Friday, May 25, 2007

Catholic Literature and Books that Talk About It

Last week, my dh asked me to compile a list of Catholic literature for a high school summer reading list. After hunting through some things here at the house and searching on-line I found some really cool references that I thought I'd share here.

  • Encyclopedia of Catholic Literature, edited by Mary R. Reichardt, is a two-volume treasure trove of literature. Reichardt chose 77 works spanning from 397 a.d (Confessions by Augustine) to 1997 (Stream and the Sapphire by Levertov). She includes autobiographies, collected letters, drama, literary nonfiction, mystical/spiritual instruction, novels, poems, short stories, social/political satires and theological/philosophical writings. For each of the 77 works, she gives background on the author, synopsis of the work, themes covered and other literary information. Some of the books are not what I would have chosen and she seems to have missed a few that I think are necessary, but this is a great survey of Catholic literature throughout time.
  • For a bit broader approach, the Invitation to the Classics: A Guide to Books You've Always Wanted Read, edibted by Louise Cowan and Os Guinness, is another great reference. This volume includes classics dating back to Ancient Greece/Rome and up to the modern age. This book, although not everything is considered "Catholic", does include many books Reichardt's book omitted -- including Aquinas' Summa and Lewis' Screwtape Letters. This book is a collection of essays written by experts/known writers about the classic literature discussed.
  • Fr. Hardon's The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan takes a slightly different tack. Instead of discussing the works, he discusses the authors and then mentions "specially recommended works" by the author. He starts with the Age of Persecution and mentions authors all the way through to the Modern Age. Think of this as a Catholic "great books" program.
  • The World's Great Catholic Literature, edited by George N. Shuster, includes excerpts from over 200 works by various Catholic authors. Shuster groups these selections by "ages", showing the growth of Catholic writings and the beauty and excellence of the truth written by amazing Catholic writers. This book is a good starting place for "testing the waters" of various authors. This book has been reprinted by Roman Catholic Books.
  • A small, thin volume written by Dominican Father Peter J. Cameron deals specifically with spiritual classics. The Classics of Catholic Spirituality is filled with essays giving the reader a brief introduction to the Catholic classics such as Confessions, Little Flowers of St. Francis, Imitation of Christ and Story of a Soul. This is a wonderful little book to peruse for prayer time.
  • And then there is the new series from Loyola Press called Loyola Classics which are inexpensive, paperback reprints of some fantastic novels and other Catholic works that have long been OOP. Works in this series include: The Edge of Sadness (a Pulitizer prize winner) by Edwin O'Connor, The Keys of the Kingdom by A.J. Cronin (and made into a movie with Gregory Peck), The Devil's Advocate by Morris West, Evelyn Waugh's biography of Helena, wife of Constantius, and In This House of Brede (made into a movie starring Diana Rigg) by Rumer Godden. These are just a few of Loyola's 20+ reprints in the series.

So forget the junk and read some good books this Summer!


margot said...

Thanks Mary for sharing these resouces. I'm especially surprised and interested in the the Loyola Press classics. How wonderful they are bringing those books back in print. We should be sure and patronize them so that they know that people ARE interested in these Catholic classics.

Have you come up with a list yet?

Leonie said...

Thanks for the great list, Mary - we have the Guide to Catholic Literature and like some of the excerpts.

Anne (aussieannie) said...

I enjoyed the movie "The Keys of the Kingdom" and bought the book secondhand last year, I'll have to try to get into now!

I've tagged you for a meme - my head's spinning, it's all new - but if you are up to it the instructions are on my blog.