Looking for summer reading? Try book Pope Francis likes!


An alert reader saw an interesting piece of information in an article about Pope Francis on Sandro Magister’s site, Chiesa.

Apparently, Pope Francis cites with some frequency The Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson.

It looks as if the Kindle version is … free?  Yep.  $0.00.

Don’t have a Kindle?  Click HERE!  (Canadians and Brits, please use my amazon search box at the bottom of the page.)

The Lord of the World is a must read.  It is one of the very first in the dystopian genre and is deeply Catholic.  And you can read about the author in an interesting book about prominent coverts to the Catholic Church and how one convert influenced another.  Try Joseph Pearce’s engaging Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief.  There is a section on Robert Hugh Benson.

A great compliment to The Lord of the World might be J.D. James’ dystopian The Children of Men.   It is not Catholic, but it is definitely Christian. Do NOT make the mistake of thinking that the dreadful movie version of a few years ago has anything to do with the book.  The books of Michael P. O’Brien, starting with Father Elijah and then the “Children of the Last Days” trilogy are also good.  Begin with Strangers and Sojourners.  Catholic for sure.

I also read somewhere that Pope Francis’ favorite movie is Babette’s Feast.  And excellent choice!  There is a new remastered Blu-Ray disk available for pre-order for July.  I have it linked on the right side bar of the blog or click HERE.  Again, Canadians and Brits, please use the search box at the bottom.  Just type in the title.  Catholic?  I sure think so, though it doesn’t have much to do with the Catholic Church on the surface of it.

Some good summer reading!

And don’t forget Patrick O’Brian for great reading anytime!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. markomalley says:

    FYI, Project Gutenberg has Benson’s work available for download gratis (they are all in the public domain now).

    I have always enjoyed Lord of the World. Currently re-reading another classic by Benson, Come Rack! Come Rope!…a tale of the persecution during Elizabethan England (timely, as well). It can be downloaded here: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/15992

  2. marypatricia says:

    Another R.H.Benson fan here. “Confessions of a Convert” is very interesting.
    Also ” Dawn of All” which was written because some people complained that “Lord of the World was exceedingly depressing and discouraging to optimistic Christians”, to quote from the preface.
    There is a feast in store for anyone who hasn’t come across him yet.

  3. priests wife says:

    a big YES to P D James’ book The Children of Men- the movie was just wrong…I wish the movie would be turned into a BBC miniseries instead of a silly Hollywood farce

    another favorite book of mine that was destroyed (though not quite as badly…except the essential meaning in the end was changed, so lost) as a movie starring Julianne Moore is The End of the Affair.

  4. HyacinthClare says:

    OH YES, Lord of the World is a good book!! The shock of turning that last page will be with me as long as memory lasts. I did not see it coming. DON’T LOOK if you haven’t read it yet. Self-discipline!! It’s worth it. I got more out of it the second read, too.

    And I’m in the fifth of the Aubrey-Maturin books on kindle right now and loving them. I don’t have the slightest idea what they’re saying about their sails about half the time but it’s so real to THEM, it’s real to me! And such HONORABLE people.

  5. Bob B. says:

    O’Brien’s books are great and I grew up reading C.S. Forster’s Hornblower series and then Alexander Kent’s Bolitho series.
    I’m almost done re-reading The Vicar of Christ (whose fictional pope is named Francesco I, who wants to change the Vatican’s ways), then onto The Cardinal (my favorite book that I re-read every 1-2 years).

  6. inexcels says:

    Michael O’Brien’s style is too stilted for my taste… his books read more like manifestos than novels. I’ve never heard of Robert Benson, but it’s pretty tough to beat a price tag of $0. I’ll have to give The Lord of the World a try. Thanks for the heads-up.

  7. Muv says:

    Well that’s a turn up for the books. I must dust off our copy and re-read Lord of the World and be at one with the Pope. Did he read it in translation? Had it lost anything? I have read that he has admitted defeat with English, or was that just speaking it rather than reading it?

    Lord of the World is a ripping read. Apocalyptic Dan Dare with shades of Aldous Huxley.

  8. Laura R. says:

    Fascinating that Pope Francis is a fan of R.H. Benson!

    I second Father’s recommendation of Literary Converts by Joseph Pearce, if you are interested in 20th century British literature (beginning with Oscar Wilde, another literary convert).

  9. Mindyleigh says:

    Probably my favorite book. One of my priest’s favorites, too! Do not let the atrocious mushroom cloud book cover fool you.

  10. Bosco says:

    Don’t forget Vladimir Soloviev’s “A Short Tale of the Antichrist” oft cited by Pope Benedict XVI.
    I thought Msgr. Benson’s Antichrist, an unknown American Senator who arises from nowhere, seemed vaguely familiar to me.

  11. John of Chicago says:

    Also read awhile back that the Pope’s favorite painting is Chagall’s “White Crucifixion” (at the Art Institute of Chicago–3rd floor, new wing).


    I suggest spending a day (or better a week) exploring and enjoying the whole place followed by a good wine/scotch/beer at Terzo Piano or in the courtyard on a warm Thursday summer evening.
    The Art Institute is simply magical and the Chagall is pretty good too.

  12. http://librivox.org/lord-of-the-world-by-robert-hugh-benson/

    There was a second version of this book written with an alternative ending too.

  13. maryh says:

    I’ve downloaded Lord of the World and gotten through the Preface so far.

  14. Legisperitus says:

    NOTA BENE: As far as I know, all current editions of Lord of the World have a faulty text in Chapter Five, Section III, second paragraph, that was carried forward from a printer’s error in a mid-20th-century edition which mistakenly repeated a line of type (back in the movable-metal-type days). If you are an extreme spoilerphobe, copy, paste, and print this out without looking and save it for later.


    The erroneous text reads like this (repeated line shown in italics):

    “…there was nothing to show that she was yet in England, and, in fact, it was more than likely that if she were bent on such an act she would go abroad for it, where laxer conditions prevailed. In short, it seemed that he could do no good by remaining in England, and the temptation to be present at the final act of justice in the East by which land, and, in fact, it was more than likely that if she were to be wiped out, and Franklin, too, among them…”

    The text should read:

    “…there was nothing to show that she was yet in England, and, in fact, it was more than likely that if she were bent on such an act she would go abroad for it, where laxer conditions prevailed. In short, it seemed that he could do no good by remaining in England, and the temptation to be present at the final act of justice in the East by which those who had indirectly been the cause of his tragedy were to be wiped out, and Franklin, too, among them…”


    You can see where the printer’s mistake originated, with both lines of type ending in “were.”

    If anyone here has a contact with a republisher of this book, please try to spread this knowledge around so we can get a corrected edition in print. Thanks!

  15. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Just to support Mark O’Malley’s recommendation: Benson’s ‘Come Rack Come Rope’ is an immensely and unforgettably moving account of the late 16th century persecution of English Catholics, and their steadfast courage in the Faith.
    The Agnus Dei of William Byrd’s Four-Part Mass gives a glimpse of this world…
    Musicians will recognize the ‘chain of suspensions’ at ‘Dona nobis pacem’ – apart from the obvious reference to Our Blessed Lord suspended on the Cross, I’m sure Byrd intended a further association with the rack, on which priests and Catholic laity alike were stretched and tortured.

    Holy English and Welsh Martyrs, pray for us.

  16. Joseph-Mary says:

    Pope Benedict spoke of this book as well. I also like Msgr. Benson’s “Come Rack, Come Rope”. He was a convert and if I remember correctly the son of the Archbishop of Canterbury?

  17. mamajen says:

    I just finished watching Babette’s Feast for the first time via Amazon streaming. C-section tomorrow morning, and I needed something to help me relax. It was a thoroughly charming movie with excellent actors! And the food…wow. When I first saw the ingredients still alive (that turtle especially) I thought “no way”. But the cooking and the eating made it all look so good. I wasn’t sure if the language would be a dealbreaker or not, but I found that I didn’t mind it at all. I glanced at the English subtitles occasionally, but really found that the story didn’t depend on understanding the words. Glad I finally watched it!

    [WOW! C-section tomorrow? Prayers! I am sure that all the readers will join me.]

  18. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    R.H. Benson’s The History of Richard Raynal, Solitary (about a sort of fictional analogue of the great 14th-c. mystic Richard Rolle) is also well worth reading and available at Project Gutenberg – and at the Internet Archive.

    Also worth reading is The Queen’s Tragedy (about Queen Mary Tudor), available at Internet Archive.

    And, set in contemporary times (that is, a century or so ago, like Sherlock Holmes!), The Necromancers (about messing with spritualism, etc.: Gutenberg & I. Archive) and the collection of stories, The Mirror of Shallott (I. Archive).

    Also worth noting, for those who like being read aloud to, is that LibriVox.org has several books of his online (and downloadable) free (read by volunteers) with linked texts, including Lord of the World and Confessions of a Convert.

    My impression is that anything by him is worth giving a try, and Gutenberg and I. Archive have a good number (the latter also has books about him)!

  19. mamajen says:

    Thank you very much, Father!

  20. Andy Lucy says:

    Will offer a Rosary for you tonight, mamajen.

    As to the Aubrey-Maturin novels, I am currently in the midst of my now annual re-reading of these incredible books, right now, I am just beginning “The Fortunes of War. I have gradually, over the years, come to understand the nautical terminology… it is a language unto itself. LOL I am also re-reading St Alphonsus’ “Victories of the Martyrs.” Wow… such faith, such dedication of mind, soul and body.

  21. majuscule says:

    By chance I have The Essential Robert Hugh Benson in my Kindle collection. It includes the books mentioned. I don’t know why I haven’t read them so thanks for this discussion!

  22. mamajen says:

    Thank you, Andy!

  23. Imrahil says:

    The “Tale of the Antichrist” has already been mentioned… but I’d also recommend Michael O’Briens Father Elijah.

    And anything Chesterton ever wrote. Should be free too, I guess; I don’t know if it’s on Kindle, but it’s on the Internet anyway. If you’d rather like something of the kind of a novel, then try one of his rather unknown works, The Return of Don Quixote. Or The Battle of Lepanto, though that’s a poem and, of course, only a short pleasure if not repeated.

  24. JonPatrick says:

    Andy Lucy, the Fortunes of War is I think my favorite of the series so far, one of those that you can’t put down especially toward the end.

    I recently ordered a couple of books from Sophia Institute Press and they sent me their catalog. Some interesting looking titles in there. For example, a work of fiction that concerns the English persecution of Catholics, “Treason” by Dena Hunt.

  25. wmeyer says:

    mamajen, I am praying for you and with you.!

    Another vote here for Lord of the World, and also for Michael P. O’Brien. Father Elijah is quite wonderful. I have also read several of his other volumes, and enjoyed those, as well.

  26. Cafea Fruor says:

    Legisperitus: Rats! My copy has the faulty text.

    But I had to hunt for it first, since there are three chapter 5s. For anyone who wants to save a moment looking it up, it’s book 3, chapter 5

    @MamaJen — praying for you!

  27. pmullane says:

    Mmajen – Many prayers for a safe delivery!!

    God Bless

  28. Legisperitus says:

    Cafea Fruor: Thanks! I had the page marked, but forgot there were so many subdivisions!

    So, yes, Book 3, Chapter Five, Section III, second paragraph.

    I do hope somebody sees this and corrects it someday.

  29. Supertradmum says:

    I have recommended Benson’s prophetic book over and over. Glad Pope Francis likes it.

    Summer reading for me will be the history of Tyburn, as I am writing two plays.

  30. Kypapist says:

    Mamajen: Prayers tonight from 2:00 a.m. on as my part of All Night Adoration. Especially helpful since you’ll be having “all-nighters” pretty soon yourself!

    I bought the LOTW for $1.99 for my Nook (the free one was flawed) although I had read it years ago. So prophetic! But I really did not understand the ending! And I hope Oliver’s wife and mother were saved. Maybe in a few weeks someone will be kind enough to end a comment with: BTW, Kypapist, in LOTW, the butler did it!

  31. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    Perhaps Fr. Z could graciously set up a LotW ‘alerted for spoilers’ post, someday, as there are all sorts of things that it seems a shame to reveal to the unfamiliar who would prefer to be surprised. I thought I understood the ending, but on the last rereading I was not sure… Maybe some extra light on the Latin would be helpful, too!

    Further to Imrahil’s GKC recommendation: indeed! And, for what it is worth, I have enjoyed not only familiar but totally unfamiliar works, shorter and longer of his, thanks to LibriVox.org. While on the subject, someone who has made lots of interesting contributions to LibriVox goes under the name of Maria Therese: if you click her name at the first chapter of Come Rack! Come Rope! (which I have yet to try), you can see what-all she has done as a reader…

  32. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Speaking of Patrick O’Brian and C.S. Forster’s series – which I have yet to read (among any other fiction set in the Napoleonic era), has any author treated the ‘adventures’ of the Santo Caliz in that period? The Valencia Cathedral website says, “During the Independence War, between 1809 and 1813, the chalice was taken to Alicante, Ibiza and Palma de Mallorca, escaping from Napoleonic invaders.”

  33. jasoncpetty says:

    I picked this up on my stay at Clear Creek a couple of years back, not knowing what it was, but having heard vaguely about Msgr Benson before. The men’s guest library has a copy of it (a donor bound all of the books there to match–really cool!), and I read it cover to cover in between work and pray. Maybe the wrong book to read at a semi-remote monastery insofar as it made me not want to leave.

  34. a catechist says:

    “Babette’s Feast” is based on a story by Isak Dinesen, the pen name of Baroness Karen Blixen. She was a native of Denmark, and seems to have been raised a Unitarian (I am not an expert on her by any means). Still, I agree that the sensibility of the film has always felt Catholic. The Kingdom of God is like….

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