For four or five years now, I've been part of a book club composed of Catholic girls with immense variety of taste among them. We've read everything from environmentalist treatises to Willa Cather to Chesterton to devotional works about Christ and faith and being a woman and Mary. It's hard to please everyone in the group, but over time we've learned each other well enough to pick works that reasonably fulfill the following qualifications:
- Under 200 pages or a very fast read
- Contains enough depth of thought to inspire some discussion
- Appeals to a fairly broad audience
If you asked every woman in the group, they'd probably all differ on which books succeeded best at this, but here are a few of the most memorable. I've tried to pick ones that would appeal to groups not necessarily made up of Catholics. :)
1. The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho. A quick, dreamlike read, with lots to consider and discuss. Bonus points for giving me the chance to talk about alchemy.
2. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. One of the few books that nearly everyone in the group actually finished.
3. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. While the tale reads very episodic, with little plot, it's a beautifully written, interesting and nuanced picture of Catholic missionary life among the peoples of the American southwest.
4. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. This book proved harder for some of the girls to finish, but contained plenty to discuss, which meant that we actually talked about the book for over an hour rather than drifting quickly into catching up on life.
5. Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver. I admit to only reading the first chapter—I think my head was too busy with my own book at the time—but the rest of the group loved it.
6. Dimiter by William Peter Blatty. Despite some of our getting creeped out by the torture scene, this relatively new release by the author of The Exorcist was moving, interesting, and most of us finished it.
7. The Lord Peter Wimsy mysteries by Dorothy Sayers. We've read the first two, which have always been good for a laugh and some conversation.
8. From Union Square to Rome by Dorothy Day. The testimonial of the former Communist who began the Catholic Worker Movement. Fascinating story, and a short, easy read.
9. The Shack by William P. Young. We tore it apart theologically, but it did have some good insights and was a very moving tale.
10. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Another one I didn't finish, this time because the pagan menarche ritual cost me my suspension of disbelief (Dinah talked as if it were glorious, but frankly, I think it would scar most young girls for life. Also, I think it highly unlikely that Jacob would have allowed his wives to remove his daughter's proof of virginity.) But I wish I had finished it, because the rest of the girls loved the bond between the women.
We're reading Utopia (Thomas More) this month, and though I've not yet finished it, I expect it to spark some great discussion.
What books would you recommend? After all, we've reached the time of year when I need to bring a list of suggestions. :)