Summer Reading Series: Leila Miller

Get ready to add these books to your own to-read list!

(photo: Register Files)

Katie Warner interviews Catholic readers and writers about their reading habits and asks for their book recommendations in various categories. 


First, who are you?

Leila Miller, Catholic blogger and author


When and how do you read? 

I love hardbacks and paperbacks! I’m old school (or just old?). 


Share a reading tip or hack that you’ve found helpful in your own reading life.

I realized a while back that I don't have to read an entire book. If I get bored, I can move on to something else! Perhaps that abandoned book will be of great interest to me in the future (that has happened!), but I don't have to get miserably stuck in a book out of some weird obligation to finish a book I start. 


Recommend one of your favorite books in the following categories and include a brief description of why you chose it:


A spiritual classic: The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis.

This little book has the potential to shake every single one of us out of our spiritual stupor. We are almost all victims of a modern spiritual understanding, and this book gets us outside of ourselves, immersing us in timeless Catholic truths — what the saints all knew. The teachings are simple, but not easy. There is a reason this has been the spiritual classic for 600 years; it will change your interior life. 


Modern Catholic book: The Privilege of Being a Woman by Dr. Alice von Hildebrand.

This book might make a secular feminist's head explode, but I have hope that it would at least make a “Catholic feminist” rethink her premises. Dr. von Hildebrand presents a deep understanding of woman, rooted in creation and Church tradition, that we don't see promoted anymore but which remains authentic. Again, we need to lift ourselves out of our contemporary mindset and learn the natural and supernatural reasons why it's such a joy and a privilege to have been created a woman! 


Non-Catholic book: The Battle of the Villa Fiorita by Rumer Godden. 

While it’s true that this novel was written by a Catholic author (sorry, I can't get away from reading Catholics!), it was intended for a general audience. The book was made into a major motion picture starring Maureen O’Hara, whom Godden believes gave the best performance of her career. The book recounts the story of an English woman who leaves her husband and children for her soulmate, spiriting off with her lover to an idyllic Italian villa, and how two of her children come after her to try to bring her back home. Beautifully written, emotionally complicated.  


An author you love: Sigrid Undset.

She wrote the classic Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy (don't miss it, and get the Tiina Nunnally translation), as well as Catherine of Siena, the story of the saint's life written like a novel, which will stay in your soul forever. 


An article or short-form piece: “We Have No Right to Happiness” by C.S. Lewis.

Apparently, this was his last published piece before his death, and it ran in the Saturday Evening Post on Dec. 11, 1963. God bless him for saying what most of us are not courageous enough to say! 


Church document: Casti Connubii by Pius XI

So counter-cultural, and it should be read by all! 


Something for the kids: Catechism of the Seven Sacraments

I really love Catechism of the Seven Sacraments, and so does my 9-year-old son! It's so cleverly presented through Lego scenes, but it is not watered-down catechesis. Excellent and thorough theology, and in a form that a child will reach for. Fun! 


Something you’ve written or are currently writing: My latest book, Made This Way: How to Prepare Kids to Face Today's Tough Moral Issues, co-written with Trent Horn, fills the void for parents and adults who have no idea how to talk to little ones and teens about the moral chaos all around us. Young kids and older kids need to understand and learn to defend the truths of human sexuality, but always in an age-appropriate way, never violating their innocence. We give parents the tools to teach their children correctly and lovingly about even the toughest issues such as homosexuality, transgenderism, reproductive technologies, pornography, premarital sex, and five other hot button topics. Teens may read it, too, with parental discretion. 

As for books I'm working on, I have a follow-up to Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak, which is going to be a collection of “stories of hope” — marriages redeemed from the brink of disaster. So far it doesn't have a title, but have already received many inspirational stories (email me if you have one you'd like included, anonymously: [email protected]). 


Summer listening (a podcast episode, talk, etc.): This is the only Google talk I've ever listened to, and it is incredible! Frank Abagnale, whose story was told in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie Catch Me If You Can, tells the real story of his life. You will be gripped and spellbound from beginning to end. The part of the story that made the big screen is fascinating, of course, but the real lesson Mr. Abagnale gives is about the family: