Few people were prepared for the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on February 11, but John Thavis, author of The Vatican Diaries (Viking, Feb.), was one of them. “The possibility of papal resignation was on my mind from the time I sold my book,” Thavis says. A Vatican correspondent for 30 years, he has an eye for detail, and last fall noticed that Pope Benedict had few events scheduled for the coming year. He bet on February 22, the feast of the Chair of Peter. His guess was a few days off (the announcement came on the 11th), but the publication of his book was perfectly timed to a history-making moment in the Catholic Church. Thavis says that this interest, plus countless media appearances, a new blog, and a reinvigorated Twitter account helped the book obtain take a spot on the New York Times bestseller list.
Still, not even Thavis predicted what came next. The election of Pope Francis surprised the church and sent publishers racing to capture in print the life of the first Latin American and first Jesuit pope. Francis: Pope of a New World (Ignatius Press) by Andrea Tornielli was the first to be released. It is available in e-book only until April 10, when it will be released in hardcover. Anthony Ryan, marketing director for Ignatius Press, highlighted Tornielli’s unique perspective. “He draws from his international experience as a reporter and as one of the top authorities on Vatican issues,” Ryan says of the author. “He’s a good writer and was at the Vatican long before the conclave.” Ryan hopes the book will be seen as the “definitive” account of the life of Pope Francis. He estimates a first print run of 100,000 and says an aggressive marketing campaign is planned.
Pope Francis (Our Sunday Visitor), a biography by Matthew Bunson, came out in trade paper April 2, a week ahead of schedule. “It’s the story of two journeys—the journey of the Catholic Church from the time Pope Benedict resigned, and the story of Cardinal Bergoglio, and how the two came together in the Sistine Chapel,” Bunson says. His interest in Pope Francis began well before the conclave. He researched then-Cardinal Bergoglio extensively in 2005 and has followed his work closely since that time.
Next out will be Francis: The Pope from the End of the Earth (Saint Benedict Press, April 23) by Thomas J. Craughwell, a gift book printed on enamel paper and featuring many photographs from the new pope’s life, according to Rick Rotondi, v-p of new business development at Saint Benedict Press and TAN Books. Rotondi says the Polish rights already have been licensed, and other foreign partners are expected to sign on. “Our purpose is to make the truth of the Catholic faith engaging and accessible, and we’ve found a great model in Pope Francis,” Rotondi says.
Pray for Me: The Life and Spiritual Vision of Pope Francis, First Pope from the Americas (Image, April 30) by Robert Moynihan offers the unique perspective of the founding editor of Inside the Vatican magazine. He has covered the Vatican for more than 20 years. “Readers will get the facts they need to know about Pope Francis,” Gary Jansen, editor at Image, says, “but at the same time the book will serve as a way of walking side by side with the Pope on what is ultimately a universal spiritual journey.” He says Image plans to “promote the book widely” and “to the fullest extent.” Image also will release the English-language version of Between Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family and the Church in the 21st Century (May 7). The book is co-written by Pope Francis and Abraham Skorka, rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and is based on conversations between the two men.
Pope Francis: The Vicar of Christ, From Saint Peter to Today by the editors of LIFE is currently on newsstands in bookazine form, and will be released in hardcover on April 16. The book highlights memorable photographs from Pope Francis’s inauguration day, as well as from his early life. It will also feature a brief history of the papacy and of the Vatican. And for readers hoping to learn more about the new pontiff in his own words, Pope Francis in his Own Words (New World Library, May) offers readers a chance to experience the new pope through hundreds of quotations.
Francis: Man of Prayer (Thomas Nelson, May 14) by Mario Escobar will focus on the pope’s biography and also will include “some of the history behind the Jesuits and the conclave itself,” says Matt Baugher, senior v-p and publisher of the W Publishing division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Baugher emphasized Escobar’s international perspective: “We wanted something that represented a more worldly view than an American writer might give,” he says. “We wanted a holistic view of not only Pope Francis but the papacy itself.”
The international appeal of Pope Francis is evident: Several Spanish-language books about Pope Francis are planned, and Spanish publisher Ediciones B has sold the translation rights to Pope Francis: Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio, by Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti ,to 21 foreign publishers. The book was originally published under the title The Jesuit, and the English rights were acquired by Putnam at auction. Ediciones B expects a first printing of 100,000 copies, which will be distributed to Spanish-speaking countries.
Two pope-related e-books also have also entered the fray. Pope Francis: From the End of the Earth to Rome is an e-book published through a collaborative effort by HarperCollins and the Wall Street Journal. “The plan is to publish an authoritative biography from a trusted source as quickly as possible,” says HarperCollins editor Michael Signorelli. “The Wall Street Journal has brought significant resources to bear--Alessandra Galloni, Rome Bureau Chief, and David Luhnow, Latin America Bureau Chief, have contributed original reporting to the book.” David Gibson takes a look at the first Pope Emeritus in Pope Benedict XVI: Weighing a Papacy (Paulist Press, Feb. 26), an e-book that serves as a retrospective seeking to “put in historical context what Benedict did for the church and the world and what that might mean for the future,” says Donna Crilly, managing editor at Paulist Press. She says Gibson’s balanced view of a sometimes polarizing figure will help to distinguish the book, which has been promoted in e-mail blasts and catalogues, among other places.
The Trial of Pope Benedict (Arsenal Pulp Press, June 18) by Daniel Gawthrop takes a more provocative approach, says Brian Lam, publisher of Arsenal Pulp. Lam says Gawthrop spent three years writing the book and describes it as “a serious critique of the Catholic Church, specifically regarding Pope Benedict's reign and how he quashed progressiveness within the institution, both as pope and in the decades preceding his installment.” Gawthorp says the book will also examine the issues the new pope is facing.