A good book challenges and inspires me. Earlier this year, I read “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson, which has made me reconsider what I used to believe about race and inspired me to be more self-aware in my actions.
Now that we’re in the Christian season of Lent, it is also the perfect time for challenge, inspiration, reconsideration, and action.
In that vein, I’ve put together a list of five books that all have broad, universal topics but also guide me in taking concrete action in my daily life and local community this Lent.
“Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion” by Gregory Boyle, SJ
I first read this book in 2018 when I really needed to hear about a good Catholic priest, and I found one. Jesuit priest Gregory Boyle is the founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world, and his “Power of” trilogy is a thought-provoking exploration of how to love unconditionally and live in solidarity with marginalized communities.
Boyle’s parables help me feel more sure of God’s love for me, personally, and makes me think more intentionally about the marginalized groups in my local community who need my time and treasure.
“Pray for Us: 75 Saints Who Sinned, Suffered, and Struggled on Their Way to Holiness” by Meg Hunter-Kilmer
I’ve started semi-regularly attending daily Mass; picking saint feast days is a helpful method for encouraging myself to go. And I have a whole bunch of new saint friends after reading Meg Hunter-Kilmer’s collection.
Telling saint stories is kind of Meg Hunter-Kilmer’s jam, and she describes well-rounded, human, imperfect, but ridiculously-loved-by-God people. This book is a great way to find new saint friends to walk with beyond Lent.
“Blessed Are the Nones: Mixed-Faith Marriage and My Search for Spiritual Community” by Stina Kielsmeier-Cook
I remember the idealism I had in my faith when I was a teen, but now I’m a grown-up juggling commitments to work, family, and friends. Stina Kielsmeier-Cook’s memoir is about navigating a Protestant Christian–atheist marriage as well as finding spiritual community and maturing into a long-term, grounded, messy faith life.
Just as Kielsmeier-Cook finds a local community of sisters in the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary (a Salesian order), I’ve been making an effort to strengthen my local faith community.
“Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World” by Wangari Maathai
Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an NGO focused on environmental conservation and community development. In this book, she explains the four values that guide the movement and how healing the earth ends up healing the people involved in such environmental work. This book reminds me of Pope Francis’ Laudato si’ and inspires me to think local as I take steps to make my own household greener.
“Daily Prayers with the Corrymeela Community” by Pádraig Ó Tuama
The Corrymeela Community is the oldest peace and conflict reconciliation organization in Northern Ireland – and we all know the world needs some peace and conflict reconciliation right now. Internationally known Irish poet Pádraig Ó Tuama wrote this month-long collection of prayers that follow Jesus’ ministry from the Annunciation to Pentecost, as well as a series of prayers for the Stations of the Cross. This collection will be my daily prayer guide this Lent.
The actions these books inspire me to take – think local in my charity and conservation, pray more regularly, spend time in community – are small, but over time they can make a big difference. Having books as guides in these endeavors help me remember why these actions are important and help me feel like I’m doing my part to make my piece of the world a better place.
Originally published on March 15, 2022.