Good books for God's children

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"The one who captures the imagination conquers the whole heart." All of our actions come from our imagination. Who do we think (imagine) we are? Who do we think (imagine) we're dealing with here?

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The Question

Christopher J.
"It seems that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find good books for young readers which foster virtue. My friend is looking for a website of good books lists for various age groups which are appropriate for young Catholics. Can you please offer a suggestion? His son is in 7th grade, I suggested The Lion Witch and Wardrobe and Lord of the Rings. Do you have any suggestions of where to find good reading lists and what you would suggest for a 6th grader off the top of your head?
"My thought would be to stay with the classics such as Sherlock Holmes, Huck Finn, Moby Dick, Count of Monte Christo, etc., but finding classics for 6th graders might be difficult."
This is a great question. I don't have a great answer. :o(
Brainstorming: Mark Twain, Winnie the Pooh, westerns, military history, biography. Growing-up stories. Harry Potter (problematic). Science fiction? Science documentary? Nancy Drew. Bobsy Twins. Tom Swift (!). The Hardy Boys. Little Women. Some Dickens? Brothers Karamazov. Anna Karenina. War and Peace. Tolkien, CS Lewis (Narnia and Space Trilogy), The Inklings, Dorothy Sayers. Fr. Brown by G. K. Chesterton. HHGG. Books from Mom and Dad: Air Escape and Evasion, a book about Medal of Honor winners, and a third (?) with the story of the Swamp Fox of the Revolution in it.
Catch-22. 2001: A Space Odyssey. Isaac Asimov. Dune Messiah.
Go to a bookstore with your kids. See what attracts them. Take some chances. Read what they read. Help to teach them how to read a story critically.
Wizard of Oz: written by an atheist, but I watched it every year on TV with my family in black-and-white. It didn't turn me into an atheist (thanks be to God!).
The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll — a family favorite.
Flatland by E. Abbot.
Joan of Arc by Mark Twain (!).
Bella, the movie. Also novelized (haven't read it yet).
P. S. Naumann, SJ
Crispin and the Great Tree.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. This is a good story about how we affect other people in our lives and a way of thinking about Purgatory. Albom is not a Christian and tells the story without trying to connect it to any particular religion — for good and for ill. The novel is short and entertaining; I read it all in one go at the end of the semester on the recommendation of a student. It could be a good springboard for discussion of the Church's understanding of life, death, reparation for sin, and eternal happiness in Heaven.
Kathy C.
One of our listeners, Kathy C., called in and wanted to give some suggestions as per the request for book recommendations during Fr. Moleski’s show last week. She recommends looking into Ignatius Press. It has a number of great series available for all ages and they’re listed by age, so not only are these decent, good books, but you can more easily find something age appropriate, as well. She also recommends Bethlehem Books - they’re historical fiction and a series her son really enjoyed.
MXM: I love Ignatius Press and I see that it has a section for Teens and Children. That's good. I think Ignatius Press is completely reliable in terms of orthodox Catholic teaching.
John D.
I would suggest Madeleine L'Engle has written many good books. She was Episcopalian, not Catholic but nonetheless wrote books that are great reading for young people of any age. A Wrinkle in Time is perhaps her most famous work, A Swiftly ... Tilting Planet is one of my all time favorites. Her protagonists were often young people dealing with issues about growing up and/or good and evil generally woven very well together.
Tom D.
I would recommend Brian Jacques' Redwall (and the series which that book starts). Similar to Lord of the Rings, it's not about Catholics, per se, but it does celebrate the virtues that Catholics hold dear: love of goodness, family, sacrifice, work, vocation, responsible freedom, and the joy of living. Similarly, the "patron" of Redwall Abbey (Martin the Warrior) comes to the characters in dreams and (in a sense) answers their prayers. They revere him in much the same way that a saint is revered, and they follow his guidance without question. Their trust in Martin (and their other deceased ancestors) is near-absolute. It's reminiscent of a religion focused on the Communion of Saints without any understanding of the Triune God.
The characters are delightfully straight-forward; the protagonists tend not to have moral dilemmas of "good or evil", but more often "good or mischief" or "good or complacence." The evil characters are unapologetically selfish, cruel, and ambitious. Poetry, song, and beauty all play a role, and food (and drink!) plays a central role in the story. It's hard to get through a chapter without the characters talking about a sumptuous feast (or a delectable drink).
If it weren't Christmastime I'd probably have a few more titles thought up, but I thought I'd write up this one while I was on my lunch break.
"The words of a talebearer are like dainty morsels that sink into one's inmost being" (Prv 18:8).

Favorite books

First books

Lives of the Saints for very young children

- Lawrence G. Lovasik, The Ten Commandments.
- Lawrence G. Lovasik, Picture Book of Saints: Illustrated Lives of the Saints for Young and Old.
- Josephine Nobisso, The Weight of a Mass: A Tale of Faith.. Beautiful illustrations. Good for gift-giving and first communion.
- Ruth Sanderson, Saints: Lives and Illuminations.
- Fr. Dan Lord, Book of Saints for Catholic Children: 96 Illustrated Stories.
- Claire Llewellyn, Saints and Angels. Very pretty. Good for gift-giving.

Middle School

High School



Lives of saints

Jeanine from Wheatefield
She read The Passion of Fulton Sheen and every Fulton Sheen book she could get her hands on. She recommends all Archbishop Sheen books for everyone.

Cultivating Vocations



Other resources


  • Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Old Yaller. (?)
  • A book about a racoon (non-fiction) from my boyhood: Rascal.
  • Kevin from Buffalo: Come Rack, Come Rope by Robert Hugh Benson. It is a fictional account of the Catholic persecution during Elizabethan England. A great story with a cameo by St. Edmund Campion.
  • Kevin from Buffalo: This was recently brought to my attention: a recording of Flannery O'Connor reading her short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find." Not for young children?

Online Bookshelf


Moreover, if the reader is at all attuned to the real magic of Tolkien’s work, his imagination will be less preoccupied with such things as the wizardry of Gandalf than with, for example, the elusive grace and poetry of the Elves; the earthy austerity and hardiness of the Dwarves; the ineffable stateliness, the sheer antiquity of the Ents; the battle-hardened majesty of Aragorn; the playful, fathomless mystery of Tom Bombadil; and, perhaps most of all, the Hobbits themselves, with their quiet and humble ways, their unassuming, humorous, gregarious, homebody, pipe-smoking, meal-loving, comfort-seeking, Shire-dwelling hearts, and, hidden just beneath the surface, their unguessed depths and disreputable capacity for heroism. Here is the true center of gravity in Tolkien’s Middle-earth: not the world of magic, but the magic of the world.
Yet reading Harry Potter by itself — or rather, reading Harry Potter as part of a well-rounded reading program including well-chosen books that might include the works of Tolkien and Lewis, the adventure stories of Howard Pyle, the fantasy of Lloyd Alexander, the frontier stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the apocalyptic fiction of Michael O’Brien, the fairy-stories of George MacDonald, or the detective tales of Encyclopedia Brown (and, later, Sherlock Holmes) — a child whose reading has this kind of breadth and depth is unlikely to be negatively influenced by having read the Harry Potter books.