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My purpose is merely to recommend good books, specifically books written by Catholic writers that are worthy of the reader's attention

I welcome any controversy that may ensue from this list; in fact I will be disappointed if no one takes me to task. I'm always anxious to learn of titles I don't know, or have forgotten, or should know better, or be reminded that my own certainties may be unfounded. 

Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873), the Italian novelist, whose masterpiece, I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), began the tradition of what can be called the 'Catholic novel.'

Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873), the Italian novelist, whose masterpiece, I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), began the tradition of what can be called the 'Catholic novel.'


WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - There is no grand metaphysic or aesthetic theory behind the making of this list. 

Its purpose is merely to recommend good books, specifically books written by Catholic writers that are worthy of the reader's attention.  For the most part these novels have explicitly Catholic themes and perspectives.  

That a great novel can have explicit religious themes of any kind is a tribute to the artistry of the writer since such explicitness is usually deadly to writing of any kind.  
I have included a few selections that will not strike the reader as "Catholic" since such signposts are either missing or even rejected outright.

Any good list should be controversial by the inclusion of choices potentially deemed questionable by some, perhaps intimating a certain absence of Catholic earnestness on the part of the chooser.  
I welcome any controversy that may ensue from this list; in fact I will be disappointed if no one takes me to task.
 
I'm always anxious to learn of titles I don't know, or have forgotten, or should know better, or be reminded that my own certainties may be unfounded.  

Some of the novels listed are difficult to acquire, others are a click away at a modest cost.  The year of publication references the original language edition.  

A final note -- Readers may immediately notice that I've not included the great Fyodor Dostoyevsky or any writer from one of the Orthodox traditions.  

This is not meant as a slight, but rather the recognition of a literary tradition that differs in significant ways.

Alessandro Manzoni, The Betrothed, 1827. 
Adalbert Stifter, Rock Crystal, 1845.
Joris-Karl Huysmans, En route, 1895.
Henryk Sienkiewicz, Quo Vadis, 1895.
Wladyslaw Reymont, The Comedienne, 1896.
Leon Bloy, The Woman Who Was Poor, 1897.
Antonio Fogazzaro, Little World of the Past, 1901.
Robert Hugh Benson, Lord of the World, 1907.
G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday, 1908.
Sigrid Undset, Kristin Lavansdatter, 1920-22.
Sigrid Undset, Master of Hestviken, 1925-27.
Georges Bernanos, Under the Star of Satan, 1926.    
Francois Mauriac, Therese, 1928.

Su Xuelin, Heart of the Thorn Bush, 1929.
Maurice Baring, The Coat Without Seam, 1929.
Myles Connolly, Mr. Blue, 1929.
Georges Bernanos, Joy, 1929.
Sigrid Undset, The Wild Orchid, 1929.
Sigrid Undset, The Burning Bush, 1930.
Maurice Baring, Robert Peckham, 1930.
Gertrud von Le Fort, The Song at the Scaffold, 1931.
Francois Mauriac, The Viper's Tangle, 1932.
Maurice Baring, Darby and Joan, 1935.
Georges Bernanos, Diary of a Country Priest, 1936.
Georges Bernanos, Mouchette, 1937.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, 1937.
Morley Callaghan, More Joy in Heaven, 1937.
Ignazio Silone, Bread and Wine, 1937.
Riccardo Bacchelli, The Mill On the Po, 1938.
Sigrid Undset, Madama Dorthea, 1939.
Joseph Roth, The Legend of the Holy Drinker, 1939.
Riccardo Bacchelli, Nothing New Under the Sun, 1940.
Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory, 1940. 
Franz Werfel, Song of Bernadette, 1941.
Irene Nemirovsky, Suite française, 1942.
George Bernanos, Monsieur Quine, 1943.
Graham Greene, The Ministry of Fear, 1943
Hermann Broch, The Death of Virgil, 1945.
Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited, 1945.
Francois Mauriac, A Woman of the Pharisees, 1946.
Franz Werfel, Star of the Unborn, 1946.
Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter, 1948.
Giovanni Guareschi, Little World of Don Camillo, 1948.
Evelyn Waugh, Helena, 1950.
Elisabeth Langgasser, The Quest, 1950.
Graham Greene, The End of the Affair, 1951.
Paul Horgan, Things As They Are, 1951
Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood, 1952.
Jose Maria Gironella, The Cypresses Believe in God, 1953.
Jack Kerouac, On the Road, 1957.
John Howard Griffin, The Devil Rides Outside, 1952.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, 1954-55.
Heimito von Doderer, The Demons, 1956.
Julien Green, The Transgressor, 1956.
Alfred Doblin, Tales of a Long Night, 1956.
Caroline Gordon, The Malefactors, 1957.
Shusaku Endo, Wonderful Fool, 1959.
Morris West, The Devil's Advocate, 1959
Julien Green, Each in His Own Darkness, 1960.
William Goyen, The House of Breath, 1960
Flannery O'Connor, The Violent Bear It Away, 1960.
Shusaku Endo, Volcano, 1960.
Morley Callaghan, The Many Colored Coat, 1960.
Morley Callaghan, A Passion in Rome, 1961.
Edwin O'Connor, The Edge of Sadness, 1962.
J.F. Powers, Morte D'Urban, 1962
Anthony Burgess, The Wanting Seed, 1962.
Shusaku Endo, Silence, 1966.
Rumer Godden, In This House of Brede, 1969.
Muriel Spark, The Driver's Seat, 1970.
Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins: The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time, 1971.
Julien Green, The Other One, 1971.
William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist, 1971.
Otfried Preussler, The Curse of the Darkling Mill, 1972.
Brian Moore, Catholics: A Novel, 1972.
Jon Hassler, Staggerford, 1977.
Shusaku Endo, The Samurai, 1980.
David Lodge, How Far Can You Go? (Souls and Bodies, USA), 1980.
Walker Percy, The Second Coming, 1980.
Alice Thomas Ellis, The 27th Kingdom, 1982.
Torgny Lindgren, Bathsheba, 1984
Morley Callaghan, Our Lady of the Snows, 1985.
Brian Moore, Black Robe: A Novel, 1985.
Torgny Lindgren, Light, 1987.
Walker Percy, The Thanatos Syndrome, 1987
J.F. Powers, Wheat That Springeth Green, 1988.
Shusaku Endo, Scandal, 1988.
Muriel Spark, A Far Cry from Kensington, 1988.
Piers Paul Read, On the Third Day, 1990
Alice Thomas Ellis, The Inn at the Edge of the World, 1990.
Jon Hassler, North of Hope, 1990. 
Ayako Sono, No Reason for Murder, 1990.
Ayako Sono, The Watcher from the Shore, 1990.
Ron Hansen, Mariette in Ecstasy, 1991.
David Plante, The Accident, 1991.
Sara Maitland, Daughter of Jerusalem, 1995 
Laurence Cosse, A Corner of the Veil: A Novel, 1966.
Michael O'Brien, Eclipse of the Sun, 1998.
Cormac McCarthy, The Road, 2006.
William Giraldi, Busy Monsters: A Novel, 2011.

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Deal W. Hudson is the president of the Pennsylvania Catholics Network.  Dr. Hudson has written aboutDr. Hudson has written about the Catholic Novel in his conversion memoir, An American Conversion: One Man's Search for Beauty and Truth in a Time of Crisis (Crossroad 2003).

---


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Keywords: novels, Catholic, great, best, 100, writers, literature, Deal Hudson, Dr Deal Hudson



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1 - 8 of 8 Comments

  1. Mack Hall, HSG
    2 months ago

    Thank you!

    I think an argument could be made for Ford Madox Ford's tetralogy PARADE'S END (despite some of the pointless, um, curiosities in the Cumberbatch film version).

  2. Monika Barbara Potocki
    3 months ago

    I highly recommend Quo Vadis. It can get a little PG-13 rated at times, but the immorality is not glorified while the chastity of Christians is.

    For those hopeless romantics among you, type "Mirusia by Monika Barbara Potocki" into Google to find my novel. It is a family-friendly Catholic romance which follows a twenty-three year old devout girl through the difficulties and unexpected twists of her first love.

  3. walter a davis
    9 months ago

    I think you've left off the greatest Catholic novel, and paradigm for all the rest. Augustine's Confessions (or Testimony). I should add, I'm currently writing a multi-volume novel titled The Last Catholic

  4. Gloria
    1 year ago

    What a wonderful list. I love to read and it's great to know there's so much good Catholic reading out there. I hope you will consider my most favorite book for this list - The Fountain of Arethusa by Maurice Zermatten. I wish more of his books were translated, so I could read them.

  5. Jim Disney
    1 year ago

    What a great list! I did not recognize nearly half of the authors/titles. What a challenge! I expected Mr. Hudson to include Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy. I did not expect Jack Kerouac. I do appreciate the previous comments as well.

  6. Scott Peters
    1 year ago

    As a writer who's Catholic, I appreciate the list. Please consider looking at The 12th Disciple as your potential 101st.

    Cheers and Merry Christmas!

  7. Valerie
    1 year ago

    ONE MORE! In the fun spirit of G.K. Chesterton, I have to add the Catholic novel Museum of Heretics! For True Satire Lovers! A 21st century satire rich with Catholic truth! MUSEUM OF HERETICS defines the Catholic Church of western civilization at its crossroads. In the spirit of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, Father Elmo Walsh is the Rocky Balboa of pre-Vatican II doctrine and immutability, while his young assistant, Father Teilhard (Bud) Tanner personifies liberal Catholicism in its various manifestations. An ecclesiastical odd couple to remember! If you love mild satire by its classical definitions, if you enjoy G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis, if you desire a better understanding of conservative & liberal Catholics, you will enjoy MUSEUM OF HERETICS (at Lulu.com). Visiting the rectory has never been so much fun!!!!

  8. Terrence Nollen
    1 year ago

    While I appreciate the fact that the writer is free to compile a bibliography of his own choosing, I feel that many non-Catholics write from a Catholic perspective. This to me is the more important fact since the writing itself teaches the reader about Catholicism. Willa Cather is one example of a surperb writer using the Catholic perspective. Death Comes for the Archbishop and The Shadow on the Rock are two outstanding examples of her work. Having said that, I am grateful for the bibliography as I am unfamiliar with some of the writers.

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