While it can be fun to read a page-turner at the beach, sometimes you want something a little more substantial. If you are tired of the latest best seller, be it a thriller or a mystery, then you should consider one of the three books listed bellow. They were all written by highly devout Catholic authors and are about very devout protagonists. That said, the books are anything from dry and boring. In fact, you will find as many thrills in these novels as in any recent best selling thriller. You will also find that they are more spiritually enriching and intellectually engrossing than your typical beach reading.
Wise Blood By Flannery O'Connor
Flannery O'Connor is famous for her short stories, but she also wrote two novels. Wise Blood was her first. It is Southern Gothic, like all of her work. The novel concerns a young man just returned home from the war who sets out to become a street preacher. The unique aspect of his ministry is that he preaches a "Church Without Christ."
The story follows his foibles as he travels around with a crazed, young zookeeper who idolizes him, a young woman who tries to seduce him, her elderly father who was a one time fake preacher himself, as well as an assortment of other odd characters. While the book has some outrageously funny sections, it is in the end, a tragic meditation on faith and redemptive grace.
Silence by Shūsaku Endō
Silence was written by a Catholic Japanese novelist who used his own experience of oppression to craft the unforgettable story of a Jesuit priest who is persecuted in 17th century Japan. The period was referred to as Kakure Kirishitan. This was a time when it was illegal to practice or teach Catholicism. As a result, many of the Christians went underground and practiced in secret. Kakure Kirishitan translates to Hidden Christians.
The protagonist arrives in Japan with another priest. They find that the local Christians are being terrorized by forces determined to get rid of the religion. The authorities have thugs drag peasants out of their homes and force them to destroy figures of Christ. If they refuse, they are killed. The plot follows the priest's capture and his subsequent decisions as to how to handle the test of fate laid out before him.
The Power and The Glory by Graham Greene
This novel is exciting and fast paced, thanks in large part to the authors history of writing spy novels and thrillers. However, this book features not a spy, but a priest. In particular, a "whiskey priest", as Greene calls him. The priest is down in Mexico in an area where the local government is looking to stamp out Catholicism. The antagonist is a cop who works for the secular, socialist regime and wants to annihilate the Church and its ability to challenge the governments oppressive treatment of the poor.
The priest heads off into the remote areas of Mexico to preach and is pursued by the barbaric official who kills villagers that he suspects of harboring the priest. The priest is tested, not only by the violence of the official, but also by his own failings (his alcoholism, a daughter he had with a villager) and must come to find redemption before it's too late.