Readers: What book would you recommend to Pope Francis?
It is no secret that Pope Francis loves literature. He slips references to Greek and Roman classics into his interviews, includes excerpts from poetry in his encyclicals and during the pandemic referenced the 19th-century Italian plague novel The Betrothed countless times. In June on the “Inside the Vatican” podcast, cohost Colleen Dulle brought on the papal biographer Austen Iverigh to unpack three books needed to understand Pope Francis. And with the arrival of summer, America asked its readers to give Pope Francis a summer reading recommendation, “beach read” or otherwise. Below is a selection of responses sent in on social media and through our website’s comment section.
Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart. Shortly after accepting the cardinals’ call to the papacy, Pope Francis called the church a field hospital. This novel would offer a powerful visit to one of the wards.
The Second Mountain, by David Brooks. It’s a beautifully written book about his coming to faith, the faith in Jesus Christ. It is philosophical and poetic. He reminds me of St. Thomas Aquinas who said that after writing so much about faith, it was really a lot of fluff. Just feel it. David Brooks feels it. I think Pope Francis would appreciate that feeling. Lucy Lowrey
Woman Redeemed, by a little-known Catholic author, Christine Blake, is about the women who followed Jesus in his ministry. [I would recommend it] because the woman’s experience is vital for the church to understand. Chris Thompson Blake
The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett. The fascinating story of the construction of a medieval cathedral. And if he reads fast, he can read all four volumes of the Pillars series—but they’re almost 1,000 pages apiece.
If he hasn’t read them already, the letters and prayers of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. All of her works maybe, she’s so brilliant. For nonreligious fun reading, I highly recommend The Last Unicorn as a book that can be read allegorically and leaves one thinking.
Anna Eliina Pajunen
Learning to Pray, by his fellow Jesuit James Martin. Not that the pope needs a lesson on the subject, but Father Martin offers such good advice and compassionate instruction on that which can seem intimidating to many people of all faiths. The other recommendation is The Way of Love, by the presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry. It is basically a book that argues for love, that love—true unsentimental, empathic love—has the power to change the world. This love emulates the love Jesus showed here on earth. Bishop Curry has a warm, forthright style of writing that is persuasive and inspiring.
Susan L. Charle
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer. A purely delightful book set in the channel island during World War II. One book review called it “a comic version of the state of grace.” I want to suggest a book that is read for the pure joy of reading and not as an assignment. Don’t fret, there are life lessons and characters proclaiming the Gospels by their lives.
I’ve always loved emulating the lives of the saints in my daily activities. Learning about them through reading is also my hobby. Thus I would recommend In Caelo et in Terra: 365 Days With the Saints, by the Daughters of St. Paul.
Tortilla Flat, by John Steinbeck. It is a wonderful book, and I love the subtle part about St. Francis.
Jennifer Spowart Merritt