orphan girl Ivy as she tries to find “her grandmother” and develops a special relationship with Holly, a Christmas doll. In the hands of a different writer, it could be syrupy sweet, but Godden is a master of combining sadness with humor and eccentric characters in delightful and gripping stories.

Do you have any ideas of fiction gift books? What are the favorite perennial Christmas books at your house?