The amount of books written about Saint Francis of Assisi is truly overwhelming and the following list is far from exhaustive. I have found it difficult to make a list of recommended books without omitting many excellent works!
The following selections are my personal choices, are time tested and have been well received. The translation always makes a difference, especially in the earliest works (Original Sources). Many people will avoid reading Thomas of Celano’s “First Life” because the language in the translation is archaic. That is why “Francis of Assisi: Early Documents” is so highly recommended. You will never regret seeking out the best, most modern translation.
If this list is too much for you, let me suggest as a starting point “Saint Francis of Assisi” by Omer Englebert. It is very well written, factual, a good mix of history and devotion and is a great read. If you prefer a more scholarly approach, you can’t miss with “Francis of Assisi: A New Biography” by Augustine Thompson. If you like a novel, “Saint Francis” by Nikos Kazantakis is the most widely read (and loved) book. “Francis: The Saint of Assisi” by Joan Mueller is a more recent novel that is excellent. And if you just want to get a taste, and want it to taste good, try either “Francis, The Journey and the Dream” by Murray Bodo or “Poverty and Joy: The Franciscan Tradition” by William J. Short. Other than that, browse through the list and enjoy.
Peace and all good,
Sol Krueger, OFS
Original Sources (Early Documents)
Writings of Saint Francis
First Life by Thomas of Celano
Anonymous of Perugia
Legend of the Three Companions
Second Life by Thomas of Celano
The Major Legend by Bonaventure
The Little Flowers
All of the above are contained in the three volume set: “Francis of Assisi: Early Documents” (New City Press, 2002) This is a wonderful compilation and modern translation of all the original sources. This three volume set replaces “Saint Francis of Assisi: Omnibus of Sources.”
“Clare of Assisi, The Lady: Early Documents (New City Press, 2006) This single volume gives Clare the same treatment as the above Francis set.
“Life of Saint Francis of Assisi” Paul Sabatier (Original, 1894. Reprint, Fili-Quarian Classics, 2010) This book is also available in the following enhanced edition.
“The Road to Assisi: The Essential Biography of St. Francis” Paul Sabatier, annotated by Jon M. Sweeney (Paraclete Press, 2004)
“Saint Francis of Assisi: A Biography” Johannes Jorgensen (Original, 1907. Reprint, Husain Press, 2009)
“Saint Francis of Assisi” G. K. Chesterton (Original,1923. Reprint, Ignatius Press, 2002)
“Francis of Assisi” Arnaldo Fortini (Original, 1959. Reprint, Seabury, 1981)
“Saint Francis of Assisi” Omer Englebert (Franciscan Herald Press, 1965)
“Saint Francis of Assisi” Ivan Gobry (Ignatius Press, 2006)
“The Perfect Joy of Saint Francis” Felix Timmermans (Original, 1952. Reprint, Ignatius Press, 1980)
“Saint Francis” Nikos Kazantzakis (Original, 1962. Reprint, Loyola Press, 2005)
“The Joyful Beggar” Louis de Wohl (Ignatius Press, 2001)
“The Passionate Troubadour” Edward Hays (Forest of Peace Publishing, 2004)
“Francis: The Saint of Assisi” Joan Mueller (New City Press, 2010)
Modern Interpretations of Saint Francis
“Francis of Assisi: A Model for Human Liberation” Leonardo Boff (Crossroad, 1982)
“Hope Against Darkness” Richard Rohr (Saint Anthony Messenger Press, 2001)
“Francis of Assisi: A Revolutionary Life” Adrian House (Paulist Press, 2003)
“”Reluctant Saint: The Life of Francis of Assisi” Donald Spoto (Viking Compass, 2003)
Scholarly Works on Saint Francis
“Saint Francis of Assisi” Raoul Manselli (Franciscan Herald Press, 1988)
“Francis of Assisi: A New Biography” Augustine Thompson (Cornell University Press, 2012)
“I, Francis” Carlo Carretto (Orbis Books, 1982)
“Francis, The Journey and the Dream” Murray Bodo (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1988) 40th Anniversary Edition is available from St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2011
“Poverty and Joy: The Franciscan Tradition” William J. Short (Orbis Books, 1999)
“Franciscan Prayer” Ilia Delio (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2004)