The Civilized Reader

Edited by William and Amy Fahey, The Civilized Reader joyfully reviews classic, good books — books that will enrich the life of your family and the minds of your children.

There is a level of literary horror that is so monstrous it is magnificent, presenting a purity of perversity that no civilized reader can resist. This paradox is rooted in the snake-charming fascination of evil and the appeal of the appalling shadows into which every mortal must plunge. Stories provide a safe system to study [...]

Nothing is stranger than the holy Catholic Faith. Its scriptures speak of its God variously as a mother hen, a cuckolded husband, and a worm—in addition to the mighty images and titles that comfort us. Its God turns water into wine and terrifies men of corrupt finance with a whip, only end His life seemingly [...]

There is nothing like a good ghost story. The forms of fiction are few that can compete with the proverbial dark and stormy night; with skeletal trees, rattling chains, groaning houses, flitting phantoms, and moldy crypts. The only thing that can, perhaps, outstrip a ghost story is a ghost’s story. Leave it to the contrary [...]

One can be a ghost or a spirit. One can dwell in a Grey City and restlessly move constantly to new neighborhoods or abide in the Bright World and enjoy everlasting peace. One can confine pleasure to cinemas and fish and chips or delight in abounding spiritual joy. One can live in the shadowy grayness [...]

The sequel to Tom Brown’s School Days that culminates in Tom’s graduation from Rugby and his formation as an honorable Christian gentleman who embodies Dr. Arnold’s ideal of “muscular Christianity”—moral courage in the battleground of good versus evil that corresponds to the “pluck” that Tom displays on the rugby field and in the cricket match—this [...]

Edgar Allan Poe. Enigmatic. Eccentric. Erratic. Melancholic. Alcoholic. Neurotic. But above all else, Fantastic. Throughout his 40 tormented years of life, Edgar Allan Poe was widely hailed as a genius for the black brilliance of his art. He is the undisputed master of the macabre and the father of the supernatural and psychological thriller. Conjured [...]

Have you ever embarked upon a journey that brought you to some distant or unfamiliar place? Have you ever set out with a bold and cheerful heart, knowing that you were glad of the adventure, but doubting whether any far-off sights could equal the grand images of your dreams? Have you ever endeavored to achieve [...]

Fyodor Dostoevsky was condemned to death—public execution by firing squad. The year was 1849 and the young Dostoevsky, fresh from the success of his first novel, Poor Folk, had joined a liberal humanitarian group devoted to studying utopian models of socialism. During one of their meetings, the police appeared and arrested the whole company. They [...]

A famous character in American literature, the Wyoming cowboy who originally hailed from Virginia embodies the ideal of manly virtue and honor identified with the culture of the Wild West. The Virginian is an American hero who epitomizes integrity, responsibility loyalty, justice, chivalry, and magnanimity. Honorable in work, in love, in words, in deeds, in [...]

Pa was a wild man. He uprooted wife and children—moving them away from comfort and plenty, community and family—to brave a perilous journey to an unknown, desolate and dangerous land. Ma was a mild woman. She was a baker of bread, maker of beds and gentle keeper of the household order. And yet she agreed [...]

“Now what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them.” With this dogmatic and militaristic monologue [...]

“Sherlock Holmes was a drug addict without a single amiable trait,” wrote George Bernard Shaw—and he was absolutely right; but such vehement condemnation betrays the irresistability of Sherlock Holmes. In 1886, a struggling physician named Arthur Conan Doyle made a fateful decision which was intended simply to pay the bills, but which would end up enriching [...]

In the cosmic struggle between good and evil, Shakespeare presents the relentless conflict between two philosophies that shape the human condition. The philosophy of Claudius, the usurping tyrant who secretly poisoned his brother King Hamlet and married his wife Queen Gertrude, assumes that might is right, man is a god, and the end justifies the [...]

“One more step, Mr. Hands,” said I, “and I’ll blow your brains out! Dead men don’t bite, you know,” I added, with a chuckle. You weren’t expecting Treasure Island, were you?   Well, we never are and that is part of its beauty. Here am I reader, on the coast of Maine. In trying to frame [...]

For a particular poem to retain its power across years and generations, it must give expression to something that transcends the passing of time, and do so in such an exquisitely memorable manner that it simply cannot be imitated or remade. Competitors and critics may sally forth and give it battle; lesser authors may adopt [...]

If all literature were based upon plausibility and credibility, there would be no such thing as fiction. Imagination is a deterrent to objectivity. To expect a storyteller to tell facts alone is just as unreasonable as expecting a painter to paint precisely what he sees. Painting is not photography; neither is fiction a documentary. In [...]

“All the evidence suggests a responsible male, ready and able to make significant and social commitment, is a rarity in any society.”  —Fr. Lawrence Porter, A Guide to the Church The Roman hero of Virgil’s epic, known originally in the Latin as pius Aeneas (“pious Aeneas”), earns many similar epithets throughout the story. He is [...]

The world reeled in disbelief and grief. Sherlock Holmes was dead. But not for long. His resurrection—or resuscitation, to use a more practical term instead of such a mystical one out of reverence for the Master—his resuscitation brought with it a matchless struggle between logic and magic. Out of the tomb, a hero and a [...]

Homer’s great epic about the family as the center of civilization portrays two different types of woman: women who are pro-marriage and pro-family and women who are anti-marriage and anti-family. Penelope, the faithful wife of Odysseus who waited twenty years for her husband’s return from war and exile, defends her home from the suitors who [...]

While there is never an unfavorable time to read a good book, there are some works and authors which seem to command our interest at very particular occasions of the year. It is an almost indefinable property which makes it so, an affinity woven into the very fabric of a story; but I imagine that [...]

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