Laux’s books seem good, though note: these are not thin books. Each is a fairly thick book in its own right, and are not appropriate if you’re looking for a brief overview of the faith. I would reserve these books for reading AFTER your RCIA.
I’m a relative newbie, too. Basically, whenever you buy a Catholic book, look on the inside cover pages for a “Nihil Obstat,” which means it’s been reviewed and the book contains nothing contrary to the teachings of the Church. Nihil Obstat can be granted by a priest. It may also say Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, which is a higher level of certification and is usually done by a Bishop. If there is only an Imprimatur, then it’s OK, too.
Tan does have about 3 “iffy” books, but most books are Nihil Obstat or Imprimatur. The “iffy” books are obvious from the title: example: Liturgical Timebombs of Vatican II. Pretty obvious that book is NO good!
Anyway, here’s my book and courselist for you:
Depending on your level, here are some of my recommendations:
“We Believe… A Survey of the Catholic Faith” A Catholic Correspondence course by Father Lukefahr. Good course, covers the basics, and you get a certificate of completion. Easy course, took me two weeks. The courses are free, but a donation is requested. Lukefahr is considered to be be more liberal in his teachings as compared to Hardon, but both are in-line with the Magesterium. There are other courses listed, too, but I’d start here: (Note: allow 4 weeks for delivery):
Scott Hahn’s Online Courses (which I think are free)
“Basic Catholic Catechism Course,” Correspondence course offered by Father Hardon. Is not free, and a wee bit expensive (around 40 dollars, approximately), but they send you LOTS of books, so it’s worth the money. Plus, the tests make you think. This course takes a more in-depth look at the Catholic faith. Hardon is more Orthodox as compared to Lukefahr and Hahn. Though varying in spectrum and emphasis, I found the teaching of ALL of these men to be helpful. This course took me four months to complete.
For an EVEN MORE in depth look, you can take the Advanced Catechist’s course AFTER taking the Basic Catholic Catechism Course. I’m taking the Advanced Course, presently, and it’s a bit hard. Expect it to take 9 months to complete.
A Brief Catechism for Adults – Good book, presented in didactic format. Great for adults and covers the basics.
Baltimore Catechism Number 4
All the books in the Baltimore ask the same questions and give answers, each book succedingly more in depth. The first 3 books are mostly for children. If you’re an adult, just skip the first three. The last book, Number 4, has everything the first three have, plus EXPLANATIONS to the answers, and is best for adults.
Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma
As everyone here knows, this is my favorite reference book because it has it all … Bible references, Papal references, Saint references to just about everything. It’s a long book and is meant for those who REALLY like to know everything. It’s for the hard-core Catholic nerd (like me). HA. I really like this book and use it as a supplement to Hardon’s books. Only downside is that it’s SO packed with information that the print is kinda small. It’s such and AWESOME book though, and is essential if you do Apologetics (defending the faith). Also lists Infallible Dogmas in bold print, and gives explanations. Also lists heresies and short history behind each Dogma.
All the courses and books I listed all have Nihil Obstat and Imprimaturs.
God bless you in your journey.