How to Be Holy by Peter Kreeft (Ignatius Press, £14). Kreeft is a prolific and highly readable Catholic writer on varied topics, including angels, demons and heaven. Subtitled “First Steps in Becoming a Saint”, this book does not disappoint. Starting with his humorous “Ten reasons to read this book”, Kreeft follows with chapter titles that include “God as your guru”, “Why surrender does not squash individuality” and “Overcoming Deism and the absentee God”, Persuasive, challenging and orthodox, this book is recommended for those whose faith needs reinvigorating.

The Creed by Scott Hahn (Emmaus Road Publishing, £19). In this illuminating study, Scott Hahn, the famous American convert and Scripture scholar, explains how the Creed, the central profession of the faith, has developed through the ages. As he points out, the Creed is not the whole of the Christian faith: it is a symbol, ultimately of “Someone we love, Someone who makes us who we are by means of creeds and other graces.” Each statement is reflected upon and its essential place in the whole made clear. Written for the lay person, this book will enlarge and deepen the faith of its readers.

Maya and Catholic Cultures in Crisis by John D Early (University Press of Florida, £44). In previous work John Early explored the complex interaction between Catholicism and Mayan culture from the 16th to the 19th century. Here he brings the story forward to the more recent past: the era after most of the anti-clerical leaders had lost influence and the Church enjoyed a significant resurgence in Mexico and Guatemala. The main focuses are how Catholicism presented itself in these regions from the mid-20th century, how the locals responded, and the kinds of dialogue (and tensions) that ensued. 

Once Upon a Time in the East by Xiaolu Guo (Chatto and Windus, £16.99). The author, a novelist and film-maker who moved from China to London in 2002, has written a harsh memoir in this “story of growing up”. Her parents, who were part of the Mao generation of Red Guards, gave her to a peasant couple to bring up after she was born. When she was aged two and suffering from malnutrition, they handed her to her paternal grandparents who lived in Shitang, a fishing village by the East China Sea. Much poverty, neglect and suffering preceded Guo’s eventual liberation from her unhappy past.

Icons in the Western Church by Jeana Visel (Liturgical Press, £12.99). Despite a “variegated and sometimes violent history”, religious images have always enjoyed a central role in the Eastern Christian tradition. Visel suggests that the West should abandon its perennial suspicions and follow the East’s example. Icons, she believes, would provide a wonderful site of ecumenical encounter. The theology of images in worship is challenging, but Visel offers many valuable insights alongside suggestions for how images should be deployed in churches and homes. For Visel, more than prettification is required.

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