There are few things more cathartic than making lists, and New Year’s is a great time to write lists–whether retrospective or focused on the future–so…here we go.

Due to the very long hours I work as an attorney, my obligations as a husband and father, and my self-imposed obligation to stay up to date with Catholic and political developments on a daily basis, I do not have as much time available for serious reading of books (as opposed to blogs and news articles) as I would prefer.  That being said, I completed eleven books this year, four of which I classify as “Catholic books.”

  • Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, by Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) — How do you briefly summarize a book in which each page demonstrates the genius of the greatest living Catholic theologian?  I’ll just say this: this first book in Pope Benedict’s expected trilogy on the life of Christ is guaranteed to make you think about Jesus’ life and the Bible in entirely new ways, and to demonstrate the clear intellectual superiority of orthodoxy over heterodox strains of Biblical “historical criticism.”
  • Europe: Today and Tomorrow, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger —  This book is actually a collection of lengthy lectures delivered by then-Cardinal Ratzinger on the history, present, and future of Europe.  It covers such varied topics as natural law, war and peace,  secularism, and the pre-political foundations of states.  I have an iron rule against marking up books in any way, but that rule seems to get thrown out the window when I read anything written by Pope Benedict.
  • One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic: A History of the Church in the Middle Ages, lecture by Professor Thomas E. Madden — I have listened to 7 or 8 lectures on CD by Professor Madden, a medieval historian who occasionally writes for First Things and National Review, and I highly recommend all of them.  This is not a Catholic apologetic work, but rather a (mostly) non-argumentative just-the-facts history of the church in the Middle Ages.  Professor Madden, unlike many historians, is capable of describing the failings of people within the Church at various times in history without attributing those failings to the Church itself, and of being able to look at history through the eyes of those who lived it, rather than through the scolding eye of modernity.  I recommend listening to all of his history lectures on CD, in chronological order if possible.
  • Lord Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession, by Scott Hahn —  Scott Hahn, the Catholic theologian and apologist whose book Rome Sweet Home was the first I read when I decided to undertake my own serious independent study of our faith, provides a very good examination of the too-often overlooked Sacrament of Confession.
The best book on this list, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth.  I look forward to reading the second volume.
Now it’s your turn: what was the best “Catholic book” you read this year?

(While we’re at it, any readers out there who share my love of lists and books may be interested in two outstanding website that combine the two: Good Reads and Library Thing.  Library Thing, in particular, has an interesting collection of libraries of famous authors.)

[NOTE: I am not paid to endorse any of the books or websites listed above, or any other book or website.  This blog post presents my own personal opinions.]