For awhile now, I’ve been trying to complete a list of books that we are requiring our teens to read. However, I finally realized that it could be years before the list is actually complete, since I keep finding more. So I decided that I would post the incomplete list and add to it later if I find more resources. Just a quick disclaimer for my Catholic readers: many of these are not specifically Catholic books. Unfortunately, we do not have a very strong Catholic community here, but I have found many of these resources through the wonderful Christian friends I have made over the years, and I am working on finding some more Catholic resources, particularly in the area of chastity. I welcome your recommendations. And in the meantime, I invite you to check out the following, though there are some more small disclaimers on a few of them.
God’s Design for Sex Series: We started using these books with our kids at a very young age. I wasn’t sure about this, but we knew they would hear about all of it from their peers, and we wanted to be able to get the right perspective about it all into their brains before they heard it from the wrong perspective. It has really paid off. It was a little embarrassing for me, because I wasn’t used to talking so frankly and openly about this topic, but the kids were never embarrassed, and they are still all able to talk to me about it freely. These are from a Christian perspective, but I didn’t find anything in them to contradict Catholic teaching except for the issues of masturbation and birth control. The authors don’t take a stand either way on the former, just say that there is some disagreement about the issue among Christians. This doesn’t present a problem for me, as I can easily teach the kids the Catholic perspective on these issues. And they don’t come up until the last couple of books, by which time the kids will be old enough for us to discuss those issues. But I just wanted you to be aware of it.
Beautiful Girlhood, originally written by M. Hale, revised and expanded by Karen Andreola. This is a great book to read along with your daughter. There is even some sort of study/discussion guide to go along with it, though I have not actually seen it other than in a catalog.
I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Josh Harris; written by an unmarried young man who realized all the things that are wrong with the whole dating scene, and decided to be radical.
Boy Meets Girl by Josh Harris (sequel to the above title, after the author met and married his wife). Both books are Christian, but not Catholic, but I did not find anything in them to concern me.
Our well-loved and battered copy of "Arms of Love"
Arms of Love by Carmen Marcoux: A Catholic novel dealing with chastity/courtship. Also, check out her website www.courtshipnow.com. My daughter has read this at least 3 times. There is also a sequel, Surrender, which is wonderful as well. I found that these novels present a beautiful perspective on the dignity of the person within a romantic relationship (as well as in daily family life), and because this idea is incorporated into the whole book, it’s almost as if the message is being taught without the reader being consciously aware of it. I found myself caught up in the story, almost as if the family was real, and I came away from it feeling that this approach to relationships is possible, despite what our culture tells us. Girls would be more apt to get into this type of book, but we required our son to read it, too, because it was such a perfect example of what we wanted to teach both about courtship and Catholic family life. He may not have enthusiastically devoured it multiple times and passed it on to all his friends the way our daughter did, but he did read it and like it.
Lady in Waiting by Debby Jones and Jackie Kendall. This is a wonderful, Christian book that “is not about finding the right man, but being the right woman,” one who knows that her true satisfaction can only be found in a relationship with Christ. It will inspire a young (or older) woman to “recklessly abandon herself to the Lordship of Christ, diligently use her single days, trust God with unwavering faith, demonstrate virtue in daily life, love God with undistracted devotion, stand for physical and emotional purity, live in security, respond to life with contentment, make choices based on her convictions, and wait patiently for God to meet her needs.” (All quotes taken from the introduction of the book — no need to struggle trying to describe it when they did such a good job already! 🙂 )
And the Bride Wore White by Dannah Gresh: This is written for girls and also concerns chastity in dating relationships. I would recommend you read this first so you have a better idea of when to have your daughter read it. It’s geared towards girls who are ready to date. I have not had Maggie read it yet, but plan on using some of the ideas it contains when I talk with her about this topic. There is one especially neat idea that I had never seen anywhere: making a list of what to look for in a future spouse, after prayer and discussion with parents and other adults who are living their faith, so that when meeting prospective “dates,” a girl will have kind of an objective idea of the qualities that are important to her before her heart gets entangled in a relationship and clouds her judgment. I’m definitely doing this with my daughters. Dannnah’s husband wrote a book for boys, as well: Who Moved the Goalpost? I would especially recommend these books for teens who have already been exposed to sexual issues or temptations. Otherwise, I believe they could actually introduce thoughts or images that may not have occurred to your teen already. Other books that would be helpful for teens or young adults already struggling with sexual temptations would be Every Young Man’s Battle (by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker), and Every Young Woman’s Battle (by Stephen Arterburn and Shannon Etheridge).
Secret Keeper by Dannah Gresh: This is a wonderful little booklet for girls about the importance of modesty. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
This Clear and Present Darkness by Frank Peretti: Christian, but not Catholic. This is a novel which clearly demonstrates the reality of the unseen spiritual battle that is always raging. Some theological differences, but honestly, it’s been so long since I read it that I don’t remember quite what they were. Read it before having your child read it so you can address any differences that come up.
Wild at Heart by John Eldredge: for boys/men. Also recommended reading for women who want to have a better understanding of “what makes men tick.”
Captivating by Stasi Eldredge: for girls/women. Also recommended reading for men who want to understand women. I highly recommend this book for adult women as well as teens. I found myself moved to tears throughout just because this author validated the way I feel as a woman, even though I hadn’t even realized it. My husband even started reading it and discussing it with me. He was so excited to have some help understanding me! 🙂
Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. This book is not Catholic and the introduction in particular contains a reference to a group of monks that could be offensive to some Catholics. With that said, however, the book itself is a great challenge to teens to exceed the pathetically low expectations our culture places on them, rather than treating the teen years as a time to coast through on a little mini-vacation before reaching adulthood (at which time they are suddenly supposed to know how to be contributing, successful adults!). There is a sequel to this book (Start Here: Doing Hard Things Right Where You Are) that gets into some more specific ways to “do hard things.”
The 4:8 Principle by Tommy Newberry. This is a whole book based on Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.” I love that Newberry teaches very specific ways to use this verse as a filter through which to see all of life, thus showing us how to really live as joy-filled people of God.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. This book is especially great for those (like me) who are not naturally outgoing “people persons.” I’ve had a few interactions with people lately who really could have benefitted from the lessons in this book! Seriously, Carnegie offers practical tips which, when practiced, will help anyone become the type of person who is welcomed anywhere.
Many of these books can be found at www.Christianbook.com. I buy lots of books used on Ebay or new/used on Amazon as well.
So, there you have it, the very incomplete list of required reading for our teens. I hope to update it as I find more, but with the brain fog that’s been haunting me lately, I know better than to make that promise! Happy reading!