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 something distantly primal and tribal about summer, when sunny days and sultry nights seem to unconsciously conjure up the sense, or scent, of a wilder side of humanity. Something naked and free. Something delightful yet dangerous. These are, after all, the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Whether it is the warm pulse [...]

Hilaire Belloc’s Hills and the Sea was published in 1906. It is a collection of his journalism from that era in periodicals long since gone. Luckily for us, his writing remains. These 38 essays are a mix of reflection and philosophy, personal memoir, and travel writing—some with English settings, some foreign. In fact, the geography [...]

A fanatic is a person obsessed with one idea, a monomaniac ruled by one dominant compulsion that governs all his thoughts and actions. He is enslaved by one predominant passion that dictates all his motives and decisions. Ruled by revenge, Captain Ahab in Moby Dick is determined to hunt and kill the white whale that [...]

June 9, 1870. Charles Dickens sat writing at his desk. He had been laboring more than was his custom on his latest book. Though the story was progressing well, Mr. Dickens was not feeling well. His left hand clawed at the air. His left foot dragged on the ground. And though he had recently retired [...]

As the summer hangs hazily on the horizon before us, parents know that young minds and hearts must needs be awakened, and awakened well. Good stories have always allowed the readers to escape the perils of routine and lethargy that can quickly set in during the summer months. Marguerite de Angeli's The Black Fox of [...]

A classic that captures the spirit of fun-loving mirth and the lightheartedness of innocent recreation, Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler (1653) offers not only a schooled fisherman’s lore on the nature of fish, bait, and streams but also introduces the liberal art of fishing. In introducing his classic on the art of fishing (“The Contemplative [...]

We do a necessary disservice to children when we explain to them the difference between the land of Fancy and the Real World. It is necessary because there is a difference, practically speaking. Yet, it is a disservice, because it is not true, really speaking. In the land of Fancy, the sun shines every day [...]

Running up and down Yggdrasil, the Tree of trees of Nordic lore, goes Ratatösk the Squirrel. Up and down Yggdrasil Ratatösk runs, making trouble between the eagle that nests in the branches high above and the dragon that gnaws at the roots deep below. The squirrel tells the dragon how the eagle plans to destroy [...]

Helping children navigate the road to virtue is a challenging task. Thousands of books, articles, videos, and programs present strategies for how to discipline children effectively. Many parents have found tremendous help this way, and the abundance of information available for struggling families can be a gift from God in difficult and complicated situations. Two [...]

Are you a prisoner of cynicism? In a godless world where men tend to hedge their bets on man before anything else, it is not surprising that many experience existential letdowns. Man is naturally imperfect, and thus it is natural that purely anthropological philosophies are suspicious—even contemptuous—of any kind of idealism. This attitude degenerates into [...]

In the style of the “wit” of metaphysical poetry—the ability to see striking, original analogies and to use fresh metaphors—Herbert writes of man’s relationship to God by comparing the communication of God to man and man to God to the movements of a pulley. In the language of seventeenth century poetry, Herbert uses a “conceit,” [...]

Times there are when readers will find books spiritual that were written with no intention of being spiritual books. The subconscious is often the best author, especially when it comes to the way divinity wends through the world it has woven. It is always good when books provide a revelation to their readers and writers [...]

What is most tragic in tragedies is that everything falls apart. Tragedies are always concerned with fate of a community, and a community cannot fall until its building blocks, individuals, have already begun to tumble themselves. Tragedies often seem inevitable from the their very beginning, and the reason for this is that we arrive at [...]

London, 1936. Gilbert Keith Chesterton was dead, leaving the President’s Chair of the Detection Club vacant. Under deep mourning, the bereaved club members assembled to nominate a new president. Among those present were Fr. Ronald Knox, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and the late Mr. Chesterton’s friend of friends, Edmund Clerihew Bentley. The vote was [...]

Dr. Johnson remarked that a noble purpose of great literature “is to enable the readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.” Willa Cather’s My Antonia, a novel about immigrants travelling to the Midwest to farm the land as pioneers, provides great wisdom on the art of enduring life better. Portraying the universality [...]

The surrender to sin in America is a species of Satanism. Whether through seduction or submission, depravity is the mantra of the modern world and the modern world makes excuse readily available. I am weak. Human beings are only human. As long as no one gets hurt… If it feels good… The vindications go on [...]

Almanzo Wilder cannot believe his eyes. “Whose sled is that, Father?” he asks, bewildered. “Is it—it isn’t for me?” Mother laughs and Father twinkles his eyes and asks, “Do you know any other nine-year-old that wants it?” It is Almanzo’s ninth birthday. In his family’s farmhouse in upstate New York, his parents have just sent [...]

As the novel shows, the corruption of sense in the form of prudent self-interest leads to marriages based solely on money, and the corruption of sensibility in the form of license leads to elopement, seduction, and children out of wedlock. Both attitudes destroy the ideal of marriage that forms the basis of civilization in Austen’s [...]

I find that there really are human beings who think fairy tales bad for children. I do not speak of the man in the green tie, for him I can never count truly human. But a lady has written me an earnest letter saying that fairy tales ought not to be taught to children even [...]

It is telling when the deficiencies of the adult world are told in the pages of children’s books. An instance of this has been immortalized in Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel’s cherished story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The tale of the Grinch is beloved, and for good reason, too. It is a wicked, wacky little [...]

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