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.

Thanks to the adulterators of children’s literature, the natural anticipations when approaching forgotten classics have been skewed. Everyone expects that everything will be picturesque, nice, and most importantly, safe. For reality is far too dangerous, far too harsh a thing, and children must be protected from it at all costs. Real stories for real boys, [...]

A young lady I know won a Kindle in an academic contest. She is a voracious reader. In eighth grade, she enjoys Austen, Chesterton, Lewis, and Wodehouse, among many others. A trail of books seems to follow her everywhere she goes. Her parents, wary of potential negative effects of screens on growing minds, would have [...]

"The Knight’s Tale” introduces four knightly figures who epitomize the ideals of their moral code. The narrator, one of the pilgrims traveling on the pilgrimage to the shrine of Thomas a Becket, and introduced by Chaucer as “a worthy man,/ Who from the very moment he first began/ To ride, searching adventure, held chivalry/ In [...]

Of the many symptoms and manifestations of pride—disobedience, stubbornness, willfulness, boastfulness, vanity, presumption, arrogance—spiritual pride does not express itself in such visible, noticeable ways as these other attributes. In Chesterton’s short story “The Hammer of God” the Reverend Wilfred Bohun enjoys the reputation of a holy Anglican priest who lives an austere life of self-denial [...]

On January 1, 1818, Mary Shelly anonymously published the first edition of Frankenstein. Because her husband, the renowned Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, helped her edit the original manuscript and wrote a preface to the first edition, most critics, reviewers, and readers assumed he had written this Gothic tale that was, arguably, the first science [...]

The merry and the morbid have ever been cater-cousins. Man has for ages immemorial eaten, drunk, and made merry for the simple reason that tomorrow he dies. Let life be merry while it lasts, and especially, God willing, at Christmastime. And why not? Let nothing you dismay. Christmastime is a time when dark death was [...]

When St. Nick drives his miniature sleigh full of toys drawn by eight tiny reindeer to the snowy housetop, and drops to the sooty hearth below, the paterfamilias is bidden to attend. It is the father who hears “the prancing and pawing of each little hoof,” and springs from his bed to stand witness and [...]

Et voilà. The cold corpse lay in Compartment #2 of the Orient Express, stabbed twelve times, no murder weapon, no obvious motive, victim’s pistol ready under the pillow, door locked and chained from within, mysterious clues (or blinds) littered about, a broken watch, a ghostly intruder, a scarlet kimono, a perfect murder and a perfect [...]

Almost twenty-five hundred years ago, a Greek decided that his era was so unique and exciting that he was going to learn as much as he could about it by any means that he could. He would travel to where the great events of the age had occurred, learn about the cultures of all the [...]

The ghosts that haunt the lonely corners of the globe have ever managed to play an uncanny and incalculable role in the rolling course of the world, and might even be considered the goblin guides of human history. Whether by visions or voices from the grave, the disembodied beings beloved by lore are a presence [...]

Robert Frost’s classic poem captures the essence of the home as a place of belonging and hospitality where a person experiences love, welcome, care, worth, and dignity and where he comes to know the value of both justice and mercy which the home instills in its unique combination of love’s gentleness and firmness and blend [...]

Every good child takes some pleasure in being bad. It is the perversity of human inheritance that forbidden fruit is fascinating. Childhood courts devious delights while confronting the boundaries of manners and morals. The rewards of virtue have their appeal, but the thrill of crime is a strong contender for the awakening will. While innocence [...]

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 [...]

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