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.

The soul is a dangerous place, it is the most dangerous place, and in the perspective of eternity, it is the only dangerous place. As Our Lord said, “There is nothing from without a man that entering into him, can defile him. But the things which come from a man, those are they that defile [...]

A young child, Margaret, grieves for the time-swept autumn leaves. She is the object of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem “Spring and Fall,” and her bright Goldengrove is now “unleaving.” Goldengrove, with all its connotations of idyllic youth and sunny play. Goldengrove, where we imagine little Margaret exulting, with Chestertonian wonder, in the gratuitous magic of [...]

NB: The circumstances surrounding my access to this manuscript are of such moment that their publication is impossible. Those involved in that unsavory affair can continue to live without fear of exposure. At the same time, it is equally impossible that the manuscript itself be left unpublished. Therefore, I undertake to offer these heretofore unread [...]

Published in 1945 as the third volume of a series with Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, Lewis’ novel portrays the clash of two world views that reflect the cultural wars of the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries—the civilization of love versus the culture of death. Set in the quiet, rural village of Edgestow [...]

"Children should be encouraged to read for the pure delight of it.”  ∼ Annie Sullivan, teacher of Helen Keller Most parents have heard that reading aloud to a child at home is one of the most helpful practices in a child’s education. It sounds simple; yet it can be intimidating for parents who want to read [...]

It was a dark and stormy night… Besides “Once upon a time,” this storytelling opening has no equal. Is there any region of fiction so hoary and so hallowed as the Ghost Story? The reasons for this are wholly mysterious but hardly strange. Is there anything that can make one more at home than the [...]

“What does 'literature' have to do with saving one’s soul?” This question surely has a long and distinguished lineage, all the way back to the Church Father Tertullian, who asked a similar question about the value of pagan philosophy for Christian study: “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?” Far from being an obstacle to [...]

In Natalie Sanmartin Fenollera’s international bestseller, The Awakening of Miss Prim, Miss Prudencia Prim accepts a position as a personal librarian to a countercultural man of letters homeschooling his four orphaned nephews and nieces—a passionate convert to the Catholic faith. An educated woman with a Ph.D. in sociology and a woman with refined aesthetic sensibilities and [...]

Despite the incorrigible march of civilization, there will always be an inborn appeal for feral fantasies. The howls of Romulus and Remus will never fade from Rome. The call of the world will never drown the call of the wild. No matter how much machinery is crammed into human life, the pulse of animal life, [...]

A poignant novel told from the point of view of a widowed young wife who lived during the Depression and World War II, lost both her parents at a young age, endured the great loneliness of loss, enjoyed a brief marriage until she lost her husband in the war, Hannah Coulter portrays the goodness and [...]

“These are weird, but…whatever gets kids to pick up a book,” a librarian in the children’s section said while she pulled books from a shelf and handed them to a woman in the aisle next to me. The mother had asked for recommendations for her son, and I could not help overhearing the conversation. The [...]

A mark of excellent children’s literature is that it appeals to adults. My children insist that I read to them on a daily basis and I insist on reading them books that I too enjoy. Fortunately, it is not very difficult to find such books: ones that I genuinely enjoy reading and that they genuinely [...]

“There are two kinds of grace: white grace which makes us pleasing to God, and black grace in which we feel his absence. Most people in the world today feel his absence—really feel it, even the atheists.”  ∼ Ven. Fulton Sheen For Hazel Motes, the “Christ-haunted” sinner in Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, Jesus is a “wild [...]

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 [...]

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