Written by: Hayden Forché

The Catholic Center Book Club started in early 2022 because I wanted read more; and not just read for reading’s sake either. I had come to understand the importance of cultivating an intellectual life – after all, I had reverted to the Faith due mainly to the influence of having a wise priest as a theology teacher in high school (go figure, thank you Fr. Tipton)! However, as many of us know, it can be very hard to actually read a good book. So many things are constantly fighting for our attention such as clubs, schoolwork and especially the distraction-machines we carry around in our pockets. When trying to build any difficult habit, (1) consistency and (2) accountability to others are ‘cheat codes’ that greatly help the process. Hence why I thought a group that (1) meets regularly to (2) talk about ‘assigned’ reading would be a great idea. And it was! My friend Caroline soon came to help lead with me and we have been reading since.

Over these few semesters, we have managed to read 8 books: one was a papal encyclical (Humanae Vitae by Pope St. Paul VI), one was a fiction book with a spine bigger than my Bible’s (Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy), another was a modern-classic spiritual read about the Mass (The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn) and so on. These books are suggested then chosen by popular vote so that members read books they are actually interested in. As a side note, this also helps broaden individual horizons. Had Gentian Hill, an obscure and practically out of print novel by an Englishwoman from the last century, not been suggested and eventually picked, I never would have been introduced to one of my all-time favorite books and authors!

More important than just reading books, however, is actually understanding what they have to say and what we can gain from reading them. And one of the best ways to better understand a book is to discuss it with other people who may have paid attention to different details or picked up on different themes. For example, a chapter in Anna Karenina about 19th century agricultural practices and literally chopping grass may seem boring, but some may be able to see and demonstrate to others that those same exact pages contain a celebration of the beauty and meditative nature of manual work.

Good reading along with an active prayer life can greatly form the soul and inspire virtue. For a much better illustration on the power of literature than I could ever provide, I highly recommend that you check out Word on Fire Ministries’ “Bishop Barron Presents” episode with scholar and author Jessica Hooten Wilson. I also encourage you to join us for the Catholic Center Book Club this new semester. As St. John Bosco once said: “Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book.”