In the wake of Benedict XVI’s resignation, the world looks ahead to the upcoming 2013 Papal conclave when the appearance of white smoke over Saint Peter’s Square signals the selection of a new Pope. For readers interested in the history of the Catholic Church, the history of the papacy, and reading connected to the selection of a new Pope, consider this mix of new and backlisted titles:
The Catholic Church: What Everyone Needs to Know by John L. Allen Jr. (Oxford Univ., April). Allen, a respected journalist for the National Catholic Reporter and Vatican expert on both CNN and NPR writes a primer on Catholicism that offers an accessible tour of the religion’s history and future.
Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith by Robert Barron (Image, 2011). In this ode to Catholicism, Father Robert Barron delivers a lavish tour of the Catholic faith, tracing the central concerns and extended presence in the world. Where interest is high, also consider the accompanying five DVD box set based on the book.
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown (Washington Square Pr., 2006). Featuring a conclave, Brown’s adrenaline-packed novel traces a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game between Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon and the Illuminati—a secret society set on destroying the Vatican and murdering the cardinals likely to become heirs to the papacy.
Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy by John Julius Norwich (Random, 2011) and Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes by Eamon Duffy (Yale Univ., 2006). Consider these two histories of the papacy read as a pair. Norwich’s popular and lively take balances Duffy’s more scholarly and contextual approach.
The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church by John Thavis (Viking, 2013). Serving as the Rome bureau chief of the Catholic News Service for close to 30 years, Thavis provides an authoritative insiders account of the politics, doctrine, and power structure of the Vatican. Published just weeks ago, it is the most current book on the topic.