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Liv's blog on changemaking, travel, and faith in search of true beauty

  • Olivia R. Colombo

Looking for Reading Inspiration? Post-#SEEK2019 Reading List


Hello, fellow SEEK-goers (and everyone else who’s looking a good book to read)!

It’s hard to believe that #SEEK2019 was a whole month ago. It was an exciting, transformative, and inspiring five days. For those who don’t know, SEEK is a conference for Catholic college students put on by FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students) featuring some of the best Catholic speakers and influencers. I reported on the conference for The Boston College Torch if you want to hear more!


I don’t know about anyone else, but I walked away from the conference super reenergized and ready to learn and get inspired by my faith–– by the talks for sure, but also by the massive amounts of books! I came away with many books in hand (some autographed in awesome book signings!) and many, many book recommendations. The theology major and book-lover in me was ecstatic. Now, as the semester came in full-force, I don’t want to forget all of these books I want to read.


One of the 4 signs of a dynamic Catholic, according to Matthew Kelley’s research with the Dynamic Catholic Institute is study. (The other three are prayer, generosity, and evangelization, if you were curious. :) ) As we’re winding down from SEEK and/or embarking on a new year, it’s a good time to refocus on studying and learning more about the faith.


So, SEEK-goers and all others Catholics or book-lovers looking for a good read, here’s my list of SEEK2019 book recommendations… many written by the conference speakers, others recommended by the speakers, and some of my other related favorites.

Click on any of the pictures see to that book on Amazon, but disclaimer, this post does contain some affiliate links.

1. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

During Sr. Miriam James’ keynote, I’m pretty sure no one moved an inch–– we were all so focused and captured by her beautiful and inspirational words. Catholic or not, I highly recommend watching/listening to her talk. Her talk was based around this book, Until We Have Faces. Last semester, I was given the amazing opportunity to take a class from the theologian Fr. Michael Himes, and he constantly recommended this book as well… so I guess it’s time for me to read it!

2. The Other Side of Beauty by Leah Darrow

Just read it. Do it. The hype around this book in your Catholic women’s group is worth it. From a secular or a Catholic point of view, Leah’s discussion of beauty is incredible and makes us think. As a former contestant on America’s Next Top Model, she tells her story and challenges us to think differently about beauty. Her keynote on the first night blew everyone away. She wasn’t afraid to tell the truth or to rock those glitter stilettos.

3. The Fourth Cup: Unveiling the Mystery of the Last Supper and the Cross by Dr. Scott Hahn

This topic might be my favorite little theological tidbit ever. The fourth cup of the New Passover meal is a whole wonderful, beautiful, theological theory that convinced Scott Hahn to convert to Catholicism. He explained the theory while telling his faith story in this talk. You will never be able to look at the Mass the same after learning about it, and I can't wait to learn more in this book. Our youth group cherishes this concept and it transformed my pilgrimage to Israel this past summer.

4. Meet Your Mother: A Brief Introduction to Mary by Mark Miravalle

This one is not directly SEEK-related, but was a game-changer for me last semester. It's probably my top book of 2018. I had the opportunity to interview Sarah Swafford for an article for The BC Torch and she was explaining that these conferences are successful because they are “Marian, Eucharistic, and evangelization-based.” If there’s any book that will deepen love and knowledge of Mama Mary, it’s this one. If you ever wondered why Mary is our mother, why Jesus calls Mary “woman,” or what her role in redemption is, here is it.

5. Go Bravely: Becoming the Woman You Were Created to Be by Emily Wilson

Emily Wilson’s talk on the bravery of St. Joan of Arc had lines out the door. We need to be encouraged as sisters in Christ to go bravely into this world and know who we are, and this book is a beautiful guide.

6. Biblical Foundations for the Role of Healing in Evangelization by Fr Mathias Thelen

I didn’t know about Fr Mathias before SEEK, but I very quickly learned why people flock to him and follow him around. He is an absolute powerhouse in the Holy Spirit, preaching the word of charismatic gifts and passion that most Catholics have never encountered. The charismatic side of our Church is near and dear to my heart, and I can confidently say that his talks reinvigorated that part of me–– so much so that I went to his first talk, followed him to his second talk, went immediately to his book signing to chat with him, and then devoured this book on the plane home. The Holy Spirit is movin’!

7. Loved as I Am: An Invitation to Conversion, Healing, and Freedom Through Jesus by Sr. Miriam James Heidland, SOLT

Sr. Miriam James blew us all away with her stunning talks, her intense love and preaching on mercy. She has a unique story, very different from what a usual religious sister might come from. She is captivating to listen to, and this book has been on my reading list for a bit but has moved its way to the top.

8. Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves by Jason Evert

This pope was well-loved by the crowd at SEEK, and rightly so. And, this book is written by the amazing Jason Evert who also gave amazing talks. He spent years deeply researching the life of JPII and compiled it in an inspirational book of lesser-known stories of our beloved pope. What more could you want out of a book??

9. I Am ___ by Chris Stefanick

He’s awesome. His speaking is awesome, hilarious, and speaks directly to our hearts that long to know that we are beloved sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father. He launched this new book called, I Am. I am definitely going to read this in the near future, and I highly suggest watching his keynote. (I also get an indirect shoutout in the talk… he talks about Haiti180 and visiting the paralyzed man Jean Simon, and he starts describing the murals painted above Jean Simon’s head and on his walls–– but guess who paint those?? I did! Probably my favorite, most meaningful painting project ever.)


10. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in A Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher

If I’m going to be entirely honest, this one has been sitting on my bookshelf for over a year. Matt Fradd, from Pints with Aquinas and author of The Porn Myth (another good read!), recommended it on Twitter one day. I was invited to a lunch session at SEEK with George Weigel about renewing high-level academics in theology and he kept referencing “the Benedict Option.” I did a little research, and now I’ve got to read it!

Bonus #11: The Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell

Okay, okay, I said ten books, but I wanted a fun extra. A fun one might be Fr. Mike Schmitz’s new book or maybe Scott Hahn’s book explaining the Our Father… but if you’re looking for a fiction break from this genre, The Fifth Gospel has got to be my favorite historical fiction book of all time. It’s an incredibly well-researched book about the life of a Greek Catholic priest in Rome, a secret document, a murder mystery, and authentic Catholicism. I would recommend this book to anyone.


One of my goals this year is to read more for fun… especially as in college I find myself going back and forth between heaps of reading of Aquinas and electrostatic fields. I can’t wait to keep going on this book list.


Which one of these books would you read? Let me know how it is!

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©2017 by Olivia R. Colombo

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