Deciding to be an English major in college was a no brainer for this lifelong bookworm and writer — I love good writing and I love a good story, regardless of genre.
That said, more recently (in the past few years) I’ve been really interested in figuring out what makes good Catholic fiction. I’ve read some in the past that was more “Catholic” than “good” — I really don’t like stories that hit you over the head with rosaries and Mass while the story and characters feel too good to be true and/or not well written. (Full disclosure: my own attempts at fiction writing have tended toward this, so one of my reasons for trying to figure all this out is so that I can be a better writer myself.) I’d love to hear what you all know about this topic! Also, book recommendations! (The authors don’t have to be Catholic, nor the stories explicitly so, as long as the themes and/or any presentations of the faith reveal a real understanding and accurate representation of the the things we know to be true, as well as good vs. evil. Do you think that’s a fair definition?)
Anyway, I’m listing here a bunch of the books I’ve read in my quest to define “good Catholic fiction,” along with names associated with the books and authors that might be perfect for literary-minded parents who’d like a nod to the faith as well (this is by no means a comprehensive list, neither the titles nor the authors nor the characters’ names — please leave your additions in the comments! I’m really just listing the names I remember and/or the ones that stuck out at me).
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
- Charles Ryder, Sebastian Flyte, Julia Flyte, Cordelia Flyte, as well’s as Waugh’s own first name — what do you think of Evelyn for a boy? Would you do it? Also, I’ve always found it hilarious that his first wife’s name was Evelyn as well!
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
- Henry Miles and Sarah Miles (both first and last names), Maurice Bendrix, Graham
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (the entire thing in one volume is FREE on Kindle today! Follow that link!) (I also have to admit — I had a hard time getting through the books and vastly preferred the movies … 😔)
- So! Many! Names! Frodo, Meriadoc/Merry, Peregrin/Pippin, Sam(wise), Rosie, Elanor, Arwen, Aragorn, Strider, the Riders of Rohan, Eowyn, Galadriel (I saw a birth announcement for a Galadriel years ago and thought it was SO cool!), and John Ronald Reuel Tolkien — any of those
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (I know, he wasn’t Catholic and the books aren’t Catholic but then again, they are, aren’t they?)
- Peter, Susan, Edmund, Lucy, Caspian, Digory Kirke, Eustace (do any of you find this usable?), Jill, Gael, Rilian, I even think Nikabrik could be a super cute nickname for a little Nicholas. ☺ Also Clive and Lewis, for the author himself
The Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz (I think this is technically horror, which has *never* been my cup of tea, but I LOVED these books — I felt like their representation of “reality,” as we know it, with the thin veil that separates, was spot on)
- Odd Thomas, Stormy Llewellyn (Bronwen), Ozzie, Annamaria … I can’t remember others
Some stuff by G.K. Chesterton (I can’t remember exactly what … maybe The Man Who Was Thursday? And some Father Brown)
- I really really want to like Chesterton, I know he’s amazing. Maybe his fiction just isn’t my thing? (Though I’ve enjoyed the BBC Father Brown recently.) I like Gilbert, Keith, and Chesterton as names, and I’ve seen parents just use his initials (a friend planned on Gemma Katharine if she’d had a girl — G.K. initials — and our reader JoAnna’s son is Gabriel Keith — for other reasons — but she and her hubs like the nod to Chesterton with his initials as well)
The Fairy Tale Novels by Regina Doman (6 books)
- A lot of great names, like Rose and Blanche Brier, Arthur/Bear, Benedict/Fish, Kateri, Alex, the twelve daughters of The Midnight Dancers (I can’t remember them all! There’s Rachel, Priscilla/Prisca, Deborah/Debbie, Miriam I think?, Tammy, Linette, Cheryl … [two families with six daughters each combine through the parents’ second marriage, hence the difference in name style])
Catholic Philosopher Chick Series by Rebecca Bratten Weiss and Regina Doman (2 books)
- Catelynn/Cate Frank, Portia, Danielle/Dani, Felicity, Sean, Hector/Che, Nathaniel/Nat, Bartholomew/Bart, Justin, Sr. Jane Frances
I Am Margaret by Corinna Turner (I just finished this today and am excited to read the three other books in the series — I was blown away by how good this was)
- Margaret/Margo, Blake/Bane, Jonathan/Jon, Jane, Kyle, Peter, Mark
I have not yet read anything by Flannery O’Connor, which I intend to remedy soon. Also Oscar Wilde? Right? Who else? Do you know of any more current books, like the last three I listed here? Are there any names you chose for your baby/ies specifically because of their Catholic lit connection?
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