Catholic novels that are actually good

I know that it’s sometimes hard to find good books to read that don’t offend Catholic sensibilities. And when you do find such books, they’re often not very good!

My friend, a father of 3, started a publishing company, “Blue and Gold Media”, that will release all titles in book and audio book format simultaneously. He uses professional readers and recording companies for the audio books.

He has 2 books released right now; both are exciting novels in their own right (besides the fact they are Catholic-friendly). Of course we don’t want to read books with “bad stuff” in them, but who wants to read something sappy, boring, or poorly written? But these books are exciting and good clean fun.

Am I allowed to post links? I suppose I should wait to hear from a moderator before I post one. Maybe I’ll put the link in my profile. If anyone’s interested in these books, please look at my profile for the link.

I just want to see my friend succeed in his endeavor. He’s risking a lot of money by starting this company, and he has 3 children to feed.

I hope I’m posting this in the right place; apologies in advance if I’m not.

God bless,

Matt

Thanks for the information. I read quite a bit, and it is great to know that there will be some Catholic-friendly novels (that are good) out there. I’m sure others will also appreciate it.

I noticed that about most modern Catholic movies. Yeah they may have a good message, but their awful.

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=5751940#post5751940

Dear folks who are interested in “good” Catholic books.

Please start talking to us librarians on the forum thread above. We run parish libraries and are LOOKING for good stuff … especially good Catholic novels, poetry, and biographies. We’ve all got plenty of non-fiction. We need “can’t put it down” type stories. We’d love to get audio media too. We don’t have much money but we’d spring for good quality liturature.

Are there any cartoonists out there?

JoanREdirector

I’m grateful for your post, but I’m not quite sure what you are asking. :confused:

Before books can be brought into your libraries, those books must be published. That’s the disconnect here. It seems that very few Catholic publishing houses are interested in popular fiction or “beach reads,” as I call them.

Protestant publishing houses, OTOH, publish stacks and stacks of novels, including romances, mysteries, thrillers, horror, sci-fi, and teen novels. Walk into any Protestant bookstores or acquire any Protestant book catalogue, and you’ll find shelf after shelf of novels, especially romances.

I personally have found that many of these novels are not well-written. But I’m not claiming to be another Safire, so who am I to criticize?

I’ve also checked out quite a few Protestant publishers and have discovered that they will not even consider something that is “Catholic-friendly.” They want to preserve the idea that Catholicism is a pagan cult, and therefore will not tolerate Catholicism in fiction unless the Catholic character gets “saved” and becomes Protestant. (I think they’re promoting the “anti-Catholic” myth because many Protestants will not buy books that promote Catholicism as a true Christian church. I can’t say I blame the publishing companies for responding to their market. Why publish a book that no one will buy?)

But before we criticize the Protestant publishing houses, we must realize that the Catholic publishing houses seem to feel the same way about Protestantism. Over and over I hear publishers say, “We do not wish to publish anything that might compromise the Catholic faith and tempt readers away from Catholicism.”

In other words, do not present Protestants in a good light because it might tempt Catholics to leave the Church and become Protestants. Protestant characters must be presented as confused, searching, intolerant, legalistic, even psychotic (there’s one novel out there in which the anti-Catholic Protestant tries to kill the Catholic pastor–yikes!). But to present them as fellow Christians who love the Lord Jesus–that seems to be a no-no.

Now that strikes me as wimpy. Doesn’t Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament have the power to draw Christians to Himself? If a person’s faith is so weak that reading a Protestant-friendly novel will lead him away from the Catholic Church–well, it strikes me that the parish needs to vamp up its catechesis and evangelization programs a tad.

The other thing that I’ve noticed about Catholic fiction is that it is didactic. The novel is not really a story, but it’s a theology book wrapped in a very thin plot and totally unrealistic characters who don’t speak in dialogue, but instead, speak in homilies and lectures.

The publishing house mentioned in the OP sounds very interesting to me, and I wish them great success. I think that they will fill a very real need–the need that Catholics have to read and enjoy good stories.

Can I ask for some clarification for all of you looking for Catholic fiction?

Are we talking about fiction in which the characters are good (and probably some bad ones…) Catholics, but the plot is the main draw? A “beach read” or a “book you can’t put down” either has to be really well-written or have a pretty swift-moving and/or interesting plot, yes?

OR are we talking character-driven novels in which the characters have a Catholic worldview? They see all of the events happening in the story through their morals as Catholics. I’m not saying that just right, but basically characters that you would find in a “secular” book, only their decisions and motives rely on their faith as Catholics?

I’m interested in your ideas on this. It’s difficult to find stories where the characters are Catholics but isn’t a heavy-handed attempt at catechesis.

Full disclosure: I work for a Catholic publishing house and am intrigued by this topic…

Why not both?

I think any novel should have a strong plot (good story) AND believable, fascinating characters. Of course, it goes without saying that a good novel should be well-written with vivid language, realistic dialogue, and authenticity. And the novel should be free from bad grammar, timeline lapses, mistakes due to lack of research, etc.

When it comes to characters, I think a lot of Christian novels fail when it comes to “believable.”

The Protestant adult novels that I’ve read have characters that are just silly, and the Catholic novels aren’t much better. In real life, people don’t walk around spouting Bible verses in their daily conversations.

I have yet to meet any Christian, Catholic or Protestant, who is without sin. I see no harm in allowing the character to sin in the course of the story, even if he/she is a devout Christian.

In an adult novel, I don’t want to read about characters who always do and say the “Catholic thing” or the “Biblical thing”, and who, even when tempted, immediately back away and resist.

I would rather read about Christian characters who struggle against temptation, and who occasionally fall, but drag themselves back up and get on the right road again with God’s help.

And ideally, these “flawed but trying hard” characters should be caught up in an exciting, nail-biting, gripping plot that makes us want to stay up all night to finish the story to find out what happens!

That would be the perfect Catholic novel, IMO–strong plot, believable characters, and well-written.

Strangers and Sojourners By Michael O’Brien is a very good novel. I’ve yet to read one of his novels that I did not enjoy, but, I’d suggest starting with this one.

My Visit to Hell by Paul Thigpen is one that starts a bit “off”, then sucks you in. For a first novel, not to shabby.

Of course the classic Catholic fiction authors are treasures.

I’m grateful for your post, but I’m not quite sure what you are asking.

Before books can be brought into your libraries, those books must be published. That’s the disconnect here. It seems that very few Catholic publishing houses are interested in popular fiction or “beach reads,” as I call them.


beach reads” … eh? I never heard of that term, but yeah, why not “beach reads.”

Romance. Thriller. Spy. Historical fiction. Fantasy.

Do these have to be “bad,” “sappy,” “overly didactic.” “moralistic,” “(your favorite perjorative here).” NOOOOOO!

Think Tolkein, Bernanos (spelling - don’t have my copy of Diary of a Country Priest), Mauriac, Sigrid Undset, Waugh … The list could go on. There are also lesser gems now out of print. My grandmother’s Isabel C. Clarke novels are in tatters. If only I could find reprints.

I refuse to believe there aren’t new writers out there with at least one good book burning within them. And these books don’t have to be Catholic “trash.” By that I mean that they don’t have to be poorly written. They don’t have to be overtly Catholic … think “Lord of the Rings.” They don’t have to weigh a ton either in bulk or in tone. I hope you get the drift.

I’m convinced there is a need (market, if you will) out there. I’m pleading with authors and publishers to consider it.

Get yourself on ebay or half.com and try some old Morris West. I’ve read about half a dozen of his books now and they are great. His Shoes of the Fisherman is very interesting to read on this side of JPII’s pontificate (it was written before he was elected) and is one of my favorites. My sister is slowly being drawn back into the church reading his books that my mom and I just leave about the house when she’s visiting! Of course, Walker Percy, Grahame Greene, Flannery O’Connor and CHESTERTON are read much too little these days. We must reclaim these giants (as well as support and find new Catholic authors!)

Oh, and being a mom of a teenage daughter, I am constantly searching out good reads for her. She ATE up the REGINA DOMAN books based on the fairy tales (yes, sounds schlocky, but she loved them), BUT especially loved (and passed it to half-dozen of her friends… I still have not been able to read it as they are all passing it on to their friends and sisters), a little self-published book called ARMS OF LOVE by a Canadian, Carmen Marcoux. This is about courtship and JPII’s theology of the body, but wrapped in a romance novel for young adults. My daughter (and by all accounts, her friends) are ENTHRALLED with this book “The best book I ever read!” is the review from my daughter and her 2 high school carpool buddies (granted - it’s a Catholic high school, but hey, that’s pretty high praise for 15 year olds!). There is a sequel too which they also gave high marks.

[quote=Cat]The other thing that I’ve noticed about Catholic fiction is that it is didactic. The novel is not really a story, but it’s a theology book wrapped in a very thin plot and totally unrealistic characters who don’t speak in dialogue, but instead, speak in homilies and lectures.
[/quote]

Then I recommend Flannery O’Connor’s short stories and novels. Her work is the antithesis of didactic. She may not be “beach read” material, but you won’t get theology lectures either. In fact, she satirizes the South, which inevitably includes Protestantism.

I appreciate the recommendation. Is not O’Connor considered “literary fiction?” Forgive me if I am incorrect.

While I respect this type of writing and consider it the epitome of good writing, I personally dislike reading it.

I want to read a “story,” written at about the 6th-8th grade reading level, with lots of action and suspense and good writing.

That’s what a “beach read” is–a story that holds your attention and isn’t too terribly difficult to understand, even if you’re sitting on the beach distracted by gorgeous guys in Speedos (or gorgeous women in bikinis if you’re a man!), and cute little kids building sandcastles and asking for treats (if they’re your kids!).

I realize that this makes me sound like a bimbo.

Well, no apologies. I spend a lot of my workday reading cultures of bacteria and dealing with complex medical issues. When I play piano, I have to concentrate on coming in on cue, playing the right notes, doing everything right. Even running a household and raising kids can be complex in this day and age. And then there’s the stress of using my cellphone and all the other electronic devices (I’ve given up on using my cellphone).

I WANT to relax and enjoy and hang loose when I read fiction. If that makes me a bimbo, well, I’m a bimbo.

But an awful lot of “bimbos” are out there buying millions of copies of popular (not literary) fiction!

It seems short-sighted and possibly even elitist for the Catholic publishing houses to disregard the real-life market and publish only high literary fiction, especially when there is plenty of low popular fiction that is wholesome and inspiring and sometimes, even well-written.

BTW, I attended a Writer’s Conference (a Christian one) a few years back, and heard one of the authors joke, “The definition of literary fiction is writing that doesn’t sell.”

[quote=Cat]Is not O’Connor considered “literary fiction?” Forgive me if I am incorrect.
[/quote]

Yes, she wrote great literary fiction. You may want to at least try out her short story collection Everything That Rises Must Converge. The story The Comforts of Home has an entertaining (and more traditional) plot within its literary subtext.

[quote=Cat]I want to read a “story,” written at about the 6th-8th grade reading level, with lots of action and suspense and good writing.
[/quote]

OK, I have a few more recommendations for you, then. I haven’t read any of these books myself, but they’ve gotten praise from the latest issue of the St. Austin Review (StAR):

Death of a Pope, by Piers Paul Read

The Endless Knot, by William Biersach

[quote=Cat]BTW, I attended a Writer’s Conference (a Christian one) a few years back, and heard one of the authors joke, “The definition of literary fiction is writing that doesn’t sell.”
[/quote]

No need to remind me. :smiley: I like writing it all the same. :thumbsup:

I admire you. I couldn’t write high fiction if my life depended on it. I’m just a step away from “graphic novels!” Actually, I wish I could write graphic novels–they sell!

I try, but whether I succeed at it or not is still very much in question. :wink:

I’m just a step away from “graphic novels!” Actually, I wish I could write graphic novels–they sell!

And speaking of graphic novel, you may want to give Alphonse a try. It’s written by Catholic author Matthew Lickona. Again, I haven’t read it for myself, but it seems interesting enough. He released part one in the hope that he’d get enough readers to buy it, so that he could afford to finish it. According to the web page, he has raised enough money to publish part two, and only $14,000 from paying for the whole series to be published.

I vote both also.

I’ve been looking for some good Catholic novels also.

I search for good novels that do nothing to deter us from our faith. Any publishing company that can provide them in both book and audio will get both my vote and business. I especially love books available in downloadable formats such as audible.com provides.

I empathise with Catholic librarians looking for entertaining yet clean books to provide. As a mother of teenagers it is hard to give them titles to read that they actually want to read. Sure, there are classics and they are great. But, they need something they can identify with today. They need role models for the present. Maybe this is not the best place to post this. Sorry for that if that is the case.

Is there some way to find and promote a crop of good authors to compete with the best selling offerings???

Can I recommend you look at biographies…“they” say truth is stranger than fiction - and there are some really interesting notable people from 20th century …but they do take some searching out:)

The points by everyone on this thread are pretty well on the mark. I am a librarian for an independent Catholic school K - 12. Don’t want to sound didactic but will try to give you the “fruits” of 5-6 years labour. Firstly, you have to define what a Catholic novel is: answer, it is a novel that reflects a Catholic world view. Therefor, the author doesn’t have to be Catholic (This qualifies Dorothy Sayers, C. S. Lewis, etc); also, a Catholic author can write trash (e.g., Fr. Andrew Greeley). Recommend that you read anything by Joseph Pearce about “literary converts” (Ignatius Press). You have to understand that there was a great literary revival in the 50’s (Belloc, Chesterton, etc). And there are some new novels coming out, but also people trying to write a “catholic novel” but the book will be strained, etc. For me, I found Sun & Wind by Wm Boardman (legend of Joseph of Arimethea) just that. Gloraykid is right on; the sequel to the Marcoux book is “Surrender” - wonderful. My Grades 11-12 reading Marcoux. Also all Regina Domans (i.e., the trilogy, plus ‘The Midnight Dancers’), R, Doman has literary talent. Also try "Niamh and the Hermit by Emily Snyder - Tolkienesk style, commended by Joseph Pearce. Go to www.ignatius.com and look at everything being published/republished. For younger readers, go to Bethlehem Books. Emphasis a lot on historical fiction; our kids are reading these and enjoying (lots of adventure, etc). Check out: “The Crusader King” - TAN pub. While we wait for more competent current authors, realize that many oldies are being replublished. Buy “Crown Authors” and “Catholic Authors” from Newmann Press - it will get you familiar with the greats from the past. Use www.addall.com for your best range of used books. Buy the EWTN series “Catholic Authors” with Fr. McCloskey. Bud MacFarlane’s “Pierced with a Sword” - a “must” for 18-20; the 2 sequels from mid-20’s+. Sophia Institute also publishing great titles - especially Carryl Houselander. Books put out by the “Catholic Family Book Club”;e.g., Vincent Cronin’s “Wise Man from the West”; not all Taylor Caldwell but certainly “Dear & Glorious Physician”, ‘Grandmother and the Priests’.
Hope this doesn’t sound too bossy.
“Fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honour, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise”.(Phillipians 4:8)

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