Sunday, January 1, 2012

First, What Are You Reading? Volume 17: Best Books of 2011 Edition

Happy New Year!  For January, here is a variation on the monthly “First, what are you reading?”

Instead of current reads, I’m going to list three of the best books I read in 2011.  For the last two months, I've finally starting keeping a list of each of the many books I read or peruse through the month.  My phone has a "list" feature, and I just quickly jot down a book when I finish it, with a note if I want.  I hope to have this as a great record over time of what I've read and loved most.

But since this is new, I glanced back through my Catholic Post reviews to come up with my favorites for 2011.  And a shout out to my always-creative husband, who gave me the idea for this variation on “first, what are you reading?”  In particular, you don't have to choose a book published this year.  What was the most influential book on your life this year?  I can’t wait to hear your choices, so without further ado, here are mine:

Life, Death and Catholic Medical Choices, by Fr. Kevin O’Neil, and Fr. Peter Black.  This is a slim volume in a Q&A format, and just an indispensible resource when it comes to understanding Catholic teaching on sensitive medical moral issues.  There are a lot of bad resources out there, from Catholic sources or not.  These theologians make it look easy, but trust me, it’s a job for professionals, as I wrote in my review:

“Just because someone slept at a Holiday Inn Express-- or has read a lot of Church documents--doesn’t guarantee good results when one tries to charitably explain or defend Church teaching accurately, especially on complicated and critical issues of life and death.  In this area, what’s most needed is loving and well-formed professionals.  Two of these have written Life, Death & Catholic Medical Choices.  Take advantage of their wisdom and guidance, and keep this book on hand.”

Ablaze: Stories of Daring Teen Saints by Colleen Swaim.  Reading this book, intended for teens and young adults, makes you want to be a better person.  All my kids read and loved it, but adults would find it substantial, too.  The great news is that Colleen Swaim is writing Ablaze 2 now.

Unplanned by Abby Johnson, about her journey from abortion clinic director to pro-life advocate.  As I wrote in my review: “Johnson leaves her job after the first time assisting an ultrasound-guided abortion, and seeing with her own eyes a baby struggling away from the abortion instrument.   This is more than just pro-life apologetics; Johnson writes a well-paced and sensitive memoir of her spiritual journey.”

In particular, Unplanned starts discussion about the vital need to guide young people, who are in a kind of “sensitive period” in their late teens to mid 20s when values and life course are being set.  How do we direct their natural idealism and energy to the culture of life, instead of the opposite?

Even as I finish writing about those three books, I wish I could pick more, like Lisa Hendey’s A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms, and Heather King’s Shirt of Flame, or the intriguing Catholic manga by Manga Hero.  But I’m much more interested in your favorite reads from this year.  What would you list as your favorite book?  I invite your feedback here or on Facebook or Twitter.


  1. Blood Brothers by Archbishop Elias Chacour; growing up a Palestinian Christian. His Dad's ongoing witness to the Beatitudes and the Archbishop's commitment to peace and reconciliation based on changed hearts.

    Also, a good re-reading of the theology of St John of Damascus.

    Thanks for asking!