My Summer Reading List at

When I was in middle school, I used to read Catholic Digest when I visited my grandmother. Sometimes I’d poach her copies … sometimes I tried to do that before she finished reading it!

It’s my privilege now to work with the fine folks at Catholic Digest, since Today’s Catholic Teacher, where I’m the managing editor, shares the same publisher, editorial coordinator, and art director.

And it’s my privilege today to share my first-ever article for the Catholic Digest website — on one of my favorite topics: reading.

Check it out: Catholic Beach Reads: 16 Page-Turners for your Summer Vacation

If you’re interested in purchasing any of these books, I’ve listed them all on this Amazon page, so they’ll be easy to find. Note that this is an affiliate page, so your purchase benefits me as a writer.

Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Monday Recap: January 2017

It’s the first Monday of the month, so I’ve gathered up links to the work I’ve done in other spaces.



Tech Talk: Listen to Our Writers: Several authors have their own podcasts! Subscribe to their shows for encouragement, entertainment and education.

At Cook and Count


Walnut Spice Cakea dressed-up quick bread perfect for dessert.


Mushroom-Rosemary Marinara: a hearty meatless pasta sauce.


Orecchiette with Ricotta and Peas: comfort food!


Cod with Mustard and Panko: a jazzed-up baked fish dinner.


Monday recap 2016 edition

Monday Recap: January 2, 2017



It’s the first Monday of the month, so I’ve gathered up links to the work I’ve done in other spaces.



I Played My Best for Him: A meditation on my favorite Christmas song. It’s not a traditional carol, but it sums up what we need to do every day.


2016 Nativity Scene Linkup: Our Celebration of the Creche: Join our Nativity scene linkup! Share a photo of your family’s Nativity scene on your blog, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Don’t forget the hashtag: #CMnativity. Open through January 8!

book notes

Book Notes for Teen Readers: Romance and Mystery by Cynthia T. Toney: Cynthia T. Toney writes novels for teens that combine Catholic characters, compelling mysteries and a touch of romance. I introduce readers to the “Bird Face” series, which would make great gifts for girls in middle school and up.

Book Notes: “What Pope Francis Really Said” by Tom Hoopes: Tom Hoopes’ book “What Pope Francis Really Said” unpacks the truth behind the media’s rush to judgment. I recommend the book to all Catholics committed to defending and living out their faith.

Book Notes: 4 Books for Young Readers from Pauline Books & Media: A new book is always a welcome Christmas gift. I reviewed 4 inspiring reads for children from Pauline Books & Media.

Book Notes: “Fearless” by Sonja Corbitt: I reviewed a new book by contributor Sonja Corbitt. “Fearless” invites the reader to take up spiritual warfare against fear, stress and anxiety.


Praise Moments: “Winter Snow” by Audrey Assad: I spotlighted “Winter,” a new EP by Catholic musician Audrey Assad.


Meatless Friday: Mexican Omelet: Try this Jersey-diner favorite for your Meatless Friday breakfast, lunch or dinner!


Tech Talk: 10-Minute Advent Retreat from Catholic Relief Services: For those who don’t think they have time to make an Advent retreat, Catholic Relief Services packs a powerful spiritual experience in a 10-minute online retreat. Here are my impressions of “Holy Family, Refugee Family.”

At Cook and Count


Cod with Caper-Mustard Sauce


Mexican Omelet


Lamb Stew with Roasted Vegetables

At Dynamic Women of Faith

Book Review: Who Does He Say You Are? A review of Colleen C. Mitchell’s spiritual work on women in the Gospel.


Monday recap 2016 edition

Monday Recap: October and November 2016

The beginning of November got away from me, so I’m including 2 months’ worth of articles in this edition of Monday Recap. It’s the first Monday of the month, so I’ve gathered up links to the work I’ve done in other spaces.


coloring-book-notes-logoColor and Pray: At Play in God’s Creation Coloring Book

A review of a different kind of coloring book: At Play in God’s Creation is an invitation to prayer and creativity.

Review of "The Perfect Blindside" at

Book Notes: The Perfect Blindside

My review of Leslea Wahl’s novel for teens, “The Perfect Blindside,” featuring an unlikely couple who team up to solve a mystery and find something more.


Meatless Friday: Burrito Bowls

Faster and cheaper than takeout: I break down the veggie burrito bowl for your Meatless Friday dinner.

Courtesy of Holy Spirit Radio.

Tech Talk: Spirit in the Morning Radio with Gary Zimak

Catholic evangelist Gary Zimak launched a new morning radio program this week! Here are the details on how you can listen, no matter where you live.


Book Notes: Rosa, Sola by Carmela Martino

Rosa, Sola by Carmela Martino deals with the sensitive topic of infant loss and brings up questions about living out the Works of Mercy. I discuss the book with the author and interview key characters.


Book Notes: YOU, a Theology of the Body study program for teens

YOU, a new Theology of the Body study program for teens from Ascension Press, that challenges and engages teens in the discussion of a difficult subject.


Book Notes: Journey to the Cross by Shane Cloonan

My interview with teenage author Shane Cloonan about Journey to the Cross, a picture book for children that’s perfect for Advent and Christmas reading.


Book Notes: Who Does He Say You Are?

My review of Who Does He Say You Are? by Colleen C. Mitchell, a book inviting women to put themselves in the places of women in the Gospels.


Meatless Friday: Cod with Caper-Mustard Sauce

Here’s an easy way to dress up plain baked fish fillets with a 4-ingredient sauce. This dinner takes just minutes to make but looks and tastes fancy enough for company.

Book Notes: Two Guidebooks for Young Adults

My review of two guidebooks that will make great gifts for the young adults in your life, with tips on keeping the faith in college and finding a faithful spouse.


Earthquake Topples Benedictine Basilica

The Benedictine Monks of Norcia, who released a chant album honoring the Blessed Mother last year, have suffered the destruction of their monastery and basilica in this year’s earthquakes in central Italy.


Book Notes: Ornamental Graces

My review of Carolyn Astfalk’s newest novel, Ornamental Graces, and interview with four of the novel’s supporting characters.


Book Notes: Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta

I had a hard time putting down a new Advent devotional by Heidi Hess Saxton. Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta offers food for thought and prayer for any reader who is devoted to this fascinating saint.

Biographical Book Notes

Capsule reviews of 6 biographies: no tell-alls here, but books that will inspire you in the spiritual life.

Courtesy of

Pray the Year: Liturgical Resources for Families

My interview with Jonathan Sullivan, the creator of “Pray the Year,” a free email service providing liturgical prayer resources for families. Sign up today to receive the Advent email from “Pray the Year!”


Book Notes: Prayer in the Catholic Tradition

How many ways can a Catholic pray? “Prayer in the Catholic Tradition” covers the history and how-tos of Catholic prayer.


Advent Wreath Linkup 2016: A Celebration of Advent Wreaths

Join our Advent wreath linkup! Share a photo of your family’s Advent wreath on your blog, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Don’t forget the hashtag: #adventwreathcm

At Catholic Underground


At Cook and Count


Romanian Chicken Paprika


Cookie Time: Giant Orange Ginger Oatmeal Cookies


Chicken with Red Wine and Onions

At Dynamic Women of Faith

Book Review: Catholic Coloring Books for Prayer, Reflection and Relaxation


Book Review: Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta

At Midwest Review of Books

Full Cycle cover

At The Ruth Institute

Monday recap 2016 edition

Monday Recap: October 3, 2016

It’s the first Monday of the month, so I’ve gathered up links to the work I’ve done in other spaces.


shrimp-fra-diavolo-for-2Meatless Friday: Date-Night Shrimp Fra Diavolo. My recipe makes just enough for a fancy dinner for two!

seven riddles to nowhere

Book Notes Goes to Middle School: 7 Riddles to Nowhere. Are you wondering if 7 Riddles to Nowhere is appropriate for your middle-schooler? I asked author A.J. Cattapan some insider questions about the book.


Intercessory Prayer Gets Behind the Wheel. Emergency vehicles don’t have to be the only things that move you to intercessory prayer while you’re driving. Any car on the road can be a reminder to pray.


Book Notes: Works of Mercy Coloring & Activity Book. I reviewed the Education in Virtue Works of Mercy Coloring & Activity Book, which will appeal to parents, catechists and Catholic-school teachers who’d like to supplement their children’s religious instruction with fun and worthwhile educational activities.


Book Notes: 2 Coloring Books for Prayer from Pauline Books & Media. I reviewed two new coloring books for adults. Pauline Books & Media publishes “Our Lady’s Garden” and “Windows into Christ.” How can you incorporate prayer into the coloring craze?


Book Notes: Feeding Your Family’s Soul. Has family dinnertime gotten lost in the shuffle of your busy family schedule? I reviewed a new book by contributor Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle that aims to give family dinners pride of place.


St. Jerome, Doctor & Curmudgeon. On September 30the Church celebrates St. Jerome, patron of librarians, scholars, students, translators…and grumpy people. I shared how St. Jerome’s story gives me hope.

At Cook and Count

Giant Double Chocolate Cranberry Pecan Cookies by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom

Giant Double-Chocolate Cranberry Pecan Cookies

Cheesy Potato packets by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom

On the Grill: Cheesy Potato Packets

Pork Lo Mein by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom

Pork Lo Mein or Stir-Fry

Pork Scaloppine by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom

Simple Pork Scaloppine

Roasted Broccoli  by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom

Roasted Broccoli


Monday recap 2016 edition


This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.

Monday Recap: September 5, 2016

It’s the first Monday of the month, so I’ve gathered up links to the work I’ve done in other spaces, from book reviews and Tech Talk (will I ever get to Inbox Zero?) to recipes and back-to-school tips from none other than Ramona’s mom!


Image via Pixabay (2009), CC0 Public Domain


Tech Talk: Is Inbox Zero a Pipe Dream? I fight an ongoing battle with my inbox. Are you working on controlling your email? Find out what works for a detail-oriented thinker.

“Beverly Cleary Fandom” by Multnomah County Library (2014) via Flickr, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0


Mrs. Quimby’s 6 Best Back-to-School Tips (Plus One from Me). I loved reading Beverly Cleary’s “Ramona” series as a child. Turns out, these books are chock-full of sound parenting advice.


Book Notes: Works of Love are Works of Peace. My review of the newly-reissued photobook about Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta: Works of Love are Works of Peace. This book will challenge and change the way you serve.


Book Notes: “Mary’s Way” Encourages Praying Moms. Mary’s Way: The Power of Entrusting Your Child to God is both a testament to perseverance and a guide to surrender. I reviewed this new book by contributor Judy Klein.

At Catholic Underground

A Single Bead by Stephanie Engelman

Catholic Underground picked up my review of Stephanie Engelman’s A Single Bead. Thanks for hosting me!

At Cook and Count

I haven’t made too many new dishes this summer, so there’s just one recipe this time!

shrimp fra diavolo for 2Shrimp Fra Diavolo for Two

At Dynamic Women of Faith

CM Prayer Companion cover art

Book Review: The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion. The book is out now, so be sure to order your copy today! Want an autographed copy? Leave a comment or email me for details.

Monday recap 2016 edition

Monday Recap: August 1, 2016

Less cooking, more reading–that’s been July’s theme.


Pineapple salsa goes great with shrimp tacos, chicken and more!Meatless Friday: Cilantro-Lime Shrimp with Pineapple Salsa. Don’t worry about heating up the house when you cook this easy summer meal. Here’s my recipe for cilantro-lime shrimp with sweet pineapple salsa.


The novel "Alligator Creek" features scenes from the Battle of Gettysburg.Book Notes: Alligator Creek. If you’ve ever visited a Civil War battlefield, I recommend Alligator Creek for your next summer read.


pictures of meBook Notes: Cultivating Empathy in a Selfie World. Summer vacation may be the best time to school ourselves and our children on ways to demonstrate kindness and compassion. I review “Unselfie” and “Pictures of Me,” two books centered on the development of empathy.


pope francis takes the busBook Notes: Pope Francis Takes the Bus. Rosario Carello’s new book, Pope Francis Takes the Bus, centers on the Pope’s humility as his distinguishing trait. I review the book and explain how children and adults alike can benefit from the stories inside.


meatless-friday-redesignMeatless Friday: Father’s Favorites. Need some quick inspiration for a simple, delicious meatless meal? Try one of these recipes, brought to you by three parish priests.

At Cook and Count

Tortellini salad: quick, easy meatless meal.Simple Tortellini Salad. A cool pasta dish for hot summer evenings.


Chicken with Zucchini and MushroomsChicken with Zucchini and Mushrooms. It’s zucchini time! If your neighbor is leaving squash in your mailbox, this recipe is for you.

At Carolyn Astfalk’s “My Scribbler’s Heart” Blog

Deliciously gooey Chocolate Marshmallow Peanut Brownies!A Taste of Summer (with recipes!). In this guest blog post I share 3 favorite summer recipes, including Chocolate Marshmallow Peanut Brownies, pictured here.

Monday recap 2016 edition

Monday Recap: July 4, 2016

It’s the first Monday of the month, so I’ve gathered up links to the work I’ve done in other spaces.


sunflowers in a hurricaneBook Notes: Sunflowers in a Hurricane. My review of a new novel by Catholic author Anne Faye. Terrific characters in this one; it’s a great summer read.



QOW Summer ice creamQuestion of the Week: Ice Cream Edition. Just for fun–what’s your favorite ice-cream flavor?



find a real friend in JesusBook Notes: Find a Real Friend in Jesus. Gary Zimak’s new book, Find a Real Friend in Jesus, is full of friendly, personal advice from someone who is so invested in his faith that he can’t help but share it with others.


QOW-for-FI-351x185Question of the Week: Summer Reading. Our question of the week: How do you handle summer-reading assignments with your school-age children?

creed by scott hahnBook Notes: The Creed by Scott Hahn. Scott Hahn’s new book, The Creed, invites readers to consider the importance of affirming their beliefs, and why we still need to do so today.



QOW-for-FI-351x185Question of the Week: Summer Activities for the Kids. Our Question of the Week: do your children participate in summer activities, such as sports, camps, or VBS?

Full Cycle coverBook Notes: A Novel for Fathers and Sons. This Father’s Day, consider giving a father-son gift: a novel that fathers and sons can enjoy together. Full Cycle by Christopher Blunt is just such a book.


mahi burgers (3) c T smallMeatless Friday: Mahi Burgers with Grilled Pineapple. For your Meatless Friday meal, I introduce a healthy and delicious burger alternative: mahi burgers with grilled pineapple.

Mercy OTEM IGWhat My Daughter Has Taught Me about Mercy #OTEM. I examine the lessons I can learn from my impulsive daughter, who never hesitates to take action when others are in need.


At Cook and Count

Pineapple-salsa CPineapple Salsa: a picnic-worthy side that goes with just about anything you’ll be grilling up this summer!



fuego box 1 FBA Spicy Father’s Day Gift for Foodie Dads: my review of a deliciously spicy combination of ingredients from Fuego Box.

Monday recap 2016 edition

Monday Recap: May 2016

It’s the first Monday of the month, so I’ve gathered up links to the work I’ve done in other spaces. May was a busy month for book reviews, but I found time for a few recipes and a little spiritual writing, too.


LCLFrontCover-265x400Book Notes and Author Interview with Theresa Linden. Theresa Linden’s novel “Life-Changing Love” released in May from Silver Fire Publishing! I interviewed the author on the subject of courtship as a dating alternative, a central theme in the novel.

Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.
Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

The Chapel Rosary. Using a rosary belonging to someone else brings to mind a unique connection that is made through prayer.




Learning to Love with the Saints -- Front Cover 250 x 400Book Notes: Learning to Love with the Saints. I reviewed Jean Heimann’s spiritual biography, Learning to Love with the Saints, which explores the how and why of those saints’ personal influence on her life.


keep your kids catholicBook Notes: Keep Your Kids Catholic. Marc Cardonarella’s new book guides parents to nurture their children’s faith at home.



joy filled broken heart rosienBook Notes: The Joy-Filled Broken Heart. This small book is packed with big advice for those in the midst of suffering.



talking to GodBook Notes: Talking to God by Julie Cragon. This new book by Julie Cragon helps you turn everyday challenges into prayers.


At Cook and Count

Sauteed Spring Vegetables 1 CSauteed Spring Vegetables turned out to be a delicious seasonal side!


Giant saucepan CC cookies 1Because bigger IS better when it comes to cookies (according to my teenager) I made these Giant Chocolate-Chip Cookies.


Jeanne G chicken with mushroomsChicken with Mushroom Sauce is a great alternative to Chicken Marsala.

At Dynamic Women of Faith

joy filled broken heart rosienMy review of The Joy-Filled Broken Heart is available here.

At’s Reading Matters

blue eyed dollMy review of Deanna K. Klingel’s novel, Blue-Eyed Doll, was picked up at

Monday recap 2016 edition

Monday Recap: April 2016



Easter ham and cheese bakeCooking with Kids: Easter Ham and Cheese Bake. I shared a frugal recipe that kids can help prepare for the non-Meatless Friday after Easter. Catalogue Book Club Part II: Seasons of the Church Year (#32-44)We discussed Part Two: Seasons of the Church Year (#32-44) from The Catholic Catalogue, by Melissa Musick and Anna Keating. Reading this book has convinced me of the need to make sure that the observations of both the daily and the seasonal aspects of Catholic life take place on a family level, not just a personal one

four keys to everlasting loveBook Notes: The Four Keys to Everlasting Love. My review of The Four Keys to Everlasting Love by contributors Dr. Manuel and Karee Santos. The book is an excellent resource for marriage prep, but it’s not just for engaged couples or even newlyweds.


AmorisLaetitia WOF for FIAmoris Laeticia, The Joy of Love. A roundup of early commentary on the latest papal exhortation, as well as a link to the document itself.

blue eyed dollBook Notes: Blue-Eyed Doll. I reviewed Blue-Eyed Doll, a fascinating historical novel that transports the reader to 1920s California, where students collected dolls to exchange for dolls from students in Japan.


Catholic emoji FITech Talk: Texting and Tweeting with Catholic Emoji. Just for fun, I tried out the new Catholic Emoji app for iPhone and iPad. Those new emoji from Apple? Try to find real Rosary beads in there. Catholic Emoji has you covered.

hope unfoldingMother’s Day Book Notes: Hope Unfolding. I reviewed Hope Unfolding: Grace-Filled Truths for the Momma’s Heart. It’s a perfect Mother’s Day gift for any overwhelmed mom.

At Cook and Count

cilantro citrus chicken 2cCitrus-Cilantro Chicken



roast pork orange pan sauce C (1)Roast Pork with Orange Pan Sauce



three way tacos CThree-Way Taco Topping




chesapeake bay shrimp CMeatless Friday: Chesapeake Bay Shrimp


At Dynamic Women of Faith

blue eyed dollBook Review: Blue-Eyed Doll by Deanna K. KlingelThis fascinating historical novel transports the reader to 1920s California, where students collected dolls to exchange for dolls from students in Japan, and follows the collectible dolls into World War II and its aftermath. Don’t miss Ruth Mary, the gutsy main character–she’s terrific.

Note: All links to books are Amazon affiliate links. Thanks for supporting my website with your purchase!