Nick’s Catholic Classics Reading List

Around the year 2003 I got fed up with wasting my time reading mediocre books. As the Michael Card song goes, “So many books, so little time.” I became determined to only read books that would have a life-changing effect on me. But first I had to find a way to know which books those were. So, I accumulated about thirteen lists of the greatest or most influential books ever written and counted which books appeared on the most lists, and then I ranked them. The logic behind this method is that by using many lists I can reduce the bias of individual critics or organizations, and come up with a more objective and comprehensive list. This process would have been a lot more time consuming without Robert Teeter’s fantastic great books page.

Not long after that, I found Fr. Hardon’s The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan and I decided to put together a list of great Catholic literature, based on the same logic. I found two more lists of Catholic/Christian classics and added them to my initial thirteen. Here, then, are my sources for my Catholic Classics Reading List:

Catholic/Christian Reading Lists:

My Original Thirteen Lists:

Without further ado, here is the list:

Books that showed up on 14 of 16 lists:
St. Augustine — Confessions
Dante — Divine Comedy
Miguel de Cervantes — Don Quixote

Books that showed up on 9 of 16 lists
Geoffrey Chaucer — The Canterbury Tales
Fyodor Dostoyevski — The Brothers Karamazov

Books that showed up on 7 of 16 lists
George Eliot — Middlemarch
Herman Melville — Moby Dick

Books that showed up on 6 of 16 lists
St. Augustine — City of God
James Joyce — Ulysses
St. Thomas Aquinas — Summa Theologiae

Books that showed up on 5 of 16 lists:
St. Thomas More — Utopia

Books that showed up on 4 of 16 lists:
Gerard Manley Hopkins — Hopkins: Poetry and Prose
Alessandro Manzoni — The Betrothed
John Henry Cardinal Newman — Apologia Pro Vita Sua
Flannery O’Connor — Flannery O’Connor: Complete Stories
Sigrid Undset — Kristin Lavransdatter

Books that showed up on 3 of 16 lists:
St. Francis de Sales — Introduction to Devout Life
Graham Greene — The Power and the Glory
Graham Greene — The Heart of the Matter
Romano Guardini — The Lord
St. John of the Cross — Dark Night of the Soul
Thomas a Kempis — The Imitation of Christ
Ronald Knox — Enthusiasm
John Henry Cardinal Newman — Idea of a University
St. Teresa of Avila — Interior Castle
St. Teresa of Avila — Way of Perfection
St. Teresa of Avila — The Life of St. Teresa (Autobiography)
St. Therese of Lisieux — Story of a Soul
Francis Thompson — Poems
Francis Trochu — Cure of Ars
Evelyn Waugh — Brideshead Revisited

Books that showed up on 2 of 16 lists:
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Karl Adam — The Spirit of Catholicism
St. Anselm — Proslogium
St. Athanasius — The Life of Saint Anthony
Hilaire Belloc — The Great Heresies
Hilaire Belloc — How The Reformation Happened
Hilaire Belloc — Survivals and New Arrivals
St. Benedict — The Rule of St. Benedict
Robert Hugh Benson — Lord of the World
Georges Bernanos — The Diary of a Country Priest
Boethius — The Consolation of Philosophy
M. Eugene Boylan — This Tremendous Lover
M. Eugene Boylan — Difficulties in Mental Prayer
St. Catherine of Siena — Little Talks with God (modernized version of The Dialogues)
Jean-Baptiste Chautard — The Soul of the Apostolate
G.K. Chesterton — The Man Who Was Thursday
G.K. Chesterton — The Father Brown Mysteries
G.K. Chesterton — Everlasting Man
G.K. Chesterton — Orthodoxy
G.K. Chesterton — St. Thomas Aquinas
G.K. Chesterton — St. Francis of Assisi
Richard Crashaw — Poems
Christopher Dawson — Christianity and European Culture
Dorothy Day — The Long Loneliness
St. Francis de Sales — Treatise on the Love of God
Frederick William Faber — All for Jesus
St. Francis of Assisi — The Little Flowers of St. Francis
Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange — The Three Ages of Interior Life, I and II
Graham Greene — Brighton Rock
Romano Guardini — End of the Modern World
St. Ignatius of Loyola – Spiritual Exercises
Bl. Jacobus de Voragine — The Golden Legend
C. S. Lewis — Screwtape Letters
St. Alphonsus Liguori — 12 Steps to Holiness and Salvation
St. Alphonsus Liguori — Uniformity with God’s Will
St. Louis Grignion de Montfort — True Devotion to Mary
Jacques Maritain — The Degrees of Knowledge
Jacques Maritain — Art and Scholasticism
Jacques Maritain — The Rights of Man and the Natural Law
Jacques Maritain — True Humanism
Francois Mauriac — The Woman of the Pharisees
Francois Mauriac — Therese
Francois Mauriac — The Desert of Love
Francois Mauriac — Life of Jesus
Thomas Merton — Seven Storey Mountain
Thomas More — Sadness of Christ
John Henry Cardinal Newman — Essay on Development of Christian Doctrine
John Henry Cardinal Newman — Parochial and Plain Sermons
Coventry Patmore — Poems
Walker Percy — Lost in the Cosmos
Francis Joseph Sheed — Theology and Sanity
Francis Joseph Sheed — Theology for Beginners
Francis Joseph Sheed — To Know Christ Jesus
Fulton Sheen — Life of Christ
Fulton Sheen — Three to Get Married
Henryk Sienkiewicz — Quo Vadis?
Edith Stein — Essays on Woman
Alophe Alfred Tanqueray — Spiritual Life
St. Thomas Aquinas — My Way of Life
J. R. R. Tolkien — The Lord of the Rings
Dietrich Von Hildebrand — Transformation in Christ
William Thomas Walsh — Our Lady of Fatima
Evelyn Waugh — A Handful of Dust
Evelyn Waugh — Scoop
Evelyn Waugh — Vile Bodies
Evelyn Waugh — Put Out More Flags
Evelyn Waugh — Sword of Honor Trilogy

8 Responses

  1. Maria says:

    Love your compilation; thank you for putting in the effort to consolidate all these wonderful lists.

    You may want to check out “Another Sort of Learning” by James V. Schall, a Jesuit priest who teaches at Georgetown U. in Washington, D.C. His reading lists are truly wonderful — focusing on philosophy and theology. They introduced me to many new authors.

    Thanks again!

  2. Brad says:

    A Catholic reading list without Balthasar??

  3. Brad says:

    Are Maria and I the only ones with input, feedback or comments? Maria’s suggestion of “Another Sort of Learning” by Jesuit priest, James V. Schall sounds interesting. I would recommend “Prayer” by Hans Urs von Balthasar (Ignatius Press). Not an easy read but well-worth it.

    Thanks and God bless,

  4. Brad says:

    just use my first name please. thank you.

  5. Ann says:

    I have methodically used your list for the last 4 years to revamp our parish library. With all the used bookstores going out of business recently, I have successfully found almost everything on your lists through “2 of 16”.

    I had originally discovered your list when you still had the “1 of 16” books listed and printed those, so now we can keep our eyes peeled for the “1 of 16” books. We even picked up Hardon’s and Peterson’s books so we can read the annotations!

    Thank you for your work! An entire parish appreciates your project.

  6. Ann Johnson says:

    Actually, we have all our books cataloged on “LibraryThing” and I was wondering if it would be OK with you if we tagged the books from your list with “Nick’s Catholic Classics” or “Classics List” or something similar?

    We are way behind in our cataloging but would probably get to it in the next year. PS we are in suburban Seattle.

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