USC Book Club 2017

2017 Reviews

December 2017 

Prayer Seeds 

by Joyce Rupp 

Review: Seeds have fascinated Joyce Rupp since she was a child growing up on a farm in northwest Iowa. So it’s fitting that the spiritual writer’s new collection of prayers, reflections, and poems seek to grow the spirit from within. Prayer Seeds, a companion to her previous prayer collection, Out of the Ordinary, offers 100 new blessings, reflections, and poems that is a refreshing update for any personal or group prayer. The prayers are grouped into sections such as Marriage, Difficult Times, and Compassion, but Rupp’s Advent and Christmas section is particularly inspiring. In “Silent Night, Holy Night” Rupp writes, “Silence the useless anxiety and confusion. / Calm the pressures placed upon us. / Hush the illusory need to get it all done.” It’s a welcome challenge this Christmas season.

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

Ave Maria Press says: “Bestselling author and retreat leader, Joyce Rupp, offers almost a hundred new prayers on a variety of themes such as the feasts and seasons of the liturgical year, compassion, ministry, difficult times, and important events.”

Paperback: $15.95

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

General Book Club Guidelines

November 2017

Why I’m Catholic (and You Should be Too)

by Brandon Vogt

Review: While some young people today may cast aside the religion of their childhood in favor of becoming a religious “none” (someone who may be spiritual but does not affiliate with any organized religion), Brandon Vogt did just the opposite. In his 20s he converted to Catholicism. In his new book Why I Am Catholic (And You Should Be Too), Vogt chronicles his conversion and provides simple, straightforward reasons about why others should explore their faith as well. Vogt makes a convincing argument using language that is both accessible and thoughtful. He writes he discovered that the Catholic Church is “worth considering not because it’s popular, progressive, or comfortable but because it’s true, good, and beautiful.” Why I Am Catholic (And You Should Be Too) is an important read regardless of where you are on your spiritual journey.

Rosie McCarty, assistant editor, US Catholic magazine

Ave Maria Press says: “Bestselling author Brandon Vogt shares his passionate search for truth, a journey that culminated in the realization that Catholicism was right about a lot of things, maybe even everything.”

Hardcover: $20.00

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

General Book Club Guidelines

October 2017

25 Life-Changing Questions from the Gospels

by Allan F. Wright

Review: We tend to think of Jesus as the one with all the answers when in fact he is the one with many questions—more than 100 of them in the gospels. Educator and author Allan F. Wright reflects on a quarter of these in 25 Life-Changing Questions from the Gospels.

Wright uses his knowledge of biblical Greek and Hebrew and his understanding of the historical Jesus’ culture to provide valuable insights into these questions. These questions and the issues they raise are just as relevant to Catholics today as they were to Jesus’ first followers.

John Molyneux, editor-in-chief, U.S Catholic

Ave Maria Press says: “Biblical scholar and retreat leader Allan F. Wright organizes 25 questions Jesus asked into five spiritual stages that will lead you on the road to discipleship.”

Paperback: $15.95 

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

General Book Club Guidelines

September 2017

The Way of Gratitude

by various authors 

Review: We are told that our lives will benefit from the daily practice of giving gratitiude for all that we have. That is precisely what The Way of Gratitiude: Readings for a Joyful Life, featuring the writings of various acclaimed authors, seeks to accomplish and promote.

The prolific passages of authors such as Mary Oliver, J.K. Rowling, and James Martin provide a guide for reflections on gratitude for readers seeking to deepen their spiritual life. This collection is an opportunity to strengthen your connection to God through heightened awareness of the gifts in our own lives.

Shanna Johnson, editorial assistant, U.S Catholic

Orbis says: “A hundred famous writers share their experiences, essays, fiction, poems, meditations, and  ideas on the joy of being thankful. These honest and heartfelt writings will add gladness to your days.”

Paperback: $18.00

Available at bookstores or from Orbis Books at 1-(800) 258-5838 or

General Book Club Guidelines

August 2017

Four Scraps of Bread 

by Magda Hollander-Lafon

Review: While in Auschwitz-Birkenau, a dying woman gave Magda Hollander-Lafon four scraps of bread and told her, “You must live to be a witness to what is happening here.” In Four Scraps of Bread, originally published in French in 2012 and newly translated into English, she does just that.

The book’s reflections, prose meditations, and poetry offer ways to experience alongside Hollander-Lafon her lived experience, both in the death camp and in the Holocaust’s aftermath, as she, despite all odds, lives through Auschwitz’s atrocities and builds a new life after the war. Her books shows the beauty, hope, and presence of God while not flinching from an open-eyed portrayal of the worst violence and brutality that humans are capable of inflicting on each other.

Emily Sanna, associate editor, U.S Catholic

Notre Dame Press says: “Hollander-Lafon records a journey through extreme suffering and loss that led to radiant personal growth and a life of meaning.”

Paperback: $25.00

Available at bookstores or from Notre Dame Press at 1-(800) 621-2736 or

General Book Club Guidelines

July 2017

Taste & See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses

by Ginny Kubitz Moyer

Review: Since the word mindfulness has crept up in the cultural lexicon, I’ve been a bit skeptical. It’s not that I don’t think paying attention to the physical world around us is a good idea. But the sacramental tradition of the church has always invited a deeper appreciation of the sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and touch of our world. This is the way God is revealed, after all.
Still, we often need reminding of that fact, and thankfully there’s Ginny Kubitz Moyer’s Taste & See for that. Through personal and down-to-earth storytelling, Moyer shows how Christian faith is not just an exercise in awareness or an experience of the mind but also the five senses.

Meghan Murphy-Gill, managing editor, U.S. Catholic

Loyola Press says: “Our physical senses are powerful avenues through which we encounter God. This ‘Examen of the senses’ will help readers recognize God through all five senses.”

Paperback: $9.95

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

General Book Club Guidelines

June 2017

Busy Lives and Restless Souls: How Prayer Can Help You Find the Missing Peace in Your Life

By Becky Eldredge

Review: It’s hard to define what “normal” life is, exactly. Author Becky Eldredge knows her own often requires Olympic effort. But, Eldredge writes, somewhere in between (and during) carpools and diaper changes, shuttling kids to practices, and making meals, she finds time to pray. Her book, Busy Lives and Restless Souls: How Prayer Can Help You Find the Missing Peace in Your Life, draws on the 500-year-old spiritual wisdom of St. Ignatius that is sure to help anyone who wants a stronger spiritual life find God in even the most mundane things, like watching TV or chatting at the checkout counter. Featuring practical prayer tools that easily fit into even the busiest daily routines, Eldredge’s interpretation of Ignatian principles will equip any reader with the tools to find God right where they are.

Sarah Butler, associate editor, U.S Catholic

Loyola Press says: “A young, busy woman offers a fresh Ignatian perspective on how to satisfy our restlessness within by making space for prayer in the midst of a demanding life.”

Paperback: $13.95

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

General Book Club Guidelines

May 2017

All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters

By Pat Gohn

Review: If someone were to ask you what one thing defines your life is, what would you say? For Pat Gohn, author of All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters, the answer is simple: her Catholic faith. Gohn writes with convincing authority and vigor how church teachings have made a deep impact on her life and driven her to be “all in” when it comes to the Catholic Church.

Gohn invites readers in with intimate and relatable language. She even includes resources at the end of each section encouraging prayer and further learning. All in is an enjoyable read no matter where you are on your spiritual journey.

–Rosie McCarty, assistant editor, U.S. Catholic

Ave Maria Press says: “Pat Gohn invites you to become more confident in the power of the Catholic faith to transform your life as well.”

Paperback: $15.95

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

General Book Club Guidelines

April 2017

William Shakespeare

compiled and introduced by Ron Marasco

Review: As a student of British literature and a fan of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, I found the William Shakespeare volume of the Literary Portals to Prayer series fascinating as well as helpful to my prayer life. In this book each left-hand page contains an excerpt from one of Shakespeare’s works, and the facing page illuminates the selection with a Bible verse. For example, under the theme “Love Never Gives Up,” a quote from Act I, scene 1 of Twelfth Night is coupled with 1 Corinthians 13:4–7. Other volumes in this series include the works of Herman Melville, Louisa May Alcott, and Charles Dickens. I recommend this series as a great resource for those seeking to enhance their prayer life—just start with your favorite author.

John Molyneux, editor-in-chief, U.S Catholic

ACTA  Publishing says: “Each book in this series takes 50 excerpts from a single beloved literary figure and pairs them with a passage from The Message for creative two-page ‘prayer-starters’ for individual and group use.”

Each Paperback: $10.95

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

General Book Club Guidelines

March 2017

The Francis Effect

By John Gehring

Review: For nearly four years, Pope Francis has made incredible strides in the Catholic Church. His commitment to helping the poor and acceptance of those who have been excluded by the church have led newcomers to Catholicism and brought back those who have left.

John Gehring reflects on Francis’ monumental change with a riveting look at the history of the church and how it has changed over the past 100 years. Gehring explores how Pope Francis’ style can create real change in the church, particularly in the United States. The Francis Effect is a read for fans and critics of Pope Francis alike.

Shanna Johnson, editorial assistant, U.S. Catholic

Rowman & Littlefield says: “This book explores how a church once known as a force for social justice became known for a few key wedge issues, then looks at the opportunities for change in the ‘age of Francis.'”

Hardcover: $32.00

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

General Book Club Guidelines

February 2017

Particles of Faith 

By Stacy A. Trasancos 

Review: Given how commonly the relationship between faith and science is discussed, it’s a wonder that anyone could still find them firmly at odds. And yet, as Stacy A. Trasancos recounts in her vivid and engaging memoir, Particles of Faith, there seems no end to debates.

A scientist and devout Catholic herself, she offers stories and suggestions for the faithful who are still working out their own relationship with modern scientific discoveries. With her pleasing prose, Trasancos invites the reader to experience the awe of a child whose early encounters with the world delight and inspire.

Meghan Murphy-Gill, managing editor, U.S. Catholic

Ave Maria says: “Scientist, writer, and scholar Stacy Trasancos gives us ways to talk about how science and Catholic faith work together to reveal the truth of Christ through the beauty of his creation.”

Paperback: $15.95

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

General Book Club Guidelines

January 2017

When God was a Little Girl

By David Weiss, Illustrations by Joan Hernandez 

Review: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. All too often, Christians picture an old man with a beard calling the universe into being with his words. But in When God Was a Little Girl, David Weiss reminds us to not get caught up in how we’ve heard or seen the story told. He gives us a new metaphor: A little girl, singing creation into being with imagination, smiles, and a little bit of glue.

The illustrations show children of all different ages and ethnicities, allowing the reader to see God in her own image and keeping us from getting too invested in any one depiction of God. The book is a profound reminder that how we describe God is important and different ways of expressing God reveal deep truths about creation. The book is lovely addition to any little girl’s (or boy’s) library.

Emily Sanna, associate editor, U.S. Catholic

Acta says: “A daughter asks her father, with ‘her eyes twinkling with this divine little twist,’ to tell story about ‘when God was a little girl’ . . . and he obliges.”

Hardcover: $19.95

Available at bookstores or from Acta Publishing at 800-397-2282 or

General Book Club Guidelines