Following every presentation I give on apologetics and evangelization, I receive eager requests for book recommendations. This hunger for continuous learning that exists among today’s Catholics (of all ages) is an indication of the ever-renewing vitality of the Church, and a promising sign that the New Evangelization is alive and well.
As a response to these requests for reading recommendations, I have compiled a book guide geared towards Catholics who wish to develop their skills in apologetics (and perhaps don’t know where to start).
I hope these books will bless you as much as they’ve blessed me. Happy learning!
NOTE: This guide is in no particular order (except for 1 & 2). Read these books in any order you wish according to your immediate needs or interests.
1. Begin reading the Gospels daily.
Even 2 minutes per day in the beginning is a good place to start. I recommend getting the Ignatius Press New Testament Study Bible. This Bible has footnotes by the renowned theologian, Dr. Scott Hahn and his co-annotator, Curtis Mitch, another Steubenville theologian. I can’t recommend this study Bible enough.
Also make sure you’ve got a complete Bible on hand as well. I strongly suggest the RSV (Revised Standard Version) version from Ignatius Press.
Some further recommendations:
Put tabs in your Bible for easy sifting. Mark it up with footnotes and cross-references. Underline key passages and write notes in the margins. God’s Word must be “chewed” on before it can be digested.
To supplement your reading of the Gospels, I especially recommend:
To Know Christ Jesus by Frank Sheed
The Lord by Romano Guardini
Life Of Christ by Fulton Sheen
2. Begin reading the Scriptures with the Catechism.
Once you’ve gone through the Gospels slowly and attentively, you can start to unpack the writings of St. Paul, St. Peter and the rest of the NT authors. Then throw in the Catechism.
St. John Paul the Great called the Catechism of the Catholic Church (free online version here) a “sure norm for teaching the faith.” As a compilation and summary of two thousand years of official Church teaching, this resource is indispensible for all New Evangelists. It is a great companion to the Scriptures as well. As a companion to the Catechism, I recommend Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism by Dr. Peter Kreeft.
3. Begin reading great conversion stories.
Conversion stories are easy to read, and if you read the right ones, they can be a fantastic introduction to Catholic apologetics as the authors detail how they uncovered the fullness of religious truth in Catholicism. They also serve as great “give-away” evangelization resources for the creative apologist.
Rome Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberley Hahn
Something Other Than God – Jennifer Fulwiler
Crossing The Tiber by Steve Ray
Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic by David Currie
Surprised By Truth I, II & III (3 books) by Patrick Madrid
4. Begin reading practical books on evangelization/apologetics.
Knowledge can approach being useless – even dangerous – if a person doesn’t know how to use it properly. These books will help you to understand the “process” of doing apologetics and evangelization with clarity and charity.
I especially recommend:
The Seven Deadly Sins Of Apologetics by Mark Brumley
Catholic Evidence Training Outlines by Frank Sheed and Maisie Ward
Philosophy helps a person to see things through a “sane” lens. That is, philosophy helps the thinker to see the world as it really is, with logical clarity. By thinking clearly and logically, an apologist can hear arguments and determine whether they are sound or not, and can (even more importantly) make sound arguments himself. This is an essential quality of a good apologist.
To start your reading in the philosophy genre, I recommend reading Dr. Peter Kreeft. Which books? All of them.
You may want to start with:
Another philosopher —and one who profoundly influenced Kreeft — whose works should permeate your lifetime reading is the Oxford atheist-turned-Christian, C.S Lewis. For the beginning apologist, I especially recommend Mere Christianity and The Abolition of Man as your launching point.
I also recommend introducing yourself to the thought of the eminent Christian philosopher, Dr. William Lane Craig. Begin with On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason And Precision, an easy access introduction to his philosophy-rich approach to Christian apologetics.
For a classic work of philosophy, I recommend beginning with The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius.
You will also want to get acquainted with the medieval heavyweight, St. Thomas Aquinas. To get started, I recommend:
Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide by Ed Feser
The One Minute Aquinas by Kevin Vost
Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages by Taylor Marshall (a free -book)
6. Begin steeping yourself in salvation history.
This is a fast-track way to see how the Bible story plays out as a whole, and how each individual biblical book interlocks with the rest, without having to read the whole Bible (I am not, thereby, deterring you from actually reading the whole Bible!).
The following books will make the entire Bible – Old and New Testaments – come alive for you in a way you could never anticipate.
I especially recommend to get you started:
A Father Who Keeps His Promises by Scott Hahn
7. Begin reading Frank Sheed’s stuff.
Francis J. Sheed, the great English soap-box orator, apologist and founder of Sheed & Ward Publishing, is as good as Catholic catechists come. For the best popular introduction to Catholic theology, this man’s writings are the place to start.
To get started with Mr. Sheed, I recommend following this order:
III. Theology And Sanity
8. Get to know the arguments of today’s best Catholic apologists.
Read the writings of Karl Keating, Patrick Madrid, Mark Shea, Tim Staples, Steve Ray and Devin Rose, to name a few. You may want to start with:
Where Is That In The Bible? by Patrick Madrid
The Protestant’s Dilemma by Devin Rose
Catholicism and Fundamentalism by Karl Keating
I also highly recommend the Catholic Answers ’20 Answers’ series. This series covers a wide range of topics, ranging from abortion to the papacy, with each booklet authored by one of the Church’s leading apologists.
9. Begin reading the early Church Fathers.
This will be one of the most important parts of your study. When disagreements arise regarding biblical interpretation, we can test these things as St. Paul exhorted us to (1 Thess 5:21) by turning to the writings of the earliest Christian leaders who were, as is evident in their writings, undeniably and unambiguously Catholic.
To get started, I recommend:
The Fathers Know Best by Jimmy Akin
Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers by Penguin Classics
Why Is That In Tradition? by Patrick Madrid
10. Focus your reading on the “big issues”.
With Protestants, it’s Mary and the saints, the Eucharist, Salvation and the question of authority are the place to start.
Here are some recommendations to get you started:
Hail Holy Queen by Scott Hahn
Refuting the Attack on Mary by Father Matteo
Behold Your Mother by Tim Staples
Any Friend Of God Is A Friend Of Mine by Patrick Madrid
Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist by Brandt Pitre
The Drama Of Salvation by Jimmy Akin
Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger by Gary Michuta
Where We Got The Bible: Our Debt To The Catholic Church by Rev. Henry G. Graham
Pope Fiction by Patrick Madrid
Jesus, Peter and the Keys by Butler, Dahlgren and Hess
At the centre of our faith as Catholics is the Holy Mass. As an apologist defending Catholicism, you will need to know the Mass and the common objections against it.
For reading I recommend:
Mass Revision by Jimmy Akin
The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn
12. Begin learning the real facts about Church history.
Our society is awfully confused about historical events such as the Crusades, the Inquisition and the Reformation, for example, and what really happened there. There has never been a more necessary time for Catholics to brush up on their historical facts regarding these significant events in Church history.
To get started, I recommend:
The Glory of the Crusades by Steve Weidenkopf
Seven Lies About Catholic History by Diane Moczar
How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods
13. Read up on Catholic social teachings and how to defend them.
For a general overview from a philosophical and theological perspective I would point back to Society and Sanity by Frank Sheed. I should also re-promote A Refutation Of Moral Relativism by Peter Kreeft.
Also to get you started in this vast area:
Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West
Good News About Sex And Marriage: Answers To Your Honest Questions by Christopher West
What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense by Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson & Robert George
The Unaborted Socrates by Peter Kreeft
If You Really Loved Me by Jason Evert
Delivered by Matt Fradd
Sex Au Naturel by Patrick Coffin
Humane Vitae by Blessed Pope Paul VI (free online version)
14. Begin learning how to handle common objections against Christianity and/or the existence of God.
This is a vast area with many sub-groups of recommended reading. I will recommend some big titles that I think are crucial in getting started in the area of Christian apologetics:
Making Sense Out Of Suffering by Peter Kreeft
Handbook of Catholic Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ron Tacelli
Christianity For Modern Pagans by Peter Kreeft
The Godless Delusion by Patrick Madrid and Ken Hensley
On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason And Precision by William Lane Craig (see #5)
God?: A Debate between a Christian and an Atheist by William Lane Craig
The Case For The Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona
The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright
New Proofs For The Existence Of God by Fr. Robert Spitzer
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg
Faith and Certitude: Can We Be Sure Of The Things That Matter Most To Us? by Fr. Thomas Dubay
The Evidential Power Of Beauty: Science And Theology Meet by Fr. Thomas Dubay
When Mormons Call: Answering Mormon Missionaries At Your Door by Isaiah Bennett
Answering Jehovah’s Witnesses by Jason Evert
For an even more complete list of great recommendations in the area of Christian apologetics, go to strangenotions.com.
15. Start getting to know the great British apologists.
G.K. Chesterton, Arnold Lunn, Frank Sheed, Maisie Ward, Hilair Belloc, Blessed John Cardinal Henry Newman and C.S. Lewis to name a few. These folks are articulate, intelligent and a force to be reckoned with. Their writings are a challenge at first but stick with them; suddenly and without warning they seem to burst into life leaving you begging for more. These people and their writings make it exciting to be an apologist (and, especially, a Christian!).
To get started, try:
Orthodoxy by G.K Chesterton
The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton
Miracles by C.S. Lewis
Apologia Pro Vita Sua by Blessed John Cardinal Henry Newman
The Third Day by Arnold Lunn
Also, you can check out the Catholic Answers Classics series here.
Not enough time to read?
I highly recommend that you consider Brandon Vogt’s “Read More Books Now” Video Course. This is a brand new course that will not only make you a better reader, but a faster reader. Here’s what Dr. Peter Kreeft said about Brandon’s course:
For more great reading plans click here.