What should be on the Catholic List of REQUIRED Books?

Something I’ve been thinking about lately, based on a comment from Flannery O’Connor I read in the latest issue of First Things. Commenting on the Church’s Index of Prohibited Books (Index Librorum Prohibitorum), [which was abolished in 1966], O’Connor wistfully wrote, “If the Church were equipped with a reverse index which required that certain books be read…”

The U.S. military services have such required reading lists, ordered by the Marine’s rank and responsibilities, with books that each rank must read by order of the commandant. (Here, for example, is the current reading list for the USMC, from private up to general: usnaorbust.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/usmc-reading-list-revised/) The works include history of the Corps, leadership and management, military strategy and history, economics and cultural/area studies, and novels that exemplify the ideals of the USMC.


If there were a list of required reading for Catholics, obviously the Bible, the Catechism, and the encyclicals would be on there. We don’t have ranks in Catholicism as the military services do, but what books would you recommend for the formation of faith - works in theology, in Church history, in apologetics, literature, philosophy and so forth - as a required reading list for the following ages of Catholics?

  1. 6 to 13 years old

  2. 14 to 18 years old

  3. 18 to 21 years old

  4. 21 to 30 years old

  5. 31 and above.

Feel free to recommend up to 5 books in each range.


Well just to toss out a general book that I think every Catholic should read - The Spirit of the Liturgy by (then) Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI).

Hope this helps! :slight_smile:

Sincerely in Christ through Mary,

Very interesting idea!

For 6-13, a few lives of the Saints.
There are tons. When I was little, I liked “Sixty Saints for Girls” which was rather old and a bit quaint. It had some fictionalizations (what everyone thought/said/looked like, but no major facts). My brother particularly really like martyrs.

Love this Idea!

I would include this book for sure!


Still working on my list, which is very short. Here are some:

1, 6 to 13 years old

The Chronicles of Narnia
The Lord of the Rings
The Book of Virtues - William Bennett

14 to 18 years old

Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
Did Adam and Eve Have Belly Buttons? - Matthew Pinto
What Catholics Really Believe - Karl Keating
Prayer for Beginners - Peter Kreeft
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: An Ordinary Christian - Maria Di Lorenzo
How the Catholic Church Built Civilization - Thomas E. Woods

  1. 18 to 21 years old

College Apologetics: Proof of the Truth of the Catholic Faith - Fr. Anthony Alexander
Summa Theologica - St. Thomas Aquinas - Peter Kreeft
Aquinas - Edward Feser
Handbook of Christian Apologetics - Peter Kreeft
Story of a Soul - St. Therese of Lisieux –
Jesus of Nazareth - Pope Benedict XVI
The Screwtape Letters - C.S. Lewis
Theology for Beginners - Frank Sheed
By What Authority? - Mark Shea
Letters to a Young Catholic - George Wiegel
The Abolition of Man - C.S. Lewis
The Virtue-Driven Life - Fr. Benedict Groeschel
Meditations from a Simple Path - Mother Teresa

  1. 21 to 30 years old

The Brothers Karamazov - Dostoevskii
Confessions of St. Augustine
Man’s Search for Meaning - Viktor Frankl
Theology and Sanity - Frank Sheed
The Spiritual Exercises - St. Ignatius Loyola
St. Francis - G.K. Chesterton
The Dumb Ox: St. Thomas Aquinas - G.K. Chesterton
Beyond Reasonable Doubt - Fr. G.H. Duggan
City of God - St. Augustine
The Last Superstition - Edward Feser

31 and above.

The Everlasting Man - G.K. Chesterton
On Grief - C.S. Lewis
Arise from Darkness: When Life Doesn’t Make Sense - Fr. Benedict Groeschel
Dark Night of the Soul - St. John of the Cross
Essay on Development of Christian Doctrine - Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman
History of Christendom - Carroll

Witness by Whittaker Chambers

Try the “Apologetics Bookshelf” list at Catholic Answers:


I couldn’t say what’s best for those designated age groups as I joined the Catholic Church pretty recently, in my early 40’s.

I just bought St. Augustine’s “City of God” yesterday. I think that qualifies as required Catholic reading, for me anyway. I also read St. Augustine’s “Confessions”.

Another I would recommend is Thomas Kempis’ “Imitation of Christ”. I think every Catholic should read that. It’s a beautiful book.

Good one. Malcolm Muggeridge would be god, too.


This is actually not a bad idea. They’d probably ought to make the events that go on in peoples’ lives–baptisms of kids, weddings, confirmations etc–contingent on going through a certain amount of this stuff in groups. I kid you not. The bible ought to be #1 on the LIST. And then the Catechism next.

Certainly, a person should NOT be performing any sort of ministry for the Church, even on a volunteer basis until they’ve read the appropriate documents on it, and studied basic Christian books like the Bible and the Catechism.

I also see a lot of things Catholics like. But the basics have to be the backbone of any study plan:

The Bible. All of it. In some detail. Along with some study helps and guides appropriate to peoples’ general level. And instructions about how to use it in prayer.

The Catechism. All of it. Broken up into sections and discussed carefully.

Various church documents that affect parish life: The Instructions particularly on EMHC etc.

And there should be some elective choices, book club style from the lists I see a couple of posts above this one. People should be invited to read these things in groups and belong to study groups that meet during the week. Really, this is perfectly appropriate for all of these age categories from late grade school through adults.

It’s too late now to edit my typo, but let me be clear: Malcolm Muggeridge, while a great and incisive writer, was not god. He was just good.

Hmm - personally I don’t think the list should be too large or specific; the Catholic Church being universal, I also don’t see why The Lord of the Rings (for example) should be on it. It’s so spiritually realistic it amazes me; but it’s fiction, in a genre that not everybody “gets”; and also, I don’t think everyone in the Church (which would ideally be everyone in the /world/) should be made to read a novel. If there is a modern St. John of the Cross living hidden somewhere, why should he, for instance, have to read it - or The Chronicles of Narnia - or By What Authority (particularly if he’s Spanish)? A lot of these are helpful in America, or modern affluent English-speaking countries in general (same with Michael D. O’Brian’s fiction); but IMO, they wouldn’t work for all nations in all ages.

But the Bible, of course; “not to know Scripture is not to know Christ”, and to miss the Liturgy of the Hours is to miss something big. The Catechism will be good too (I need to get reading it; I /think/ I know the basic doctrines from Frank Sheed, but even if he has everything, it wouldn’t hurt to refresh my memory with the Chruch’s own work). Also, anything written by a Doctor of the Church will be good; the Church is making an author recommendation every time she gives someone that title.

Oops . . . :o I found this thread after typing “Sixty Saints for Girls” in the searchbar, then got caught up in the topic and didn’t realize this was a thread from 2012.

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