The 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge

It’s the start of a new year, and that means it’s time to make some new reading goals for 2017! True confessions: I get a little bit excited scrolling through Feedly posts with titles like “Reading Challenge for 2017” or “The Best Books I Read Last Year.” So I am making my own reading list (with coffee cup in hand — double the happy), and I have a challenge of my own to share with you guys: The 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge.

What do you say? You want to read more in 2017? You want read to broaden your Catholic perspective? You want to read some authors that you might not pick for yourself? If so, then here’s the deal. The challenge is to read 12 books in 2017. I’m giving you the authors (with a few exceptions), and you get to pick the specific books. I have also included a mix of literary works and theology/spirituality. If an author is totally new to you, no worries, I have suggestions on where to start. Oh, and by the way, you certainly don’t need to be Catholic to enjoy this reading challenge. Here’s the list:


A book by Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger)

He’s so good — whether it’s his writing as Pope or as Ratzinger. A classic work would be Introduction to Christianity, but you wouldn’t go wrong with anything you pick. My husband is currently reading Eschatology: Death and Eternal life, which a couple of priests told him might be Benedict’s best work.

A short story by Flannery O’Conner

Many people aren’t really familiar with Flannery’s writing beyond the short story they read in Lit class, but she is a master at her craft. Her writing will shock you…but that’s the point of her style. If you are new to her, you might enjoy a recent Fountains of Carrots podcast where Haley and Christy discuss “Why We Love Flannery O’Conner and Why You Should Too.”

A novel by a Catholic author

There are lots to choose from here…Walker Percy, Flannery O’Conner, Graham Greene, Tolkien, Evelyn Waugh, Sigrid Undset…so this list might help you. I’m starting with Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter this year.

A book by C. S. Lewis or G. K. Chesterton

Two quick points: (1) I almost gave both these men their own category…so if you want an extra challenge, read both! Orthodoxy and Mere Christianity make a lovely pair. (2) No, Lewis is not Catholic, but that is entirely irrelevant. You must read him, for he is wonderful. There is really no picking a book you won’t enjoy with these two.

A book by Scott Hahn

Hahn is an accessible theologian, gifted Bible scholar, and delightful teacher. He reads his own books on Audible too. Some of my friends actually got to be taught by him in college at Franciscan University of Steubenville, and that makes me a bit envious. I just recently finished The Lamb’s Supper, and it has greatly impacted my perspective when I participate in the Mass.

A book by Bishop Robert Barron

Barron’s Catholicism video series had a big impact on our journey to Catholicism, and he has a book by the same name. He has many great titles. My husband has been recommending his book on Thomas Aquinas to me.

A Catholic memoir or autobiography

Again, lots to choose from here. This could be anything from Augustine’s Confessions or St. Therese’s Story of a Soul to Fulton Sheen’s Treasure in Clay or Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain.

An encyclical from one of the last three popes (Francis, Benedict XVI, or John Paul II)

Obviously you are going to be educated and exhorted by reading any of these popes. However, it might be good advice to pick an encyclical from the pope you know least.

A book by one of the 33 Doctors of the Church

This is a pretty exclusive list, and these men and women have tremendously blessed the Church with their writing. Some might be easier to read than others, but all of them have contributed important things. Here again, you might want to pick an author you don’t know very well.

Something written by one of the early Church Fathers

If you have no idea who to pick, then flip to the index of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and start looking up some names. You might get inspired when you discover what these Church Fathers have contributed to church doctrine and tradition.

A book on Catholic spirituality written more than 100 years ago

Catholicism has such a rich history of spiritual writing and practices, and we are often missing out on it because we don’t read enough old books. This category is important, so pick one. It doesn’t have to be Aquinas’s Summa. Fr. De Caussade’s classic Abandonment to Divine Providence is short and so very applicable to our lives today.

A book by a female saint

You could easily read more men than women in the various categories above. So this is to balance the scales and make sure that you don’t miss out on some of the greats: Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, Edith Stein, St. Therese, etc.

Okay, that’s the list! Here’s a printable of it, if you’d like. Please post some of your own recommendations for these categories in the comments, if you have some. From time to time throughout the year, I may be blogging on a book I’m reading from each of these categories; be sure that you are signed up for my emails so that you don’t miss those posts. Happy reading in 2017!