Past U.S. Catholic Book Club reviews

December 2021

Be Kind to Yourself

By Cindy Bunch

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From its colorful floral cover to its down-to-earth advice, Cindy Bunch’s book Be Kind to Yourself welcomes readers in and offers a place of respite from life’s busy pace. The beginning of the book asks two questions of the readers: “What’s bugging you?” and “What’s bringing you joy?” Then the book guides us in acknowledging and sitting with the hard, frustrating emotions before focusing on the little things that bring us joy throughout the day and connect us with the Bringer of All Joy.

We could all use a little self-kindness in the midst of life’s hardships, and Be Kind to Yourself helps us let go of self-criticism and experience grace. As Bunch says, “Joy awaits. Will you join the dance?”

Bri Rooke, editorial assistant, U.S. Catholic

“Self-criticism is often our default setting. But we can have a more gracious posture towards ourselves. Be kind to yourself. And discover new opportunities to embrace joy.” —InterVarsity Press

Paperback: $15.00

Available at bookstores or from InterVarsity Press at 1-(800) 843-9487 or ivpress.com.

General Book Club Guidelines

November 2021

Stumbling Into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy

By Mary Pezzulo

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Mary Pezzulo entered graduate school intending to learn how to “win souls for Christ” through a degree in philosophy. “All I had to do was stay the course and study hard,” she writes in the introduction to her new book, “and God would show me the way.”

Instead, illness put a wrench in her plans and landed her, her husband, and their infant daughter in poverty. It was then that Pezzulo realized that it’s not necessarily in a classroom where you find God but in the people around you.

Stumbling Into Grace describes how Pezzulo learned to be the light of Christ when her world seemed darkest. Each chapter centers on a different act of mercy—feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, etc.—and offers both her own experience with this act of service and concrete tips for how readers can do the same. This book offers a powerful reminder that Christ calls for us to care for one another no matter our circumstances.

Emily Sanna, managing editor, U.S. Catholic

“Despite the chronic illness, deep poverty, blatant discrimination, and cruelty that she has encountered, Mary Pezzulo shows how she learned that the smallest acts of love can lead us to God.” —Ave Maria Press

Paperback: $16.95

Available at bookstores or from Ave Maria Press at 1-(800) 282-1865 or avemariapress.com.

General Book Club Guidelines

October 2021

History’s Queen

By Mike Aquilina

If you’ve been looking for a detailed history of the church’s relationship with Mary over the years, look no further than Mike Aquilina’s History’s Queen. Not only does the book detail the biblical history of Mary beginning with Genesis, but it also explores her pivotal role throughout the centuries, touching on historical lodestones such as Byzantium, the Renaissance, the colonization of the Americas, and even the fire at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris.

Aquilina doesn’t just chronicle historical figures who pledged their lives to Mary; he also weaves in the stories of laypeople who had sightings of Mary and the words of noblemen who disagreed with Mary’s history and status. He doesn’t try to sway the readers into a particular view or style of venerating Mary but instead presents a detailed history of Theotokos and reminds readers, “Mary will be history’s Queen through [the future]. Whatever happens, she will be at the center of it.”

Bri Rooke, editorial assistant, U.S. Catholic

“Mike Aquilina shares how Mary impacted world history, not only in the Bible but also in pivotal events such as Fatima, the battle of Lepanto, and the plague.” —Ave Maria Press

Paperback: $16.95

Available at bookstores or from Ave Maria Press at 1-(800) 282-1865 or avemariapress.com.

General Book Club Guidelines

September 2021

Posting Peace: Why Social Media Divides Us and What We Can Do About It

By Douglas S. Bursch

I was disheartened this year when my cold-turkey departure from Instagram didn’t have the life-altering effect I imagined. While I wasn’t “wasting time” on social media every day, I couldn’t help feeling defeated every time I remembered that, despite my high-minded departure, toxic and polarizing conversations were still rampant online, in Catholic circles no less. In his new book, Posting Peace: Why Social Media Divides Us and What We Can Do About It, pastor and former radio host Douglas S. Bursch explores how Christians can address polarization not by mass exodus from our social media platforms but rather through an active ministry of peacemaking online. Bursch’s vision for what social media can be is a practical guide for changing the discourse of Christian communication on even the most divisive of social networks. Both lay and ordained online personalities might find Bursch’s guide a restorative and redemptive tool to rethink our online behaviors—and point them toward the gospel.

Sarah Butler Schueller, associate editor, U.S. Catholic

“Social media has become polarizing. Many of us are overwhelmed and disillusioned by endless online conflict and negativity. How did we get here, and what can we do about it?” —InterVarsity Press

Paperback: $17.00

Available at bookstores or from InterVarsity Press at 1-(800) 843-9487 or ivpress.com.

General Book Club Guidelines

August 2021

Learning to Pray

By James Martin, S.J.

There is no wrong way to pray, says Jesuit Father James Martin in his new book, Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone. And the book really is a guide for everyone. After explaining that anyone can deepen their relationship with God through prayer, Martin outlines a variety of types of prayers, from rote prayers to lectio divina to praying in nature.

Whether you have an established prayer practice or are just dipping your toes into speaking to God, this book offers something for everyone. But perhaps the most meaningful chapter in the book is the short conclusion, where Martin describes what happens after we pray. “Spiritual experiences are . . . invitations to action,” he writes. “We are meant to treasure our experiences with God, but also to use them in our active lives.”

Wherever you find God or whatever kind of prayer feeds your soul, may Martin’s book move you to open your heart to God and then to live out your faith in the world.

Emily Sanna, managing editor, U.S. Catholic

“A comprehensive guide to prayer from beloved spiritual leader and New York Times bestselling author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, Father James Martin, S.J.” —HarperOne Press

Paperback: $27.99

Available at bookstores or from HarperOne Press at 1-(800) 242-7737 or harperone.com.

General Book Club Guidelines

July 2021

#Rules_of_Engagement

By Ann M. Garrido

I don’t think I’ve ever stopped to assess my digital behavior with the intentionality and comprehensiveness instructed by Ann Garrido in #Rules_of_engagement: 8 Christian Habits for Being Good and Doing Good Online. Unlike many other social media critics, Garrido doesn’t write off the digital world as destined for debauchery. She recognizes the value that it can bring to our lives and relationships, albeit not without some concerted effort. Garrido offers straightforward tips and examples for how to achieve them. Built into each chapter is a personal audit of how you’re using your platform and space to write down observations before committing to her suggested Christian habit for improvement. Social media users of all ages can benefit from the wisdom Garrido shares for cultivating community online while protecting personal peace.

Stephanie Clary, digital editor, U.S. Catholic

“In #Rules_of_Engagement, Ann M. Garrido shares eight practical habits to help you align your activity in the digital world with the call to be Christ’s presence in the world.” —Ave Maria Press

Paperback: $13.95

Available at bookstores or from Ave Maria Press at 1-(800)-282-1865 or avemariapress.com.

General Book Club Guidelines

June 2021

Companions in the Darkness: Seven Saints that Struggled with Depression and Doubt

By Diana Gruver

Throughout church history, clergy and churchgoers alike have struggled with how to approach depression. Because it is an “invisible” illness, many suggest that if those with depression had more faith in God, then they would not suffer such anguish. However, even some well-known men and women of faith struggled with depression, such as Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, and Mother Teresa.

In Companions in the Darkness, Diana Gruver chronicles the lives of these figures and their battles with mental illness, and she shows depression to be an illness of both the mind and spirit. “Depression is a spiritual issue in the sense that everything in our lives is a spiritual issue—our habits, our thoughts, even the minutest of decisions,” she writes.

Whether you or someone you love knows the daily battle of depression, this book is an excellent tool for viewing mental illness through the lens of God’s grace.

Bri Rooke, editorial assistant, U.S. Catholic

“A look at saints who teach us valuable lessons about the experience of depression. Their lives and stories can also be a source of hope and empathy for us today.” —InterVarsity Press

Paperback: $17.00

Available at bookstores or from InterVarsity Press at 1-(800)-843-9487 or ivpress.com.

General Book Club Guidelines

May 2021

Sacred Time: Embracing an Intentional Way of Life

By Christine Valters Paintner

There never seems to be enough time to do anything. We all too often find ourselves looking back on hours, days, months—even years—and wondering, “Where did it all go?” In Sacred Time: Embracing an Intentional Way of Life, Christine Valters Paintner reexamines and reinvents the ways in which we structure and think about our time. She imagines a new world built on rest and growth rather than hurry and stagnation.

In each chapter, Valters Paintner reflects on the spiritual meaning and rhythms of different units of time. Starting off small—with just a simple breath—and gradually building up from there to days, years, lifetimes, and millennia, Sacred Time is filled to the brim with spiritual and scriptural reflections, prayerful practices, and engaging prompts for creative self-examination that will effectively guide even the most overstressed reader toward a deeper appreciation of every moment.

Nathaniel Hunter, assistant editor, U.S. Catholic

“We live in a world where there never seems to be enough time for all we want and need to do. In Sacred Time: Embracing an Intentional Way of Life, Christine Valters Paintner guides us as we move beyond our own lives and embrace a world that urges us toward rest, reflection, and growth.” —Ave Maria Press

Paperback: $16.95

Available at bookstores or from Ave Maria Press at 1-(800)-282-1865 or avemariapress.com.

General Book Club Guidelines

April 2021

Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope

By Esau McCaulley

Reading While Black weaves together biblical narratives, American culture, and African American identity through a methodic exegesis that shows how Christian scripture remains the source of hope for the Black church and community. Esau McCaulley illustrates the importance of engaging the experiences of the African American community in the interaction between the Bible and theology in order to build faith.

The book’s merit lies in its emphasis on the importance of reading and interpreting biblical narratives from one’s social location. It provides insights on how biblical texts that have been interpreted in history to oppress African Americans can be reexamined to embolden the faith of the Black community by means of contextual interpretation. Reading While Black reveals that the richness of scripture stories about God’s relationship with humanity can help any community of faith find God in their response to collective challenges and find hope by connecting their lived experiences with their faith in God.

Rev. Ferdinand Okorie, C.M.F., editor-in-chief, U.S. Catholic

“Esau McCaulley’s voice is one we urgently need to hear. This book is prophetic, biblical, measured, wise, friendly, and well-reasoned—and thus all the more hard-hitting. A powerful word for our times.” —N.T. Wright

Paperback: $20.00

Available at bookstores or from InterVarsity Press at 1-(800)-843-9487 or ivpress.com.

General Book Club Guidelines

March 2021

Secrets of the Sacred Heart

By Emily Jaminet

The devotion to the Sacred Heart has a complex history and tradition. In her new book, author and popular speaker Emily Jaminet helps shed light on how this popular yet sometimes perplexing devotion can help you. In Secrets of the Sacred Heart: Twelve Ways to Claim Jesus’ Promises in Your Life, Jaminet goes beyond the well-known story of St. Margaret Mary’s revelations, exploring Jesus’ powerful invitation in a practical and restorative guide.

Devoting a chapter to each of Jesus’ 12 promises, Jaminet guides readers to examine each promise, ponder its impact, pray, and act. Appropriate for parish book groups and self-guided retreatants alike, Jaminet’s guide will certainly inspire many to a devotion that has been a roadmap to holiness for hundreds of years.

Sarah Butler Schueller, associate editor, U.S. Catholic

Ave Maria Press says “This fresh spin on the classic Catholic devotion invites you and your family to experience the profound spiritual benefits you will receive when you keep the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the center of your home.”

Paperback: $14.95

Available at bookstores or from Ave Maria Press at 1-(800)-282-1865 or avemariapress.com.

General Book Club Guidelines

February 2021

The Center Will Hold: An Almanac of Hope, Prayer, and Wisdom for Hard Times

By Christopher de Vinck

Christopher de Vinck’s new book, The Center Will Hold: An Almanac of Hope, Prayer, and Wisdom for Hard Times, begins with a meditation on simplicity. De Vinck writes of the awe to be felt in everyday sights such as a blue jay or yellow school bus and in universal human experiences such as watching one’s child being born or one’s own father being laid to rest.

It’s a fitting start for a book that follows de Vinck through the four seasons as he shares memories that are at once relatable and deeply personal. Readers will come to feel as if they know the people and places in this book: de Vinck’s Belgian grandparents and parents; his siblings, children, and grandchild; his childhood teachers; and even his backyard raccoons and neighbor’s pumpkin patch.

A former schoolteacher and a widely published essayist, de Vinck crafts brief but profound narratives abundant with wisdom, gentleness, and joy.

René Ostberg, editorial assistant, U.S. Catholic

Loyola Press says “The Center Will Hold reminds us of life’s graces, and challenges us to embrace our experiences with hope, humor, and gratitude.”

Paperback: $16.95

Available at bookstores or from Loyola Press at 1-(800) 621-1008 or loyolapress.com.

General Book Club Guidelines

January 2021

Learning to Be: Finding Your Center After the Bottom Falls Out

By Juanita Campbell Rasmus

One morning, on a day that seemed like any other, pastor and author Juanita Campbell Rasmus was in the middle of getting her family ready for school and out the door when she collapsed. “Imagine large, strong hands slowly applying pressure to a family-sized package of uncooked spaghetti noodles,” she writes. “I was the spaghetti.”

This is what Rasmus calls “the crash” and what led to a months-long struggle with depression, fueled by burnout, compassion fatigue, trauma, and stress. In her new book, Learning to Be, Rasmus talks honestly about her battle to recover and the tools that helped her find God even in the midst of the darkness.

In each chapter, Rasmus not only details her experience but also includes resources and questions for reflection to help readers pause and, perhaps, find God in their own struggles. The book is a meaningful read for anyone who has ever experienced burnout, perfectionism, or family trauma and offers a powerful reminder that we are all beloved children of God.

Emily Sanna, managing editor, U.S. Catholic

InterVarsity Press says exhausted and depressed, Juanita Campbell Rasmus experienced a dark night of the soul. Everything in her life came to a stop. She had to learn to be—with herself and with God.

Paperback: $22.00

Available at bookstores or from InterVarsity Press at 1-(800) 843-9487 or ivpress.com

General Book Club Guidelines

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The U.S. Catholic Book Club is a collaborative project of U.S. Catholic magazine and the Catholic Book Publishers Association. The titles featured in the U.S. Catholic Book Club are selected each month by the magazine’s editors from submissions by participating book publishers. The publisher provides a paid advertising in U.S. Catholic magazine for the featured book.