The most recommended books on cathedrals

Who picked these books? Meet our 22 experts.

22 authors created a book list connected to cathedrals, and here are their favorite cathedral books.
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What type of cathedral book?


A Column of Fire

By Ken Follett,

Book cover of A Column of Fire

Jim Carr Author Of Yesterdays

From the list on wars over the ages.

Who am I?

I love history and languages from the first time my school classes opened my eyes to them and it has stayed with me ever since. Learning Latin helped me to understand how these people talked and how they thought and expressed themselves. It didn’t matter what, whether the daily lives of Romans and how they built their empire. It has coloured my thinking, and helped me in writing all my books that take place during the past, whether in Roman life or medieval warfare.

Jim's book list on wars over the ages

Why did Jim love this book?

Like Ken Follett’s other books on medieval England, A Column of Fire is easy to read. The plot runs smoothly and quickly in a way that keeps you glued to the book until you finish it. This time he zeros in on the religious turmoil that gripped Tudor England on the death of Queen Mary. Elizabeth’s ascension was challenged by Catholics who wanted to see Mary, Queen of Scots as the rightful heir to the throne, as well as by the king of Spain, who had another score to settle when he sent a massive armada to conquer England. 

A Column of Fire is a novel but it doesn’t stop Follett, a former journalist with a passion for accuracy, from peeking into the lives of even minor characters into corners I was not aware of. I like Follett’s writing style – easy to read, fast-paced with one new character after…

By Ken Follett,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Column of Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


"Absorbing . . . impossible to resist." -The Washington Post

As Europe erupts, can one young spy protect his queen? #1 New York Times bestselling author Ken Follett takes us deep into the treacherous world of powerful monarchs, intrigue, murder, and treason with his magnificent new epic, A Column of Fire.

In 1558, the ancient stones of Kingsbridge Cathedral look down on a city torn apart by religious conflict. As power in England shifts precariously between Catholics and Protestants, royalty and commoners clash, testing friendship, loyalty, and love.

Ned Willard wants nothing more than to…

Map of Bones

By James Rollins,

Book cover of Map of Bones

M. S. Spencer Author Of Hidden Gem: The Secret of St. Augustine

From the list on treasure hunts.

Who am I?

For much too long a perennial student, I hold degrees in Anthropology, Arabic Studies, and Library Science. I’ve studied nine languages and lived or traveled on five of the seven continents. I do not hunt tangible treasure—gold or jewels or sunken ships; I hunt knowledge. My love for rooting out treasure troves of information began with my first job. I held passes to the Library of Congress stacks, where I tracked down sources on Ethiopian history. After months of unearthing mostly obscure references, I came upon the mother lode—the great explorers’ accounts. It was like finding a chest of doubloons. I was hooked on the treasure of the mind.

M.S.'s book list on treasure hunts

Why did M.S. love this book?

Not all treasure is gold—in Map of Bones, one of Rollins’ many excellent novels, it is bones. Ancient bones. In the aftermath of a horrific crime, the bones of the Three Magi are stolen from a German cathedral. A Vatican investigator and an American covert operative chase the thieves—an ancient cult of assassins—across two continents to recover the relics. Map of Bones is especially appealing to me, being a sucker for historic or exotic settings with which I’m familiar. Rollins’ books are all page-turners, fast-paced and compelling, and the Sigma Force series is perfect for those of us who love heroes who can extricate themselves from any predicament. I like my hero complex, yes. Sexy, yes. But above all, really, really good at what he does. 

By James Rollins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When a group of parishioners is burned to death in a German cathedral, the US sends in Sigma force. For this tragedy is more than a case of arson - someone has stolen the priceless treasure stored in the cathedral's golden reliquary: the bones of the biblical Three Kings. Commander Gray Pierce leads a team on the hunt for the Royal Dragon Court, a clandestine aristocratic fraternity of alchemists that dates back to the Middle Ages and seeks to establish a new world order using the mystical bones. Pierce and his team follow a trail that leads from Europe's Gothic…


By David Macaulay,

Book cover of Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction

Jeanie and David Stiles Author Of Cabin: A Guide to Building the Perfect Getaway

From the list on hand-illustrated books on building.

Who are we?

As the authors of 27 hand-illustrated books, we are acutely aware of the time and skill required for good rendering. We are old-schoolers ourselves, having cut our teeth on “how-to” books before computers came into vogue. Our readers often tell us that a computer drawing does not have the same appeal and clarity as hand drawing. We are able to ‘talk’ a reader through the process of building something with our drawings. We have also found that the best illustrated books often have the best content!

Jeanie's book list on hand-illustrated books on building

Why did Jeanie love this book?

We love all of David Macauley’s books. He uses hand-drawn black-and-white illustrations to describe the enormous effort and complicated processes involved in building some of the most magnificent structures in the world, from cathedrals to castles to pyramids. Cathedral was his first, and we think the best. Although intended for young readers, there are many builders, engineers, and architects that find wonder in Macauley’s work. 

By David Macaulay,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A 1974 Caldecott Honor Book

Readers worldwide recognize Caldecott Medal winner David Macaulay's imaginary Cathedral of Chutreaux. This critically acclaimed book has been translated into a dozen languages and remains a classic of children's literature and a touchstone for budding architects. Cathedral's numerous awards include a prestigious Caldecott Honor and designation as a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year for Macaulay's intricate pen-and-ink illustrations.

Journey back to centuries long ago and visit the fictional people of twelfth-, thirteenth-, and fourteenth-century Europe whose dreams, like Cathedral, stand the test of time.

This title has been selected as a…


By Raymond Carver,

Book cover of Cathedral

Frances Park Author Of That Lonely Spell

From the list on collections for eclectic readers.

Who am I?

I’m a Korean American author who believes life is too short to read books that bore you, classics or otherwise. I’ve always had eclectic tastes and like to pick out books the way customers choose bonbons at my chocolate shop (which I’ve co-owned since 1984). And while I do read and often write longer works, I’ve always preferred to fall into a world from the opening line and bow out soon thereafter. By nature, I’m a minimalist – and maybe don’t have the greatest attention span – so I’m in awe of short works that stand on their own. They’re just more dramatic and memorable to me.

Frances' book list on collections for eclectic readers

Why did Frances love this book?

Every work I’ve read by Carver reminds me of his singular gift; others may write in the same vein by creating stories with characters whose cigarettes and drinks lure them deeper into their desperation. But these writers, however good, lack the gift, the blood, to run so deeply that, well, one line in and you’re haunted. This particular collection contains my two favorite Carver stories: “Cathedral” and “A Small, Good Thing.” Indeed, in everyday conversation, I often use the phrase a small, good thing – as if everyone knows the story.

By Raymond Carver,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A collection of short stories which includes 'Vitamins' and 'A Small Good Thing', which were used in Robert Altman's film, 'Short Cuts'. First published in the US and now available in paperback in the UK.

Book cover of Innocent's Wedding Day with the Italian

Michelle Styles Author Of A Viking Heir to Bind Them

From Michelle's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Avid reader Romance novelist History fanatic Overwhelmed gardener Spaniel wrangler

Michelle's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Michelle love this book?

A long time ago, when I was in hospital awaiting an operation, a fellow patient told me in times of trouble, you can’t go wrong with a Mills & Boon published book (Harlequin if you are in the US) to whisk you away. Wise advice, which I have used over and over again. And one of my go-to authors is Michelle Smart.

This book has everything I require for a complete escape – avrunaway bride, a resourceful heroine, and a broody hero who may not have loved the heroine to begin with but by the end is head over heels and a fabulous location as well.

This book allowed me some time to escape for a few hours on a bad day. It gave me the strength to carry on

By Michelle Smart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Innocent's Wedding Day with the Italian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Florence cathedral, a fairy tale dress…a runaway bride!

Discovering that her billionaire fiancé, Enzo Beresi, will receive her inheritance if they wed, Rebecca Foley leaves him at the altar! She refuses to marry a man who keeps secrets from her.

Innocent Rebecca is devastated, yet she can’t let go of their powerful connection. So when Enzo arrives on her doorstep, she gives him twenty-four hours to tell her everything. The brooding Italian vows his feelings for her are real, but dare Rebecca believe in him enough to give into the temptation of their wedding night?

World Without End

By Ken Follett,

Book cover of World Without End

E.L. Daniel Author Of All the Gold in Abbotsford

From the list on where the damsel is not always the one in distress.

Who am I?

I am a strong, independent woman (*snaps fingers through the air*), yet I adore a soul-sucking romance. Many might think this is a contradiction, but it’s not! A woman can be both loving and stubborn…both enamored by her partner yet still strong enough to speak up for herself. Sadly, I think historical fiction often defaults to portraying dependent and subjugated women, and this isn’t necessarily wrong—in fact, it’s probably more accurate. However, when I’m getting lost in the magic of a novel, I want to experience the all-consuming love without sacrificing the resiliency and independence of the women involved, and these books spin stories where both outcomes are possible!

E.L.'s book list on where the damsel is not always the one in distress

Why did E.L. love this book?

There is so much going on in this book in terms of plot, drama, and relationships, but why I especially love it is because Caris, one of the protagonists, breaks the mold of the typical powerless medieval woman. When the Black Plague comes to Kingsbridge, Caris is the only one who uses observation and common sense to realize that the disease spreads by contact. In a world that revolves around religion and superstition, this doesn’t go over well. Though forced to sacrifice the love of her life, and put on trial as a witch, Caris sticks to her guns and enacts the medical policies she knows will save lives. Eventually, she gains the townspeople’s trust, ultimately ascending into a position of power within the town. Get it, girl!

By Ken Follett,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked World Without End as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On the day after Halloween, in the year 1327, four children slip away from the cathedral city of Kingsbridge. They are a thief, a bully, a boy genius and a girl who wants to be a doctor. In the forest they see two men killed. As adults, their lives will be braided together by ambition, love, greed and revenge. They will see prosperity and famine, plague and war. One boy will travel the world but come home in the end; the other will be a powerful, corrupt nobleman. One girl will defy the might of the medieval church; the other…

The Cathedral Within

By Bill Shore,

Book cover of The Cathedral Within: Transforming Your Life by Giving Something Back

Lida Citroën Author Of Success After Service: How to Take Control of Your Job Search and Career After Military Duty

From the list on success in a civilian life after the military.

Who am I?

I’m an executive coach, personal branding consultant, and reputation management expert helping global executives, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders manage how they’re perceived and drive towards ideal opportunities. A long-time passionate supporter of the military, I volunteer to help veterans transitioning to civilian careers. My work with veterans comes from gratitude for their sacrifice. I regularly speak at military installations, podcasts, and events on veteran transition and hiring, teach in the TAP program at the US Air Force Academy, and serve on the Board of Directors at Project Sanctuary, which focuses on healing military families. Since 2012, I’ve also been a writer for

Lida's book list on success in a civilian life after the military

Why did Lida love this book?

If you’ve watched my TEDx Talk, you know that my core values are gratitude and generosity, and I live these by giving back to those who've served.

This book showed me through real-life examples how to live a life of service and purpose. In Cathedral, Shore illustrates the importance of vision-setting and long-term planning – after all, he says, cathedrals take decades to complete, and having one vision that transcends all who work on the construction is an art and commitment.

By Bill Shore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Bill Shore has written a wise and inspiring book that shows us how to make the most of life and do something that counts.

Like the cathedral builders of an earlier time, the visionaries described in this memoir share a single desire: to create something that endures. The great cathedrals did not soar skyward because their builders discovered new materials or financial resources; rather, the builders had a unique understanding of the human spirit that enabled them to use those materials in a new way. So, too, have the extraordinary people Bill Shore has met in his travels as one…

Adam's Witness

By J.C. Paulson,

Book cover of Adam's Witness

Nikki Dudley Author Of Volta

From Nikki's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Reader Thinker Collaborator Socialiser

Nikki's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Plus, Nikki's 5, and 7-year-old's favorite books.

Why did Nikki love this book?

This is a self-published author, who I’m glad I discovered. The characters she paints are really intriguing and likeable.

I loved how their professions interlinked and the crimes being investigated became a shared mission. The characters bounce off each other well, too. The criminal in the book was also fascinating to spend time with and I kept turning the pages to get to the end!

By J.C. Paulson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Adam's Witness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Where does justice end and vengeance begin?

When newspaper journalist Grace Rampling learns that the Pride Choir has been banned from performing in the cathedral, she rushes to the church to get some answers.

Instead, she literally stumbles onto a grisly crime scene: the bishop is lying in a pool of his own blood before the altar. Suddenly, Grace is no longer the observer and reporter. She finds herself central to the case — not only as the key witness, but a suspect and even potential victim.

Lead investigator Detective Sergeant Adam Davis is thrown by the fierce attraction he…

Collected Poems

By Philip Larkin,

Book cover of Collected Poems

Howard Means Author Of Johnny Appleseed: The Man, the Myth, the American Story

From the list on big stories through a small lens.

Who am I?

I’m not a big fan of 800-page biographies, sprawling histories, or overweight novels that tell me everything about a subject but give me no place to sit down and enjoy the view. I want something that anchors my interest, that holds my imagination, that shows me the general through the particular — something that hints at a bigger meaning, a bigger world without shoving my nose in it. To me, great writing is all about compression — not the number of words but the richness of every word. I want a book that opens up like a flower as I read it.

Howard's book list on big stories through a small lens

Why did Howard love this book?

By its very nature, poetry is about compression. At its best — again, at least to me — a great poem opens up over and over as you read and reread it. It’s a constant journey of discovery. And Northern Ireland’s Philip Larkin, the best English-speaking poet of the 20th century that most Americans have never read, is a master of the compressive arts. I’m recommending his entire Collected Poems here, but if you read only one Larkin poem, make it “Church Going.” In 474 carefully chosen words describing his visit to a mostly abandoned country cathedral, Larkin delivers the equivalent of a 10,000-word treatise on the state of religion in the Western World today.

By Philip Larkin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Since its publication in 1988, Philip Larkin's Collected Poems has become essential reading on any poetry bookshelf. This new edition returns to Larkin's own deliberate ordering of his poems, presenting, in their original sequence, his four published books: The North Ship, The Less Deceived, The Whitsun Weddings and High Windows. It also includes an appendix of poems that Larkin published in other places, from his juvenilia to his final years - some of which might have appeared in a late book, if he had lived.

Preserving everything that he published in his lifetime, this new Collected Poems returns the reader…

Book cover of The Pillars of the Earth

Laci Barry Post Author Of Songbird

From Laci's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Group fitness instructor Mom of two Travel consultant Hiker

Laci's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Laci love this book?

This book took me to another place and time, one that I do not typically study or read about. While I love English history, I know little about this period.

The characters are complex, relatable, and infuriating. I spent the whole book cheering for Lady Aliena, admiring Prior Phillip, and hating William Hamleigh. I don’t know that I hated a book character more outside of Harry Potter’s Professor Umbridge!

This historical fiction masterpiece amid medieval cathedrals will make you feel intensely. 

By Ken Follett,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The Pillars of the Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 New York Times Bestseller

Oprah's Book Club Selection

The "extraordinary . . . monumental masterpiece" (Booklist) that changed the course of Ken Follett's already phenomenal career-and begins where its prequel, The Evening and the Morning, ended.

"Follett risks all and comes out a clear winner," extolled Publishers Weekly on the release of The Pillars of the Earth. A departure for the bestselling thriller writer, the historical epic stunned readers and critics alike with its ambitious scope and gripping humanity. Today, it stands as a testament to Follett's unassailable command of the written word and to his universal appeal.


The Spire

By William Golding,

Book cover of The Spire

Elizabeth Kiem Author Of Orphan, Agent, Prima, Pawn

From the list on construction projects, literal, and metaphysical.

Who am I?

When I published Orphan, Agent, Prima, Pawn, in which Soviet-era psychological warfare plays a heavy role, I happily washed my hands of Russian intrigue and turned to more benign, pastoral inspirations – my life-long relationship with an idyllic cathedral town in Wiltshire, for example. Just days later, the world learned that a certain Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov shared my fondness for Salisbury’s “world-famous 123-metre spire,” the glories of which prompted their 72-hour visit from Moscow (and overlapped with the botched poisoning of a KGB defector living down the road). Since then, I find myself drawn to works that explore the interstices of morality, criminality, and great construction projects.

Elizabeth's book list on construction projects, literal, and metaphysical

Why did Elizabeth love this book?

Golding was living in Salisbury when he wrote The Lord of the Flies, and his day job as a teacher at a local boys' school left a clear imprint on his dystopic view of young men left to their own hierarchical devices. But the classroom also provided a very literal view of the inspiration for The Spire, a dense and disturbing parable in which rationality and physics crumble under evangelical mania and corporal lust. It is the story of Jocelin, Dean of a medieval cathedral, who, obsessed with a divine “vision in stone,” insists that the spire be raised to impossible heights. There is no happy ending in this cautionary tale of construction hubris, yet I return to it regularly in search of solace.

By William Golding,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Succumb to a churchman's apocalyptic vision in this prophetic tale by the radical Nobel Laureate and author of Lord of the Flies, introduced by Benjamin Myers (narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch as an audiobook).

There were three sorts of people. Those who ran, those who stayed, and those who were built in.

Dean Jocelin has a vision: that God has chosen him to erect a great spire. His master builder fearfully advises against it, for the old cathedral was miraculously built without foundations. But Jocelin is obsessed with fashioning his prayer in stone. As his halo of hair grows wilder and…