Thursday, December 13, 2012

100 Best Catholic Novels. Or, How to Buy a Catholic Library for Christmas


By Deal W. Hudson
December 5th, 2012
Catholic Online (
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - There is no grand metaphysic or aesthetic theory behind the making of this list.
Its purpose is merely to recommend good books, specifically books written by Catholic writers that are worthy of the reader's attention. For the most part these novels have explicitly Catholic themes and perspectives. 

That a great novel can have explicit religious themes of any kind is a tribute to the artistry of the writer since such explicitness is usually deadly to writing of any kind. I have included a few selections that will not strike the reader as "Catholic" since such signposts are either missing or even rejected outright.

Any good list should be controversial by the inclusion of choices potentially deemed questionable by some, perhaps intimating a certain absence of Catholic earnestness on the part of the chooser. I welcome any controversy that may ensue from this list; in fact I will be disappointed if no one takes me to task.

I'm always anxious to learn of titles I don't know, or have forgotten, or should know better, or be reminded that my own certainties may be unfounded.
Some of the novels listed are difficult to acquire, others are a click away at a modest cost. The year of publication references the original language edition.

A final note -- Readers may immediately notice that I've not included the great Fyodor Dostoyevsky or any writer from one of the Orthodox traditions.

This is not meant as a slight, but rather the recognition of a literary tradition that differs in significant ways.
Please note that the novels are listed in chronological order.
1. Alessandro Manzoni, The Betrothed, 1827.
2. Adalbert Stifter, Rock Crystal, 1845.
3. Joris-Karl Huysmans, En route, 1895.
4. Henryk Sienkiewicz, Quo Vadis, 1895.
5. Wladyslaw Reymont, The Comedienne, 1896.
6. Leon Bloy, The Woman Who Was Poor, 1897.
7. Antonio Fogazzaro, Little World of the Past, 1901.
8. Robert Hugh Benson, Lord of the World, 1907.
9. G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday, 1908.
10. Sigrid Undset, Kristin Lavansdatter, 1920-22.
11. Sigrid Undset, Master of Hestviken, 1925-27.
12. Georges Bernanos, Under the Star of Satan, 1926.
13. Francois Mauriac, Therese, 1928.
14. Su Xuelin, Heart of the Thorn Bush, 1929.
15. Maurice Baring, The Coat Without Seam, 1929.
16. Myles Connolly, Mr. Blue, 1929.
17. Georges Bernanos, Joy, 1929.
18. Sigrid Undset, The Wild Orchid, 1929.
19. Sigrid Undset, The Burning Bush, 1930.
20. Maurice Baring, Robert Peckham, 1930.
21. Gertrud von Le Fort, The Song at the Scaffold, 1931.
22. Francois Mauriac, The Viper's Tangle, 1932.
23. Maurice Baring, Darby and Joan, 1935.
24. Georges Bernanos, Dairy of a Country Priest, 1936.
25. Georges Bernanos, Mouchette, 1937.
26. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, 1937.
27. Morley Callaghan, More Joy in Heaven, 1937.
28. Ignazio Silone, Bread and Wine, 1937.
29. Riccardo Bacchelli, The Mill On the Po, 1938.
30. Sigrid Undset, Madama Dorthea, 1939.
31. Joseph Roth, The Legend of the Holy Drinker, 1939.
32. Riccardo Bacchelli, Nothing New Under the Sun, 1940.
33. Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory, 1940.
34. Franz Werfel, Song of Bernadette, 1941.
35. Irene Nemirovsky, Suite française, 1942.
36. George Bernanos, Monsieur Quine, 1943.
37. Graham Greene, The Ministry of Fear, 1943
38. Hermann Broch, The Death of Virgil, 1945.
39. Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited, 1945.
40. Francois Mauriac, A Woman of the Pharisees, 1946.
41. Franz Werfel, Star of the Unborn, 1946.
42. Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter, 1948.
43. Giovanni Guareschi, Little World of Don Camillo, 1948.
44. Evelyn Waugh, Helena, 1950.
45. Elisabeth Langgasser, The Quest, 1950.
46. Graham Greene, The End of the Affair, 1951.
47. Paul Horgan, Things As They Are, 1951
48. Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood, 1952.
49. Jose Maria Gironella, The Cypresses Believe in God, 1953.
50. Jack Kerouac, On the Road, 1957.
51. John Howard Griffin, The Devil Rides Outside, 1952.
52. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, 1954-55.
53. Heimito von Doderer, The Demons, 1956.
54. Julien Green, The Transgressor, 1956.
55. Alfred Doblin, Tales of a Long Night, 1956.
56. Caroline Gordon, The Malefactors, 1957.
57. Shusaku Endo, Wonderful Fool, 1959.
58. Morris West, The Devil's Advocate, 1959
59. Julien Green, Each in His Own Darkness, 1960.
60. William Goyen, The House of Breath, 1960
61. Flannery O'Connor, The Violent Bear It Away, 1960.
62. Shusaku Endo, Volcano, 1960.
63. Morley Callaghan, The Many Colored Coat, 1960.
64. Morley Callaghan, A Passion in Rome, 1961.
65. Edwin O'Connor, The Edge of Sadness, 1962.
66. J.F. Powers, Morte D'Urban, 1962
67. Anthony Burgess, The Wanting Seed, 1962.
68. Shusaku Endo, Silence, 1966.
69. Rumer Godden, In This House of Brede, 1969.
70. Muriel Spark, The Driver's Seat, 1970.
72. Julien Green, The Other One, 1971.
73. William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist, 1971.
74. Otfried Preussler, The Curse of the Darkling Mill, 1972.
75. Brian Moore, Catholics: A Novel, 1972.
76. Jon Hassler, Staggerford, 1977.
77. Shusaku Endo, The Samurai, 1980.
78. David Lodge, How Far Can You Go? (Souls and Bodies, USA), 1980.
79. Walker Percy, The Second Coming, 1980.
80. Alice Thomas Ellis, The 27th Kingdom, 1982.
81. Torgny Lindgren, Bathsheba, 1984
82. Morley Callaghan, Our Lady of the Snows, 1985.
83. Brian Moore, Black Robe: A Novel, 1985.
84. Torgny Lindgren, Light, 1987.
85. Walker Percy, The Thanatos Syndrome, 1987
86. J.F. Powers, Wheat That Springeth Green, 1988.
87. Shusaku Endo, Scandal, 1988.
88. Muriel Spark, A Far Cry from Kensington, 1988.
89. Piers Paul Read, On the Third Day, 1990
90. Alice Thomas Ellis, The Inn at the Edge of the World, 1990.
91. Jon Hassler, North of Hope, 1990.
92. Ayako Sono, No Reason for Murder, 1990.
93. Ayako Sono, The Watcher from the Shore, 1990.
94. Ron Hansen, Mariette in Ecstasy, 1991.
95. David Plante, The Accident, 1991.
96. Sara Maitland, Daughter of Jerusalem, 1995
97. Laurence Cosse, A Corner of the Veil: A Novel, 1966.
98. Michael O'Brien, Eclipse of the Sun, 1998.
99. Cormac McCarthy, The Road, 2006.
100. William Giraldi, Busy Monsters: A Novel, 2011.


Deal W. Hudson is the president of the Pennsylvania Catholics Network. Dr. Hudson has written about the Catholic Novel in his conversion memoir, An American Conversion: One Man's Search for Beauty and Truth in a Time of Crisis (Crossroad 2003).

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (


  1. Thank you for this list...lots of ideas here...I must start slowly or we will be in thew poor house!

  2. I must protest. Where's Gene Wolfe?! At least "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" should be there! He holds his own with O'Connor for depth and beauty of prose.

  3. I realize any list such as this will have omissions, and while I respect Dr. Hudson's work and have admired him for many years, one glaring omission from this list is John Kennedy O'Toole's masterpiece "A Confederacy of Dunces." As brilliantly satirical as Walker Percy's "Love in the Ruins," and even more humorous, this is a must read for anyone interested in good Catholic novels. Kudos for this great list!

  4. Check out "Now and at the Hour of Our Death" by Morse. You will not be disappointed.