Book Recommendations

Recent Catholic Books of Note by USD Faculty and others

Below is a sampling of important new Catholic books that might help you putting together your summer reading list:

[Anyone with forthcoming or recent books please notify us at]

USD Faculty and Friends 

1. Thomas Aquinas’s Quodlibetal Questions, Translated and Introduced by Turner Nevitt and Brian Davies 

Turner Nevitt is an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy.

Turner Nevitt and Brian Davies provide an important new look at one of Thomas Aquinas’s most interesting works.  As a teacher at the University of Paris, Aquinas presided over public university-wide debates on questions that could be put forward by anyone about anything. The Quodlibetal Questions are Aquinas's edited records of these debates and cover a wide range of topics. Nevitt and Davies provide a new translation and intriguing introduction.

(Oxford University Press, 2019)

2. A Prophetic, Public Church: Witness to Hope Amid the Global Crises of the Twenty-First Century, By Mary Doak

Mary Doak is a professor in the Theology and Religious Studies Department

Liturgical Press writes, "In this book, Mary Doak shows how the church must rectify its own historic failures to embody the unity-in-diversity it proclaims. Only then, and through responding to the demands of the current global crises, can we learn what it means to be the church—that is, to be a prophetic witness and public agent of the harmony that God desires and the world deeply needs."

(Liturgical Press, 2020)

3. Maureen Day, Catholic Activism Today: Individual Transformation and the Struggle for Social Justice 

Maureen Day is an assistant professor at the Franciscan School of Theology.

In Catholic Activism Today, Maureen K. Day analyzes the impediments to successfully enacting social change. Focusing on popular organizations such as JustFaith Ministries she argues these organizations have embraced an approach to civic engagement that focuses on mobilizing Catholics as individuals rather than as collectives. An important new study.

(NYU Press, 2020)

4. John Gillman, What Does the Bible Say About Life and Death? 

John Gillman is married to Theology Professor Florence Gillman, and has taught at the Franciscan School of Theology

Reflections on life and death have taken on a new urgency during the pandemic. What constitutes a good life and a good death?. The themes of life and death pulse throughout the Bible in the lives of individuals and communities. The Creator has empowered humankind to work out their lives and grapple with their deaths, setting before them precepts to follow and people to imitate, preeminently Jesus, risen from the dead. Gillman examines such pressing issues as martyrdom, abortion, suicide, and capital punishment. (New City Press NY, 2020)

Social Justice

1. To Serve the People: My Life Organizing with Cesar Chavez and the Poor, By LeRoy Chatfield with Jorge Mariscal

Chatfield’s memoir ranges from the cloisters of the Christian Brothers and the halls of secondary education to the fields of Central California and the streets of Sacramento. His incredible life story encompasses time as a Christian Brother, a close aide to Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement, and a key advisor to Governor Jerry Brown. 

(University of New Mexico Press, 2020)

2. Dorothy Day: Dissenting Voice of the American Century, By John Loughery and Blythe Randolph

A new biography of one of the most important figures in U.S. Catholic history. (Simon and Schuster, 2020). Read an interesting review here:

3. Writing Straight with Crooked Lines: A Memoir, By Jim Forest

Jim Forest is one of the most important Catholic activists for nonviolence. He was one of the founders of the Catholic Peace Fellowship. He worked intimately with such important peace activists as Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Daniel Berrigan, Henri Nouwen, and Thich Nhat Hanh. He has written personal memoir-biographies of Day, Merton, and Berrigan. The son of ardent Communists, his memoir tells his remarkable journey from his enlistment in the Navy to his discharge as a conscientious objector following his conversion to Catholicism to his becoming a seminal figure in the Catholic nonviolent and peace movement.(Orbis, 2020)

4. River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey, By Sr. Helen Prejean

The author of Dead Man Walking and preeminent Catholic activist against the Death Penalty, Prejean offers her personal journey explaining how she went from being a traditional sister in a convent in the 1950s to a leading social rights activist.

(Random House, 2019) 

Catholic Women

1. Women: Icons of Christ, By Phyllis Zagano

Professor at Hofstra University and a member of the Papal Study Committee on Women in the Diaconate, Zagano has written an important new study which examines the role of women’s ministry in the history of the Church, particularly women in the diaconate. She asks, “Who can be an icon of Christ” and argues for a return to women to the diaconate, a ministry, she argues, women fulfilled in the early church.

(Paulist Press, 2020)

For an interesting review:

2. The Laywoman Project: Remaking Catholic Womanhood in the Vatican II Era , By Mary Henold

Henold examines lay Catholic women in the United States and how they negotiated being part of a patriarchal church in the midst of a feminist revolution in the larger culture. Catholic women sought to adapt to new ways of being church and new ways of being churchwomen. 

(University of North Carolina Press, 2020)

3. To Speak the Truth with Love: A Biography of Theresa Kane, R.S.M., By Christine Schenk, CSJ

Schenk tells the story of Sr. Theresa Kane, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, who engaged Pope John Paul II, during his visit to the United States in 1979, calling for all of the Church’s ministries to be open to women (i.e. priesthood). Schenk charts the aftermath of Kane’s bold stance and how US Catholic Churchwomen responded to the challenge.

(Orbis, 2019)

General Interest

Vatican Museum: 100 Works Not to Be Missed, By Musei Vaticani

A beautiful coffee-table book with lavish photos of the extraordinary collections held at the Vatican Museum. A visual delight!

(Paulist Press, 2019)