Here are two lists of ten books. The books in the first list are somewhat shorter; but they are also provocative and profound. The second list contains books of somewhat greater length and scope. I have tried to include books from various angles and to include different aspects of human intelligence. I could easily find other groupings of ten books that would do the same thing. But my purpose here is to provide a guide, a grounding that can stand by itself. Not a few people will already know of these books or ones that might be included. What we have here is simply my judgment about books worth reading.
Here, I am more interested in someone who wants to begin, who does not know where to go. What I would hope is that these books, on reading them, will provide a solid but short “library,” if you will. I assume most of them are also e-books and could compose one apps file. They are designed to make clear to anyone who reads them that Catholic intelligence, in spite of, or perhaps because of, all its own turmoil, is what it says it is, that is, a universal, intelligent, and coherent pursuit of the truth. Catholicism is an intellectual religion. It understands that its revelation is directed to reason and must be met in its light. It must, to be itself, include not only the knowledge it has received from revelation, but that knowledge that comes from experience, philosophical reflection, and other forms of learning.
What follows are the two lists.
The First List
1) J. M. Bochenski, Philosophy—An Introduction
2) G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
3) E. F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed
4) Robert Spitzer, New Cosmological Proofs for the Existence of God
5) Joseph Pieper—an Anthology
6) Robert Sokolowski, The God of Faith and Reason
7) Peter Kreeft, The Philosophy of Tolkien
8) Mario d’Souza, Being in the World: A Quotable Maritain Reader
9) Robert Reilly, The Closing of the Muslim Mind
10) Pierre Manent, Seeing Things Politically
The Second List
1) Robert Royal, A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century
2) Robert Sokolowski, The Phenomenology of the Human Person
3) Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, 3 Volumes
4) John D. Mueller, Redeeming Economics
5) Etienne Gilson, The Unity of Philosophic Experience
6) Edward Feser, Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction
7) David Schindler, A Robert Spaemann Reader
8) Robert Reilly, Making Gay Okay
9) Michael Chaberek, Catholicism and Evolution
10) David Walsh, The Politics of the Person as the Politics of Being
Such are the various books on various topics that I would recommend. When one has finished such short lists, of course, other books come immediately to mind that “should have been included.” I think of Rémi Brague’s The Legend of the Middle Ages, Josef Pieper’s Tradition as Challenge, Daniel Mahoney’s The Other Solzhenitsyn, and Brendan Purcell’s From Big Bang to Big Mystery: Human Origins in the Light of Creation and Evolution.
Then there is a whole list of other authors—John Finnis, Robert George, George Weigel, Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor, John Haldane, Peter Redpath, Yves Simon, Hilaire Belloc, Ronald Knox, Sigrid Undset, Bernard Lonergan, Stanley Jaki, Michael Novak, Mary Ann Glendon, and a host of others. . . .
Finally, there are those books that we should read again and again by authors like Plato and Aristotle, and Virgil, and Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas, and Dante, and Shakespeare, and Samuel Johnson, and John Henry Newman. That is all right. But what I hope these lists will accomplish in the souls of those who might chance to come across them is to provide an intellectual beginning or encouragement, an awareness that Catholicism makes sense when we see it spelled out by those who know what it is all about, who, as they say in baseball, “know what the score is.” One does not have to be a believer to see this coherence in its own terms. Issues like faith and grace are also within this tradition. The final point is that we are not clueless. The Catholic mind is indeed a mind and worth our trouble to know it on its own terms. These suggested books, I hope, might provide a way and a reason for us to understand what we are.