While books about Pope Francis have been the biggest story in Catholic publishing lately—along with books that look back at Benedict’s tenure and focus on the papacy itself—others take a wider-angle view of the Church, or offer wisdom and encouragement for those in the pews. Here’s a sampling from the many new and forthcoming Catholic-interest titles for spring.

Thinking About the Church

Why the Catholic Church Must Change: A Necessary Conversation (Rowman & Littlefield, Feb.) by Margaret Nutting Ralph offers a broader look at the history of the church and the challenges it faces. Ralph discusses “what needs to change and why and shows Catholics how they might arrive at provocative and challenging changes in the church,” says Sarah Stanton, senior acquisitions editor. American Catholics in Transition (Rowman & Littlefield, Mar.) by William V. D’Antonio, Michele Dillon, and Mary L. Gautier takes an in-depth look at millennial and Hispanic Catholics by drawing on information from five surveys.

From Ignatius comes American Church: The Remarkable Rise, Meteoric Fall, and Uncertain Future of Catholicism in America (Mar.) by Russell Shaw, who considers the ways in which American Catholics assimilated in the U.S. and what that means for the faith. Shaw delves into both history and modern-day facts and figures to take a closer look at the tensions between the culture and Catholic values and ways the Church might move forward.

Margaret M. McGuinness’s Called to Serve: A History of Nuns in America (NYU Press, Mar.) tells the story of nuns, focusing on their work in healthcare, education, missions, and contemplative prayer. McGuinness says that, given the Vatican’s recent investigations into some nuns, the book offers “a historical perspective that could help provide a context for that conversation” about their role in the Church today.

Additional context for conversations about the Church come from the diverse young group of theologians featured in Visions of Hope; Emerging Theologians and the Future of the Church (Orbis, Apr.), edited by Kevin J. Ahern. The book features essays focused on dialogue, ecclesiology, ethics, liturgy, and ministry, extrapolating what these aspects of the Church might look like in the years to come.

John Allen Jr.’s The Catholic Church: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, Apr.) is part of the What Everyone Needs to Know series meant to serve as primers for important subjects. “The idea is to give readers a sherpa to guide them through the topic,” says Theo Calderara, senior editor at Oxford University Press. “John has been cranking out several pieces a day for the National Catholic Reporter, he’s been on CNN [as a commentator during the papal transition], and he’s joined Twitter, so all of that has brought attention to the book.”

Everyday Faith

Readers interested not only in the history and the hierarchy but also the how-to of Catholicism can choose from a number of books that address the struggles and joy of living one’s faith each day. Wholly Healthy (Aug.) kicks off Franciscan Media’s Simple Living series, which addresses the pitfalls of excess with uplifting words and tips for a life that respects the Earth’s resources. “As a Franciscan company, we felt uniquely called to help readers find ways to bring faith into all aspects of the day to day, particularly the food they eat, the items they purchase, the way they care for themselves, and the way they interact with our environment,” says Jennifer Scroggins, division director for Content and Creative Services.

Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life (Ave Maria Press, Apr.) by Elizabeth Scalia helps readers identify unhealthy attachments to relationships and commitments, among other everyday idols, that can distract from one’s relationship with Christ. “In a day when everyone is glued to their cell phone or iPad, this book is a timely reminder for people about what occupies their time and thoughts,” says Karey Circosta, director of sales and marketing. She adds that a “robust advertising campaign” is underway.

College students can find comfort in Your College Faith: Own It! by Matt and Colleen Swaim (Liguori, Feb.), which offers ideas for balancing one’s faith and life while encountering new experiences in college. Random MOMents of Grace: Experiencing God in the Adventures of Motherhood (Loyola Press, Apr.) by Ginny Kubitz Moyer argues that motherhood offers surprising gifts that can enrich one’s spirituality if we just learn to recognize them. Andrew Yankech, business development manager for Loyola, says that Moyer will be on a 10-day “blog tour” in April to promote the book.

Spiritual friendships are the central point of Loyola’s Love and Salt (Feb.) by Amy Andrews and Jessica Messman Griffith, which is made up of letters between two friends. These letters “act as a memoir told in real time,” says Yankech. He adds that the authors will be writing weekly reflections for Loyola’s 3-Minute Retreat feature on the Loyola Press Web site, which has more than 40,000 subscribers.

Fathers can find their share of advice in Man to Man, Dad to Dad: Catholic Faith and Fatherhood (Pauline Books and Media, June), a collection of essays edited by Brian Caulfield. In it, Catholic men reflect on what it means for them to be Catholic and a father in today’s society.

Finally, for Catholic readers looking for a way to start their conversations with God, Jesuit priest Richard Leonard offers Why Bother Praying? (Paulist Press, Mar.). The book includes encouraging anecdotes and theological insight to help Catholics look more deeply into what it means to pray and how we respond when we hear God’s call. That’s a timeless topic that will resonate both in the pews and in the papal apartment.

White Smoke Means Books: The election of Pope Francis triggers publishing activity

On February 11, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, surprising much of the Catholic world. On March 13, on only the second day of the papal conclave, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected to succeed him as Bishop of Rome and head of the worldwide Catholic Church. The relatively unknown Argentinian Jesuit was now Pope Francis, and he quickly became the subject of several new titles.

Two weeks later, on March 27, the first title about the new pope, Andrea Tornielli’s Francis: Pope of a New World (Ignatius Press), was released as an e-book, followed by the hardcover on April 10. Tornielli writes about the first Latin American and first Jesuit pope, and Ignatius marketing director Anthony Ryan cites Tornielli’s unique perspective as a long-time international reporter and “one of the top authorities on Vatican issues,” adding: “He’s a good writer and was at the Vatican long before the conclave.”

Officially, the first Pope Francis book to make it into print was Pope Francis (Our Sunday Visitor).The paperback biography by Matthew Bunson released on April 2 , a week ahead of schedule. 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 then.

Francis: The Pope from the End of the Earth (Saint Benedict Press) by Thomas J. Craughwell releases April 23. It’s a gift book printed on enamel paper and featuring many photographs from the new pope’s life. Rick Rotondi, v-p of new business development at Saint Benedict Press and TAN Books, 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, Apr. 30) by Robert Moynihan offers the unique perspective of the founding editor of Inside the Vatican magazine. Moynihan 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. Image plans to “promote the book widely” and “to the fullest extent.”

Also from Image comes 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, 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 magazine is currently on newsstands in bookazine form; the hardcover releases on April 16. The book includes 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.

For readers hoping to learn more from the pontiff himself, Pope Francis in His Own Words (New World Library, May) offers them a chance to experience the new pope through hundreds of quotations.

Francis: Man of Prayer (Thomas Nelson, May 14) by Mario Escobar offers the pope’s biography as well as “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.”

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 in Buenos Aires; English-language rights were acquired by Putnam at auction.

Pope Francis: From the End of the Earth to Rome (Apr. 16) is an e-book published through a collaborative effort by HarperCollins and the Wall Street Journal (both of which are owned by News Corp.). “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, and many writers have contributed original reporting to the book.”

And Looking Back at Benedict….

John Thavis, a Vatican correspondent for 30 years, noticed last fall that Pope Benedict had few events scheduled for the coming year and guessed that his resignation was coming. As a result, his The Vatican Diaries was published by Viking in February, a stroke of perfect timing that put the book on the New York Times bestseller list on March 17, debuting at #16.

David Gibson writes about 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.

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 Press, who describes the book 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.” Gawthrop says the book will also examine the issues the new pope is facing.