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 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 [...]

While the words “Divine Comedy” naturally recall Dante’s classic poem in which the poet descends to the underworld of the Inferno, ascends Mount Purgatory, and rises to the heavenly Paradise, the phrase also applies to Shakespeare’s tragi-comedies (The Tempest, Cymbeline, Pericles, and The Winter’s Tale) that begin with a sudden fall from high to low [...]

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Kasper, Melchior, and Balthazar. These three gifts and names are familiar enough. We see images of the three kings who visited Jesus in almost every nativity scene, even if Biblically inaccurate. It is a marvelous and beautiful scene to contemplate: Jesus honored as the King He is for the first time; [...]

One Christmas was so much like the other, in those years around the sea-town corner now, out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve, or whether it [...]

Christmas has been the backdrop to many beautiful stories from the Second Shepherds Play to O. Henry's “Gift of the Magi.” Given the charm and beauty of Christmas, this is no surprise. Many of “Christmas” stories, if we pay careful enough attention, are valuable meditations on the love and self-forgetfulness taught best by God himself. [...]

James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man turns 100 this year. Not bad for a book that, like some of the stories in Joyce’s Dubliners (1914) and Ulysses (1922) almost didn’t get published at all. Now that the copyright is up on Joyce’s work, the Joyce estate, which has been protected [...]

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 [...]

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