Friday, April 26, 2013

Book Review: Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History

When my eldest daughter came home from school the other day and saw me sitting on the porch reading a big thick book the first thing she said to me was "Mom, are you reading the dictionary?"  I flipped up the cover so she could see that it was the Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History.  She shook her head, told me it was pretty much the same as reading a dictionary and walked into the house convinced, I'm sure, that her mom needs a new hobby.

This book is a history book.  It's not going to be something that most people will grab for beach or poolside reading, unless, you're like me and you really like to read history books, encyclopedia entries and yes, even the dictionary and thesaurus.  I hear people call history books boring all of the time, but I've yet to come across more than two or three history books that I truly felt were absolutely boring.  This book is plenty interesting if you have an interest in the role of the Catholics and the Catholic church as it relates to U.S. History.

The Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History fills in the gaps that are often glossed over or completely ignored in history classes.  As I read through this book I learned a lot that I had never heard of in any history or political science class from elementary school through college.  Having spent a good portion of my college years studying American history and politics, you'd think that some of what is found in this book would have spilled out into one of my classes.

The book offers a great chronology of U.S. Catholic History at the beginning of the book.  So if you're unsure of where to start, with this 1,000+ page book, that's a good jumping off point.  From there the book is pretty much set up like a typical encyclopedia with the articles arranged in alphabetical order.  You can look up your state and read about Catholic history for the state, you can read about your diocese.  Perhaps you're interested in the role of Catholics in the Civil War, you'll find an article for that, too.  Throughout the book you'll find black and white sketches of notable people and various cathedrals and basilicas.

The encyclopedia also has a few useful appendices.  There's one which lists missionaries to the Americas and gives a brief description for each one.  There's a list of American saints that includes those canonized, beatified and declared venerable.  Another appendix lists those Catholics who are in Statuary Hall.  The final appendix lists all the cathedrals, basilicas, as well as shrines and places of historic interest.

Overall, the encyclopedia is a great reference book.  I think it will be a great resource for my children as they learn about U.S. history.  Referencing this encyclopedia will afford them the opportunity to see the role that Catholics have played in shaping our nation.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company.  I was provided with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your seasonal needs such as First Communion gifts as well as ideas and gifts for the special papal Year of Faith.

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