Mark Twain helped me fall in love with Joan of Arc.

The writer of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” penned a book about the illiterate, intelligent peasant girl from medieval France who would lead an army and burn at the stake at age 19.

Twain’s esteem for Joan — blatant in the pages of the biography — puzzles many given his stated antipathy toward institutional religion. But the illustrious author considered the work his finest. It took him 12 years to research, two to write.

The book brings the young martyr to life. It is filled with a swashbuckling spirit and captures a heroism, strength and love of God that roused my Catholic, feminist ideals.

Saints are fascinating gems of our faith — men and women who lived with foibles and sin, humor, drama and heartbreak. Often all we know about them we learned in childhood religious education classes, from references in homilies or gazing at stained-glass windows. How much we miss if our understanding stops there.

Books on the saints abound and are a captivating way to deepen our relationship with God. There’s the classic “Butler’s Lives of the Saints” but also countless others to engage our imaginations and our hearts. Dorothy Day’s “The Long Loneliness” chronicles her involvement in socialist groups and her eventual conversion to Catholicism. And there’s G.K. Chesterton’s “St. Francis of Assisi,” the first full book written after his own reception into the Catholic Church.

Reading about saints’ lives can humanize these virtuous souls and inspire us to recommit to our own often-circuitous path toward holiness.