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.

 If there is anything pleasant in life, it is doing what we aren’t meant to do. If there is anything pleasant about criticism, it is finding out what we aren’t meant to find out. It is the method by which we treat as significant what the author did not mean to be significant, by which [...]

Lent is a detective story. It is the detective story in which the soul is investigator, victim, and culprit all at once. Out of the entire year, it is during Lent that the Church demands that we confess our sins, and confession requires a full inquiry. This is just one aspect of the call to [...]

All are guilty. Unbridled assertion of self. Satanic pride. Pure and simple devilment. All are Judas. All are Caiaphas. All are Pilate. All have spit in the face of Christ wantonly, offhandedly, and spitefully. All have smilingly skewered God to a gibbet. All wretchedly wear their Albatross. And some, through it all, have found salvation [...]

“Wherever there was a French priest, there should be a garden of fruit trees and vegetables and flowers”—the telltale signs of civilized life. In Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop two French Jesuit missionaries arrive in the American Southwest to revive the Catholic faith and evangelize the Mexicans and Indians, Catholics who were once [...]

Literature is sometimes thought of as a treat, as a dessert, as a delicacy. The Diary of a Country Priest, by Georges Bernanos, is instead like a carrot, eaten whole, raw, and unwashed. But as a wise priest says in the book, “Man can’t live on jam.”  This book is a book that can be [...]

Although the delight of civilized readers everywhere, detective fiction is built upon an uncivilized pessimism that expects to find evil lurking behind the most civilized bulwarks—such as a butler. In the labyrinths of the mystery story, it is quite normal for the most mild-mannered of men to be the most murderous of monsters. For Sherlock [...]

Zeal for a national curriculum is not new, nor is the appearance of an entire well-financed educational bureaucracy obsessed with finding (and controlling) methods to justify its educational schemes.  The educational sorcerers may feel that they have conjured up some novel idea in the Common Core Initiative.  They have not, anymore than Alfred Bosworth discovered [...]

For many, Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur forms the quintessential retelling of the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It is thought that earlier medieval writers, both nameless and named—men like Geoffrey of Monmouth and Chrétien de Troyes, Layamon and Wolfram von Eschenbach—offered worthy contributions in their own way; [...]

If ever there was an author whose writings overflow with praise of the Lord, it is James Herriot.  This humble country vet of the Yorkshire dales was so full of wonder and animated love of life that it could not be contained.  It spilled out of him in profusion onto the pages of four wonderful [...]

Austen’s novel illuminates this proverbial saying: “If something is truly meant and intended for you, it will come your way another time.” Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth were in love and engaged, but her aristocratic father, Sir Walter Elliot, and a respected family friend, Lady Russell, disapproved the match and persuaded Anne to terminate the [...]

A hard year. But listen! Pick yourselves up. The voice of Time cries to man, Advance! A hard year still! A year to fill the mouth of Time with lamentation. Dare we turn back? The Boston bombers. The Cleveland kidnapper. The Jodi Arias Murder Trial. The demise of DOMA. The NSA scandal. Syrian civil war. [...]

The centuries ebb and flow on a cosmic tide between faithfulness and depravity as men commit their lives to a seemingly infinite range of virtuous and vicious acts. Though man tears himself away from the face of God in pursuit of idols, God never abandons His creation. The glorious age of the Ancient Greek pagans [...]

Twas only a matter of time. And it came—as it comes to all. ’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, a small creature was stirring—my seven-year-old daughter. “Dad,” (I knew the time was come,) “does St. Nicholas bring us presents at Christmas, or is it just you and Mom?” “Daughter,” (I knew [...]

Everyone knows Charles Dickens’ classic holiday story A Christmas Carol. It is, arguably, one of the Victorian author’s most permanent masterpieces, adorning Christmas celebrations in every corner of the English-speaking world, and making the likes of Ebenezer Scrooge and the Cratchit family household names. Modern audiences have seen it adapted for television and film in [...]

 Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat. Please put a penny in the old man’s hat. As Christmas carols draw mind and heart to the spirit of the season, the Church also calls for spiritual preparation through Advent. All are bidden with the shepherds to “go to Bethlehem and see” with minds and hearts [...]

If you would wish for your children to garner a love and fascination for the good things of God’s Creation, if you would have them embrace adventure, cherish what is noble, honor the poor, and attain to a sincere civility and gentleness, let them read from the works of Sir Walter Scott. Born in 1771 [...]

Kipling’s first book championing the great man “Stalky” is near the top of my list of must-read literature for adolescent men, though it is a book that I have never recommended to said young men.  The reason for my reticence finds basis in the all-too-abundant collection of “good naughties” that in the book one therein [...]

As liturgical time draws to an end, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King.  At this moment it is worth remembering one of the finest English efforts at honoring the glory, majesty, sovereignty, authority, liberality, and magnanimity of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords—“The Windhover: to Christ our Lord” by [...]

A man lies on his deathbed—screaming; screaming for three days without cessation. Even behind closed doors, the sound horrifies all who hear even its muffled suggestion. The death of Ivan Ilych was no peaceful affair. It was a fight literally to the death; and it is a struggle we all must undergo, for we all [...]

J.R.R. Tolkien once cautioned his friend, C.S. Lewis, concerning Mr. Lewis’ skill in depicting evil. Anyone familiar with Uncle Screwtape or Perelandra’s Un-man will know what Mr. Tolkien alluded to. There is an uncanny comprehension of evil in these works suggestive of proximity quite contrary to the dark distance of Sauron. It can be dangerous [...]

MENU