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Matt EmersonNovember 04, 2013
Sketch of Thomas Merton. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Last week, as regular readers know, I asked people to recommend works in the field of spiritual autobiography or any book/essay/article in the genre of “faith journey.” I supplied my initial list, and I asked for additional selections both within the Roman Catholic Tradition and without.

You did not disappoint. Outstanding recommendations poured in through email, Facebook, Twitter, and in the comment section of my original post. The selections included many of the classics and the familiar names (St. Augustine, Thomas Merton, G.K. Chesterton), but also contemporary authors, for example Kaya Oakes, Heather King, and Kathleen Norris. (Tim Tebow and Elizabeth Gilbert also made the list.) There were also books I had never heard of – for example, Sara Maitland’s A Book of Silence or Jack Kerouac’s Visions of Gerard. Perhaps the most unexpected recommendation (at least for me) was Les Miserables. The way my friend spoke of it, however, makes me want to read it immediately.  

An author that's not on the list but which I hope to one day see? Stephen Colbert. 

When I survey all the titles, I am astonished at the variety but also the commonality. Thanks to each of you for taking the time to send in your recommendation. Simply contemplating the list leads into a kind of prayer: Lord, let me live this wisdom...

For the benefit of readers, I’ve collected almost all the recommendations below (as many as I could as of Monday afternoon – more are still coming in). There are over 100! The list is incomplete (as it always will be), so please feel free to add more in the comment section.

Thank you so very much – this is wonderful spiritual nourishment and a testament to our continued quest for faith-filled meaning.   

  • A Book of Silence, by Sara Maitland
  • Acedia & Me, by Kathleen Norris
  • Amazing Grace, by Kathleen Norris
  • An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard
  • Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda
  • Becoming Human, by Jean Vanier
  • Beyond the Mirror, by Henri Nouwen
  • Blood Brothers, by Elias Chacour
  • Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas and Timothy J. Keller
  • Born Again, by Charles W. Colson
  • A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
  • Dakota, by Kathleen Norris
  • Diary of a City Priest, by John P. McNamee
  • Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Encounters with Silence, by Karl Rahner, S.J.
  • Father Joe, by Tony Hendra
  • Father Seraphim Rose: His Life & Works, by Hieromonk Damascene
  • Forty Acres and a Goat, by Will D. Campbell
  • God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet, by Nathan Schneider
  • Island of Tears, Island of Hope, by Niall O’Brien
  • Jesus: The Rebel, by Fr. John Dear
  • Journal of a Soul: The Autobiography of Pope John XXIII, by Pope John XXIII
  • J.R.R. Tokien: A Biography, by Humphrey Carpenter
  • Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo
  • Lit, by Mary Karr
  • Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl
  • Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis
  • My Life with the Saints, by Fr. James Martin, S.J.
  • On the Theology of Death, by Karl Rahner
  • Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton
  • Prison Writings, by Alfred Delp, S.J.
  • Radical Compassion, by Gary Smith
  • Radical Reinvention: An Unlikely Return to the Catholic Church, by Kaya Oakes
  • Redeemed: Stumbling Toward God, Sanity, and the Peace that Passes All Understanding, by Heather King
  • Return to the Source, by Lanza Del Vasto
  • Revolution from the Heart, by Niall O’Brien
  • Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lisieux, by Heather King
  • Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse
  • Take this Bread: A Radical Conversion, by Sara Miles
  • Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, by Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J.
  • To be a Revolutionary, by J. Guadalupe Carney
  • The Cloister Walk, by Kathleen Norris
  • The Divine Milieu, by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
  • The Genesee Diary, by Henri Nouwen
  • The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully, by Joan Chittister
  • The Holy Longing, by Ronald Rolheiser
  • The Life of St. Gemma Galgani, by Venerable Fr. Germanus
  • The New Testament
  • The Solace of Open Spaces, by Gretel Ehrlich
  • Through My Eyes, by Tim Tebow
  • Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, by Anne Lamott
  • Visions of Gerard, by Jack Kerouac
  • Waiting for God, by Simone Weil
  • When God Calls A Woman: The Struggle of a Woman Pastor in France and Algeria by Elisabeth Schmidt

The following names were recommended as well (but with no books):

  • Elisabeth Leseur
  • Madeleine Delbrêl
  • Elisabeth of the Trinity

Here is my original list:

  • The Confessions, St. Augustine
  • Surprised by Joy, by C.S. Lewis
  • In Good Company, by Fr. James Martin, S.J.
  • The Seven Storey Mountain, by Thomas Merton
  • The Autobiography of St. Ignatius of Loyola
  • The Long Loneliness, by Dorothy Day
  • The Language of God, by Francis Collins
  • Faith of our Fathers, by Eamon Duffy

Happy reading!

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Bruce Snowden
10 years 5 months ago
Matt, try "Heart On Fire" dealing with rediscovering devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, by Jesuit priest, James Kubicki, spiritually stimulating and startling!
Matt Emerson
10 years 5 months ago

Bruce, thank you very much! I will take a look.  

Jane P McNally, Ph.D.
10 years 5 months ago
Atchison Blue, by Judith Valente, award-winning PBS Broadcast Journalist. This is a wonderful book of reflections of the author's experience with the Benedictine Sisters of Atchison. It is a quintessential story of a very contemporary person's internalization, growth and development of the ancient but ever-new Benedictine spirituality. A very engaging, easy read with profound insights. Lovely book!
Matt Emerson
10 years 5 months ago

Wow, what a description. Thanks Jane. Another to add to holiday reading...

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