The best books on Jesuits

Many authors have picked their favorite books about Jesuits and why they recommend each book.

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The Discernment of Spirits

By Timothy M. Gallagher,

Book cover of The Discernment of Spirits: A Reader's Guide: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living

In a world of duality, we desperately need to be taught how to discern between truth and falsehood; between lies and illusions; between darkness and light, and between that which is love and that which is fear. And this book teaches you exactly that and so much more; giving you strength, courage, and comfort by helping you realize that you are always guided, safe, loved, and protected no matter what happens to you and all around you.

The Discernment of Spirits

By Timothy M. Gallagher,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This handy, easy-to-use workbook is chock full of probing questions, real-life stories, and practical tips on how to apply the profound spiritual insights from the Ignatian tradition of patient, prayerful self-examination. Acclaimed interpreter of Saint Ignatius, author Father Gallagher provides clear explanations of the centuries-old Jesuit method of discerning God's will in one's life--and avoiding evil. A practical guide and journaling tool, it includes ample space on every page for notes, reflections, and journaling, all to help readers track their progress toward a closer, more loving union with God.


Who am I?

Raised in a fearful and toxic environment where love was completely absent and terror was always at home, I had to learn to let go of my many programs, fears, and traumas so that I could avoid making the mistake of thinking and believing that the story of my past was going to become the story of my life. Through a long journey of letting go, getting lost in order to be found, I realized that who I Am, and who we all are, is far greater and far nobler than what we are programmed to believe. And now my mission is to teach people from all over the world how to let go so they can thrive.


I wrote...

15 Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy: An Inspiring Guide to Discovering Effortless Joy

By Luminita D. Saviuc,

Book cover of 15 Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy: An Inspiring Guide to Discovering Effortless Joy

What is my book about?

"I encourage you to dive into 15 Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy, and be truly inspired by the hard-won lessons of someone who has managed to turn her life around, let go of the past, and heal herself so that she could seek her ultimate truth–to live at the peak of her human potential and inspire the lives of many others.” Vishen Lakhiani, NY Times Best Selling Author, Founder & CEO of Mindvalley.

Simple yet wise, and informed by the author's own inspiring personal journey, this liberating book presents a fresh twist on happiness advice: take a step back to reflect and give yourself permission to let things go. That is, to let go of the unhealthy habits holding you back from achieving authentic happiness and living your best life. Includes a foreword by Vishen Lakhiani, New York Times bestselling author of The Code of the Extraordinary Mind and founder and CEO of Mindvalley.

The Sparrow

By Mary Doria Russell,

Book cover of The Sparrow

I do not like science fiction. I hate stories about aliens. The idea of sending people out into space to colonize planets makes me claustrophobic enough to panic. But I adored this book. I made two book groups read this one—they both whined massively . . . and then loved it, too. Far beyond the usual space adventure, this copes with important issues of society and faith, of relationships and commitments and loyalties, and how easy it can be to do “the right thing” without understanding or anticipating the consequences. A philosophical book dressed in adventure novel clothes. 

The Sparrow

By Mary Doria Russell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The Sparrow is one of my favourite science fiction novels and it destroyed me in the best way when I read it. It is so beautifully written and the construction of the narrative is masterful.'
Emma Newman, acclaimed author of Planetfall

Set in the 21st century - a number of decades from now - The Sparrow is the story of a charismatic Jesuit priest and talented linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who - in response to a remarkable radio signal from the depths of space - leads a scientific mission to make first contact with an extraterrestrial culture.

In the true tradition…


Who am I?

People either love or hate surprises, but in a book, done well, they’re always welcome—whether we race to the last page to find them or they hip-check us along the way. I started my career writing comedy romance—comfort reads but with few surprises. Now in my novels, I make sure to give readers plenty they don’t expect, whether it’s a character who isn’t what s/he seems, a contradictory situation gradually made clear, or a jaw-dropping twist. Pulling off a successful surprise is one of my favorite parts of writing—therefore my love of books that take me somewhere I didn't expect.


I wrote...

The First Wife

By Muna Shehadi,

Book cover of The First Wife

What is my book about?

Five years after the abrupt disappearance of Holly Penny's adored ex-husband, Lyle Frederick, she travels to their favorite luxury resort in the Adirondack mountains for his funeral weekend, convinced he's still alive. The surprises start when she discovers Lyle's subsequent two wives have never heard of her, nor were they aware Lyle had been previously married for twelve blissful years—until everything changed. As unexpected revelations mount, Holly starts to wonder if Lyle is really still alive or if she's just having trouble letting go. And then everything changes again.

The Courtiers Manual Oracle

By Baltasar Gracián,

Book cover of The Courtiers Manual Oracle: or the Art of Prudence

When I was researching Luck, I came across many books that claimed to teach the willing acolyte how to seize opportunity and how to maximise reward while minimising risk. This is the one that’s worth paying attention to. The Oracle is a collection of three hundred maxims for practical success, in condensed, often paradoxical form, written by a seventeenth-century Jesuit. Nietzsche said of it that "Europe has never produced anything finer or more complicated in matters of moral subtlety" and who’s going to argue with Nietzsche?

The Courtiers Manual Oracle

By Baltasar Gracián,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a reproduction of a classic text optimised for kindle devices. We have endeavoured to create this version as close to the original artefact as possible. Although occasionally there may be certain imperfections with these old texts, we believe they deserve to be made available for future generations to enjoy.


Who am I?

My father, when he consented to talk about all the moments in his life when the odds against his survival were so small as to make them statistically non-existent, would say, ‘I was lucky.’ Trying to understand what he meant got me started on this book. As well as being a novelist, I’m a poker player. Luck is a subject that every poker player has a relationship to; more importantly it’s a subject that every person has a relationship to. The combination of family history and intellectual curiosity and the gambler’s desire to win drove me on this quest.


I wrote...

Luck: A Personal Account of Fortune, Chance and Risk in Thirteen Investigations

By David Flusfeder,

Book cover of Luck: A Personal Account of Fortune, Chance and Risk in Thirteen Investigations

What is my book about?

What does it mean to be lucky? How might we mitigate bad luck and maximise good? Is there actually such a thing as ‘luck’—some force that intervenes between desire and its consummation?

This book is a quest, a battle against superstition, my own, as I search for a definition of luck from ancient times to modern, in the footsteps of some victors of luck and those who were defeated by it—and gambling along the way. Following the dictates of an online randomiser that decided the chapter order, we go to Siberia, Versailles and the Old Testament desert. The journey culminates in Las Vegas, where I make a final reckoning with superstition and courage and prudence and opportunity and truth.

Why I Am a Catholic

By Garry Wills,

Book cover of Why I Am a Catholic

Garry Wills, a scholar of Jefferson, Lincoln, modern politics, and religious history, is a major thorn in the side of the Catholic Church. He’s critical of that institution’s checkered past, the questionable primacy of the pope, and the social and political narrowness of its bishops. Yet he is a devout Catholic, a confirmed believer. He sees no contradiction in that. This is a blunt, persuasive book about reconciling an urge to faith in a higher, transcendent power with a sharply critical perspective on an institution that, in Wills’ view, is often less about the teachings of Jesus than a corporate structure pretending to more spiritual authority and infallibility than it has any right to assert.

Why I Am a Catholic

By Garry Wills,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why I Am a Catholic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An “intellectually satisfying, and spiritually moving,” argument for a questioning, conscience-driven faith, by a New York Times bestselling author (Booklist).
 
Pulitzer Prize winner Garry Wills has been asked more than once why he remains in the Church, especially in the wake of his bestselling book Papal Sins, which examined the darker side of the religion’s history. In Why I Am a Catholic, he offers some persuasive and heartfelt answers.
 
Beginning with a reflection on his early experiences as a child, and later as a Jesuit seminarian, Wills reveals the importance of Catholicism in his own life. He discusses G.K. Chesterton,…


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Dorothy Day: Dissenting Voice of the American Century

By John Loughery, Blythe Randolph,

Book cover of Dorothy Day: Dissenting Voice of the American Century

What is my book about?

Telling the life story of Dorothy Day (1897 – 1980) was like falling down the rabbit hole. How was it possible for a woman born to a conservative, racist, anti-Semitic family with no interest in religion to become America’s staunchest advocate for the homeless, most determined pacifist and critic of capitalism, a supporter of civil rights, a believer in civil disobedience willing to go to jail to protest the arms race – and an orthodox Catholic. The paradoxes of this woman never ceased to intrigue me. Her journey from her hard-drinking, sexually active, unsettled youth in Greenwich Village to her conversion and founding of the radical Catholic Worker movement is the subject of the book I wrote with my co-author, Blythe Randolph. Day is a person who made a mark in her time, as both a critic and champion of her Church, a unique figure in women’s history and religious history in this country, and a charismatic individual too little-known today. She is the anti-Trump of modern America.

Faith & Joy

By Fernando Cardenal,

Book cover of Faith & Joy: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Priest

What led a priest to join the Sandinista revolution?

In sharing his story, Nicaraguan Jesuit Fernando Cardenal details how his views regarding what it means to serve the poor and his understanding of sin as societal placed him on a collision course with both the government and many in the church. For a time, Cardenal was expelled from the Jesuits because he refused to resign his post in the Nicaraguan government. He also recounts what led him to later break with the Sandinista party.

Faith & Joy

By Fernando Cardenal,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Fernando Cardenal, a Nicaraguan Jesuit priest, oversaw a national literacy campaign and served as minister of education in the revolutionary Sandinista government. The Sandinista revolution was unusual for the wide participation of Christians, including priests, in the struggle. However, the role of priests in the revolutionary government (including Ernesto Cardenal, Fernando's brother, a famous poet), was a source of bitter controversy with the Vatican. When he declined to resign his government post (judging that it would be ""a grave sin if I were to abandon my priestly option for the poor""), Cardenal was suspended from the priesthood and expelled from…


Who am I?

I am fascinated by the relationship between people’s religious and political identities. As a kindergartner, I heard about the hunger strikers at our local Irish Center, I was taught anti-communist songs at my Catholic Ukrainian school, and I listened as my dad explained Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers as we passed by the grapes while grocery shopping. Catholicism was not something I saw as just happening inside the walls of a church. It was about how one related to the world and was part of a global community. Those early experiences inspired me to become a human rights lawyer and activist, and later, a U.S. foreign relations historian.


I wrote...

Reagan's Gun-Toting Nuns: The Catholic Conflict Over Cold War Human Rights Policy in Central America

By Theresa Keeley,

Book cover of Reagan's Gun-Toting Nuns: The Catholic Conflict Over Cold War Human Rights Policy in Central America

What is my book about?

Reagan’s Gun-Toting Nuns argues that debates among Central American and U.S. Catholics over the church’s direction influenced Ronald Reagan’s policies toward Central America. The flashpoint for these intra-Catholic disputes was the December 1980 rape and murder of four U.S. missionaries in El Salvador: Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, Ursuline Dorothy Kazel, and lay missionary Jean Donovan. Once Reagan entered office, conservative, anticommunist Catholics played instrumental roles in crafting U.S. policy to fund the Salvadoran government and the Nicaraguan contras, while liberal Catholics protested against it.

Reagan’s Gun-Toting Nuns highlights religious actors as human rights advocates and decenters U.S. actors in international relations by showing the interplay between Central American and U.S. Catholics. The book won the 2020 Duke University Human Rights Center’s Juan E. Méndez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America.

Awareness

By Anthony De Mello,

Book cover of Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality

If you are on a spiritual hunt this book would be the one to open those doors and let the light shine in. De Mello was an Indian yogi, Jesuit Catholic Priest, and Psychotherapist. His reflections and insights are deep and wide. This book changed my life. I continue to work in conjunction with the De Mello Center to this day. This book offers insight into the way that we perceive our own reality and invites us to widen the lens. The greatest takeaway from this book is our approach to attachment. He said that as a priest he often heard in confession the priests talk about sex and the prostitutes talk about God. Why? Because they were not allowed to have them in their life, and so they immediately formed an almost addiction to what they cannot have. Instead of simply not having the attachment. Everything comes down to…

Awareness

By Anthony De Mello,

Why should I read it?

3 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.


Who am I?

I have expertise on this theme because I've devoted the last almost thirty years of my life to body healing and a soulful path. I've studied the physical body and have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree to reflect those studies. But I needed a deeper understanding and I wanted to find healing laws that didn't apply to the average set of eyes. I spent a lot of years in pain, suffering from severe anxiety and panic, and I needed any help I could get to help me rebuild myself and reclaim my life into something powerful and independent. These books served as my guides in the creation of a brave and soulful path. 


I wrote...

The Taste of Joy: Mediterranean Wisdom for a Life Worth Savoring

By Emily A. Francis,

Book cover of The Taste of Joy: Mediterranean Wisdom for a Life Worth Savoring

What is my book about?

What would you do if you could leave everything behind and start a completely new life? That's what Emily A. Francis did when she moved her family to the Mediterranean during the 2020 pandemic. There, she learned insider secrets to one of the healthiest lifestyles in the world. Now, she shares these secrets so you, too, can improve your wellness and invigorate your soul. The Taste of Joy shows you the value of living simply, mindfully, seasonally, and naturally, while feeding the body and soul. Explore your own path to happiness as Emily recounts her experiences getting to know a new region, its inhabitants, and their culture. With Emily’s thought-provoking wisdom and recipes, get a taste of blissful happiness and discover how to create a quality life you can relish.

By Night in Chile

By Roberto Bolaño, Chris Andrews (translator),

Book cover of By Night in Chile

Im also a playwright, so I really admire a full story told in propulsive first-person monologue. This novella is a confession of Father Urrutia from his deathbed, beginning with the line I am dying now, but I still have many things to say.As he speaks, the priest untangles the twisted, uncomfortable agreements between artists and institutions in Chile under Pinochet. I often recommend this book for people who have not yet read Bolaño and might feel intimated by the length of his major works. 

By Night in Chile

By Roberto Bolaño, Chris Andrews (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As through a crack in the wall, By Night in Chile's single night-long rant provides a terrifying, clandestine view of the strange bedfellows of Church and State in Chile. This wild, eerily compact novel-Roberto Bolano's first work available in English-recounts the tale of a poor boy who wanted to be a poet, but ends up a half-hearted Jesuit priest and a conservative literary critic, a sort of lap dog to the rich and powerful cultural elite, in whose villas he encounters Pablo Neruda and Ernst Junger. Father Urrutia is offered a tour of Europe by agents of Opus Dei (to…


Who am I?

Writer and essayist Agnes Borinsky called my debut novel The Seep, A swift shock of a novel that has shifted how I see our world.Here are five short, urgent novels that continue to live with me in the months and years after reading them. These are some of my most beloved books, all of which happen to be under 200 pages, which ache with the inner mystery of what is hidden, and what is revealed. These books are my teachers, each a precise masterclass in world building, suspense, and purposeful storytelling. Enjoy these ‘swift shocks!’


I wrote...

The Seep

By Chana Porter,

Book cover of The Seep

What is my book about?

A blend of searing social commentary and speculative fiction, Chana Porters fresh, pointed debut explores a strange new world in the wake of a benign alien invasion. A strange new elegy of love and loss, The Seep explores grief, alienation, and the ache of moving on. A 2021 Lambda Literary Award Finalist, Finalist for the Otherwise Award, Times of London Best Sci-Fi of 2021.

A unique alien invasion story that focuses on the human and the myriad ways we see and dont see our own world. Mesmerizing.” —Jeff VanderMeer

Samurai William

By Giles Milton,

Book cover of Samurai William: The Englishman Who Opened Japan

At the moment Yasuke - the Black Samurai is very prominent in the samurai enthusiast community, and rightly so, he was an African samurai who made his way up the ranks. However, not much is known about his story, so while it is fascinating, there is too little documentation to delve further. This is not the case with William Adams, a Londoner who made his way to Japan, who not only became a samurai but then also became a banner-man (Hatamoto) and leader of a small state. We have so much historical documentation about him and his story is captivating.

While he only arrived at the end of the wars, he was still around at one of the most important times of Japanese history. He never made it back home, but this was one Englishman who made his mark on Japanese culture. Something I hope to do.

Samurai William

By Giles Milton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An eye-opening account of the first encounter between England and Japan, by the acclaimed author of Nathaniel's Nutmeg.

In 1611, the merchants of London's East India Company received a mysterious letter from Japan, written several years previously by a marooned English mariner named William Adams. Foreigners had been denied access to Japan for centuries, yet Adams had been living in this unknown land for years. He had risen to the highest levels in the ruling shogun's court, taken a Japanese name, and was now offering his services as adviser and interpreter.

Seven adventurers were sent to Japan with orders to…


Who am I?

I am not the type of person who likes to say “you are wrong” in fact I am the type of person who likes to say “let us add this to the whole story”. When you picture Japan you do not picture: slavery, snake dancers, or even samurai removing their shoes outdoors in a gesture of politeness to a superior, you do not imagine Italian Jesuits, western traders, pirates, and Chinese samurai, but they are all a part of actual samurai life. It is my task to add those lost items to our understanding of Japan and the samurai, but of course, in addition to this, I have to correct the story of the ninja, simply because it is a false one. The shinobi as they should be known were disfigured in the 20th century and I want to reveal their true face.


I wrote...

The Book of Ninja: The Bansenshukai - Japan's Premier Ninja Manual

By Antony Cummins, Yoshie Minami,

Book cover of The Book of Ninja: The Bansenshukai - Japan's Premier Ninja Manual

What is my book about?

The Book of Ninja was penned in 1676 by a ninja known as Fujibayashi Yasutake. Born in the post-civil war era of Japan, Fujibayashi collected and combined information from the ninja clans of Iga and Koka and compiled it into one book. Known as The Bansenhukai – the many rivers which become one - it is widely considered to be the 'bible' of 'ninjutsu', the arts of the ninja. It is considered as one of the three great ninja manuals and it has long since been the main source of information in Japan.

It was not fully published in any language (even Japanese) until 2013 when my team finally finished the colossal task and produced it in English. There are sections on capturing criminals, ninja tools, night raids, making secret codes and signs, and techniques for predicting the weather and using an esoteric Buddhist system of divination.

A Canticle for Leibowitz

By Walter M. Miller, Jr.,

Book cover of A Canticle for Leibowitz

This novel is a serious, sprawling epic that, over stages, takes the reader hundreds of years into a future where the United States is recovering from the effects of a massive nuclear war. Although I didn’t find the characters especially relatable, it was still a very engrossing read that gave me a lot to think about, as it explores the cycles of civilization, war, decay, and rebuilding, that are continually reoccurring in our species’ history.

A Canticle for Leibowitz

By Walter M. Miller, Jr.,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked A Canticle for Leibowitz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the depths of the Utah desert, long after the Flame Deluge has scoured the earth clean, a monk of the Order of Saint Leibowitz has made a miraculous discovery: holy relics from the life of the great saint himself, including the blessed blueprint, the sacred shopping list, and the hallowed shrine of the Fallout Shelter.

In a terrifying age of darkness and decay, these artifacts could be the keys to mankind's salvation. But as the mystery at the core of this groundbreaking novel unfolds, it is the search itself—for meaning, for truth, for love—that offers hope for humanity's rebirth…


Who am I?

My imagination has always been captivated and fired up by reading traditional myths and fairy tales, as well science fiction. Growing up in the ’80s, I was particularly steeped in cinematic masterpieces such as Bladerunner and The Road Warrior, but I also loved reading classic sci-fi, as well as British literature, particularly the Brontes and Jane Austen. I enjoy and write speculative fiction because I believe it offers some of the best, creative ways to explore the timeless, universal truths underlying the human experience. Whether that exploration happens in subtle scenes of interpersonal interactions, or in the epic events woven in threads of dark and light across the tapestry of history, it’s all valuable and relevant.


I wrote...

Echoes Through Distant Glass

By S. Kirk Pierzchala,

Book cover of Echoes Through Distant Glass

What is my book about?

Tasked with investigating a narco-terror plot against a weakened United States, law enforcer Owen MacIntyre becomes involved with a powerful and ruthless corporate family, and is nearly killed for his efforts. But his enemies discover they have created a cyborg adversary detemined to bring their illicit biotechnology to light. Will MacIntyre’s quest for justice threaten his own humanity?

Praying Naked

By J. Francis Sj Stroud,

Book cover of Praying Naked: The Spirituality of Anthony de Mello

For over a decade, I traveled the globe giving “Awareness Seminars” with Fr. Stroud. This book is like going to one of those seminars. It’s filled with exercises and stories that enlighten and encourage. Every time I read this book a new memory and/or revelation in Awareness inspires me to continue with an open heart and mind on this beautiful path of discovery. Thank you with all my heart, Fr. Stroud.

Praying Naked

By J. Francis Sj Stroud,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In his books Awareness and The Way to Love, among others,theinternationally acclaimed spiritual guide Anthony de Mello presented an approach to spirituality that integrated the ancient traditions of the East with the psychological and philosophical perspectives of the West. Twenty years after his death, de Mello’s books continue to attract readers and his work remains a powerful influence on contemporary spiritual thought and practices. J. Francis Stroud, S.J., who helped de Mello with his hugely successful lectures, seminars, and books, has dedicated himself to keeping de Mello’s teachings alive through the de Mello Spirituality Center at Fordham University. In Praying…


Who am I?

I was introduced to meditation through a hatha yoga course I took as a college student. That’s when I first became enthralled with eastern philosophy. I studied and later taught these subjects becoming a College Professor in them. I’m also a musician and massage therapist. I consider music, meditation, yoga, massage to be beautiful healing modalities with endless transformative possibilities. My various books have been translated into French, Polish, Romanian, Spanish, Turkish, Russian, Bulgarian, and more. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Meditation (co-written with Eve Adamson) has recently become available as an audiobook on Audible.com. This book has turned thousands of people onto the meditative path and I hope it will you too.


I wrote...

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Meditation

By Joan Budilovsky, Eve Adamson,

Book cover of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Meditation

What is my book about?

In today's hectic times, it's more important than ever to learn to slow down, relax and be calm.

Whether part of religious habit or just part of a daily routine, meditation can help slow today's frenzied pace and improve feelings of good health, peace, and control. In The Complete Idiot's Guide to Meditation, Joan Budilovsky and Eve Adamson explain how easy it is to enjoy the benefits of meditation including: Simple stress-reduction techniques that make learning to meditate easier; Incorporating meditation into day-to-day situations. Common misconceptions about meditating; Special techniques from Zen to mindfulness meditation and more.

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