Books Received


Kidnapped by the Vatican? The Unpublished Memoirs of Edgardo Mortara (Ignatius). Presented with commentary by journalist Vittorio Messori, this is a possibly timely look at the strange case of a Jewish boy baptized by a Catholic maid and then forcibly removed from his parents to be raised and educated as a Catholic — and who became a priest. Steven Spielberg has wanted to make a movie about the case, although that remains in limbo. As the subtitle indicates, much of the book is Father Mortara’s own diary.


Five Proofs of the Existence of God by Edward Feser (Ignatius). Professor Feser provides as ambitious and complete a defense of traditional natural theology as is currently in print. The aim of Five Proofs is to vindicate the views of the greatest philosophers of the past— principally Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas, and Leibniz — that the existence of God can be established with certainty by way of purely rational arguments. A refutation, therefore, of atheism and of the fideism that gives aid and comfort to atheism.


Grace & Justification: An Evangelical’s Guide to Catholic Beliefs by Stephen Wood (Family Life Center Publications). A former Protestant who crossed the Tiber, Mr. Wood presents a unique perspective on several contentious doctrines relating to justification (works, merit, infusion) by viewing them through the lens of our adoption by God the Father. He also encourages a simple, yet profound, way to grasp the priority of grace taught throughout the Catechism of the Catholic Church that many unfortunately miss.


What Did Jesus Do? The Biblical Roots of the Catholic Church by Thomas J. Nash (Incarnate Word Media). Mr. Nash seeks to present anew the real Jesus, the Word who became flesh (Jn. 1:14) to save all of humanity and to employ his Mystical Bride, the Catholic Church, as the instrument of salvation and life-transforming love (Mt. 16:18-19; Jn. 10:10). If the Church were merely a human institution, she would’ve entered the dustbin of history centuries ago.


The Reformation 500 Years Later: 12 Things You Need to Know by Benjamin Wiker (Regnery). For Catholics, it was an unjustified rebellion by the heterodox. For Protestants, it was the release of true and purified Christianity from centuries-old enslavement to corruption, idolatry, and error. An account of the world-changing event that rejects the common distortions of Catholic, Protestant, Marxist, Freudian, or secularist retellings.

From Islam to Christ: One Woman’s Path through the Riddles of God by Derya Little (Ignatius). Born and raised in Muslim Turkey, Mrs. Little [for obvious reasons, a pseudonym] wandered far and wide in search of her true home. After her parents’ divorce, she rejected her family’s Islamic faith and became an atheist. During her stormy adolescence, she tried to convince a Christian missionary that there is no God but was converted to Christ instead. Now she’s a Catholic.


The New Politics of Sex: The Sexual Revolution, Civil Liberties, & the Growth of Government Power by Stephen Baskerville (Angelico Press). The title comes from Newsweek and references controversial issues such as legalized same-sex marriage, liberalized abortion, and the admittance of women into combat. But Prof. Baskerville believes all that is just the tip of a very large iceberg, the full dimensions (and danger) of which we’re just beginning to see.


The Satisfied Crocodile: Essays on G.K. Chesterton by James V. Schall (ACS Books). The indefatigable and prolific TCT contributor presents a colorful, provocative, and always lively journey across the vast landscape of that is GKC. One great thinker taking on another, shedding light on light. As he writes in the Introduction: “When we read Chesterton we find ourselves in many worlds, and, yet, on rereading him carefully, we find that the world he is in is the world of what is.”


The Immortal in You: How Human Nature Is More than Science Can Say by Michael Augros (Ignatius). From the author of Who Designed the Designer?, this modern response to the ancient exhortation “Know thyself” delivers a wealth of fresh, powerful, and uplifting ideas about what it is to be human. You are not a machine, and you have an eternal destiny, and there is more to you than science can ever say.


Fake Science: Exposing the Left’s skewed statistics, fuzzy facts, and dodgy data by Austin Ruse (Regnery). The former TCT contributor says the truth is out there, although often not in the politicized science peddled by liberals. One after the another, Ruse debunks the so-called “facts” used to advance political causes, revealing how poorly they stand up to actual science.


By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment by Edward Feser and Joseph M. Bessette (Ignatius). Against the trend suggesting the Church must oppose the death penalty. In fact, the Church’s traditional teaching safeguards society, because the just use of capital punishment protects the lives of the innocent, inculcates a horror of murder, and affirms the dignity of human beings as free, rational, and responsible creatures.


1o1 Places to Pray Before You Die: A Roamin’ Catholic’s Guide by Thomas J. Craughwell (Franciscan Media). Five million visitors crowd into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York each year. Hundreds of thousands annually pay homage to the Blessed Virgin at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. But Catholic travelers don’t always realize that every state in the Union contains unique shrines, retreat houses, missions and other significant holy places.

Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay: How I Reclaimed My Sexual Reality and Found Peace by Daniel C. Mattson with a foreword by Robert Cardinal Sarah (Ignatius). The author grew up believing he was gay, his life marked by constant turmoil. Finding the conflict between his sexual desires and the teachings of his church too great, he turned his back on God. Yet freedom and happiness remained elusive until he discovered Christ and his true identity.


Surprised by Beauty: A Listener’s Guide to the Recovery of Modern Music by Robert R. Reilly (Ignatius Press). Atonality and cacophony have characterized the work of some modern composers. Some but not all. It is the spirit of music that this book is most about, and in his efforts to discern it, Bob Reilly has discovered many treasures. The purpose of this book is to share them, to entice you to listen because beauty is contagious. Beauty and humanity are out there, waiting to surprise.


YOUCAT Bible with a preface by Pope Francis (Ignatius Press). From the team of German-language scholars who gave us  YOUCAT (read: “youth catechism”) and DOCAT (on social teaching). It’s “filled with engaging photos, clever and fun illustrations by YOUCAT’s award-winning designer, insightful sidebar quotes from great thinkers, Catholic saints and leaders, past and present, and young people living their faith today.”


Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World by Jean M. Heimann (Saint Benedict Press). Few place-names in the Christian world conjure up such powerful images and associations as that of this humble town in Portugal, where Our Lady appeared to three children 100 years ago. This beautifully illustrated volume will be treasured by long-time devotees of our Blessed Mother.

The Marian Option: God’s Solution to a Civilization in Crisis by Carrie Gress (TAN Books). As the world descends into chaos, Christians are thinking deeply about how to stem the tide. Many options and suggestions have been presented to deal with Christian persecution and cultural decadence, but none can hold a candle to The Marian Option. Mary’s intercessions make clear that Christ’s mother is indeed the most powerful woman in the world. She offers the answer to saving the world and bringing God’s people back into her Son’s heart.


Slaves in Paradise: A Priest Stands up for Exploited Sugarcane Workers by Jesús García (Ignatius Press). Fr. Christopher Hartley arrived in the Dominican Republic in 1997, he discovered another side to this paradise: the deplorable living and working conditions of the people who harvest the country’s sugarcane, and the illegal human trafficking that brings them to the plantations as slaves. Because of his strong criticism, Fr. Hartley endured harsh treatment, was threatened with death, and eventually had to leave the country.


Catholicism and Intelligence (Living Faith Series) by James V. Schall, S.J. (Emmaus Press). TCT’s Father Schall presents a collection of essays that challenge us to see God in what-is, in the reality of our world. Engaging some of the finest minds of the past – Chesterton, Plato, Augustine, and even Charlie Brown – Schall speaks to the present with incisive clarity, illustrating how revelation informs and strengthens the natural light of reason, enabling humanity to see reality most clearly.


The Light Shines on in Darkness: Transforming Suffering through Faith by Robert Spitzer, S.J, Ph.D. (Ignatius). Questions and answers from the former president of Gonzaga University, including: Why would an all-loving God allow suffering? Aren’t suffering and love opposed to one another? Does suffering have any benefit for this life?

A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century by Paul Kengor (ISI Books). Even as historians credit ­Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II with hastening the end of the Cold War, they have failed to recognize the depth or significance of the bond that developed between the two leaders, which included a spiritual connection between the Catholic pope and the Protestant president— and drove the two men to confront what they knew to be a great evil: Soviet communism.

UPDATE: Littlest Suffering Souls: Children Whose Short Lives Point Us to Christ by Austin Ruse (below) is now reviewed here by Robert Royal.


Angels, Barbarians, and Nincompoops . . . and a lot of other words you thought you knew by Anthony Esolen (TAN Books). From the indefatigable TCT contributor comes a book in content recognizable to his Facebook friends, wherein he mines words, finding their precious depths.

The Cardinal Müller Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church, with Carlos Granados (Ignatius Press). The head of CDF responds to four key questions: What can we hope for from Christ? What can we hope for from the Church? What can we hope for from the family? And what can we hope for from society?

Catholics and Protestants: What Can We Learn from Each Other? by Peter Kreeft (Ignatius). Kreeft seeks to find the common ground between the two major Christian groups. The author characterizes his book as like a sheepdog, “herding and hectoring God’s separated sheep back to His face.”

The Dawn of Christianity: How God Used Simple Fishermen, Soldiers, and Prostitutes to Transform the World by Robert J. Hutchinson (Thomas Nelson). Using the most recent studies by top Christian and secular scholars, Mr. Hutchinson reconstructs all the known accounts of Christ’s resurrection appearances and follows the witnesses as they experience brutal persecution to become committed evangelists. “A riveting thriller of the most improbable history-changing movement imaginable.”

Don’t Divorce: Powerful Arguments for Saving and Revitalizing Your Marriage by Diane Medved, Ph.D. (Regnery Publishing). Not quite thirty years ago, Dr. Medved published The Case Against Divorce, which got a lot of well-deserved attention. Unfortunately, the number of broken marriages continues at an alarming rate, and Medved returns (with a brilliantly declarative title) to offer commonsense about making marriage last.

The Face of Water: A Translator on Beauty and Meaning in the Bible by Sarah Ruden (Pantheon Books). A Quaker lady from the Ivy League (Ph.D. from Harvard; visiting professor at Brown) looks at God’s Word without religious awe or orthodoxy, as we might understand it, but with great appreciation for the exquisite language and profound wisdom of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures.

God’s Gamble: The Gravitational Power of Crucified Love by Gil Bailie (Angelico Press). Drawing primarily on the insights of René Girard and Hans Urs von Balthasar, Bailie shows that the Cross of Christ has left a crater at the center of history, an inflection of sacrificial love toward which everything before and after this event is ordered and properly understood.

The Heart of Holiness by Fr. Gary Lauenstein (Ignatius), which is subtitled “Friendship with God and Others,” which teaches an important lesson: that “our everyday experience of our friendships with others are our stepping stones to holiness.”

The Lion of Münster: The Bishop Who Roared Against the Nazis by Fr. Daniel Utrecht (TAN) is a biography of Cardinal Clemens August von Galen, the German Catholic leader who dared to speak out against Hitler. Fr. Paul Scalia says von Galen’s story should remind pastors today to “guard. . .against a different kind of tyranny – the dictatorship of relativism.”

Littlest Suffering Souls: Children Whose Short Lives Point Us to Christ by Austin Ruse, with a foreword by Raymond Cardinal Burke (TAN). These stories began life here at The Catholic Thing. Beautiful, heartbreaking, and faith affirming, these are stories of children taken too soon by the Lord; kids who have “led others to varying degrees of belief and practice.”

Liturgy & Personality by Dietrich von Hildebrand (Hildebrand Project in partnership with the Franciscan University of Steubenville). The book has an introduction by Bishop Robert Barron and an afterword by Alice von Hildebrand. Bishop Barron: “Hildebrand insists. . .that the primary purpose of the liturgy is not to form the personality but to give proper praise to God, the supreme good.”

Mary of Nazareth by Michael Hesemann (Ignatius): “The first archaeological and historical biography of the most fascinating and revered woman in history, the Mother of Christ.” Paul Thigpen says of Hesemann, “His personal devotion to the Virgin shines through his extensive scholarship to create a delightful and enchanting portrait of the Mother of God.”

Monaghan: A Life by Joseph Pearce (TAN). The prolific biographer (Hilaire Belloc, Roy Campbell, G.K. Chesterton, and C.S. Lewis) profiles the founder of Domino’s Pizza, and former owner of the Detroit Tigers, and the founder of Ave Maria University, at the core of whose life “is an unwavering Catholicism that has strengthened him amidst adversity and grounded him amidst prosperity.”

Night’s Bright Darkness: A Modern Conversion Story by Sally Read (Ignatius). Staunchly atheist, Read converted to Catholicism in the space of nine electric months. Feminist and deeply anti-Catholic, she spoke with a Catholic priest. The interview led her on a dramatic spiritual quest that ended up at the Vatican.

Peter: Keys to Following Jesus by Tim Gray (Ignatius/Augustine Institute). Dr. Gray, a Biblical scholar, offers a guide to the tumultuous, inspiring life of the Apostle and first pope – with lessons from Peter’s life: casting into the deep; avoiding discipleship at a distance; repenting to receive mercy; and becoming a bold witness for Christ.

The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography by Matt Fradd (Ignatius). The downside of the Internet is the lack of restraint when it comes to flesh and the devil. Mr. Fradd, an entrepreneur in cyberspace, explodes illusions: that porn isn’t addictive; that porn relieves pressure among rapists; that women don’t struggle with porn.

The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise by Cardinal Robert Sarah with Nicolas Diat (Ignatius). Silence is the indispensable doorway to the divine. Within the walls of the La Grande Chartreuse, a Carthusian monastery in the French Alps, Cardinal Sarah answers the following questions: Can those who do not know silence ever attain truth, beauty, or love? Do not wisdom, artistic vision, and devotion spring from silence, where the voice of God is heard in the depths of the human heart?

Racketeer for Life: A Memoir by Joseph M. Scheidler (TAN): The longer subtitle is “fighting the culture of death from the sidewalk to the Supreme Court.” Proclaimed the “godfather of pro-life activism,” Scheidler has been the target of a racketeering lawsuit from pro-abortion NOW.

Real Music: A Guide Through the Timeless Hymns of the Church by Anthony Esolen (TAN). A commentary on Catholic music (with an accompanying CD of 18 hymns) as it should be: good music, real music that combines timeless poetry with doctrinally sound lyrics and beautiful melodies.

Saint Mary Magdalene: Prophetess of Eucharistic Love by Fr. Sean Davidson (Ignatius). A much needed book, since Magdalene has become a lightning rod for New Age and neo-gnostic nonsense. She loved the Lord as much as anyone – perhaps more than anyone while He was on the earth. Her example can help readers “to enter more deeply into adoration of Jesus Christ truly present in the Blessed Sacrament.”

Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female by Ashley McGuire (Regnery). The gender revolution isn’t just ridiculous, it’s dangerous: boys will be girls and vice versa. The irony – from a feminist point of view – is that the trend mostly hurts women more than men.

Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput (Henry Holt & Company). Robert Royal reviewed this gem here: “Life Comes from the Archbishop

That Nothing May Be Lost: Reflections on Catholic Doctrine and Devotion by Father Paul Scalia (Ignatius). The TCT contributor reveals a scholar’s mind and a pastor’s heart in inspiring reflections on a wide range of Catholic teachings and practices. Rooted in Scripture, the beauty and truth of these insights places the reader on a path to a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God.

The Unholy Trinity: Blocking the Left’s Assault on Life, Marriage, and Gender by Matt Walsh (Image Books). With the GOP in charge of Congress and the White House (and maybe the Supreme Court) it is time for conservatives to act, because abortion has redefined life, same-sex “marriage” has redefined the family, and new gender “theories” have redefined sexuality. Enough!

Who Am I to Judge? Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love by Edward Sri (Ignatius/Augustine Institute). This isn’t what you may be thinking: not a reaction against the famous statement by Pope Francis, who has said “relativism wounds people” and it is “the spiritual poverty of our time.” Dr. Sri provides answers to the questions people pose about why the Church isn’t in sync with the “modern” world.

Wholly Different: Why I Chose Biblical Values Over Islamic Values by Nonie Darwish (Regnery Faith). Ms. Darwish, a convert to (Evangelical) Christianity from Islam writes that Western countries are ignorant of true Islamic values. She is frustrated with mainstream America’s talk of tolerance and assimilation. The narrative is both personal and political. And hers is a unique perspective.