USC 2019 Book Club

2019 Reviews

December 2019

Small Simple Ways: An Ignatian Daybook for Healthy Spiritual Living

by Vinita Hampton Wright

Work, laundry, groceries . . . it’s not always easy to grow closer to God when a missing sock and a half-completed grocery list compete for my attention. This is why I’m excited about a much-needed new daybook by author, editor, and retreat leader Vinita Hampton Wright. Small Simple Ways is a perfect guide for finding God in everything, every day. And while the book might be as practical as its title indicates, its results can be profound.

For 52 weeks, Monday to Sunday, Wright details clear ways to inspire and challenge your spirit. Each four-week chapter has its own spiritual focus based on the teachings of St. Ignatius, such as “The Examen” and “God in All Things.” Simply open this book once a day and a prayer, meditation, or exercise, followed by one suggestion for action, will help you grow each day with God. If you want to develop and maintain healthy spiritual living in the new year, Wright’s day-book is a perfect companion.

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

Loyola Press says Vinita Hampton Wright’s 52 weeks of guided reflections help you discover “God in all things,” recognize the graces of the day, and take simple, powerful steps to grow in faith, hope, and love.

Paperback: $14.95

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

General Book Club Guidelines

November 2019 

Thea Bowman: Faithful and Free

by Maurice J. Nutt

Before I started reading Thea Bowman: Faithful and Free, a new biography by Maurice J. Nutt, the number of facts I knew about Sister Thea could be counted on one hand: I knew that she had worked for the greater inclusion of black Catholics, that she had died of cancer in the 1990s, and that there is talk of considering her for sainthood. After reading Nutt’s book, I am in awe of this woman who had such a phenomenal impact on the church she loved. 

The book chronicles one woman’s journey from being Bertha Bowman, a curious little girl growing up in Canton, Mississippi, to Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Thea Bowman, beloved teacher, preacher, friend, and advocate for racial justice who, as Nutt writes, “was like no other person—and certainly no other nun—you would ever meet!” It is a must-read for anyone interested in the black Catholic experience or in learning more about this role model in faith and love.

Emily Sanna, managing editor, U.S. Catholic

Liturgical Press says get to know the passion and prayer, the mission and ministry of one of American Catholicism’s most inspiring figures.

Paperback: $16.95

Available at bookstores or from Liturgical Press at 1-(800) 858-5450 or

General Book Club Guidelines

October 2019 


by Gary Jansen

Making lasting change in your life can be overwhelming. Even when you know what changes you’d like to make, you might get stuck figuring out how to find the time. Gary Jansen has a solution in his new book, MicroShifts

Jansen defines “microshifts” as small life changes you can institute every day (he suggests setting aside 15 minutes) to achieve lasting spiritual transformation. His theory is that starting out with baby step-sized changes is not only easier to commit to, but can also add up to breaking stale life patterns and reshaping your perspective for good. Examples of microshifts include keeping your daily prayers short and practicing having “no opinion” instead of judging yourself and others. 

Along with these suggestions, Jansen provides relatable experiences from his own life and offers the teaching of St. Ignatius, who spoke of seeking the sacred in all things, as proof positive of the transformative potential of microshifts.

—René Ostberg, editorial assistant, U.S. Catholic

Loyola Press says: “If you are looking for steps to improve your life that are achievable, sustainable, and life-changing, Gary Jansen’s MicroShifts is a powerful place to begin.”

Paperback: $14.95

Available at bookstores or from Loyola Press at (800) 621-1008 or

General Book Club Guidelines

September 2019 

Learning from Henri Nouwen and Vincent van Gogh: A Portrait of the Compassionate Life

by Carol A. Berry

What do Henri Nouwen and Vincent van Gogh have in common? Well, in addition to their Dutch heritage they share an immense capacity for compassion, according to Carol A. Berry, author of Learning from Henri Nouwen and Vincent van Gogh: A Portrait of the Compassionate Life.

Berry, a student of Nouwen’s during his time teaching at Yale Divinity School, intertwines teachings from Nouwen on compassion with the artwork of van Gogh. Berry provides details of both figures’ lives and work that she gathered while a student in Nouwen’s classroom. She brings to life the words of both Nouwen and van Gogh, illuminating Nouwen’s fascination with the artist and the solidarity he felt with van Gogh during particularly hard times in his life. This book is a must-read for lovers of art and those looking to deepen their own compassion.

Shanna Johnson, assistant editor, U.S. Catholic

InterVarsity Press says: “Art educator Carol A. Berry shares how Henri Nouwen and Vincent van Gogh, each in his own way, led her to the richness and beauty of the compassionate life.”

Paperback: $22.00

Available at bookstores or from InterVarsity Press at (800) 843-9487 or

General Book Club Guidelines

August 2019 

Girl, Arise!

by Claire Swinarski

“Is it possible to be both a Catholic and a feminist?” Creator of The Catholic Feminist podcast Claire Swinarski navigates the relationship between these two identities in Girl, Arise!, and—spoiler alert—her answer is an emphatic yes. In fact, Swinarski argues that if you’re Catholic, you really should be a feminist too. In this bold and honest exploration of what Catholic feminism means to her, Swinarski—drawing from scripture, saints, and the catechism—easily connects faith with feminism. And whether you consider yourself a Benedict or a Francis (and Swinarski would rather you did neither), Girl, Arise! leaves us with a welcome reminder that we should be wary of stereotypes—because “Catholic feminists believe in uplifting other women, even those who make us want to roll our eyes.” 

Sarah Butler, associate editor, U.S. Catholic

Ave Maria Press says In Girl, Arise!, Claire Swinarski shows it’s possible to be both Catholic and a feminist by empowering women to embrace their God-given abilities, serve others, and ultimately change the world.

Paperback: $14.95

Available at bookstores or from Ave Maria Press at (800) 282-1865 or

General Book Club Guidelines

July 2019
Notre Dame vs. The Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defied the KKK

by Todd Tucker 

When I think of Notre Dame I do not think of the Ku Klux Klan. Rather, I visualize the golden dome that rises above the campus,the Fighting Irish logo, and the deep blue jerseys of the football players. Now, however, after reading Todd Tucker’s Notre Dame vs.The Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defied the KKK, I may think instead of the university’s mission to challenge the racist organization.Tucker is a master storyteller and historian, following the events that transpired in South Bend, Indiana on May 17–19, 1924. For readers with little historical context of the time, the author tells the tale of the Klan’s rally at Notre Dame through the experiences of the former leader of the Indiana chapter of the KKK, the president of the university, and several individuals who were students at the time. Though Indiana had the largest Klan membership in the United States in 1924, Tucker brings to light the riveting and little-known story of how Notre Dame, and the Catholics who lived in the area, fought back against evil.

—Shanna Johnson, assistant editor, U.S. Catholic

University of Notre Dame Press says this uplifting story set in 1924, when the Ku Klux Klan rallied inSouth Bend, Indiana, and came to blows with the “Fighting Irish” of Notre Dame, gives hope to our own challenging times.

Paperback: $20.00

Available at bookstores or from Notre Dame Press at 1(800) 848-6224 or

General Book Club Guidelines

June 2019

Being Human: Bodies, Minds, Persons

by Rowan Williams

What does it mean to be a person? This is one of the questions Rowan Williams seeks to answer in his new book, Being Human: Bodies, Minds, Persons.

The book draws on fields as diverse as psychology, neuroscience, and theology to reflect on what it means to be human in today’s world. While Williams acknowledges that “there are grounds for being a bit concerned about our current models of life,” he ends the book with a meditation on how Christ’s ascension brings humanity in all its brokenness to be part of God.
Despite the fact that this book asks deep and profound questions about what it means to be human and humans’ relationship to God, you don’t have to be a professional theologian to enjoy it. Williams’ engaging writing style and the use of reflection questions at the end of each chapter make this book accessible to anyone interested in deepening their understanding of faith, consciousness, silence, and Christian practice.

—Emily Sanna, associate editor, U.S. Catholic

Eerdman’s says: “In Being Human, Rowan Williams addresses frequently asked questions with lucid meditations that draw from findings in neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, and literature.”

Paperback: $12.00

Available at bookstores or from Eerdmans Publishing at (800) 253-7521 or

General Book Club Guidelines 

May 2019

God Isn’t Finished with Me Yet: Discovering the Spiritual Graces of Later Life

by Barbara Lee

After retiring from a successful career as a lawyer and judge, Barbara Lee felt invisible. Her new normal—some ongoing volunteer work and time spent caring for her aging mother—didn’t help her answer the question “Who am I now?” But soon Lee found that Ignatian Spirituality helped her find ways to grow in God’s grace exactly where she was.  
Lee’s book, God Isn’t Finished with Me Yet, is proof that personal growth doesn’t stop at retirement. Her practical application of Ignatian wisdom is certain to help anyone find God’s grace in any circumstance. In five engaging chapters, Lee details how Ignatian advice on prayer, decision-making, and discernment can redirect aging souls onto a path with renewed purpose. A listing of relevant scripture readings and prayers, along with a helpful index of Ignatian resources, also helps further opportunities for spiritual growth. Wherever you are on your journey, this brief book is a big help—and will surely light the way.

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

Loyola Press says: “In God Isn’t Finished with Me Yet, Barbara Lee uses Ignatian spirituality to show readers how God continues to meet us with unexpected grace throughout our lives, including later in life.”

Paperback: $12.95

Available at bookstores or from Loyola Press at (800) 621-1008 or

General Book Club Guidelines 

April 2019 

Forgiveness Makes You Free: A Dramatic Story of Healing and Reconciliation  from the Heart of Rwanda

by Father Ubald Rugirangoga and Heidi Hess Saxton

In 1994, Rwanda exploded into civil war between the Hutu and the Tutsi. The war resulted in the genocide of nearly one million Tutsi people. In his moving book, Forgiveness Makes You Free, Father Ubald Rugirangoga shares how he survived the genocide, which he credits to the grace and mercy of God.

In each chapter, Rugirangoga tells a harrowing tale. At the end of each story, he includes reflection questions to guide readers who have also experienced adversity and trauma toward their own healing. Rugirangoga urges readers struggling to move past these hardships and to “be thankful and have faith, choose to forgive, denounce evil, decide to live for Jesus, and claim the blessing” of living through God. This book is a much needed reminder that even in darkness, there is the light of God’s love.

—Shanna Johnson, assistant editor, U.S. Catholic

Ave Maria Press says: “On the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, survivor Father Ubald Rugirangoga shares his story and offers five spiritual principles that can help those traumatized by the past to experience healing and peace in Christ.”

Paperback: $16.95

Available at bookstores or from Ave Maria Press at (800) 282-1864 or

General Book Club Guidelines 

March 2019 

The Cost of Compassion: Five Women Who Paid the Ultimate Price 

by Barbara Ann Pawlikowski

In 1992 five American women religious, all in their 50s and 60s and living in Liberia, were killed. They were shot outside of their convent by rebel guerrilla forces during a civil war that lasted 14 years and killed more than 250,000 people.

In her new book, The Cost of Compassion, Barbara Ann Pawlikowski brings to life these ordinary women. Her book paints a picture of them not just as glorified martyrs to the faith, but as real-life women who cared deeply about their vocations and the people with whom they worked. These women were heroes not because they were willing to die, but because they were drawn by their faith to minister to those who needed it most, despite the danger and personal sacrifice required. This well-researched and powerful book is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn more about these little-known women.

—Emily Sanna, associate editor, U.S. Catholic

ACTA says: “The inspirational story of five American women religious who displayed courage, competence, and commitment to their missionary calling to Liberia, Africa, and paid the ultimate price for their compassion.”

Paperback: $14.95

Available at bookstores or from ACTA Publishing at (800) 397-2282 or

General Book Club Guidelines 

February 2019 

Make Today Matter: 10 Habits for a Better Life (and World)

by Chris Lowney

Self-help books offer plenty of practices that purport to help us live well, from healthy bedtime routines to tech-free evenings to organized dresser drawers. In his inspiring new book, Make Today Matter: 10 Habits for a Better Life (and World), Chris Lowney, a former Jesuit seminarian and popular speaker on business ethics and leadership, first helps us reexamine what makes life meaningful. But that’s the easy part. Once we get there, Lowney guides us through the more challenging task of acquiring habits that allows us to pursue this every day. But never fear: With 10 simple practices he illustrates with engaging personal stories, Lowney shows us how he’s worked to make every day matter and, in turn, how we can as well. Whatever track you’re on—college graduate, newly retired, newly confirmed—Lowney’s guiding principles are easy to apply and inspiring to consider. His advice would enrich the lives of any Catholic who wishes to commit—or recommit—their life to the greater good this Lent.

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

Hardcover: $17.95

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

General Book Club Guidelines 

January 2019

Black Domers

Edited by Don Wycliff and David Krashna

In Black Domers, editors Don Wycliff and David Krashna bring together the stories of 75 black Notre Dame alumni. The contributors—including the first black student to graduate Notre Dame, the first African American ambassador to Jamaica, technical illustrators, teachers, stand-up comedians, doctors, and judges—reflect on why they chose Notre Dame, what they learned there, and their struggles to become fully accepted members of the student body.

While the book shares the students’ triumphs and joys, it is also open about the struggles of being black at Notre Dame, especially in the early days after the university began accepting black students in 1947. Notre Dame wasn’t always an easy place to be black, and many of the writers recall memories of racial and cultural isolation.

One of Black Domers’ biggest lessons is that the university’s ongoing fight for racial equality stems out of their commitment to Catholic social teaching and the dignity of every person. It’s a lesson valuable not just for Notre Dame graduates or historians but to all Catholics.

—Emily Sanna, associate editor, U.S. Catholic

University of Notre Dame Press says: “Don Wycliff and David Krashna’s Black Domers tells the compelling story of racial integration at the University of Notre Dame in the post–World War II era.”

Paperback: $29.00

Available at bookstores or from Notre Dame Press at (800) 848-6224 or

General Book Club Guidelines