100 books like Why I Am a Catholic

By Garry Wills,

Here are 100 books that Why I Am a Catholic fans have personally recommended if you like Why I Am a Catholic. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature

Elaine Pagels Author Of Why Religion? A Personal Story

From my list on why religion and spirituality are still around.

Why am I passionate about this?

“And what do you do?” someone asked at a crowded reception at the NY Academy of Science. “Write—comparative religion.” Startled, he backed away, asking suspiciously, “Why religion? Are you religious?” Yes, incorrigibly—although I grew up among people who regarded religion as obsolete as an outgrown bicycle stashed in a back closet. While many of us leave institutions behind, identifying as “spiritual, not religious,” I’ve done both—had faith, lost it; then began exploring recent discoveries from Israel and Egypt—Dead Sea Scrolls, Christian “secret gospels,” Buddhist practices, asking, Why is religion still around in the twenty-first centuryWhat I love is how such stories, art, music, and rituals engage our imagination and illuminate our experience.

Elaine's book list on why religion and spirituality are still around

Elaine Pagels Why did Elaine love this book?

This book is full of stories, using case studies that include the lives of Walt Whitman, Saint Augustine, and Russian writer Leo Tolstoy—that I found fascinating. Here psychologist William James challenges what he—and I—were both taught: namely, that religions are primarily childish fantasies (the view of Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, in The Future of an Illusion). But after James, as a young man, experienced a terrifying depression, he describes his surprise at what felt to him like a spiritual breakthrough that enabled him to recover. James skips questions about dogma and belief, instead identifies a range of different “varieties of religious experience” that, far more than “belief,” can give rise to spiritual insight. 

By William James,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Varieties of Religious Experience as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Standing at the crossroads of psychology and religion, this catalyzing work applied the scientific method to a field abounding in abstract theory. William James believed that individual religious experiences, rather than the precepts of organized religions, were the backbone of the world's religious life. His discussions of conversion, repentance, mysticism and saintliness, and his observations on actual, personal religious experiences - all support this thesis. In his introduction, Martin E. Marty discusses how James's pluralistic view of religion led to his remarkable tolerance of extreme forms of religious behaviour, his challenging, highly original theories, and his welcome lack of pretension…


Book cover of The Case for God

John Loughery Author Of Dorothy Day: Dissenting Voice of the American Century

From my list on religion in an age of doubt.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like many Americans, I consider myself uncertain about religion, though that may be less true now that I have come to know the life of Dorothy Day, the radical Catholic activist. She has that effect. Along with the writers below, Dorothy Day has brought me back to thinking of faith in terms that I could find meaningful, to a sense of religion that is about something other than a set of rules and doctrines based on narrow readings of the Bible and the rigidity of men (yes, always men) in positions of power. I grew up a deeply religious child, became a confirmed atheist for decades, but now, in part because of this book, find myself in a different if still uncertain place.

John's book list on religion in an age of doubt

John Loughery Why did John love this book?

Armstrong has written brilliant histories of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Chinese spirituality, biographies of Buddha and Mohammed, and a memoir of her own spiritual struggles as a nun who left the Catholic Church. Her reputation as the foremost scholar in our time of the history of religions is well-earned. The Case for God is an erudite account of a human need that has existed through all of recorded history and the thwarting of that need, especially in our own polarized time, by fundamentalism, arrogant misreadings of spiritual texts, and notions of God at odds with the selflessness, creativity, and compassion faith is meant to inspire.

By Karen Armstrong,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Case for God as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There is widespread confusion about the nature of religious truth. For the first time in history, a significantly large number of people want nothing to do with God. Militant atheists preach a gospel of godlessness with the zeal of missionaries and find an eager audience.

Tracing the history of faith from the Palaeolithic Age to the present, Karen Armstrong shows that meaning of words such as 'belief', 'faith', and 'mystery' has been entirely altered, so that atheists and theists alike now think and speak about God - and, indeed, reason itself - in a way that our ancestors would have…


Book cover of Without God, Without Creed: The Origins of Unbelief in America

John Loughery Author Of Dorothy Day: Dissenting Voice of the American Century

From my list on religion in an age of doubt.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like many Americans, I consider myself uncertain about religion, though that may be less true now that I have come to know the life of Dorothy Day, the radical Catholic activist. She has that effect. Along with the writers below, Dorothy Day has brought me back to thinking of faith in terms that I could find meaningful, to a sense of religion that is about something other than a set of rules and doctrines based on narrow readings of the Bible and the rigidity of men (yes, always men) in positions of power. I grew up a deeply religious child, became a confirmed atheist for decades, but now, in part because of this book, find myself in a different if still uncertain place.

John's book list on religion in an age of doubt

John Loughery Why did John love this book?

Turner asks a great question. How did the United States go from being the deeply religious society of the Puritans and the Founders to a culture of widespread unbelief, especially among the well-educated? His astute analysis of 19th-century America explains why and how agnosticism and atheism gradually became socially acceptable alternatives to faith. As Turner sees it, attempts to “explain” God and fit the Divine into a more rationalistic, scientific, and anti-mystical framework, and the deadening hand of dogma, helped pave the way for a culture resistant to the very idea of God.

By James C. Turner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Without God, Without Creed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Until the 19th century, atheism and agnosticism were viewed as bizarre aberrations. But atheism emerged as a viable alternative to other ideologies. How and why it became possible is the subject of this cultural revolution.


Book cover of Augustine of Hippo: A Biography

Sara Lipton Author Of Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography

From my list on medieval religious history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised in a Jewish but completely secular family, with no religious traditions or affiliations. Perhaps because religion was so exotic, I have always found it fascinating. In college, I gravitated toward topics in medieval religion, which crystallized the strangeness of an era both earthy and intensely devout. I wanted to understand why an Anglo-Saxon monk sitting in a cold monastery in northern England cared so much about biblical history. Or how Saint Bernard could so relentlessly hound a fellow monk over a scholarly treatise, yet also work energetically to protect Jews from violence. I can't say I'll ever fully comprehend the force of religion, but I love trying.

Sara's book list on medieval religious history

Sara Lipton Why did Sara love this book?

Augustine's Confessions is an extraordinary book, but it is not always an easy one! Readers looking for help in understanding its brilliant author can do no better than to turn to Peter Brown's biography, first published in 1967. It is a beautifully written, lucid, and illuminating study of Augustine's life and thought, the best possible guide to both the man and his world. In an Epilogue added for the forty-fifth-anniversary edition, Brown discusses what he and other scholars have learned in the decades since he first wrote the book, and how his ideas about Augustine have changed, demonstrating the curiosity and openness that are the hallmarks of a great scholar.

By Peter Brown,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Augustine of Hippo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This classic biography was first published forty-five years ago and has since established itself as the standard account of Saint Augustine's life and teaching.


Book cover of Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality

Srikumar Rao Author Of Modern Wisdom, Ancient Roots: The Movers and Shakers' Guide to Unstoppable Success

From my list on spiritual dynamite.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Srikumar Rao – best selling author, TED speaker, and elite coach. I have spent more than five decades studying the teachings of the world’s greatest masters and distilling them into exercises that enable successful individuals to reach entirely new orbits of accomplishment while remaining serene as a Zen monk. My course, Creativity and Personal Mastery, was among the highest-rated and most popular at many of the world’s top business schools and is the only one to have its own alumni association. My work has been covered by major media worldwide and my talks have been viewed by tens of millions on all six continents.

Srikumar's book list on spiritual dynamite

Srikumar Rao Why did Srikumar love this book?

DeMello was a Jesuit priest and a psychologist.

His workshops were legendary and had a deep impact on thousands. His books have touched millions. He was eclectic and open-minded and readily acknowledged the power of spiritual practices from traditions outside the Church.

For this, his books were removed from Catholic bookstores and a warning issued that his writings could mislead young minds. He was passionate about truth and cavalier about dogma.

By Anthony De Mello,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Awareness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

De Mello's spiritual classic remains at the top of the Fount bestsellers more than five years after its original publication.


Book cover of The Vicar of Christ

Charles Rosenberg Author Of The Day Lincoln Lost

From my list on transporting you to another time and place.

Why am I passionate about this?

If I hadn’t become a lawyer, I might well have been a history teacher. I’m always reminded that history is just a story that's isn't yet complete. We're constantly uncovering things that alter our knowledge of the past, but we also become aware of just how many things could have gone differently. My first alternative history novel The Trial and Execution of the Traitor George Washington, was inspired by an 18th Century rumor that I stumbled upon: That the British army planned to kidnap George Washington and spirit him back to England to be tried for high treason. Whether that was true or not, it seemed a great plot device for an alternative history novel.

Charles' book list on transporting you to another time and place

Charles Rosenberg Why did Charles love this book?

I am lucky to have lived a few lives – I am a lawyer, was a television consultant and analyst, and am now an author.  But that’s nothing compared to this book’s protagonist, a man who was a medal of honor winner, then a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, then a monk, and finally the Pope. Creatively told and excellently written, this book inspires me to think that anything, any path is possible. 

By Walter F. Murphy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Vicar of Christ as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times Bestseller is now available in its 35th Anniversary Edition, featuring an extensive new introduction by Justice Samuel Alito of the U.S. Supreme Court. (NOTE: Only the new edition from QUID PRO BOOKS is an all-new printing and includes the new Foreword, even if this description erroneously appears under used copies of old versions.) This book is universally considered to be an unusual, fascinating, and well-written observation of the life of a man who was first a hero and Medal of Honor winner from a brutal war, then Chief Justice of the United States, later a monk…


Book cover of Soldier of Christ

Kevin P. Spicer and Rebecca Carter-Chand Author Of Religion, Ethnonationalism, and Antisemitism in the Era of the Two World Wars

From my list on Catholic churches in Hitler’s Germany.

Why are we passionate about this?

We are historians of twentieth-century Germany who investigate the relationship between church and state from 1918-1945. We are fascinated by the choices of Christian leaders during this time as they negotiated the challenges of living and leading under National Socialism. In our writing, we seek to understand the connections between Christian antisemitism and National Socialists’ racial-based exclusionary ethnonationalism and antisemitism and seek to understand how religious communities navigate ethical and practical challenges of living through political upheaval and fascism.

Kevin's book list on Catholic churches in Hitler’s Germany

Kevin P. Spicer and Rebecca Carter-Chand Why did Kevin love this book?

The leading expert on the Holy See during World War II, Ventresca offers us an immensely readable and authoritative biography of the elusive Eugenio Pacelli. In many ways, it surpasses all previous biographies in its comprehensive and convincing analysis of its central subject, Pope Pius XII. Ventresca adeptly bores through the polemical and problematic arguments that encompass the decades-long “Pius Wars” and offers us a balanced portrait of Pacelli, who is neither a condemned reprobate nor an exalted saint. Rather, Ventresca shows that Pacelli was a man of his time, burdened with nearly insurmountable challenges, who nevertheless consistently preferred to address them through a diplomatic path of prudence and caution that always placed the needs of the institutional Church before all other concerns.  

By Robert A. Ventresca,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Soldier of Christ as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Debates over the legacy of Pope Pius XII and his canonization are so heated they are known as the "Pius wars." Soldier of Christ moves beyond competing caricatures and considers Pius XII as Eugenio Pacelli, a flawed and gifted man. While offering insight into the pope's response to Nazism, Robert A. Ventresca argues that it was the Cold War and Pius XII's manner of engaging with the modern world that defined his pontificate.

Laying the groundwork for the pope's controversial, contradictory actions from 1939 to 1958, Ventresca begins with the story of Pacelli's Roman upbringing, his intellectual formation in Rome's…


Book cover of The Lesbiana's Guide to Catholic School

Diane Billas Author Of Does Love Always Win?

From my list on young adult fiction sapphic romance novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m passionate about young adult sapphic romance books because this is something I wished I would have read in high school. If I had novels similar to these when I was growing up I might have realized that I identify as queer sooner and it could have helped me understand more about myself. Because of this, I’ve been an avid reader, and writer, of sapphic young adult romances. If it’s sapphic, send it my way. I hope you enjoy these sapphic novels as much as I have!

Diane's book list on young adult fiction sapphic romance novels

Diane Billas Why did Diane love this book?

I flew through The Lesiana’s Guide to Catholic School book.

It was set, as the title suggests at a Catholic School. There were a lot of themes that I really related to, such as growing up in a religious family and being scared to reveal yourself true identity to your family and friends. I thought the family dynamics were very realistic, as were the characters.

This book was a very enjoyable read!

By Sonora Reyes,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Lesbiana's Guide to Catholic School as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

No one knows Yami is gay, least of all her mum, and Yami intends to keep it that way . . . Until, uh oh, she's falling in love again.

Yami prefers to be known for her killer eyeliner, not for being one of the only Mexican kids at her new, mostly white, rich Catholic school - or for being gay. So after being outed by her ex-best friend, before transferring to Slayton Catholic, Yami decides to lie low, make her mum proud and definitely NOT fall in love. The thing is, it's hard to fake being straight when Bo,…


Book cover of Catechism of the Catholic Church

Edward Castronova Author Of Life Is a Game: What Game Design Says about the Human Condition

From my list on tough and practical books for living well.

Why am I passionate about this?

Edward Castronova is a gamer who also has a PhD in Economics and a lifetime of research on games, technology, and society. In this book he applies everything he has learned to the burning questions at the heart of every person’s life: What am I doing here? How am I supposed to live? When Castronova faced those questions himself, the answer was clear: I have been thrown into a game called “Life” and, being a gamer, I should figure out the rules to this game and try to beat it. 

Edward's book list on tough and practical books for living well

Edward Castronova Why did Edward love this book?

Speaking of ancient wisdom: Here you have a manual of right and wrong. You’re not going to agree with all of it, or even most of it. But what I got out of reading this, before I became Catholic, was that some very smart people over the course of hundreds of years had thought through the basic norms of correct action and written them down. The catechism embeds rules for living within a larger framework of reality, built on faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God. Again, most of you aren’t going to believe that, as I didn’t when I first read the Catechism. But the critical thing is the coherence and accountability in this document. Nothing is out of place. Every rule for right action has some connection to the overarching scheme. There are no inconsistencies (this is the church’s theory, not its actions).

And by…

By No author,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Catechism of the Catholic Church as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This statement of the Catholic faith, produced by the Church after consultation throughout the world, reflects the new way that the Catholic Church has been looking at its doctrine since the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s. It should be useful for all those involved in Catholic teaching, writing, preaching and pastoral work. It should also be of significance to all ecumenical relations, Anglicans and other Christian groups.


Book cover of Flannery O'Connor Collected Works

Brian Malloy Author Of After Francesco

From my list on that mix comedy and tragedy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a gay Midwestern novelist who finds that literary fiction is often humorless, with a narrow emotional range that begins with ennui and ends in despair. If you're weary of trauma porn and want to read books with a broad emotional range, this list of recommendations is for you. My favorite writers ably mix laughter and tears, and are able to find the funny in just about anything life can throw at us. 

Brian's book list on that mix comedy and tragedy

Brian Malloy Why did Brian love this book?

If you’re older, you probably read O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” for one or more lit classes; if you’re younger, you may have never heard of her as she is now “problematic” according to the unfunny woke-on-steroids crowd. I love O’Connor because I love characters with moral failings, I love mordant humor, and I love the possibility that even the most irredeemable among us can experience moments of grace. The brief details in her stories do such heavy lifting in terms of irony, for example when a Wellesley undergrad hits Mrs. Turpin in the head with a copy of Human Development in the short story “Revelation.” The action itself – a privileged white college student from an elite school inflicting violence upon a rural white woman – also speaks to our ongoing culture wars. 

By Flannery O'Connor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Flannery O'Connor Collected Works as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In her short lifetime, Flannery O’Connor became one of the most distinctive American writers of the twentieth century. By birth a native of Georgia and a Roman Catholic, O’Connor depicts, in all its comic and horrendous incongruity, the limits of worldly wisdom and the mysteries of divine grace in the “Christ-haunted” Protestant South. This Library of America collection, the most comprehensive ever published, contains all of her novels and short-story collections, as well as nine other stories, eight of her most important essays, and a selection of 259 witty, spirited, and revealing letters, twenty-one published here for the first time.…


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