Maria Maddalena de’Pazzi: the Making of a Counter-Reformation Saint by Clare Copeland (Oxford, £55). When it comes to early modern Carmelite nuns, Teresa of Avila tends, quite rightly, to secure most of the headlines. We should not forget Pazzi, however. Clare Copeland’s meticulously researched volume explores Pazzi’s remarkable spiritual odyssey, takes us inside Florentine convent culture and traces how Pazzi’s legacy was curated. A treat for students of the spiritual tradition within the Counter-Reformation Church and of great interest to anyone curious about how Catholicism has regarded saintliness through the ages. 

Liberal Learning as a Quest for Purpose by William Sullivan (Oxford, £22.99). Over more than a decade, funds from the Lilly Endowment were given to 88 US universities to establish programmes that cultivated students’ sense of vocation and self-identity. The basic issue of education’s purpose was explored through conversation and a wide range of pedagogic initiatives. In a world where college is frequently seen as the route to a better job, the results of this creative experiment provide a template for any institution that seeks to turn out reflective and committed citizens.

Morning Homilies III by Pope Francis (Orbis/Alban, £11.99). These homilies, addressed to his fellow residents at the Domus Sanctae Marthae in Rome from February 3 to June 30, 2014, show Pope Francis at his most spontaneous and pastoral. Whether he is discussing freedom from idolatry, holy patience, the meaning of faith, modern martyrdom or many other subjects, the Holy Father is always clear, frank and personal in his approach. Each homily is short, pithy and worthy of reflection. The book would be an excellent present for a friend outside the Church searching for meaning and guidance in life.

God So Loved the World by Robert Spitzer SJ (Ignatius Press, £16). In this volume Fr Spitzer reflects on “the clues to our transcendent destiny from the revelation of Jesus”. Focusing on the person of Jesus, the author emphasises his divine qualities: his forgiveness of sinners, the beauty of his teachings, his extraordinary miracles, concluding with his Resurrection and his gift of the Holy Spirit. In a fascinating appendix, Spitzer examines the history of the Holy Shroud, concluding that although this famous relic is not essential to faith in Jesus’s death and Resurrection, the arguments for its authenticity are compelling.

Thin Air by Michelle Paver (Orion, £9.99). After the success of Dark Matter, Paver has stuck to the same formula with her latest ghost story. This one takes place on Kangchenjunga, the third-highest mountain in the world. It’s 1935 and five plucky Brits are attempting to succeed where plenty of others have failed by reaching its summit. All does not go according to plan thanks to hazardous terrain, inclement weather and the appearance of a rather unfriendly ghoul. Paver constructs her narrative expertly. The human drama is engaging, while the scares are unfurled slowly but surely, to chilling effect.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection