The best books about saints

2 authors have picked their favorite books about saints and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

Helena

By Evelyn Waugh,

Book cover of Helena

Helena is Evelyn Waugh’s most overlooked novel but it is my favourite. I love it for how Waugh depicts Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constatine, but what raises it to a place in any best-of list is a passage of writing that ranks as Waugh’s best - and he sets a very high bar for himself. Towards the end of the book Helena prays for her salvation but, reading it, we realise that Waugh is praying for his own salvation too, for those “who have had a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation… of all who stand in danger by reason of their talents.” 


Who am I?

I am a writer and historian, specialising in the early-Medieval period and the fractious but fruitful encounter between the Christian and Islamic worlds. My fiction is informed by my non-fiction work: it’s a great help to have written actual histories of Northumbria in collaboration with some of the foremost archaeologists working on the period. I regard my work as the imaginative application of what we can learn through history to stories and the books I have selected all do this through the extraordinarily varied talents of their authors. I hope you will enjoy them!


I wrote...

Edwin: High King of Britain

By Edoardo Albert,

Book cover of Edwin: High King of Britain

What is my book about?

The first of the Northumbrian Thrones trilogy, Edwin: High King of Britain tells how the exiled king of Northumbria, hunted by his enemies, regains his throne. But in the fractured world of 7th-century Britain, there are many men seeking power, and to be a king is to lead a short and violent life. As the High King, Edwin seeks answers to the questions that torment him: his purpose, his destiny, and his end.

Bernard Cornwell said of Edwin: High King of Britain: ‘A splendid novel that leaves the reader wanting more.’

Inferno

By Holly S. Roberts,

Book cover of Inferno: Desert Mafia

Out of all my recommendations, this one is a true mafia romance in the Hotter Than Hell series. But make no mistake, this isn’t the typical mafia romance where the hot/rich/dangerous guy comes in and sweeps the virgin/young/beautiful girl off her feet into a glamourous life where she’s pampered, but never loses her “I’m just a down-to-earth kinda gal” personality. I’ve met Ms. Roberts personally, and know she’s worked as a sex crime detective in real life, which has enabled her to bring some of those experiences to her books. While she never shies away from the hard stuff, she also never glorifies violence, and instead focuses on the emotional aftermath of trauma and the message that love really can conquer all.


Who am I?

I’ve been reading romance since before dirt was old—(okay, I’m not actually that old, but some days I feel like it)—and I have a deep belief that romances can be our shining light in a sometimes very dark world. Which is why when I wrote my own stories, my very first editorial letter started out with, “Wow, you really like to torture your characters.” I wanted to create genuine characters that make mistakes, mess up, and sometimes are their own worst enemy but you still want to root for them. My list of books on Heroines That Won’t Get Nominated For Sainthood will take you on a journey far more interesting than sainthood—the human experience.


I wrote...

Mi Familia: Part 1

By K.C. Klein,

Book cover of Mi Familia: Part 1

What is my book about?

My life could be every episode of Cops. Kicked out of the trailer by my stripper mother with an angry drug dealer hot on my trail. I’m outta gas and outta money and stuck in a crap-hole bar too close to the Mexican border. Yeah, nothing could go wrong with this picture. But I’ve gotta plan—hustle money out of the losers at the pool tables or five-finger discount some fat wallets, and then back on the road before anything else in my life implodes.

Too late. Meet Jack. Designer jeans. Bulging wallet. Perfect pick-pocket material. Until I follow him into the men’s bathroom and learn he’s playing his own game. Dark, dangerous, and involved with the mob, Jack’s everything I hate...and in this family, I’m the weakness he can’t afford to have. 

Black Saints in Early Modern Global Catholicism

By Erin Kathleen Rowe,

Book cover of Black Saints in Early Modern Global Catholicism

This brand-new, prize-winning book is a gorgeous synthesis of some of the most important trends in current Iberian studies. Early modern empire-building, missionary efforts, and the African slave trade fostered a new cult of black saints, which Rowe documents through stunning photography from tiny and forgotten churches across the peninsula. In focusing on black saints and their devotees—a largely understudied part of early modern Catholic culture—Rowe not only centers and elevates the diverse and often marginalized individuals who shaped global Catholicism, but also emphasizes important conversations about race and inclusion in early modern society.


Who am I?

I was a stubborn teenager, and growing up, I vocally declared I would never set foot in Spain. The Spanish Empire was oppressive! It was full of religious fanatics! Yet… in college I took a course on Spain’s Golden Age, and for the first time I saw a different side of history, full of paradoxes and contradictions, Inquisitors and female mystics, bumbling priests and powerful nuns, decadence and poverty, emperors, tricksters, artists, pirates, scientists, and everything in between. Spain of the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries was extraordinarily complex and far from one-dimensional. Now, years later, I have travelled to Spain over twenty times, lived in Pamplona, and I am a historian of early modern Spain at Penn State University.


I wrote...

The Basque Seroras: Local Religion, Gender, and Power in Northern Iberia, 1550-1800

By Amanda Scott,

Book cover of The Basque Seroras: Local Religion, Gender, and Power in Northern Iberia, 1550-1800

What is my book about?

The Catholic Church in Early Modern Spain is often perceived as repressive and inflexible. In this book, I focus on how religious reform played out at the local level, and particularly on how women became the catalysts for negotiation and moderation. The Basque seroras were uncloistered lay religious women, hired and regulated much like the male clergy, whose central role in local religious life meant that they managed to survive in a world that technically left little room for deviation. The contradictions of their life and work revises how we think about the limitations placed on early modern women, and illuminates a world in which women wielded considerable religious authority.

Saint Joan

By Bernard Shaw,

Book cover of Saint Joan

Although written as a play, it has a foreword detailing its subject—the life of Joan of Arc. Joan was the inspiration and much-admired heroine of Rebecca Roberts in my own book. Based closely on the Inquisition records, it has very moving moments, whether read or performed as a play.

Who am I?

As Rebecca Roberts in Apocalypse was an ancestor whose achievements have been largely ignored-maybe because of gender-it seemed to be time to redress the balance. A female author may have done the job better, but none stepped forward at the time and Hollywood screenwriter K.Lewis was keen to write a screenplay, requiring a concept screenplay outline as a guide. It was that which later became the 1st Edition of Apocalypse.


I wrote...

Apocalypse, Third Edition

By Paul Camster,

Book cover of Apocalypse, Third Edition

What is my book about?

Based on real events-Rebecca Roberts (aka Becca the Vampyre Slayer) takes on the section of Prince Rupert`s army known as The Vampyre Legion, which is sent to capture the west coast so that its commander-Lord Capel-can land a huge army and conquer all before him. On the way, Becca undergoes multiple attempts on her life.

Hild

By Nicola Griffith,

Book cover of Hild

There is an immediacy and specificity in Griffith’s descriptions of 7th century Anglo-Saxon Britain that completely immersed me in that unfamiliar time and place. She uses language like a magic wand to create a world that is hard and cold and dangerous. Life is peripatetic; 'home' is a concept rather than a place; days revolve around the laborious tasks that keep a people alive; years spin through the seasons of sowing, harvesting, feasting, and warring.

All is seen through the bright mind of Hild, a historical figure and a child when the book opens. Throughout, she is canny and quick, seeing much and saying little. We would call her a prodigy; the Anglo-Saxons called her a saint. Griffith has brought her to life. I was mesmerized.


Who am I?

Ever since childhood I’ve been fascinated by the history of England, and fifteen years ago I made the decision to write a series of novels set before the Norman Conquest. Since then I’ve immersed myself in the history of that period and made numerous visits to the locations where I set my novels. I’ve been frustrated though by the enormous gaps in the historical records of that time, in particular the lack of information about the women. Because of that I am drawn to the work of authors who, like me, are attempting to resurrect and retell the lost stories of those remarkable women. 


I wrote...

The Steel Beneath the Silk

By Patricia Bracewell,

Book cover of The Steel Beneath the Silk

What is my book about?

In the year 1012 England’s Norman-born Queen Emma has been ten years wed to an aging, ruthless, haunted King Æthelred. The marriage is a bitterly unhappy one, between a queen who seeks to create her own sphere of influence within the court and a suspicious king who eyes her efforts with hostility and resentment. But royal discord shifts to grudging alliance when Cnut of Denmark, with the secret collusion of his English concubine Elgiva, invades England at the head of a massive Viking army. Amid the chaos of war, Emma must outwit a fierce enemy whose goal is conquest and outmaneuver the cunning Elgiva, who threatens all those whom Emma loves.

Voices

By David Elliott,

Book cover of Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc

In Voices, David Elliott uses formal verse to explore the last hours that Joan of Arc lived. Told from multiple points of view, including the voice of the flame that will burn Joan at the stake, Elliott chooses specific poetic forms to reflect fundamental truths about the different characters. All forms of verse in the book were popular during Joan’s actual lifetime, and Elliott provides an interesting author’s note at the back of the book. Aside from being a poetic tour de force, Voices is a true page-turner, and readers will root for Joan to triumph over her enemies, even as they dread the inevitable outcome.

Who am I?

I am a poet and author living and writing in Northern Colorado. I love reading (and writing) novels in verse because they invite the reader into an active relationship with the author-poet. The story is co-created through mutual trust and imagination: the reader has to trust the author to provide enough language to reveal the narrative, and the author has to trust the reader to fill in details left by the white space on the page. Through this mutual effort and creative collaboration, dazzling stories emerge.


I wrote...

Alone

By Megan E. Freeman,

Book cover of Alone

What is my book about?

Perfect for fans of Hatchet and the I Survived series, this harrowing novel in verse tells the story of a young girl who wakes up one day to find herself utterly alone in her small Colorado town. When twelve-year-old Maddie hatches a scheme for a secret sleepover with her two best friends, she ends up waking up to a nightmare. She’s alone—left behind in a town that has been mysteriously evacuated and abandoned. As months pass, Maddie escapes natural disasters, looters, and wild animals. But her most formidable enemy is the crushing loneliness she faces every day. Can Maddie’s stubborn will to survive carry her through the most frightening experience of her life?

Citadel of God

By Louis de Wohl,

Book cover of Citadel of God: A Novel about Saint Benedict

This is primarily a novel about the life of Saint Benedict. Several minor miracles occur through his acts of faith; he becomes convinced that he is to establish an alternative society in the form of a chain of monasteries – Citadels of God; he despises the rampant political intrigues and the lures of worldly success; and he has a significant influence on several important historical characters. Secondary plots somewhat distract from the main theme.

This book gave me very helpful insights into the political and religious life in the Roman Empire in the first half of the sixth century and paints a very impressive picture of the saint and his passion to serve God wholeheartedly.


Who am I?

A yearning for a happy and meaningful life, as well as struggles with fear, guilt, and unfulfilled wishes, are common to mankind of all ages. My books combine historical and fictional characters to address such timeless spiritual issues from a Christian perspective. During a hiking tour of the Isle of Elba, I discovered the cave where the saintly 6th-century hermit San Cerbone lived in exile. Researching his life inspired me to write a work of historical fiction about that colourful character’s interactions with Silvanus, an unhappy local lad who longs to escape but finds new priorities.


I wrote...

Aquila: Can Silvanus Escape That God?

By Vince Rockston,

Book cover of Aquila: Can Silvanus Escape That God?

What is my book about?

Silvanus is angry. Perplexed. And afraid. Angry that his dad made him undertake such a precarious trek. Perplexed about the future. And afraid of the fearful stone god, Aquila the Avenger, who haunts him wherever he goes. His dream? Escape the little isle of Ilva and discover the wide world.

What supernatural power is it that brings him instead to old Cerbonius’ cave? And how will this exiled bishop’s uncanny wisdom shape the lad’s future? Good fortune, villainy, heart-searching, romance, and inspired counsel lead Silvanus to make life-changing choices.

The Story of a Soul

By Thérèse Of Lisieux, Michael Day (translator),

Book cover of The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux

Let’s take things in a different direction with Story of a Soul, the spiritual autobiography of a French nun who died in cloistered obscurity in 1897 at the age of 24. Like a lot of people, I was initially skeptical about what wisdom this sheltered, middle-class young woman would have to offer; at first blush, her piety seemed conventional and old-fashioned. But the more I read, the more she won me over: underneath the sometimes-flowery language I discovered a fierce passion (all those exclamation marks!), a refreshing forthrightness, and cunning wisdom that actually subverts conventional piety with its “littleness.” Story of a Soul isn’t an instruction manual; rather, it’s the very personal, joyful account of one young woman’s “little way” to Jesus—a way so simple, anyone can follow it.


Who am I?

Sometimes I wonder how I ended up writing so many books about spirituality and religion. I started out in journalism, after all, driven by an endless curiosity about people and the planet. I wanted to tell all the untold stories! Funny thing, chasing those stories deeper and deeper eventually led me to write about spirituality, and ultimately, prayer. I picked up an MA in pastoral ministry, spent a few years editing high school religion textbooks for Saint Mary’s Press, and then started writing my own books. Most of what I write is aimed at helping beginners learn to pray, which is why I made this list.


I wrote...

Imagine You Walked with Jesus: A Guide to Ignatian Contemplative Prayer

By Jerry Windley-Daoust,

Book cover of Imagine You Walked with Jesus: A Guide to Ignatian Contemplative Prayer

What is my book about?

What would it be like to walk with Jesus along the roads and seashores of ancient Palestine…to eat with him, to hear his words, to witness his miracles? For centuries, Christians have “walked with Jesus” through the practice of imaginative prayer. Imagine You Walked with Jesus is your guide to this ancient method of prayer, taking you on a journey through forty Gospel-based encounters with Jesus, from his birth to his resurrection. With the help of the Holy Spirit, you'll immerse yourself in each scene, interacting with Jesus just as his contemporaries did two thousand years ago. And like those men and women of ancient Palestine, you might find these intimate encounters with Jesus leave you forever changed, in ways both healing and hopeful.

Outliers

By Kate L. Mary,

Book cover of Outliers

I started reading this book on the plane on vacation, and that was it. I couldn’t put it down. I read the entire series in just a few days and still remember being impressed with how the author wasn’t afraid to break some of the typical tropes usually found in genre fiction. As an author, I believe there’s a fine line between making your characters powerless over their circumstances, perhaps even hopeless at times, but never weak. I think Ms. Mary did this exceptionally well.


Who am I?

I’ve been reading romance since before dirt was old—(okay, I’m not actually that old, but some days I feel like it)—and I have a deep belief that romances can be our shining light in a sometimes very dark world. Which is why when I wrote my own stories, my very first editorial letter started out with, “Wow, you really like to torture your characters.” I wanted to create genuine characters that make mistakes, mess up, and sometimes are their own worst enemy but you still want to root for them. My list of books on Heroines That Won’t Get Nominated For Sainthood will take you on a journey far more interesting than sainthood—the human experience.


I wrote...

Mi Familia: Part 1

By K.C. Klein,

Book cover of Mi Familia: Part 1

What is my book about?

My life could be every episode of Cops. Kicked out of the trailer by my stripper mother with an angry drug dealer hot on my trail. I’m outta gas and outta money and stuck in a crap-hole bar too close to the Mexican border. Yeah, nothing could go wrong with this picture. But I’ve gotta plan—hustle money out of the losers at the pool tables or five-finger discount some fat wallets, and then back on the road before anything else in my life implodes.

Too late. Meet Jack. Designer jeans. Bulging wallet. Perfect pick-pocket material. Until I follow him into the men’s bathroom and learn he’s playing his own game. Dark, dangerous, and involved with the mob, Jack’s everything I hate...and in this family, I’m the weakness he can’t afford to have. 

Sainthood in the Later Middle Ages

By André Vauchez, Jean Birrell (translator),

Book cover of Sainthood in the Later Middle Ages

One of the most exciting areas of research and publication in medieval history over the last few generations has been the cult of the saints. A landmark was Peter Brown’s slim but fundamental The Cult of the Saints (1981), an effervescent essay on the origins of the veneration of saints in the Late Antique period. In the same year a very different book appeared, the French original of Vauchez’s enormous and comprehensive study of Christian saints in Latin (western) Christendom, the heart of which was an analysis of the 71 people who were proposed for papal canonization in the period 1198-1431 (only half of them made it). By limiting himself in this way, Vauchez was able to ask statistical questions, demonstrating that as time went on, canonized saints became more female and more lay, as well as pointing out the geography and chronology of sanctity. A monumental achievement.


Who am I?

I have had an interest in the Middle Ages as long as I can remember. In boyhood, this took the form of model knights, trips to castles, and a huge body of writing about an imaginary medieval country called Rulasia. Later it was disciplined by the study of the real medieval world, in particular by finding an ideal subject for my doctoral dissertation in Gerald of Wales, a prolific and cantankerous twelfth-century cleric, whose writings on Ireland and Wales, on saints and miracles, and on the Angevin kings (Henry II, Richard the Lionheart and John), were the ultimate inspiration for my own books on medieval colonialism, the cult of the saints and medieval dynasties.


I wrote...

Blood Royal: Dynastic Politics in Medieval Europe

By Robert Bartlett,

Book cover of Blood Royal: Dynastic Politics in Medieval Europe

What is my book about?

Throughout medieval Europe, for hundreds of years, monarchy was the way that politics worked in most countries. This meant power was in the hands of a family - a dynasty; that politics was family politics; and political life was shaped by the births, marriages, and deaths of the ruling family. How did the dynastic system cope with female rule, or pretenders to the throne? How did dynasties use names, the numbering of rulers, and the visual display of heraldry to express their identity? And why did some royal families survive and thrive, while others did not?

This history of dynastic power in Latin Christendom and Byzantium explores the role played by family dynamics and family consciousness in the politics of the royal and imperial dynasties.

Or, view all 14 books about saints

New book lists related to saints

All book lists related to saints

Bookshelves related to saints