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.

In the famous speech from Shakespeare’s As You Like It that begins “All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players,” the melancholic Jaques laments the passage of time in the human pilgrimage as a series of sad events that perpetuate the same mood of life’s dreariness that persists from [...]

For those who are concerned with important books, The Magician’s Nephew should be a concern. It is important because in reading this book, the young reader should experience that particular delight when a book surprises you with the completely unexpected. And the surprise at the end of The Magician’s Nephew is of the first order. [...]

Few are the stories that are vouched for by a lead sentence alone. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. Call me Ishmael. He was born with [...]

Perhaps few twentieth-century writers in English were as bankable in the long-run as Graham Greene. I am not speaking in the mass-market/pulp-paperback sense of the word, nor in the high-literary James Joyce/Ernest Hemingway/T.S. Eliot sense, either. But somewhere between these two, Graham Greene gouged a niche—make that a ravine—and filled it with an international-experience (and [...]

Though ice cold logic was ever his bread and butter, Mr. Sherlock Holmes had a talent and taste for histrionics. While skilled as an actor, as “The Sign of Four” and “A Scandal in Bohemia” proves, Holmes was also a dramatist, as demonstrated in “The Naval Treaty” and “The Six Napoleons.” The great consulting detective [...]

For some considerable time I have been living, as regards books, with the minimum of comfort and decency—with, in fact, the bare necessaries of life, such necessaries being, in my case, sundry dictionaries, Boswell, an atlas, Wordsworth, an encyclopedia, Shakespeare, Whitaker, some De Maupassant, a poetical anthology, Verlaine, Baudelaire, a natural history of my native [...]

It was bound to happen. Even the venerable and visceral occupation of piracy has fallen to the vicissitudes of the movies. The bold and brazen pirates of the West Indies have a reputation in rags and ruins thanks to the ravages of the American entertainment crisis—but it is not too late to rescue the New [...]

Howard Pyle’s The Wonder Clock (1887), a collection of folk tales and fairy tales with illustrations that depict the various scenes of a twenty-four period in a typical home of the time, organizes the stories according to the hours of the day beginning at 1:00 p.m. One O’Clock One of the Clock, and silence deep [...]

The boy who is really a puppet begins to cry, and not merely to cry, but to cry “desperately.” He says, “The Talking-cricket was right. I did wrong to rebel against my papa and to run away from home… If my papa was here I should not now be dying of yawning! Oh! What a [...]

Over the past few years, I have been winding my way through a number of books about World War II. I close each book with a pounding ache of loss, struggling to grasp such atrocity. And while I can never presume to know how God was working in the souls of those whose faith was [...]

The craft of the painter or the sculptor, G.K. Chesterton would contend, can reveal, like a law, the rich complexity of reality: this law of fine art (when done finely) curbs man’s passion to control and dominate. It is a law which encourages man’s desire for standing in wonder for the Truth and its vastness. [...]

The modern world approaches many problems with the outlook of a therapeutic society. For every ailment, complaint, or difficulty, it prescribes medication, some drug to change the mind, calm the nerves, stifle the energy, overcome depression, or control the appetite. An overmedicated society that depends on a pharmaceutical industry to provide for its happiness, peace, [...]

Lent is a burden and a blessing. It calls Catholics to crawl beneath the weight of themselves to the Cross of Christ and come face to face with who they are. No one will be content with that vision. Most would rather hide from themselves, burying their being deep beneath distractions and denials. Lent is [...]

In 1938, the world was waiting for war. Germany had invaded Czechoslovakia. The United States was battling the Great Depression. The Great New England Hurricane had struck. And then, this was heard over the American radio waves: Streets are all jammed. Noise in crowds like New Year’s Eve in city. Wait a minute… Enemy now [...]

As all human beings in their journeys of life make daily choices and important decisions, their destinies acquire a definite direction that guides their histories and shapes their future lives. While no person can control all the circumstances of his life, the behavior of other people, or the vicissitudes of fickle Fortune, he can control [...]

If we hope to have a Catholic Literary Revival—the kind for which Dana Gioia called, and which periodicals like Dappled Things and publishers like Wiseblood have been supporting—we need to engage the “tweens.” Or, as modern marketing lingo terms them, the “middle-grade” set. If you have been in one of those old-fashioned places called a [...]

I recently had the great pleasure to introduce my five-year old son to George MacDonald’s The Wise Woman, or the Lost Princess: A Double Story. In the back of my mind I thought, "won't these moral lessons be so good for somebody..." (thinking, of course, my son). It is true, my young son in his [...]

In her short stories Flannery O’Connor presents many religious people who attend church and consider themselves moral and principled, but their religion does not inspire their daily life and govern their human relationships. While they strive to make favorable impressions and distinguish themselves by their manners and morals, their congeniality and propriety do not amount [...]

All great literature is well written, but not all that is well written is great literature. In other words, there are many books which are good but not great—and many of these are worth reading for several reasons. Chief among these is that reading is enriching even when it is entertaining, and recreational reading should [...]

When I first read and re-read the seven Narnia books, The Silver Chair was easily my favorite. Many years later, this is still the case, and for several reasons. In it we find the Marsh-wiggle Puddleglum, who (rivaled only by Repicheep the mouse) is perhaps the most memorable character in the entire series. It has [...]

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