Books that Shaped Me: The Catholic Woodworker's Must-Reads

Books that Shaped Me: The Catholic Woodworker's Must-Reads

Christmas Gift Guide for Catholic Men, Husbands and Fathers Part 1

Every man is unique, and with millions of books out there, it can be a challenge to pick the right one. If you know me, you'll know that I believe in the power of good literature, both for personal development and leisure. While I personally struggle with leisure reading, audiobooks have been my remedy. Whether it's through Audible or a simple library card, it's essential for men to make time for themselves and dive into a good book.

Top Picks for Leisure Reading

1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
This timeless classic is my all-time favorite. I find myself revisiting it every couple of years, and each time, it resonates with a different aspect of my life. The story is captivating, inspiring, and has even brought me to tears. If you haven't delved into this masterpiece, now's the time.

2. Last of the Breed by Louis L'Amour
I stumbled upon Louis L'Amour's works on Audible, and they quickly became some of my favorites. These Western tales are more than just stories; they paint a picture of a virtuous man, in the right place at the right time, always prevailing against the odds. While L'Amour has penned numerous tales, each one is a testament to virtue, intelligence, and skill. If you're looking for action-packed stories where the good guy always wins, L'Amour's are a must-read.

Of all of L'Amour's works, "Last of the Breed" stands out as my top recommendation. The story is simply remarkable, and I can't recommend it enough. Dive into this tale and get lost in its captivating narrative.

Education and History

History is extremely important, and our education system does a poor job of helping children find the truth, goodness, and beauty in our history both as Americans and as Catholic/Christians.   

History is fascinating, but you need a good storyteller.

Enter David McCullough. He's my favorite historical author and has written some of the greatest history books in modern times. Several have truly resonated with me:

1. John Adams: A deep dive into the life of our second president.
2. 1776: A captivating account of a pivotal year in our nation's history.
3. The Pioneers: Stories of the brave souls who ventured into the American West.
4. Truman: It's 30 hours long in its unabridged form, but even the abridged version is extremely valuable.
5. The Wright Brothers: A remarkable tale of the pioneers of aviation.

What's great is that all of these are available on Audible and at the library. Personally, I use Libby (an Audible-like app that lets you checkout audio books from your local library for free).  Many of these best-selling titles have an abridged version, so there's no shame in opting for that if you're pressed for time.

I've listened to and read most of David McCullough's works, and I cannot recommend them enough.

Spiritual Formation

Many great Catholics have recommendations for spiritual formation books, but, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a few that have deeply impacted me.

Jacques Philippe is an author I hold in high regard. His books delve deep into the spiritual journey:

1. Interior Freedom: A guide to finding peace and liberation within oneself.
2. Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A reflection on the importance of inner peace and how to achieve it.

3. Another gem in this category is Difficulties in Mental Prayer by Dom Eugene Boylan. It's a profound exploration of the challenges and rewards of deep spiritual reflection.

Children's Literature for Men & Fathers

Then you have the category of children's literature that is good enough for men to read either by themselves or with their children. I have read several on my own, AND I love reading them to our children.

1. Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson: This is a four-book series. It's a Christian construct with the concept of the Maker and an evil one. It's a fantasy book set in an imaginary world with imaginary creatures. It brought me to tears several times. It's totally original and just a remarkable story.

2. Viking Quest: It's a five-book series, explicitly Christian, the main characters are from Ireland and they are captured by Vikings. It's a story of faith and conversion.

3. The Winged Watchman by Hilda Van Stockholm: Set during World War Two in Holland during the Nazi occupation. Just fantastic!

4. The Saintly Outlaw: This one is about Robin Hood. Phenomenal! There's also an audio drama, The Legends of Robin Hood, written for men in my opinion.

5. Saint Thomas More from Ignatius Press: There are probably 50 of these. All fantastic! I enjoy reading these as an adult.

6. Will Wilder by Raymond Arroyo: It's about a Catholic family with a lineage of basically superpowers. It brings the spiritual war into the physical world.

7. Prince Martin series: A graphic novel series. Each one is longer and more outstanding than the previous. Written in rhymes!

8. Chronicles of Narnia: Everyone should read these, not only The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

9. Voyage Comics: There’s the Phantom Phoenix, but they have others. Great illustrations and awesome Catholic storylines.

You're not going to find these at Barnes & Noble. I have spent hundreds of hours scouring the corners of the internet over the course of 12 years being a dad trying to teach our boys the faith in a masculine way.

The reason I don't like the book series available at typical bookstores is because there's a worldview that fosters anger, resentment, arrogance, and selfishness.  The main character is a hero, and everyone else (especially the adults) are incompetent morons.  The stories recommended above foster relationships, adventure, creativity, and all the good characteristics we want our boys to develop.

Every book I've mentioned holds a special place in my heart. I share them with you in the hope that they'll touch your life as profoundly as they've touched mine.

Keep an eye out for the next installment of this ultimate Christmas Gift Guide for Catholic Men, Husbands and Fathers. [Check out Part 2 here!]

Reading next

The Many Faces of Mary: A Man’s Guide to Marian Devotions with a Spotlight on Our Lady of Sorrows
Everyday Gifts for the Catholic Man