I am not exaggerating when I write that the following five books can (do) change lives. And I actually implore you (and all of your closest friends and relatives) to read them if you haven't. For real.
1. Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla (aka St. John Paul II, before he was pope).
This book is thick, and dense, and worth however much time it takes you to read it. I owned it for three years before I could comprehend what I read, but what I read -- about love, marriage, and sex -- was profound. JP2 dissects what's wrong with relationships and teaches us how to "right" it. This book should be required reading for marriage prep.
2. Three to Get Married by Fulton Sheen
When I cracked this book, it at first weirded me out, which, in retrospect, is inexplicable -- by chapter two, the truth about the book got clearer: it would be the best book about marriage I have ever read. Fulton Sheen drops truth bombs throughout it that equip the reader both to live marriage out as God designed it and to find ways to move closer to Christ, who so wants us to do that.
3. Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love by Edward Sri
This book is a quick and easy read that unpacks some of what you will read in Love and Responsibility. Sri uses modern language to explore friendship in and outside marriage, plus sex and sensuality (not a typo), thereby knocking some sense into what tends to confuse the heck out of us: relationships. Read it.
4. Scary Close by Donald Miller
Relationships are hard. This is not new information. But I propose that part of what makes them hard is not the adjustment and disclosure that authenticity demands of us. Instead, it's our relentless resistance to adjusting and disclosing. This book will help you transcend that resistance. In it, Miller artfully articulates the parts of his journey that have resulted over time in his ability to pursue what he once never had before: true intimacy.
5. God, Help Me: How to Grow in Prayer by Jim Beckman
My first four favorites primarily cover the relationships we have with each other. This book covers your relationship with the only person who creates the grace that makes the rest of our relationships possible: Jesus Christ. Beckman provides a path to a rich prayer life with this book for people who've ever stepped off that path (or who've frankly never found it).
Arleen Spenceley is author of the book Chastity is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin (Ave Maria Press, Nov. 2014). She works as a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in counseling, both from the University of South Florida. She blogs at arleenspenceley.com.