U.S. Catholic Book Club reviews

November 2023

Birthing the Holy

By Christine Valters Paintner, Illustrated by Kreg Yingst

“[Mary] is the experience of love that embraces us when we feel we may fall apart,” Christine Valters Paintner writes in her new book, Birthing the Holy: Wisdom from Mary to Nurture Creativity and Renewal. The book contains reflections on 31 of Mary’s names—from Virgin to Mother of Sorrows to Mirror of Justice.

The power of the book lies in the myriad ways to engage with it and, therefore, with the many faces of Mary. Paintner’s book lends itself to a kind of lectio divina, listening for a word or phrase or image that stands out. Paintner suggests using journaling, gesture, sound, and other arts to deepen your understanding. You can create a mini retreat out of the book, reflecting on one name every day for a month. Or you can simply meditate on artist Kreg Yingst’s beautiful and powerful block prints, encountering each face of Mary in the images on the page. This is a book you will come back to again and again, finding something new in each repetition.

Emily Sanna, managing editor, U.S. Catholic

“In Birthing the Holy, Christine Valters Paintner invites you to better know Mary through 31 of her titles, and, along the way, you’ll nurture new growth in your life.” —Ave Maria Press

Paperback: $18.95

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

General Book Club Guidelines

October 2023

Come Forth

By James Martin, S.J.

Come Forth: The Promise of Jesus’s Greatest Miracle is a reminder of the power of just a single gospel story. Meditating on Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead, Jesuit Father James Martin in his newest book helps readers revisit and rethink the important story told in John 11.

As in Jesus: A Pilgrimage and Learning to Pray, Martin’s accessible voice and insightful spiritual reflection make Come Forth another important release from this revered writer priest. While Martin’s scholarship and analysis are impressive, the greatest takeaway for readers is spiritual direction. With wisdom and honesty, Martin reveals how being open to God can give us new life, illuminating what Jesus means when he calls us to come forth.

Sarah Butler Schueller, senior editor, U.S. Catholic

“New York Times bestselling author Father James Martin, S.J. explores one of Jesus’ greatest miracles—the raising of Lazarus from the dead—and explains its significance for us today.” —HarperOne

Paperback: $32.99

Available at bookstores or from HarperOne at (833) 711-0841 or HC.com.

General Book Club Guidelines

September 2023

Following Jesus in a Warming World

By Kyle Meyaard-Schaap

In the introduction of Following Jesus in a Warming World, Kyle Meyaard-Schaap tells of his initial shock at learning that his older brother had become involved in climate action. Growing up in a conservative evangelical Christian community, Meyaard-Schaap saw this decision as a kind of betrayal and climate action as something good Christians just didn’t do.

In the pages that follow, Meyaard-Schaap outlines his own journey to ecological awareness and offers an in-depth field guide for Christians who are struggling to integrate their faith and climate action. From an analysis of the psychology behind climate denial to scriptural exegesis of God’s love for creation to a practical guide to getting involved in direct political action, Following Jesus in a Warming World is loaded with invaluable resources for Christians looking to become more effective environmental advocates in their communities—whether their communities are supportive of climate action or not.

Nathaniel Hunter, associate editor, U.S. Catholic

Following Jesus in a Warming World is a field guide for Christian climate action—one grounded not in a sense of guilt or drudgery but in the joy of caring for creation.” —InterVarsity Press

Paperback: $18.00

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

General Book Club Guidelines

August 2023

Finding Messiah

By Jennifer M. Rosner

Both Jews and Christians are united by faith in God’s promise of a messiah who will liberate the world from sin and death. As Rosner reflects on this divine plan of God—a belief that both Jews and Christians share—she identifies the messiah with Jesus Christ. Her accessible interpretation of scripture brings clarity to God’s presence and movement in human history, reaching its fulfillment in the gift of a Jewish messiah, Jesus Christ, on whom the faith of Christians rests.

Readers will be enlightened by Rosner’s excellent storytelling and scriptural interpretations and invited into the celebration of liturgies that connect God and humanity, the spiritual and the mundane, the body and spirit.

This comprehensive book makes an insightful contribution to discussions on the unity of Judaism and Christianity.

Rev. Ferdinand Okorie, editor-in-chief, U.S. Catholic

“Jesus was Jewish, and his Jewish identity informed every aspect of his life. Rediscover the Jewish Jesus, and in doing so, experience a deeper and richer faith than ever before.” —InterVarsity Press

Paperback: $17.00

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

General Book Club Guidelines

July 2023

Young, Gifted, and Black

By Sheila Wise Rowe

Sheila Wise Rowe chronicles the stories of different young gifted Black people in Young, Gifted, and Black, capturing their diverse experiences—both joys and struggles—with a focus on their healing from trauma and marginalization.

Wise Rowe’s perspective is informed by her work as a counselor and by her faith life. At the end of each chapter, she provides reflections and embodied prayer practices to engage heart and mind. Especially compelling is her emphasis on “holding on to what we value most” and on the power of rewriting old stories and making them new. This is what she does in this book.

Telling the story of her own son, who experienced racial bias at school, alongside stories of athletes, artists, activists, and professionals who were pressured to follow unhealthy “rules of engagement” in pursuit of success or identity, Wise Rowe exposes the built-in structures that make it harder for Black people to thrive. But she also shows how healing and triumph are possible.

Rebecca Bratten Weiss, digital editor, U.S. Catholic

“Drawing from her years of experience in counseling trauma and abuse survivors, Sheila Wise Rowe provides stories, reflections, and tools for Black readers of all ages and their allies.” —InterVarsity Press

Paperback: $18.00

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

General Book Club Guidelines

June 2023

Reading for the Love of God

By Jessica Hooten Wilson

When Flannery O’Connor was pursuing her master of fine arts in creative writing, her constant prayer was: “Please help me to get down under things and find where You are.” Jessica Hooten Wilson, in her new book Reading for the Love of God, sees O’Connor’s prayer as an entry point for how we can read as a “spiritual practice.” With examples of writers and thinkers ranging from Augustine to Frederick Douglass to Dorothy Sayers, Hooten Wilson argues that we can move away from thinking about reading as consumption to thinking of reading as relationship between the author, reader, and text. In this, we can “get down under things” and be changed, finding God in a range of genres and literature. “Opening a book should not be the final goal but the invitation to a broader vision,” she writes. Reading helps spark our imaginations for who and how we want to be in the world, and Hooten Wilson gives practical examples to begin reading in a way that helps us see “as contemplatives and beholders.”

Cassidy Klein, editorial assistant, U.S. Catholic

“In Reading for the Love of God, award-winning author Jessica Hooten Wilson shows readers how to read as a spiritual practice that deepens our faith.” —Baker Publishing Group

Hardback: $24.99

Available at bookstores or from Baker Book House at (800) 877-2665 or bakerpublishinggroup.com.

General Book Club Guidelines

May 2023

Reveille for a New Generation: Organizers and Leaders Reflect on Power

By Gregory F. Augustine Pierce

In 2022, delegates from the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) met with Pope Francis. During the visit, the pope praised their organizing work and mission, referring to the IAF as “Good News for the United States.”

And yet, despite that fact that organizing has deep Catholic roots and is deeply resonate with Pope Francis’ synodal vision for the church, far too often it is misunderstood. Inspired by the work of the IAF, a new book, Reveille For A New Generation: Organizers and Leaders Reflect on Power, attempts to remedy this. The book includes over 50 stories, poems, sermons, and essays reflecting on power and how community organizing helps people harness and exercise the power they already have.

In the introduction, ACTA publisher Gregory Pierce writes that the purpose of this collection is three-fold: to inspire new leaders; to convince religious communities to engage in organizing; and to explain to politicians, academia, the media, etc. how organizing can get to the root causes of society’s biggest problems. The book is an important read for anyone who believes that our faith calls us to work together to make the world a better place.

Emily Sanna, managing editor, U.S. Catholic

“’Social justice’ means successfully changing the root causes of unjust systems. This insightful collection of pieces written from 1831-2020 illuminate how groups have won recognition, respect, and real results by organizing.” —ACTA Press

Paperback: $19.95

Available at bookstores or from ACTA Press at (800) 397-2282 or actapublications.com.

General Book Club Guidelines

April 2023

Against War: Building a Culture of Peace

By Pope Francis

Ten years into Pope Francis’ papacy, peacemaking has become one of his hallmark themes. Against War: Building a Culture of Peace, a collection of the pope’s essential writings on the subject, is a timely release prompted by the war in Ukraine. In addition to sections ranging from nuclear weapons to friendship, Against War also includes a few of Francis’ most moving prayers for peace.

Rounding out the comprehensive collection is an afterword by Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli that details the oft-ignored tradition of papal proclamations for peace over the last century. As Pope Francis writes, echoing his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI, “To be followers of Jesus today includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence.”

Sarah Butler Schueller, senior editor, U.S. Catholic

“In his travels to Iraq and other war zones, his homilies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and his statements on Ukraine, Francis calls on the world to reject war and build peace.” —Orbis Books

Paperback: $20.00

Available at bookstores or from Orbis Books at (800) 258-5838 or orbisbooks.com.

General Book Club Guidelines

March 2023

Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep

By Tish Harrison Warren

Modeled after the compline prayer, Tish Harrison Warren’s Prayer in the Night extends to those “who work or watch or weep,” meeting readers at the rockiest parts of life. She invites us to reach “for a reality that [is] larger and more enduring than what [we feel] in the moment” by allowing ourselves to feel grief, holding on when we are waiting for a glimpse of hope, and cultivating joy when work seems to be our only reality.

Along the way, Harrison Warren shares stories from her own life of nights spent worrying and wishing. She speaks to readers from a place of deep understanding and shows us that we don’t have to wait until things are good to believe in the goodness of God. Rather, she says, “Through prayer, I dared to believe that God was in the midst of my chaos and pain, whatever was to come.” With her book, she invites us to do the same.

Emily Sanna, managing editor, U.S. Catholic

“How can we trust God in the dark? Framed around a nighttime prayer of Compline, Tish Harrison Warren explores themes of human vulnerability, suffering, and God’s seeming absence.” —InterVarsity Press

Paperback: $22.00

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

General Book Club Guidelines

February 2023

How to Inhabit Time

By James K. A. Smith

There are dozens—if not hundreds—of books on the market showing readers how to manage their time. No doubt there are plenty of books that tackle this subject from a Christian perspective. How to Inhabit Time is not one of these books. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. If I may be a bit pithy, in How to Inhabit Time, James K. A. Smith shows how time manages you.

Throughout the book, Smith highlights the pitfalls and shortcomings of what he terms “nowhen Christianity”: a faith that is totally disconnected both from the past that built it—and us—and the future toward which it arcs. Touching on negative impulses as diverse as nostalgia, historical revisionism, utopianism, apocalypticism, fear of death, and a distaste for the ephemeral, Smith offers readers a better journey through time accompanied by a faith that truly knows when it is.

Nathaniel Hunter, associate editor, U.S. Catholic

“Smith shows that awakening to the spiritual significance of time is crucial for orienting faith in the 21st century.” —Brazos Press

Hardcover: $24.99

Available at bookstores or from Brazos Press at (800) 877-2665 or bakerpublishinggroup.com.

General Book Club Guidelines

January 2023

On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books

By Karen Swallow Prior

“Good books are to be luxuriated in, not rushed through,” writes Karen Swallow Prior in On Reading Well. This luxuriating, as Prior envisions it, has little to do with idleness or escapism nor with pleasure for pleasure’s sake. The aesthetic discipline of savoring a good book is tied to ethics and the practice of virtue.

As she explores the cardinal, theological, and heavenly virtues represented in landmark works of fiction from The Great Gatsby to The Road, Prior shows how engaging ethically with these stories can aid in the development of these same virtues. Reading well is not fundamentally about meticulous literary criticism. It means exploring the big questions concerning courage, faith, conscience, conflicts of the heart, and pressures of society that make a book worth visiting.

The “good life” isn’t necessarily lived intimately with books, and being well-read does not guarantee virtue. But, as Prior shows, reading well can truly help us become better people.

Rebecca Bratten Weiss, digital editor, U.S. Catholic

“An acclaimed author helps readers learn to love life, literature, and God through their encounters with great writing.” —Brazos Press

Paperback: $19.00

Available at bookstores or from Brazos Press at (800) 877-2665 or bakerpublishinggroup.com.

General Book Club Guidelines

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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.