USC Book Club 2014

2014 Reviews

December 2014:

Where the Wind Leads: A Refugee Family’s Miraculous Story of Loss, Rescue, and Redemption

By Vinh Chung

Review: The story of Vinh Chung has all the trappings of your typical Hollywood adventure: a protagonist facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles, a dramatic voyage complete with a pirate attack, and ultimately, the triumph of the human spirit. The fact that the story is true only makes it more amazing.

Chung, whose family fled Vietnam when he was 3 years old, recounts his journey to the United States and his family’s resettlement in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The challenges were many, but the family’s perseverance shines, culminating in Chung’s graduation from Harvard Medical School. Although this poignant tale highlights some of the incredible hardships that immigrant families face, it also offers a hopeful lesson: Even in the worst situations, anything is possible.

—Scott Alessi, Managing Editor, U.S. Catholic

Thomas Nelson says: Where the Wind Leads is the remarkable account of Vinh Chung and his refugee family’s escape from communist oppression for the chance of a better life in America. It’s a story of personal sacrifice, redemption, endurance against almost insurmountable odds, and what it truly means to be American.

Hardcover: $22.99

Available from Thomas Nelson at 800-251-4000 x1176 or shop online at

November 2014:

The Social Media Gospel: Sharing the Good News in New Ways

By Meredith Gould

Review: The internet and social media are invaluable tools in the ministries of evangelization, communication, and community building. Social media tools make it possible to share conversations and content with the long-time faithful, disaffected millennials, the homebound, and spiritual seekers beyond the church walls.

Meredith Gould’s The Social Media Gospel is an excellent resource for anyone looking to optimize their social media presence for ministry. This is an easy-to-understand, useful guide to digital ministry. Each chapter includes reflection questions that will be helpful in building a personalized social media strategy. For the novice and the uncertain, this book provides step-by-step advice; for those already active, it is an invitation to reflect on what we are doing and ways to improve.

I would recommend this little book to pastors and all involved in religious communication and evangelization.

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

Liturgical Press says: Learn how social media tools can transform your ministry. The Social Media Gospel will teach you new ways to share stories, create community, and inspire action.

Paperback: $14.95
eBook: $12.99

Available at bookstores or from Liturgical Press: 800-858-5450 or shop online at

What do you think? Once you have read the book, discuss it on

General Book Club guides

October 2014:

What’s So Funny about Faith? A Memoir from the Intersection of Hilarious and Holy

By Jake Martin, S.J.

Review: This funny and often poignant memoir is earnest and heartfelt, but never sappy. Comedian and Jesuit Jake Martin offers a series of reflections about humor, faith, and the intersection of the two.

Martin takes us with him on a journey from his childhood dreams of being a star on Saturday Night Live to his adult calling into religious life. On the journey we encounter surprise, grief, humor, and growth. Martin takes his call to religious life and devotion to God just as seriously as his calling to humor, and
he finds that a rich life of faith leaves room for both.

—Kira Dault, Associate Editor, U.S. Catholic

Loyola Press says: A wry, heartfelt memoir detailing one man’s attempts to navigate a world steeped in irony while staying true to his calling to love and serve God.

Paperback: $13.95

Available at bookstores or from LoyolaPress online at

September 2014:

Not Less Than Everything: Catholic Writers on Heroes of Conscience, from Joan of Arc to Oscar Romero

Edited by Catherine Wolff

Review: “There is no contradiction between questioning and faith,” says Catherine Wolff. “Indeed questioning was how we made sense of faith.” This idea forms the basis of her compelling collection of short biographies of “heroes of conscience” who did just that.

Written by an A-list of contemporary Catholic writers, Not Less Than Everything gives raw and real reflections on ordinary people—some well-known and others not—who led extraordinary lives. These accounts show their willingness to live their faith forthrightly and without fear as they tackled issues that continue to confront many Catholics today. The collection skillfully hoists you out of your comfort zone and encourages you to take action to stand up for your own beliefs.

—Caitlyn Schmid, Editorial Assistant, U.S. Catholic

HarperOne says: Essays by the world’s best contemporary Catholic writers, including Alice McDermott, Tobias Wolff, and Ann Patchett, on the church figures who inspire us and the intersection of faith and culture.

Hardcover: $17.99

Available at bookstores or from HarperOne online at

Order now from HarperOne.

August 2014:

On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the 21st Century

By Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Abraham Skorka

Review: Long before the “culture of encounter” became a signature phrase of Pope Francis’ papacy, Jorge Mario Bergoglio lived it in his ministry in Buenos Aires. One of the most fascinating records of his open-minded embrace of dialogue and friendship across different backgrounds is the book On Heaven and Earth, which captures his conversations with his good friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka.

Covering a wide range of topics—from God, prayer, and the future of religion to atheists, science, women, poverty, globalization, same-sex marriage, and abortion—these conversations provide a window on the thinking and new approaches with which Pope Francis has been surprising the world. Although it covers controversial topics, this book is short on newsy sound bites. Instead, grounded in both participants’ deep love of scripture, it models the kind of honest heart-to-heart that the pope’s culture of encounter invites all of us to emulate.

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

Image Books says: In this unique interfaith conversation, Pope Francis and his close friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka share thoughts on a wide range of today’s important topics, including religion, politics, education, and prayer.

Hardcover: $22.00
eBook: $10.99

Available at bookstores or from Image Books, a division of Random House: 800-733-3000 or shop online at Image Catholic Books.

What do you think? Once you have read the book, discuss it on

General Book Club guides

July 2014:

In the Company of the Poor: Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer and Father Gustavo Gutiérrez

Edited by Michael Griffin and Jennie Weiss Block

Review: We live in one world, not three. The poor are our best teachers. Diseases such as cholera have made a far more radical preferential option for the poor than the people fighting to eradicate them. These are just a few of the revelations in In the Company of the Poor, an extraordinary collaboration between two of the great figures of our time: Paul Farmer, a doctor and anthropologist who has almost singlehandedly revolutionized health care in the developing world, and Dominican Father Gustavo Gutiérrez, the father of liberation theology.

Farmer’s commitment to the preferential option for the poor in medicine springs from his reading of liberation theology and his long friendship with Gutiérrez. Here the two men explain just what it actually means to accompany the poor.

—Catherine O’Connell-Cahill, Senior Editor, U.S. Catholic

Orbis Books says: Paul Farmer, internationally respected physician, and Gustavo Gutiérrez, Peruvian priest and “father” of liberation theology, join in an inspiring conversation about life, liberation, and the preferential option for the poor.

Paperback: $24.00

Available at bookstores or from Orbis Books: 800-258-5838 or shop online at

Order now from Orbis Books.

June 2014:

No Problem: Turning the Next Corner in Your Spiritual Life

By Robert J. Wicks

Review: Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived.” This quotation from 20th-century French philosopher Gabriel Marcel provides the foundation for Robert Wicks’ No Problem: Turning the Next Corner in Your Spiritual Life. Presented as an “inner workshop” for the soul, Wicks’ book lays the groundwork for turning the corner to strengthen your spirituality.

Wicks begins the workshop with 20 lessons in personal formation—each filled with short anecdotes and meaningful questions to consider—and concludes with 30 days’ worth of simple exercises to help readers grow in compassion and joy. You are not expected to analyze or problem-solve your way toward spiritual renewal, but rather to allow your inner self to guide you through the mystery of life. “Just start where you are,” the book says, and see how you might be transformed.

—Elizabeth Lefebvre, Assistant Editor, U.S. Catholic

Ave Maria Press says: Robert J. Wicks shows readers that personal transformation is attainable through a simple, day-by-day process of identifying and turning the next corner of his or her spiritual life.

Paperback: $14.99

Available at bookstores or from Ave Maria Press: 800-282-1865 or shop online at

Order now from Ave Maria Press.

May 2014:

The Food and Feasts of Jesus

By Douglas E. Neel and Joel A. Pugh

Review: There’s no doubt that food plays a big part in the most important moments of our lives. But have you ever wondered how the meals you share with family and friends today would compare to the food commonly found on the tables where Jesus once dined?

In The Food and Feasts of Jesus, Douglas Neel and Joel Pugh open a delicious doorway into first-century kitchens, examining the basic ingredients of the day and serving up mouthwatering recipes for dishes commonly served at both special celebrations and ordinary meals. The authors reveal how preparing and sharing a feast became a key ingredient in defining culture and developing community—and how a return to cooking traditions of the past can bring us closer together in the present.

—Scott Alessi, Managing Editor, U.S. Catholic

Rowman & Littlefield says: From feasts to field lunches, this book explores various meals from Jesus’ time, and offers accessible recipes for readers to make their own tastes of the first century.

Paperback: $19.95
eBook: $18.99

Available at bookstores or from Rowman & Littlefield: 800-462-6420 or shop online at

Order now from Rowman & Littlefield.

What do you think? Once you have read the book, discuss it on

General Book Club guides

April 2014:

Pilgrimage—A Sacred Art: Journey to the Center of the Heart

By Dr. Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook

Review: Unlike tourism, pilgrimages are not about the final destination, but rather the journey of life along the way. In her book Pilgrimages—The Sacred Art, Dr. Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook explores how they transform the mind, body, and soul, and break borders between religions, nationalities, and cultures.

This useful and inspiring guide—a life-changing journey in and of itself—uncovers the many reasons why pilgrims decide to venture forth in the first place: to find healing, for spiritual replenishment, simply out of curiosity, to discover their roots. With questions to reflection on before and after a pilgrimage, as well as travel tips to make the most out of the experience, this is a must-read for all seeking the center of their heart.

—Caitlyn Schmid, Editorial Assistant, U.S. Catholic

SkyLight Paths Publishing says: This fascinating look at pilgrimage explores the many dimensions of the pilgrimage experience and how it can lead you on a journey to a greater sense of peace and compassion.

Paperback: $16.99

Available at bookstores or from SkyLight Paths Publishing: 800-962-4544 or shop online at

Order now from SkyLight Paths Publishing.

March 2014:

The Other Side of Chaos: Breaking Through When Life Is Breaking Down

By Margaret Silf

Review: Thee only way out is through” seems a constant refrain in Margaret Silf’s The Other Side of Chaos. This short devotional book is more of an extended reflection on the inevitable transitions that we all face in the course of a life: the death of a loved one, the beginning of a new job, or the end of a marriage.

Throughout, Silf offers the continual reminder that those transitional moments, as disorienting as they can be, are also points of depth when we can reach out for God and then witness God reaching back. Through personal anecdotes and scriptural reflection, Silf takes us on a journey into chaos, and shows us the light of new life on the other side.

—Kira Dault, Assistant Editor, U.S. Catholic

Loyola Press says: The Other Side of Chaos gives us the courage to trust God when life is breaking down and to see that our messes can help us break through to a place where God makes all things new.

Paperback: $13.95

Available at bookstores or from Loyola Press: 800-621-1008 or shop online at

February 2014:

Blasphemy: Sentenced to Death Over a Cup of Water

By Asia Bibi

Review: Asia Bibi, a poor Catholic mother of five, was sentenced to death for blasphemy after an argument with Muslim neighbors over a drink of water on a hot day in the fields. Already languishing in a Pakistani prison for four and a half years, her family has had to go into hiding and her most prominent public advocates have been assassinated.

In this moving memoir—the result of a clandestine collaboration with a French journalist—Bibi gets to tell her story in her own words. As the religious persecution of Christians and others is currently receiving greater public attention, her book gives an up-close account of the ugly effects of religious intolerance, vicious discrimination, and unjust blasphemy laws.

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

Chicago Review Press says: Asia Bibi, who has become a symbol for everyone concerned with ending the violence committed in the name of religion, bravely tells her shocking and inspiring story and makes a last cry for help from her prison cell.

Paperback: $16.95

Available at bookstores or from Chicago Review Press: 800-888-4741 or shop online at

Order now from Chicago Review Press.

What do you think? Once you have read the book, discuss it on

General Book Club guides

January 2014:

The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential

By N.T. Wright

Review: The Case for the Psalms is renowned scripture scholar N.T. Wright’s personal plea for a rediscovery of and appreciation for the great hymnbook at the heart of the Bible. Wright proposes that the regular praying and singing of the psalms is transformative—that these poems have the power to reshape our inmost selves in relation to the world, space, time, and, above all, God.

His exposition of these themes in this short, very accessible book explain and communicate his own enthusiasm for the psalms, and his hope that those of us who have lost touch with the psalms or use them in a perfunctory or shallow way might rediscover their power. Wright’s conclusion is simple: all Christians need to read, pray, sing, and live the psalms.

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

HarperOne says: In The Case for the Psalms, world-renowned Bible scholar N.T. Wright urges all Christians to return the church’s original hymnbook to the center of our spirituality.

Paperback: $22.99

Available at bookstores or shop online at