Whether you are Catholic or not, Catholic fiction can be entertaining to read and teach valuable lessons. That’s why we’ve gathered 20 of the best Catholic fiction novels for you to enjoy.
Catholicism can be traced back to almost 2,000 years ago, and people have been writing about Catholicism for quite some time. However, American Catholic literature started as a genre not so long ago, in the early 1900s.
Since then, many authors have written Catholic fiction, exploring different Catholic themes and characters. It has proven to be an enjoyable and enlightening genre, and many people love reading it.
We know you probably can’t wait to read about the books, so without further ado, let’s get into it.
The 20 Best Catholic Fiction Books – Ultimate Guide
Eclipse of the Sun by Michael O’Brien
This is the story of a family living in a future where society is constantly getting fed disinformation, but most people don’t realize it. When the father of the Delaney family is arrested for printing a small newspaper that reveals the truth, his sons become fugitives running from the government.
This story is fast-paced and climactic, exploring ideas about the society we currently live in and how Catholicism plays a role in people’s minds.
You can read Eclipse of the Sun by Michael O’Brien here.
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
It’s 1347, and Franciscans have been accused of heresy, so Brother William of Baskerville is there to get to the bottom of it. But when seven people die in seven days, Brother William suddenly has bigger issues on his hands.
Brother William uses his religious knowledge to figure out what is going on in the town, uncovering the hidden secrets that lie within.
You can find The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco here.
The Cardinal by Henry Morton Robinson
This book follows the journey of Stephen Formoyle, a man who is part of the working class, living in the Boston suburbs. Events in his life cause Stephen to become a parish priest. Stephen slowly works his way along, becoming a secretary, then a bishop, and finally, a cardinal of the Catholic church.
Stephen may not make all of the right choices in his life, but we see how his journey is affected and what he does to stay firm in his beliefs.
The Cardinal by Henry Morton Robinson can be read here.
The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
In this novel, there is a part of Mexico where God has been outlawed and a group called The Red Shirts has taken over. The last Roman Catholic priest is on the run, trying desperately to escape without having to compromise his beliefs or do anything rash.
But the priest is guilty, feeling worthless and humiliated. He is the father of an illegitimate child and an alcoholic, but he is determined to make it out of this and come to terms with himself.
You can find The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene here.
Citadel of God by Louis de Wohl
This is the story of St. Benedict, who was a major part of shaping Christianity in sixth-century Europe. De Wohl’s is one of the only contemporary biographies of St. Benedict, and it focuses on the religious aspects of the world along with the love and violence that took place in the Saint’s story.
You can purchase Citadel of God by Louis de Wohl here.
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
This novel follows the Clearys through 3 generations, documenting their lives and struggles. The Clearys are ranchers, and their work is tough. Their family is full of secrets, but they are trying to make lives for themselves despite the bitterness surrounding them.
This story also focuses on Maggie, the daughter of the Clearys, who finds a deep connection with a priest. Their relationship oversteps certain principles and ethics, and they struggle to figure out a solution to this.
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough can be found here.
The Keys of the Kingdom by A.J. Cronin
Francis Chisholm is a Scottish priest who is decisive and knows what he believes, so he isn’t exactly popular with other clergy. Father Chisholm’s superiors send him to China, where he is meant to go on a mission while there is plague, war, and famine everywhere.
When in China, Father Chisholm struggles to find a balance between his practicality and the values of the Catholic church. But as he continues to live among the deprivation and poverty, he ends up opening his heart and finding the keys to heaven.
The Keys of the Kingdom by A.J. Cronin can be read here.
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
Father Jean Marie Latour is serving as the apostolic vicar in New Mexico during the year 1851. The landscape is unforgiving in the desert, but Father Latour finds a way to live peacefully there. Over the next 40 years, he gently spreads his religion to the people who live there.
This is the story of Father Latour’s long and relentless mission, where he experiences loneliness, joy, and struggle in the unfamiliar desert.
You can read Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather here.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
After an apocalypse, a father and son are one of the only people left on earth. All they have is a pistol, some scavenged food, and each other. The father and son walk to the ocean, not knowing what they will find when they get there but keeping hope.
This story follows them as they journey toward a better place, defending themselves against the bad and hoping for good to find its way into their lives.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy can be read here.
Black Robe by Brian Moore
Father Laforgue is a missionary from Europe who wants to spread the word of God. He is supposed to bring his faith to the Huron tribe, which has been plagued by disease and hopelessly needs to prepare for winter.
The people there mock him, but Father Laforgue is determined. This journey will test how much he is willing to handle in order to reach others, and he will change in ways he never expected to.
You can find Black Robe by Brian Moore here.
In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
Philippa Talbot was widowed during World War II and now that she’s in her 40s, she decides to become a Roman Catholic nun. Philippa is warmly welcomed into Brede Abbey, the monastery that is full of women young and old. She finds a home with her fellow sisters, who share stories of humanity and heartbreak.
But years after Philippa joins the convent, everyone can feel a change coming. Something is happening in the Catholic Church, and with Brede having financial issues, nobody knows if they will make it through the changes.
You can purchase In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden here.
Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
Stephen Kamolo is a Zulu pastor who has a son named Absalom. The Pastor and his wife have always been content with what they have, but Absalom wants more. This book follows the family’s story of being black in their town which is now ruled by white people.
This story is about finding love and hope despite injustice and it’s an unforgettable journey.
Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton can be found here.
Absolution By Murder: A Sister Fidelma Mystery by Peter Tremayne
It’s AD 664, and King Oswy is getting ready to decide whether the Roman or Celtic Christian Church should receive primacy in his kingdom. His decision is a big one, and it could change the course of one of the churches forever.
But when a leader of the Celtic church, Abbess Etain, is murdered, the Roman church is immediately blamed. Oswy knows that tensions are getting high between the two churches, so he gets 1 person from each church to help him solve the murder. But as more murders occur and Oswy is put into danger, the cases may not have much time to be solved before everything goes awry.
You can read Absolution By Murder: A Sister Fidelma Mystery by Peter Tremayne here.
The Nun’s Story by Kathryn Holme
Sister Luke is in Africa and finds she doesn’t quite get along with Dr. Fortunati, the man who runs a Congo hospital. She slowly builds respect for him, but eventually, during World War II, Sister Luke has to make a hard decision. She can either stay in the convent or leave and return to the outside world.
Sister Luke wants to be a nurse, but she also wants to stay true to her faith. As a nun, she is not supposed to follow any of her aspirations. But despite Sister Luke’s devotion to the church, she doesn’t know if she can go along with this and ignore what she really wants.
You can find The Nun’s Story by Kathryn Holme here.
At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon
Father Tim is a rector who wants more in his life. Luckily, he enjoys living in Mitford, a charming place where he feels comfortable and at home. Soon, Father Tim’s life starts changing quickly as he meets new people and has new experiences.
He starts talking more with his new attractive neighbor, he ends up with a dog that won’t seem to leave him alone, and he starts caring for a boy who is just looking for someone to love.
As all these things are happening in Father Tim’s life, he also gets a mystery on his hands when a jewel thief turns up, and Father Tim starts uncovering secrets that have been hidden for decades.
At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon can be found here.
The Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel
Franz Werfel was a Jewish refugee who almost didn’t make it out alive in 1940, and he wrote this story to carry out a promise he made to God. This story is about St. Bernadette Soubirous, who lived in France in 1858 and had miraculous visions.
Even though Werfel was Jewish, people say that this story has a very Catholic undertone and understanding.
You can read The Song of Bernadette by Franz Wefel here.
7 Riddles to Nowhere by A.J. Cattapan
Kameron Boyd is a seventh-grader who desperately wants to keep his Catholic school from getting shut down. He is a selective mute, and the school has been the place where he feels the most comfortable.
Kameron and his friends find out that Kameron is a potential heir to a large fortune that could keep the school open, so they go on a quest. They have to solve riddles that take them all around town, escape the strange men following them, and get to the bottom of everything to save the school.
7 Riddles to Nowhere by A.J. Cattapan can be purchased here.
A Perfectly Good Man by Amanda Hamm
Heidi Ray has accepted a proposal from her boyfriend (now fiancé), Tyler McAlston. She didn’t have the chance to think it through, and though Heidi should be excited, she is unsure. Tyler is a good guy, so Heidi doesn’t know why she wouldn’t want to get married to him.
But even though Heidi gets along fine with Tyler, that doesn’t mean that he will give her true happiness. Heidi turns to prayer, trying to find out what to do, and this is the story of how her relationships change as she finds out more about herself.
You can find A Perfectly Good Man by Amanda Hamm here.
A Printer’s Choice by W.L. Patenaude
The year is 2088, and in the middle of space, a Dominican priest has just been murdered. With nowhere else to turn, the authorities immediately get help from Earth, where violence and homicide have been common for centuries.
Father John Francis McClellan is a parish priest from Boston, and the authorities from space seek his help in finding out what happened.
You can read A Printer’s Choice by W.L. Patenaude here.
Stay With Me by Carolyn Astfalk
Rebecca finally moves out of her father’s home, attempting to heal her emotional wounds. She loves the way Chris lives his life, and when Chris gives her an invitation, Rebecca doesn’t have to think twice.
But Chris doesn’t know how to help Rebecca with her grief, and to make matters worse, Rebecca’s father doesn’t approve of Chris’ religion. Rebecca and Chris seek help from their friend, Father John, trying to figure out a way to overcome it all.
You can purchase Stay With Me by Carolyn Astfalk here.
What does Catholic fiction mean?
Catholic fiction is a genre of fiction that has to do with Catholicism. It usually features Catholic characters or has to do with the church, and it has Catholic themes throughout.
What are Catholic themes in literature?
Some Catholic themes in books include the dignity of humans, economic justice, living between different cultures, and the common good. These are all things that are thought about and explored in the Catholic faith.
What are the most popular Catholic fiction books?
Here’s a list of 30 highly regarded Catholic fiction novels, along with their respective authors and publication years. And by the way, please note that some of these books may not be entirely focused on Catholicism per se, but they have clear Catholic themes or are written by authors with strong Catholic backgrounds. It includes classic and modern works, please enjoy:
The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (1320)
The Confessions by St. Augustine (397-398)
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880)
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (1945)
The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene (1940)
Silence by Shūsaku Endō (1966)
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset (1920-1922)
The Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos (1936)
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (1927)
The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene (1948)
The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor (1960)
Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor (1952)
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (1951)
The Moviegoer by Walker Percy (1961)
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (1980)
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. (1959)
Mariette in Ecstasy by Ron Hansen (1991)
Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin (2012)
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (1996)
The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott (2017)
The Last Gentleman by Walker Percy (1966)
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (2004)
The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder (1927)
Mr. Blue by Myles Connolly (1928)
The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O’Connor (1961)
The Sin of Angelica by Miguel Torga (1958)
The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge (1960)
In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden (1969)
The Jeweler’s Shop by Karol Wojtyła (Pope John Paul II) (1960)
Vipers’ Tangle by François Mauriac (1932)
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