The best books about purgatory

Who picked these books? Meet our 10 experts.

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

The Maze Maker

By Michael Ayrton,

Book cover of The Maze Maker

Benita Kane Jaro Author Of The Key: A Passionate Novel About Catullus

From the list on history as personal experience.

Who am I?

Benita Kane Jaro's novels are admired for their intense focus on the personal experience of historical events, and on the literature in which the participants expressed it. Her novels and translations have been featured in many academic journals, books, and papers, and cited on popular internet sites, Wikipedia, National Public Radio, major American newspapers, and lists of the best novels on Roman history in the US and abroad.

Benita's book list on history as personal experience

Discover why each book is one of Benita's favorite books.

Why did Benita love this book?

An amazing book, a completely original book, about a world emerging from the gorgeous dreams of mythology into the light of history. This "autobiography" of the mythological creator of mazes and artifacts, the father of technology, and the first human (with his son Icarus) to fly, Daedalus speaks to us across the millenia in his own voice, through the man uniquely qualified to bring it to us. Michael Ayrton was an English sculptor is the mid 20th century. He studied the techniques of his great predecessor and duplicated for the first time many of his feats, thought to be impossible. This book is a meditation on the themes of creation, innovation, and the dangerous and exalting contact of human beings with the Divine.

By Michael Ayrton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

I address you across more than three thousand years, you who live at the conjunction of the Fish and the Water-carrier, speaks Daedalus, an artisan, inventor, and designer born into an utterly alien family of heroes who value acts of war above all else, a world where his fellow Greeks seem driven only to destroy-an existence he feels compelled to escape. In this fictional autobiography of the father of Icarus, "Apollo's creature," a brilliant but flawed man, writer and sculptor Michael Ayrton harnesses the tales of the past to mold a myth for our times. We learn of Daedalus's increasingly…

The Divine Comedy

By Dante Alighieri, C.H. Sisson (translator),

Book cover of The Divine Comedy

George Kinder Author Of Life Planning for You: How to Design & Deliver the Life of Your Dreams

From the list on influences of the financial life planning movement.

Who am I?

I never wanted to have anything to do with money. I wanted to live a life of meaning in nature, of poetry, of spirit, and of relationship. The problem was that I couldn’t get anyone to pay me for it. My relationship with money from the very beginning was how can I accumulate it and manage it so I could deliver this life of freedom to myself in the shortest amount of time possible. In short, how could I “life plan” myself. I am the founder and thought leader of the life planning movement in financial advice now active in 30 cultures around the world with thousands of life planning practitioners. 

George's book list on influences of the financial life planning movement

Discover why each book is one of George's favorite books.

Why did George love this book?

Dante's Divine Comedy is an epic poem in three volumes. It's perhaps the most beautiful poetry the world has ever seen.

Read it in Italian! Even if you can't read Italian, read it in Italian. Read it out loud, and you'll see what I mean. The language is so beautiful. Then read it in translation.

In it, Dante describes three worlds. The inferno is hell. An intermediate world called purgatory represents the hardest efforts that we make to be good people on Earth. The third volume is paradise.

The entire book was a huge influence on my early writing, which launched the life planning movement. My first book was divided into three segments: Childhood (inferno), Adulthood (purgatory), and Maturity (paradise), representing “the hero’s journey.”

By Dante Alighieri, C.H. Sisson (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Described variously as the greatest poem of the European Middle Ages and, because of the author's evangelical purpose, the `fifth Gospel', the Divine Comedy is central to the culture of the west. The poem is a spiritual autobiography in the form of a journey - the poet travels from the dark circles of the Inferno, up the mountain of Purgatory, where Virgil, his guide leaves him to encounter Beatrice in the Earthly Paradise. Dante conceived the poem as the
new epic of Christendom, and he creates a world in which reason and faith have transformed moral and social chaos into…

Where the Rhythm Takes You

By Sarah Dass, Sarah Dass,

Book cover of Where the Rhythm Takes You

Erica George Author Of The Edge of Summer

From the list on YA romances set during the summer.

Who am I?

Growing up, I always loved reading young adult romances where first love and growing up seemed like the perfect kind of summer story. As an adult, and especially as an educator, I have too often seen the likes and interests of my female students dismissed as silly or frivolous, romance being at the top of this list. I love cultivating a diverse classroom library, one that includes books for everyone’s interest and background. Writing stories for young readers and about what interests them has been the great privilege of my life.

Erica's book list on YA romances set during the summer

Discover why each book is one of Erica's favorite books.

Why did Erica love this book?

Set on the island of Tobago, Where the Rhythm Takes You is a modern take on Jane Austen’s classic romance, Persuasion. Say no more! Seventeen-year-old Reyna helps her father run their seaside resort all while dealing with the death of her mother and missing her former best friend (and first kiss), Aidan. Little does she know that Aidan is about to make a comeback, and he’s not at all like Reyna remembers him. If you love summer vibes, Jane Austen retellings, and friends to lovers, this is the book for you!

By Sarah Dass, Sarah Dass,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Where the Rhythm Takes You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Inspired by Jane Austen's Persuasion, Where the Rhythm Takes You is a romantic, mesmerizing novel of first love and second chances.

Seventeen-year-old Reyna has spent most of her life at the Plumeria, her family's gorgeous seaside resort in Tobago. But what once seemed like paradise is starting to feel more like purgatory. It's been two years since Reyna's mother passed away, two years since Aiden-her childhood best friend, first kiss, first love, first everything-left the island to pursue his music dreams.

Reyna's friends are all planning their futures and heading abroad. Even Daddy seems to want to move on, leaving…

The Circle of Hanh

By Bruce Weigl,

Book cover of The Circle of Hanh: A Memoir

F. Scott Service Author Of Playing Soldier

From the list on emotional conflict and post-war survival.

Who am I?

Living through the Iraq War compelled me to honestly challenge who I was, what I had believed in, and reshape who I am. One aspect to emerge from that is the belief that there is no good war. War is the worst of all endeavors, born from fundamentally weak minds that are blind to imagination and vision. But while I have had a passion for writing about war and speaking out against it, I feel it’s important for people to look beyond my work as just another veteran writing just another war book. In both of my books, the war is a character more than anything else. 

F.'s book list on emotional conflict and post-war survival

Discover why each book is one of F.'s favorite books.

Why did F. love this book?

This is a story of new beginnings and it shook my preconceived notions of what a memoir embodies. By going back to Vietnam years after the war, the author illustrates how love and time can change our opinions… that hate is the easy way out… that differences can allow us to understand how truly precious we all are… that we can come full circle, out of the darkness and into the light.

By Bruce Weigl,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With all the breathtaking imagery and lyric fury that characterizes his acclaimed poetry, Bruce Weigl recounts his struggles in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, which tore his life apart and in return gave him his poetic voice. Upon his release from duty he turned to alcohol, drugs, and women, living for years in a confused purgatory until he discovered salvation in poetry and in the love of his wife and their son. Yet it was only through a harrowing journey back to Vietnam, to adopt his eight-year-old daughter, that Weigl was finally able to heal himself. Moving from childhood…

Jimbo in Purgatory

By Gary Panter,

Book cover of Jimbo in Purgatory

R. Sikoryak Author Of Terms and Conditions

From the list on graphics that adapt classic texts into comics.

Who am I?

I’ve been reading and making comics since I was a young kid. I’m very interested in the history of comics, and I love to see new combinations of content and form. My own graphic novels, such as Constitution Illustrated and Masterpiece Comics, use parody and pastiche to comment on and reinterpret historical and contemporary texts. I’m charmed by the earnest retelling of literature in old comic book series like Classics Illustrated, but I’m much more excited to see graphic novels that dig deep into texts and reinvent them in idiosyncratic ways.

R.'s book list on graphics that adapt classic texts into comics

Discover why each book is one of R.'s favorite books.

Why did R. love this book?

A wild reimagining of Dante’s Purgartorio featuring Gary Panter’s character Jimbo, a punk everyman he created in the 1970s. Panter is known for drawings that are organic, energetic, and intense, and here his oversized page designs are especially concentrated, decorative, and hypnotic. His commitment and obsession are palpable, and there’s a lot to unpack and explore. While following the outlines of Dante’s story, Panter mixes in literary and pop culture references (from Aristophanes to Frank Zappa) to immerse you in his world. 

By Gary Panter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this spectacular graphic novel, Panter has transformed his protean punk hero Jimbo into the protagonist of a reinterpretation of Dante's Purgatorio. After years of comparing Dante and Boccaccio to find commonalities between the two, Panter developed a narrative of his own that includes literary and pop references regularly injected throughout the captions of the reinterpreted cantos.

The Blue Tower

By J.B. Simmons,

Book cover of The Blue Tower

Anna Travis Author Of The Pillar of Light

From the list on to set your faith on fire.

Who am I?

I first fell into fantasy through the pages of Narnia. I loved the fantastic, the possibility, the idea that there was so much more than just what was accepted by all the “normal” people. I was always an oddity in school, and I felt far more at home in the books that swept me away, as if there, even amidst the danger, I could be myself. The books on my list are books that built me up and challenged me to be true to live for what is right and noble.

Anna's book list on to set your faith on fire

Discover why each book is one of Anna's favorite books.

Why did Anna love this book?

This book was an interesting challenge to my personal view of what happens right after death. It was really amazing the way the author wove Biblical characters into a story populated with modern and historical people, many of whom had forgotten who they really are. 

While The Blue Tower did not change my mind about whether or not purgatory is real, it was a fun, clean, ride with a strong theme of redemption.

By J.B. Simmons,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Five towers. Five colors. One way out.

Cipher wakes up in the Blue Tower with no memories of his former life. He discovers that he is not alone. Dozens of boys and girls must compete in a battle called the Scouring against four other towers--Red, Green, Yellow, and Black--each with its own rules and powers.

In his first Scouring, Cipher captures Emma, a girl from Yellow, whose memories from Victorian England move Cipher to uncover his own past. He must learn who he was before he can figure out why he's here...and how to get out.