USC Book Club 2018

2018 Reviews

December 2018

Gratefulness: The Habit of a Grace-Filled Life

by Susan Muto 

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the busyness of life—but Susan Muto reminds us to take a step back and recognize what we’re graced within her book Gratefulness: The Habit of a Grace-Filled Life. In guided chapters headed by Catholic greats such as Henri Nouwen, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and Julian of Norwich, Muto leads readers through a mini-retreat that aids in the development of gratitude. “The more we live in gratitude,” Muto says, “the less inclined we are to reduce the day to a collection of annoying interruptions.” She encourages readers to stop, look around, and be grateful for all God has given us. Who among us could not benefit from these changes?

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

Ave Maria Press says: “In a consumer-driven world where we’re told we need and deserve more, Susan Muto reminds us that gratefulness is a gift from God. In Gratefulness she reveals that grateful living is not another new fad but has been the way of saints and Christian mystics for centuries.”

Paperback: $15.95

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

General Book Club Guidelines

November 2018 

Making Room for God: Decluttering and the Spiritual Life 

by Mary Elizabeth Sperry 

If my hall closet said anything about the state of my soul, I’d be worried. There’s not much room for my winter coats—let alone anyone else’s.

In her book Making Room for God: Decluttering and the Spiritual Life, popular Catholic speaker (and self-proclaimed packrat) Mary Elizabeth Sperry draws from church teaching, saints, and even Pope Francis to explore what our stuff says about our spiritual lives.

Sperry’s Catholic perspective differs from the typical and trendy minimalist decluttering guides. What if decluttering was more about making room for God and for others rather than simply tossing our possessions? It might make things easier. This convincing, practical, and well-researched guide to decluttering is a refreshing read, especially as Catholics make room for God this holiday season.

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

Ave Maria press says: “Writing from an unabashedly Catholic perspective, Making Room for God offers an enticing and entertaining approach to decluttering, discipleship, and the spiritual life that makes tidying up seem almost fun.”

Paperback: $14.95

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

General Book Club Guidelines

October 2018 

Jesus Approaches: What Contemporary Women Can Learn About Healing, Freedom, & Joy from Women of the New Testament 

by Elizabeth M Kelly 

American women today have little in common with women of first-century Palestine. Or do they? Prolific author and retreat leader Elizabeth M. Kelly thinks there’s plenty to learn from the women of the New Testament and offers their stories of encounters with Jesus as models of trust, vulnerability, and grace in Jesus Approaches: What Contemporary Women Can Learn about Healing, Freedom & Joy from the Women of the New Testament.

Kelly is an engaging storyteller who shares deeply personal narratives, both her own as well as those of modern women who have found a deeper relationship with the person of Jesus. Her suggestions for prayers and ideas on which to meditate truly invite the reader to find her own way into a lasting friendship with him.

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

Loyola Press says: “Kelly tells vivid stories about women in Scripture—as well as women today —whose encounters with Christ and His Church have freed them to flourish in every way.”

Paperback: $16.95

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

General Book Club Guidelines

September 2018 

Death in Chicago: Winter 

by Fr. Dominic J. Grassi 

A Catholic priest writing a murder mystery seems odd, but that’s precisely what Father Dominic J. Grassi has done with his first detective novel, Death in Chicago: Winter. The gripping story, set in Chicago’s North Side, tells the tale of detective Cosmo Grande as he investigates a tip about a potential murder.

This page-turner depicts Grande attending to not only his city but also his faith community, as he attempts to catch the killer and help a group of deacons try to save the Catholic Church from its own sins. Grassi’s intentional inclusion of Catholic details, including a financial scandal that could ruin a parish and a corrupt bishop, speaks to Catholic readers with an interest in crime.

—Shanna Johnson, editorial assistant, U.S. Catholic magazine

ACTA says: “This riotous novel by Chicago priest Father Dominic Grassi follows a brash, tough, flawed, and wickedly funny detective, Cosmo Grande, hired to solve a murder that hasn’t happened yet.”

Paperback: $16.95; Hardcover: $24.95

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

General Book Club Guidelines

August 2018
Praying the Angelus: Finding Joy, Peace, and Purpose in Everyday Life 

by Jared Dees 

On a recent visit to one of our Claretian communities in Bangalore, India, I was reintroduced to praying the Angelus, a devotion I had not thought much about since my youth. In Praying the Angelus, popular author and speaker Jared Dees offers an invitation to the reader to join him in this ancient prayer practice that recalls the annunciation of Christ’s birth by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary. Through historical background, his own experience of the prayer, and guided meditations, Dees invigorates this biblically rooted, ancient devotion and makes it attractive to modern-day busy Catholics. This book—as well as this prayer—serves as a great reminder to dedicate our time, our work, and our lives back to God and, most important, to slow down and look for God’s presence in our lives.

—John Molyneux, C.M.F., editor-in-chief, U.S. Catholic

Ave Maria Press says: “Jared Dees introduces the Angelus devotion and explores its rich history and significance for the church. As a spiritual companion and guide, he offers meditations on the words and images of both the Angelus and the Regina Caeli.

Paperback: $13.95

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

General Book Club Guidelines

July 2018 

In Praise of the Useless Life: A Monk’s Memoir

by Paul Quenon 

“I am on a permanent vacation.” So begins Trappist Brother Paul Quenon in his new memoir, In Praise of the Useless Life. He continues on to describe the monastic life as lived through play, through song and music and dancing with God.

For Quenon, the cycles of monastic life are not constraining, despite the fact that it can be hard work and there are times when meditation and prayer seem to weigh the brothers down more than illuminate their faith. Rather, he says, the routine gives him the freedom to just live with no other purpose than to marvel being in God.

Quenon’s book reminds anyone who has ever struggled with finding the time for prayer and contemplation that we don’t need to sit in a darkened room to find God. Instead, the divine is all around us: in the birdcalls that keep us awake, the poems we read, and the interesting people who surround us.

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

Ave Maria Press says: “Brother Paul Quenon, O.C.S.O., shares stories and lessons from more than five decades as a Trappist at the Abbey of Gethsemani where he served as a novice under Thomas Merton. “

Paperback: $15.94

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

General Book Club Guidelines 

June 2018

The Prayer List 

by Jane Knuth

When Jane Knuth’s Aunt Kay passed away, she inherited an unusual family heirloom. It wasn’t an antique end table or piece of jewelry; rather, she became the keeper of “The List,” a collection of prayer intentions from and for her family and friends. A tradition started several generations before, The List gave Jane the unique opportunity to reflect on the role of prayer in her family and within families in general.

In The Prayer List: And Other True Stories of How Families Pray, Jane tells stories of how prayer has affected her own family and invites her friends to share their stories as well. In the spirit of her Aunt Kay, at the end of each chapter she offers suggestions for readers to start their own Prayer List. Part memoir and part spiritual guide, The Prayer List is the perfect read for anyone looking to shake up their prayer life.

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

Loyola Press says: “The Prayer List shares the true stories of how families from many faith traditions—Christian, non-Christian, or no defined faith—pray together in meaningful ways. With prompts to inspire your own family’s prayer after each chapter, these stories prove that family prayer can be a path to the intimacy and closeness we long for. It’s like making God a member of the family.”

Paperback: $14.95

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

General Book Club Guidelines

May 2018 

The Works of Mercy

by Pope Francis

Since the beginning of his pontificate Pope Francis has made mercy a central theme in his teachings. And so Francis’ words are fitting to follow on a walk through the corporal and spiritual works. Using relevant reflections and excerpts from the pope’s writings and preaching, The Works of Mercy details each corporal and spiritual work at length, opening doors to a variety of discussion topics and themes.

In “Welcoming the Stranger” which is unsurprisingly one of the book’s longest sections, Pope Francis challenges us to welcome migrants and refugees and says that in doing so we open our doors to God. The book is a much-needed reminder that mercy is not just one virtue to live by but rather the “epitomizing word of the Gospel.”

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

Orbis Books says: “Mercy has been a trademark of Pope Francis’ papacy: it is a theme rooted in the message of Jesus, who tied our salvation to the treatment of the least of our brothers and sisters. Here, Pope Francis reflects on each of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy and invites us to live this challenging gospel message each day.”

Paperback: $16.00

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

General Book Club Guidelines

April 2018 

Boundless Compassion

by Joyce Rupp 

Living compassionately is not just a skill but a way of life. In her new book, Boundless Compassion, Joyce Rupp takes readers through the steps of creating a compassionate life. Her work as codirector of the Servite Center of Compassionate Presence makes Rupp the perfect creator of this six-week program and an ideal teacher to spread this message of compassion. By the end of the book readers will be able to live life with a more open heart and treat every living thing with more empathy than ever before.

Shanna Johnson, editorial assistant, U.S. Catholic

Ave Maria Press says: “Throughout this six-week personal transformation process for developing and deepening compassion, Joyce Rupp nudges, encourages, and inspires you to grow in the kind of love that motivated Jesus’ life and mission for his disciples.” 

Paperback: $18.95

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

General Book Club Guidelines 

March 2018   

Joyce Rupp: Essential Writings 

by Michael Leach

Often described as a “spiritual midwife,” Joyce Rupp’s writings are at once otherworldly and earthy, not unlike the miraculous event of childbirth that midwives attend. Her poetry and prose sing with surprise, wit, and humility that stimulates and satisfies any spiritual imagination.  Masterfully curated, Orbis’ Joyce Rupp: Essential Writings serves as a primer for new writers and a trusty reference for longtime fans. Rupp and this collection are both a gift. 

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

Orbis Books says: “Joyce Rupp is beloved on five continents as a writer, speaker, and retreat giver. Joyce Rupp: Essential Writings draws from her most influential works, arranged in key themes that speak to every heart: Home. Earth. Cosmos. God. For those who know Joyce’s work well, and those who are just coming to know it, this book is a treasure indeed.” 

Paperback: $22.00

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

General Book Club Guidelines

February 2018 

Uncommon Prayer

by Michael Plekon 

Prayer is not just formal private or corporate conversations with God, professor and Orthodox priest Michael Plekon believes. It is also what happens when we come together with others to eat, to celebrate, to create, and to confront what we fear. It happens not just in churches but in the forest, in kitchens, and on the streets.
To make his point, Plekon’s new book, Uncommon Prayer, brings together the voices of theologians, poets, activists, and contemplatives to show how even the mundane moments of life can be prayerful. Some of the voices he includes are familiar. Others, like in his chapter on making pierogis, are not about great spiritual thinkers or theologians but vibrantly describe the prayer present in the smallest moments of everyday life.
Together, Plekon’s chapters are a powerful meditation on the incarnation: God is not in heaven but in and among us.

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

University of Notre Dame Press says: “Plekon turns to poets, saints, writers, theologians, and activists who demonstrate in word and deed that ‘there is no time of day, no activity, no place that cannot be prayer.'”

Paperback: $30.00

General Book Club Guidelines

January 2018

 Essential Writings: James Martin

by James Martin 

Review: James Martin has been at the forefront of modern Catholic social thought within the past few years. So it was only fitting his writings be a part of the Modern Spiritual Masters series by Orbis Books. Essential Writings is a comprehensive collection of some of Martin’s finest writing to date, chronicling such topics as finding the divine in daily life and living in solidarity with those who are suffering. James Martin, often referred to as one of the greatest spiritual writers of our time, is fully accessible in this collection that emphasizes faith and the acceptance and appreciation of all God’s children.

Shanna Johnson, editorial assistant, U.S. Catholic magazine

Orbis Books says: “This famous Jesuit offers reflections and insights on everything from prayer to depression to sexuality to finding one’s individual path to holiness.”

Paperback: $22

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

General Book Club Guidelines