USC Book Club 2009

2009 Reviews

December 2009:

Claiming Earth as Common Ground: The Ecological Crisis through the Lens of Faith

By Andrea Cohen-Kiener

Review: Claiming Earth as Common Ground is a great discussion-starter for any parish group. With question guides for each chapter, action steps, and further resources, the book is designed to be very practical.

“The time for platitudes is past,” writes author Andrea Cohen-Kiener. She and contributors from other faiths delve into the “nitty-gritty”- issues of race, class, and theology that prevent groups from making progress on environmental issues.

But this book isn’t just about religious people saving the environment. “The environmental crisis is the manifestation of a spiritual problem,” says Cohen-Kiener. Confronting this crisis might also save religion.

Megan Sweas, Associate Editor, U.S. Catholic

SkyLight Paths Publishing says: Inspiring insights from ecology coalitions, emerging theologies, and spiritual & environmental activists rally us to work across denominational lines in order to ful­fill our sacred imperative to care for God’s creation.

Hardcover: $16.99

Available at book stores or from SkyLight Paths Publishing (800) 962-4544 or shop online at

Order now from SkyLight Paths Publishing!

General Book Club guidelines
November 2009:

The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace

By Paul Moses

Review: Can a long misrepresented 13th-century encounter between two extraordinary individuals inspire world-changing reconciliation and peacemaking today? It can and it does. Paul Moses’ fascinating account of St. Francis of Assisi’s meeting with Sultan Malik al-Kamil in the midst of the Fifth Crusade not only details the historical record, puts it into context, and tries to strip it of centuries of tendentious distortions, it also documents how its true significance has recently come to blossom and bear fruit in Christian-Muslim relations.

In his thoroughly researched and engaging book Moses uncovers and retells the true story of the Christian saint’s audience with the Muslim ruler “with the hope that it will encourage others to build on [their] example.”

Meinrad Scherer-Emunds, Executive Editor, U.S. Catholic

Doubleday Religion says: This is a story about peace – one that is nearly 800 years old – but still resonates in an era where Christians and Muslims look at each other with suspicion.

Hardcover: $26.00

Available at book stores or from Doubleday Religion (800) 773-3000 or shop online at

Order now from Doubleday Religion!

Suggested discussion questions from Doubleday Religion

General Book Club guidelines
October 2009:

The Recollected Heart: A Guide to Making a Contemplative Weekend Retreat

By Philip Zaleski

Review: Despite constant encouragement to “make” one, there are few things more mystifying to most Christians that a retreat. Just what does one do, and what is supposed to happen? Enter Philip Zaleski, who offers this practical guide for a getaway with God, which he recommends as “a rock-bottom of a healthy life.”

Zaleski recognizes, however, that for many a retreat seems like a daunting spiritual do-it-yourself project. Drawing heavily on the Benedictine tradition, he guides the novice through contemplation, the liturgy of the hours, and the best ways to keep everyday life at bay. In doing so, he takes the mystery out of making a retreat – and makes the reader ready to meet the Mystery we all seek.

Bryan Cones, Managing Editor, U.S. Catholic

Ave Maria Press says: Acclaimed author and editor Philip Zaleski understands the need for retreat, and in this step-by-step guide he offers his monastic prescription for properly and effectively finding spiritual refreshment.

Paperback: $15.95

Available at book stores or from Ave Maria Press (800) 282-1865 or shop online at

Suggested discussion questions from Ave Maria Press

General Book Club guidelines
September 2009:

The Forgiveness Book

By Alice Camille and Paul Boudreau

Review: As Alice Camille and Paul Boudreau state in the prologue, “Forgiveness reveals itself to be not just one possible option for the future, but the only viable chance we’ve got to have a future.” This is precisely why The Forgiveness Book, a concise reflection on the nature, challenges, and power of forgiveness, should have a broad appeal.

The challenges of forgiveness covered include: What to do with sin? Why should we forgive? How do we accept forgiveness? A story of the power of forgiveness rounds out this meditation. The authors, both frequent contributors to U.S. Catholic, readily admit that they are not experts in forgiveness, “but are among the grateful recipients of God’s generous gift of it.” All of us who feel the same way should spend some time with this reflection.

John Molyneux, C.M.F., Editor, U.S. Catholic

ACTA Publications says: Two of U.S. Catholic’s favorite writers explore the mystery of how forgiveness works, why it benefits us to both forgive and be forgiven, and what it takes to become a forgiving people.

Paperback: $12.95

Available at book stores or from ACTA Publications (800) 397-2282 or shop online at

Suggested discussion questions from ACTA Publications

General Book Club guidelines
August 2009:

Seeking Life: The Baptismal Invitation of the Rule of St. Benedict

By Esther de Waal

Review: Don’t even recall when you last renewed your baptismal promise? Esther de Waal suspects many believers become ho-hum about the life-changing mission we accepted at Baptism. She offers “a deep look at the deep past” to reignite our commitment to the risen Christ, taking us into the dramatic Baptism ritual embraced by the early Christians. Baptism for them was above all “urgent,” a “turning toward this promise of life and freedom.”

Seeking Life also delves deep into the Rule of St. Benedict, a monastic pioneer who, says de Waal, sought “people who are fully alive, who live life to the full.”

Catherine O’Connell-CahillSenior Editor, U.S. Catholic

Liturgical Press says: Esther de Waal focuses on the prologue to the Rule of Saint Benedict and shows how it contains the clues we need to both understand and live by the vows made at our baptism. With her characteristic insight and wisdom, Esther de Waal draws out enduring spiritual teaching on how to live when reborn “of water and the spirit.”

Hardcover: $19.95

Available at book stores or from Liturgical Press (800) 858-5450 or shop online at

Order now from Liturgical Press!

Suggested discussion questions from Liturgical Press

General Book Club guidelines
July 2009:

A Persistent Peace: One Man’s Struggle for a Nonviolent World

By John Dear, S.J.

Review: What would happen if you actually tried to live out loud the gospel’s radical and persistent call to peacemaking? You probably would find your life not too far off the one that John Dear, S.J. details in his autobiography, and, well, you would get arrested a lot.

Dear is well known among Catholic pacifists – and among more than a few law enforcement agents in New Mexico – for his clear-minded devotion to Catholic principles of peace. His story should inspire the civil-disobedient in all of us, even as reading it feels like spending a quiet evening with an old friend with a really good tale to tell.

Kevin ClarkeSenior Editor, U.S. Catholic

Loyola Press says: All of us say we want peace, but few are willing to prove it. Read the incredible story of this nationally known peace activist, and witness his bold, decisive, often unpopular actions on behalf of peace.

Hardcover: $22.95

Available at book stores or from Loyola Press (800) 621-1008 or shop online at

Suggested discussion questions from Loyola Press

General Book Club guidelines
June 2009:

Finding Happiness

By Abbot Christopher Jamison

Review: Finding Happiness might sound like a self-help book, but it is much more than that. Abbot Christopher Jamison, a British Benedictine, offers a historical look at the monastic tradition, a philosophical discussion about happiness, and a critique of modern culture. His writing is accessible and will appeal to both Catholics and unhappy agnostics.

The book challenges readers to do and know good rather than just feel good. Jamison prescribes diminishing our embrace of “eight thoughts”—the seven deadly sins and acedia (spiritual carelessness)—to find happiness. Responding to our understanding of happiness as pleasure, Jamison provides plenty of material for both discussion and introspection.

Megan SweasAssistant Editor, U.S. Catholic

Liturgical Press says: Finding Happiness examines different aspects of being happy and tells us what monastic wisdom has to say about them. In doing so, he offers steps for the journey toward fulfillment.

Paperback: $19.95

Available at book stores or from Liturgical Press. Call 1-800-858-5450 or shop online at

Order now from Amazon!

General Book Club guidelines
May 2009:

Listening to God’s Word

By Alice Camille 

Review: There is a danger in trying to summarize what “the Bible” tells me so. But Alice Camille’s invitation to read the Bible avoids the pitfalls of biblical hopscotch and instead leads us into an exploration of five central biblical themes—God, world, story, crisis, and time.

As U.S. Catholic readers know, Camille has a knack for making scripture come alive by combining a solid grasp of biblical scholarship with fresh insights into the meaning of biblical stories and profound spiritual reflections from her own life. Answering her invitation may lead you too into “radical astonishment” and from there into life-changing action.

Meinrad Scherer-EmundsExecutive Editor, U.S. Catholic

Orbis Books says: A popular teacher of Scripture inspires us to not only appreciate God’s word but to live it and know the peace and joy that comes from it. Part of the series “Catholic Spirituality for Adults”.

Paperback: $10.00

Available at book stores or from Orbis Books. Call 1-800-258-5838.

Order now from Amazon!

Suggested discussion questions from Orbis Books.

General Book Club guidelines
April 2009:

The Geography of God’s Mercy

By Patrick Hannon

Review: The hallmark of Catholicism is its ability to find in our human stories the unfolding story of God’s relationship to Creation. The hallmark of great Catholic writing is putting these stories to paper in ways that lead readers back to their own experience of God. Patrick Hannon’s work embodies both.

In parents and siblings, nursing home residents, and barroom acquaintances, Hannon sketches the many moments in which God’s mercy becomes flesh. Each of his 20 stories offers a glimpse of God’s unfailing love, described beautifully by Hannon in his own mother’s unfailing daily mantra: “I guess I’ll keep you for another day.”

Bryan ConesManaging Editor, U.S. Catholic

About: The Geography of God’s Mercy (ACTA Publications): Patrick Hannon, winner of the First Time Author of a Book award in the 2006 Catholic Press Association Book Awards, offers his second stunning book–The Geography of God’s Mercy. In it, Hannon offers a collection of personal stories that delve into the deeper meaning and importance of forgiveness. Whether he is describing the endless compassion of his mother’s love for her horde of children, or his sister’s fervent closing argument to a jury for mercy on a young mother cornered into shoplifting in order to feed her children, readers will find themselves entranced by his engaging and poignant stories. Hannon uses the different geographies of the world (desert, mountain, plains) as a framework for this book.

About the Author: Patrick Hannon, CSC, is a Holy Cross priest from Oakland, California. He has ministered in Portland, Oregon; South Bend, Indiana; Chicago, Illinois; and Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Buy The Geography of God’s Mercy

A study guide for The Geography of God’s Mercy from ACTA Publications

General Book Club guidelines
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.