The Traveling Pope

If you can’t make it to see the pontiff as he visits Philadelphia, New York City and Washington D.C. this month, you can read about the life of Pope Francis and the history of the Vatican in these fine books. Or, better yet, plan your next trip to Vatican City!

Pope Francis and the New Vatican. National Geographic photographer David Yoder spent six months ensconced in the Vatican to produce this vivid and intimate portrait of "the people's pope." His extraordinary images -- including the Sistine Chapel with the Pope alone on Christmas Day -- capture the pontiff's public life and personal crusades as well as the inner workings of the Catholic Church. Accompanied by essays by journalist Robert Draper, the photos provides new insight into Pope Francis's celebrated tenure in the Vatican.

Absolute Monarchs, A History of the Papacy. A natural storyteller matched with a brilliant subject, Norwich chronicles with obvious delight the politics, personalities and power across two millennia of riveting ecclesiastical history. Bill Keller crowed in his cover review in the New York Times Book Review: "Absolute Monarchs sprawls across Europe and the Levant, over two millenniums, and with an impossibly immense cast: 265 popes, feral hordes of Vandals, Huns and Visigoths, expansionist emperors, Byzantine intriguers, Borgias and Medicis, heretic zealots, conspiring clerics, bestial inquisitors and more."

Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling. A captivating chronicle of the world's most famous frescoes, Michelangelo's painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Featuring a corrupt and maniacal pope, an artist unsure of his abilities and a "who's who" of 16th-century Italians (Raphael, Machiavelli, da Vinci), this is the stuff of great fiction, and it's all true. Ross King, author of "Brunelleshi's Dome," presents the story with flair and a wealth of research.

Pope Francis, Untying the Knots. Author Paul Vellely peers behind the icon to examine the compassion and contradictions of the leader of the Catholic Church. The insightful biography explores the complex past of Jorge Mario Bertoglio, charting his journey to the Vatican and providing valuable insight into his legacy as Pope Francis, "the people's pope."

Vatican City Map. At 1:2,250, this exceptionally detailed, beautiful map extends along both banks of the Tiber beyond Castel Sant'Angelo to Piazza Cavour, showing the whole of Vatican City. With inset maps of St Peter's, the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, the grotto with papal tombs and other highlights. Rome's historic center is shown on a separate street plan at 1:30,000.