The most recommended books about convents

Who picked these books? Meet our 17 experts.

17 authors created a book list connected to convents, and here are their favorite convent books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of convent book?


Book cover of When in Rome

Rosanna Staffa Author Of The War Ends At Four

From my list on the unexpected ways we find home.

Who am I?

I'm an Italian-born writer living in Minneapolis. I experienced being an outsider early on in my childhood when my family moved from Naples to Este, a small town in the hills near Venice. My fascination with language started then as I had to master the different Northern dialect. I was a listener rather than a talker. My shyness was painful in life but turned out to be a gift as a writer. When I left Italy for America, once again I was an outsider, too visible or invisible, and facing a new language. I relate to estrangement and longing, but I treasure that being an outsider still gives me a sense of wonder about reality.

Rosanna's book list on the unexpected ways we find home

Rosanna Staffa Why did Rosanna love this book?

I'm loving this novel by Liam Callanan.

It poses questions I feel close to and presents turns of life I have been surprised by myself, if in a different way. The writing is richly textured and so very delicate.

"...She'd known quiet, of course... But not silence, not like this. This silence had texture and shape; it felt attached to each molecule of air. Everything inside her was falling silent, too."

Claire, 52 and a real estate broker, deeply desires a fresh start. She receives a call from a convent in Rome that is facing its end. When she arrives she meets a colorful, fierce group of nuns living in a crumbling villa and starts wondering if she should stay forever.

By Liam Callanan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From nationally bestselling, award-winning author Liam Callanan, the story of an opportunity to start over at midlife, a chance to save a struggling convent in the Eternal City, and the dramatic re-emergence of an old flame . . .

Meet Claire: fifty-two, desperate to do something new and get a fresh start.

Enter the chance to go to Rome: Home to a struggling convent facing a precipitous end, the city beckons Claire, who's long had a complicated relationship with religion, including a “missed connection” with convent life in her teens. Once in Rome, she finds a group of funny, fearless…

Book cover of The Darkest Sin

Fiona Forsyth Author Of Blood and Shadows

From Fiona's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Rome nerd Teacher Notebook hoarder Thwarted thespian

Fiona's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Fiona Forsyth Why did Fiona love this book?

I never start a series in the middle except by mistake – but fortunately, though I soon realised that I needed to go back and read the first book, it did not stop me devouring this to the end.

Sixteenth-century Florence is alive and kicking – usually kicking – and the range of characters is fascinating without being confusing. For me, the best characters were the nuns in the convent - it is good to see nuns treated as people!

The author used the of the convent enclosed space to make the horror and violence all the more startling. An excellent historical novel and an excellent murder mystery.

By D.V. Bishop,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Pretty much everything I want in an historical thriller - an absolutely terrific read' Philip Gwynne Jones

'A great insight into Renaissance Florence. What I love about these books is the seamless weaving of factual history with a great story' Abir Mukherjee

Florence. Spring, 1537.

When Cesare Aldo investigates a report of intruders at a convent in the Renaissance city's northern quarter, he enters a community divided by bitter rivalries and harbouring dark secrets.

His case becomes far more complicated when a man's body is found deep inside the convent, stabbed more than two dozen times. Unthinkable as it seems,…

Book cover of Small Things Like These

Augusta Scattergood Author Of Making Friends with Billy Wong

From Augusta's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Avid reader Flaneur, in the traveling urban explorer sense Friend

Augusta's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Augusta Scattergood Why did Augusta love this book?

I love the way this book looks.

I love holding it in my hand.

I love how the words fall perfectly on the pages.

When my good friend raved about a book by a new-to-me Irish writer, I hurried to buy it. And now I’m Keegan’s biggest fan. She writes short books that say so much. There’s history, complicated families, and unexpected turns. She has a talent for putting sentences together that make me want to read them over and over.

Another of her books, Foster, was made into a perfect movie, The Quiet Girl. Rarely do I think a movie measures up to a book, but this was an exception. Just writing about Keegan’s books makes me want to hit pause and curl up with Small Things Like These again.

By Claire Keegan,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked Small Things Like These as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize

"A hypnotic and electrifying Irish tale that transcends country, transcends time." —Lily King, New York Times bestselling author of Writers & Lovers

Small Things Like These is award-winning author Claire Keegan's landmark new novel, a tale of one man's courage and a remarkable portrait of love and family

It is 1985 in a small Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal merchant and family man faces into his busiest season. Early one morning, while delivering an order to the local convent, Bill makes a discovery which forces him…

Book cover of The Passion of Mary-Margaret

Rhonda Ortiz Author Of In Pieces

From my list on historical romances for armchair Theologians.

Who am I?

I’m a writer married to a theologian. My husband and I often discuss Augustine and Aquinas, Austen and Tolstoy, Christie and Sayers, and trends in popular fiction—when we’re not discussing Frog and Toad, Elephant and Piggie, baby diapers, and what to make for dinner. Love stories have long been my favorite stories, and I’ve always enjoyed historical settings. My award-winning novel In Pieces, a 1793 Boston-set historical romance with elements of family drama, society drama, and political suspense, combines all these interests. I even managed to sneak in a diaper-changing scene.

Rhonda's book list on historical romances for armchair Theologians

Rhonda Ortiz Why did Rhonda love this book?

I rarely experience “book hangover” after finishing a novel. The Passion of Mary-Margaret was a notable exception. The story centers on a religious sister (nun) and mystic, Mary-Margaret Fischer, who, before taking final vows, gives up religious life in order to marry her troubled childhood friend. The Passion of Mary-Margaret delves unflinchingly into difficult themes—abuse, prostitution, racism and bigotry, absentee parents, and self-sacrifice—with an eye toward grace. After finishing the book, I thought, “Yes. This is what love looks like.” It was so good, I couldn’t pick up another novel for weeks.

By Lisa Samson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Mary-Margaret yearned to dedicate her life to the Lord. Jesus had another idea.

When Mary-Margaret Fischer met Jude Keller, the lighthouse keeper's son, she was studying at a convent school on a small island off Chesapeake Bay. Destined for a life as a religious sister, she nevertheless felt a pull toward Jude--gorgeous, rebellious, promiscuous Jude. But Jude, driven by demons no one really understood, disappeared into Baltimore's seamy red-light district. Mary-Margaret moved on with her life, preparing to serve God with her sisters as a teacher and artist.

Then Jude comes home--but now he's bitter, dissolute, and diseased. And Mary-Margaret…

Book cover of Red Sister

Nathaniel Hardman Author Of School

From my list on magic-in-space for middle schoolers.

Who am I?

I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy since I was a kid, and I love when the two genres meet. I’m also fascinated by the power of stories and language, which has led me to work as an intern at a literary agency and later as an editor at a website that reviewed and gave feedback on unpublished manuscripts. I love finding ways to imbue stories with the kind of magic that can transport us to new worlds.

Nathaniel's book list on magic-in-space for middle schoolers

Nathaniel Hardman Why did Nathaniel love this book?

Whenever I recommend this book, I start raving about how cool the setting is – a planet slowly freezing to death with a narrow livable corridor around the equator, which you eventually realize is only staying warm because of an orbiting reflective satellite.

Magic, you find, has sprung up in the ashes of a society that was once technologically advanced. But as cool as the setting is, Red Sister really works because the characters are so fun, and the story is so compelling.

Nona is a young girl taken in by nuns and trained to be an assassin, and you love seeing her come into her own. Very violent but very fun.

By Mark Lawrence,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It's not until you're broken that you find your sharpest edge.

"I was born for killing - the gods made me to ruin."

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices' skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don't truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought…

Book cover of A Vow of Silence

Elizabeth Bailey Author Of The Gilded Shroud

From my list on mysteries to escape the now and voyage the past.

Who am I?

Even as a child, I wanted to escape from current times and visit bygone or future eras. History and literature were favourites and I gleaned most of what I know of the past by reading. Then I found Georgette Heyer, prompting a lifetime love affair with all things Georgian and Regency. Agatha Christie got me into mystery. I loved both the puzzle of whodunit and being whirled away into Poirot, Marple, or Cadfael territory. A good mystery and a deep dive into history as well? Heaven! Best of all is the author who draws me so completely into their imaginary world that the real one fades away.

Elizabeth's book list on mysteries to escape the now and voyage the past

Elizabeth Bailey Why did Elizabeth love this book?

Sister Joan is yet another religious sleuth. Set in the early 1990s, I think this series now qualifies as a historical mystery. It is a lighter read than my other choices, but one I absolutely loved and, like Cadfael, I dived in and devoured the lot. Vow of Silence is the first and hooked me straight away. The religious life fascinates me and I enjoyed the way the ceremonial routine of the convent was woven into the mysteries. This detail serves to immerse you in the life of Sister Joan, a down-to-earth heroine who drew my admiration. The mysteries unfold naturally into the setting and don’t seem incongruous. A more gentle read than the others I have chosen, but acutely satisfying.

By Veronica Black,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When one nun dies in a bizarre accident and another disappears, hushed whispers of virgin sacrifice, Mother Goddess worship, suicide, and murder spread among the Sisters at Cornwall House convent and Sister Joan is sent to investigate

Book cover of Sacred Hearts

Susan Van Allen Author Of 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

From my list on women who love Italy.

Who am I?

I am grateful to my maternal grandparents, immigrants from southern Italy, who instilled in me a love for the Bel Paese that has inspired me all my life. I began to travel to Italy 45 years ago, and after writing for television—on the staff of Everybody Loves Raymond—I turned to travel writing. I’ve written 4 books about Italian travel, along with many stories for magazines. I also design and host Golden Weeks in Italy: For Women Only tours, to give female travelers an insider’s experience of this extraordinary country.

Susan's book list on women who love Italy

Susan Van Allen Why did Susan love this book?

I love all of Sarah Dunant’s historical fiction novels that take place in Italy. This one is a favorite, bringing me into the world of a 16th-century convent in Ferrara, centering around a rebellious teenager who has been sent there by her family. The relationships between the nuns, young and old, rituals of daily convent life, politics of the church during the days of the Counter-Reformation, and a rich love story blend to make this a fascinating read.

By Sarah Dunant,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

1570 in the Italian city of Ferrara. Sixteen-year-old Serafina is fipped by her family from an illicit love affair and forced into the convent of Santa Caterina, renowned for its superb music. Serafina's one weapon is her glorious voice, but she refuses to sing. Madonna Chiara, an abbess as fluent in politics as she is in prayer, finds her new charge has unleased a power play - rebellion, ecstasies and hysterias - within the convent. However, watching over Serafina is Zuana, the sister in charge of the infirmary, who understands and might even challenge her incarceration.

Book cover of Dangerous Liaisons

Astrid Carlen-Helmer Author Of The Demon King’s Interpreter

From my list on capturing France's most epic love stories.

Who am I?

I am a French-American writer with a passion for young adult stories and flawed female characters. Born and raised in France in a household without a TV, I spent my entire childhood reading avidly, which in turn led me to study Literature and Film. In fact, most of my life, I have been inspired by novels that offer windows into new worlds that open up possibilities. Some of the novels from the list below feature some of my favorite characters, and provide insights into other worlds and other times. 

Astrid's book list on capturing France's most epic love stories

Astrid Carlen-Helmer Why did Astrid love this book?

In a pair of sumptuous drawing rooms, one in a Parisian mansion, the other in a chateau on a luxurious estate, two aristocrats are very bored. Through a collection of letters, the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, former lovers, recount to each other how they pass the time: by using seduction as a weapon in dangerous games.

A French classic, this novel depicts the French aristocracy’s decadence, shortly before the French Revolution. It is also fascinating in its portrayal of a deeply flawed and complex female protagonist, who refuses to accept her place in the society of that time, where she is “doomed to silence and inaction”.

By Pierre Choderlos De Laclos,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Les Liaisons Dangereuses is a frightening and ultimately scathing portrait of a decadent society that was first published in 1782, only a few years before the French Revolution. At its centre are two aristocrats who were once lovers and who now play a complex game of manipulation and seduction to liven up their dreary lives. The Vicomte de Valmont is tasked by the Marquise de Merteuil with seducing an innocent convent girl, but he is equally focused on a righteous married woman. The results, however, turn out to be more dire and fatal than Merteuil and Valmont could have imagined…

Book cover of A Kingdom of Dreams

Colet Abedi Author Of Conquer

From my list on to read when you’re traveling in a far-off land.

Who am I?

I love reading. I’ve been an avid reader since I was a child. Having been raised in a conservative, Persian family, it was a tool I used to escape and imagine another way of life. I’m always traveling now and searching for ways to better myself, and for topics or places to write about. I’m so inspired when a book just grabs me and pulls me in and makes me think. Whether that’s a romance, or a book about self-actualization, I think of everything I read as a teacher. We can never stop learning, stop growing, or dreaming. 

Colet's book list on to read when you’re traveling in a far-off land

Colet Abedi Why did Colet love this book?

She is the queen of historical romance for a reason. I will never forget reading this book as a teen, and I don’t know how many times I’ve read this as an adult. It has everything you can want - adventure, a crazy kind of love, an alpha male who is hot as hell, and of course, an innocent virgin. It’s a book that made me want to be a romance novelist. I bow to Judith McNaught for life. 

By Judith McNaught,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestselling author continues her evocative Westmoreland Dynasty Saga with this romance following two defiant hearts clashing over a furious battle of wills in the glorious age of chivalry.

Abducted from her convent school, headstrong Scottish beauty Jennifer Merrick does not easily surrender to Royce Westmoreland, Duke of Claymore. Known as "The Wolf," his very name strikes terror in the hearts of his enemies. But proud Jennifer will have nothing to do with the fierce English warrior who holds her captive, this handsome rogue who taunts her with his blazing arrogance.

Boldly she challenges his will-until…

Book cover of Virgins of Venice: Broken Vows and Cloistered Lives in the Renaissance Convent

Gina Buonaguro Author Of The Virgins of Venice

From my list on women in Renaissance Venice.

Who am I?

My goal as a writer is to revive lost women’s stories through historical fiction. After co-authoring several historical novels, our last mystery set in Renaissance Rome, we decided to set the sequel in Venice. When we decided to split amicably before finishing that novel, I had spent so much time researching Renaissance Venice that I instantly knew I wanted to set my first solo novel there and focus on girls and women whose stories are so frequently lost to history. So began a quest to learn everything I could about the females of 15th and 16th-century Venice, leading me toward both academic and fictional works of the era.

Gina's book list on women in Renaissance Venice

Gina Buonaguro Why did Gina love this book?

Mary Laven’s readable academic book Virgins of Venice is the definitive resource on the topic of nuns in Renaissance Venice. She explores every aspect of what it was like to be and live as a nun during a roughly two-hundred-year period, when most convents were filled with high-status women of no religious calling, forced to live there by their fathers and the strict social conventions of the time.

By Mary Laven,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A portrait of 16th and 17th century Italian convent life, set in the vibrant culture of late Renaissance Venice. Early 16th century Venice had 50 convents and about 3000 nuns. Far from being places of religious devotion, the convents were often little more than dumping-grounds for unmarried women fron the upper ranks of Venetian society. Often entering a convent at seven years old, these young women remained emotionally and socially attached to their families and to their way of life outside the convent. Supported by their private incomes, the nuns ate, dressed and behaved as gentlewomen. In contravention of their…