BOOKS: Reviews from a Catholic perspective

Does anyone know where I can find a good Catholic website that posts book reviews? (I am thinking something similar to the USCCB’s website for movies). Thanks!

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I don’t know of one but would REALLY like to know if there is one out there…so I thought I would bumb this up to the top.

:slight_smile: Lilder

“Bumping” up.

Still wondering if anyone has any info on this…

:slight_smile: Lilder

OK, I’ll bump and try an answer :slight_smile:

I’ve used Tiber River.

They don’t have many “full” reviews, however. They used to recommend or not recommend a book, but I don’t think they do that anymore…

The Catholic Information Center puts out a list called the Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan. Any book that’s on that I list, I consider worth reading. I also judge by the publishers. Books from Ignatius Press, Sophia Institute Press, Scepter Publishers, some from Tan Books and Publishers (books by and about the saints, not the wacky stuff from Michael Davies), and I believe Catholic Book Publishing (I think that’s the name), I also consider worth reading, as well as anything you can purchase on this site.

That said, it’s important to have guidance in your choice of reading, especially when you’re going for the heavier works by the older authors. Many of the older works, while quite beautiful, were written for religious brothers, sisters and priests, who were very advanced along the path to sanctity. Without some guidance, it’s possible to misinterpret these works, and end up applying what you read there to your everyday, layperson’s life, when it is quite inappropriate to do so. For example, some of these works are about guarding one’s heart and having no earthly love or any close human relationship of any kind - saving all one’s love for Christ. That’s fine for a contemplative religious, but completely wrong for a married person and parent.

So, who does one ask? The Holy Spirit first. Your spiritual director, if you have one. Your confessor, if you have a regular one. It’s like a prescription from your doctor - just for you and just right for your circumstances. Happy reading!


Does anyone know where one can find reviews or resources to help parents discern good books (in terms of morality and agenda). The US bishops have reviews that accomplish this for movies, but I am looking for a resource specifically for popular fiction/non-fiction books.

Stay away from the USCCB “reviews.” Hard to respect them when they give four stars to Brokeback Mountain, but disliked the Passion of the Christ. Here’s a good blog that does Traditional Catholic reviews of movies and books:

I would have to respectfully disagree on staying away from the USCCB reviews. What you commented on has to do with the author’s personal take on the quality of the film, whereas my original post specified that it was a good resource on the moral content and agenda of the film. While the reviewer of Brokeback Mountain thought the film was well done (I haven’t seen it myself, and won’t) and gave it four stars based on production, here is what he said about the morality:

The film contains tacit approval of same-sex relationships, adultery, two short male sex scenes without nudity, two brief heterosexual encounters with upper female nudity, shadowy rear nudity, other implied sexual situations, profanity, rough and crude expressions, irreligious remarks, alcohol and brief drug use, fleeting violent images, a gruesome description of a murder, some fisticuffs and brief domestic violence. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is O – morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R – restricted.


The Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality is unambiguous. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered" and the inclination itself is “objectively disordered.” At the same time, homosexually inclined persons “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” (#2357 and #2358). As a result, Ennis and Jack’s physical relationship cannot be condoned. Of course, just as offensive from a Catholic perspective is the adulterous nature of their affair. And, in this regard, the film doesn’t whitewash the pain Jack and Ennis cause their families, showing how selfish their trysts are, particularly when a befuddled Alma is left alone with the children.

And with regards to The Passion of the Christ, while the reviewer took issues with Gibson’s style, he aplauds the message of the film and is honest about its target audience being adults, not children because of the intensity:

For those coming to the film without a faith perspective it may have little resonance. But for Christians, “The Passion of the Christ” is likely to arouse not only passionate opinions, but hopefully a deeper understanding of the drama of salvation and the magnitude of God’s love and forgiveness. It is not about what men did to God, but what God endured for humanity.

Due to gory scenes of torture and crucifixion, a suicide and some frightening images, the USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III - - adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R - restricted.

In short, I’ve disagreed with quite a few of the USCCB reviewer’s opinions on scripting, acting, directing, etc., but I think that if I were to want to have an overview of the moral content and compatibility of a film that my child wanted to rent, it would be a fairly reliable guide to that end.

I agree. And that is exactly how I use their guidelines. For book reviews, while not specifically Catholic, I have liked these resources:

Honey for a Child’s Heart (there is also a teen version). This is a book, not a website. It is basically a reading list, so it won’t warn against immoral material as much as guide you toward excellent books.

Landscape with Dragons. This is also a book and is considered by some to be too conservative. The author’s basic premise is that the dragon is a traditional metaphor for satan and that the deluge of books where the dragon is the hero’s friend is a ‘liberal’ idea of cozying up to sin. I thought it was taken a bit far, but he does have some excellent reviews of books that opened a new viewpoint for me on what we would consider acceptable.

My third source of reviews is simply an informal Mother’s Network of woman whose morals I trust. Thankfully I know several families who are also voracious readers and who have at least 1 child older than my eldest so I can benefit from their experience.

On the whole as my children have gotten older, I have skipped the entire “young adult” category in favor of going directly to classic adult literature. The ‘young adult’ category is a product of the 60s when The Outsiders was written. I find the books identified as such are usually poorly written, too sexual, too dark, or often all of the above.

I know this may not be exactly what you were asking for, but hopefully it will still be helpful.

One great website for reviews is Primarily they review websites, but in doing so, they offer useful info on certain authors and publishing companies. They offer three ratings in terms of fidelity: Green Arrow Up (Good), Yellow Arrow Side-to-side (Caution), and Red Arrow Down (Bad).

What I particularly like about their reviews is that they give specific examples of the weaknesses they find. Thus, as with the USCCB movie reviews, it offers good groundwork to make a decision, even if you don’t agree with their conclusions 100% of the time.

Though they don’t specifically aim at reviewing books, if you do a search you can often find good articles on certain books. For example, a search for “Purpose Driven Life” yields an article reviewing that particular book.

Of course, I have dreams of doing exactly what you were asking for on my own blog, but I haven’t had the time to dedicate to that project just yet. :slight_smile:

Does anyone know of any websites where I can read Catholic book reviews of secular novels? I’m a prolific reader, especially of science fiction and fantasy novels, but I want to be sure that I don’t read anything that’s sinful. I searched Google and today for over an hour, but I couldn’t find anything. I’d appreciate any suggestions that anyone may have.

That’s a good question! I’d be interested in such a site myself. Perhaps, as an avid reader, you can start one up yourself! :wink:

Now that’s an interesting idea. I don’t know If I’m qualified, though.

I’m sure there are a great many less qualified people out there with websites of their own :wink:

Seriously, though, it’s not something you would have to do alone. You could always ask for help on things you’re not sure of. Maybe get a core team of other interested people to contribute.

Catholic Culture is one website that reviews other Catholic websites. This might give you an idea on how to construct a review and what elements to include. There are also some great Catholic websites that you can go to for answers to any questions on the Catholic faith you might encounter (Catholic Answers, Catholics United for the Faith, EWTN, Catholic Educator’s Resource Center, etc.)

Just something to think about. Remember, God doesn’t choose the qualified, he qualifies the chosen :slight_smile: St. Maximilian Kolbe went off to Japan to evangelize even though he had no money and didn’t know the language. And yet, he was successful. Sometimes you just have to take that first step in faith that God will provide!

I need the same kind of book reviews. Every review just states if the book is good or not. I am interested because I have a 12 year old that I cannot keep up with in providing her with books. I also have 6 more kids behind her that I would like to encourage to read.

There’s a website for movies called where you can call up the movie and it gives ratings for sexual content, violence, and profanity. It then gives a sort of play by play of what happens without giving away the plot. An example: boy hits girl over head, boy trips over skateboard, man kisses woman on the cheek, etc.

I have always wanted a site for books that works like this! So far I am getting around it by using a book list published by a Catholic mommy and trying to provide those books for my kids. The list is not very big, and we are in a rural area where our library does not have a lot of the books. Some are out of print, tough to find, etc. Plus if my kids want to read a certain series and it is not on the list, I don’t know anything about it! So I am definitely interested in something like that!

P.S. the book list I am talking about is A Mother’s List of Books by Theresa Fagan. If you search I think you can buy the list for like $6 or so on one of the Catholic publisher’s websites.

You might be interested in the book “A Landscape With Dragons” by Michael O’Brien. The book has an extensive list of suggested reading for children (and adults, too!). Just this “Suggested Reading” section of the book is about 100 pages long! It even categorizes them by age brackets. The book is worth the price just for this list of book recommendations.

Thanks for the tip! I was just looking to buy that book because one of the books on the list I have was recommended with reservations - it suggested getting Landscape With Dragons to read alongside the novel. I did not know about the book list so thanks!

This site has info on Catholic authors. Probably not exactly what you’re looking for, but it might have something helpful on it:

I find reading amazon user reviews gives me an idea of the content of a book.

That is exactly what I’ve been trying to find for a while, so thank you very much for posting this link!

TiberRiver is a good one, but it tends to focus more on purely spiritual works by Catholic authors as opposed to secular novels.

Maybe this?

There are several Catholic publications that publish book reviews, as well; there are other posters who can direct you to these publications better than I can, though. :smiley:

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