6 books directly related to cathedrals 📚

All 6 cathedral books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction

By David Macaulay,

Book cover of Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction

Why 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. 

The Pillars of the Earth

By Ken Follett,

Book cover of The Pillars of the Earth

Why this book?

I am an avid reader and love to learn about history and the people who shaped this world in times gone by. I have an eye for literary craftsmen and give special praise to those who really excite my interest and keep me reading long into the night. I first picked up Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth back in college and it blew me away in terms of historical details, plot, and characters. I had never quite read anything like it before. It’s a lengthy saga detailing a small town in Britain during the Middle Ages but the gripping tales of Tom Builder and his struggling family made the time pass quickly. The trials they faced were real but the bonds these characters forged throughout the story renewed my hope in humanity. It taught me that history did not have to be stark and boring…it could come alive in new and exciting ways! Truly the best historical novel I have ever read.  

The Spire

By William Golding,

Book cover of The Spire

Why 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.

Collected Poems

By Philip Larkin,

Book cover of Collected Poems

Why 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.

Map of Bones: A Sigma Force Novel

By James Rollins,

Book cover of Map of Bones: A Sigma Force Novel

Why 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 Raymond Carver,

Book cover of Cathedral

Why 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.