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.

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 [...]

If Oscar Wilde had been a man of our time, he might have had rather mixed feelings about the LGBT liberation agenda. Though Wilde himself had homosexual tendencies and would probably have approved of the gay rights movement, he probably would not have been a public advocate. Decadent dandy though he was, Wilde considered his [...]

How does absolute nonsense pass for common sense? How does stupidity give the impression of intelligence? Why do lies dupe so many people, even the most outrageous lies? How do same-sex marriage, the right to kill babies, and physician-assisted suicide become legal, moral, and normative? Andersen’s famous story illustrates that the preposterous absurdities that assume [...]

God has written two books. He wrote the Good Book and the Book of the World; and men cannot understand either one without reading the other. This familiarization and formation begins in childhood through exposure to reality—both the good and the evil. While the Word is good, the problem of evil is too large of [...]

Those who seek a profound meaning cloaked within the bizarre and absurd scenarios of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are sure to be frustrated.  Lewis Carroll was no Tolkien or C.S. Lewis whose works, while they can be enjoyed solely as epic adventures, contain clear Christian references beneath the surface.  Neither was he aiming to teach [...]

Lear’s loyal servant Kent advises the king to "see better," when Lear unjustly banishes his beloved daughter Cordelia for not flattering him with the bombast of her sisters proclaiming they love their father “Dearer than eyesight, space and liberty./ Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare,/ No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, [...]

A popular condemnation of Grimm’s Fairy Tales is that they are too violent for children.  Many parents would sooner provide mindless stories with bad art and no story line than something classic like “Hansel and Gretel.”  This is done with a true—though misplaced—concern for their children.  They don’t want their children to be acquainted with [...]

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