Aaaaand welcome back to Part 2 of my monthly (almost) recommendations for two reads and a listen. (You can check out Part 1 here.)
Just to catch you up if you are new around here, I recently challenged myself to read more, and as part of that challenge, I want to share three book recommendations with you guys each month: one fiction, one non-fiction, and one audio-book. While this challenge began before New Year’s Resolutions were on my radar, it lines up really well with my resolution to live 2018 (and on) according to “the Chesterton Option.” (What the heck is that? Check it out here.)
Back to the books. I have a new library and a new library card and I feel like a kid except with no mother to tell me, “just two for now!” I was blessed this month to have a vacation and a hammock and no cares in the world except for that I didn’t bring enough books. This may never happen again in my life but I really, really hope it does. It was awesome.
1. Fiction: Persuasion, by Jane Austen
I hesitated about making this my recommendation for this month, only because Jane Austen is so obvious and the story did not strike me as awe-inspiring, as did my last fiction recommendation. But of all the books I’ve read recently, I enjoyed this one the most. It was good for my heart the way ezekiel toast with butter and honey is good for my body, and reminded me of this quote by G.K. Chesterton: “The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children.” Persuasion is the story of an ordinary woman, growing and learning, as we all (hopefully) do, and finding an ordinary happiness. Beginning to end the story is delightful.
I forgot to take a picture of the book before returning it, so close your eyes, and smell the wonderful, dusty smell of an old library book, and turn the rough, thick pages in your imagination. Then go find yourself an old copy of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
2. Non-Fiction: Hopkins: The Mystic Poets, by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Here is where I found my mystery for the month. What exactly is he saying? Kidding not kidding.
What I love about this collection of Hopkins in particular is the preface that gave a little insight into Hopkin’s spiritual and personal background. Reading about how much he sought God in nature inspired me to do the same, and set the tone for a reflective reading. I also learned that Hopkins knowingly sacrificed intelligibility for the sake of the overall sound of the poem; with this information, I first read each poem out loud, and relished the words on a purely superficial level, before going back for a closer look.
I highly recommend Hopkin’s poetry as a way to slowly and reflectively enter into the mystery of creation. Here is one of my favorites to entice you:
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
To Christ our Lord
3. Audio Book: The Everlasting Man, by G. K. Chesterton
My epic for the month. I had a few long drives recently, and this baby made them so bearable. I chose this particular audio book after Mr. Ahlquist’s recommendation to “read Chesterton.”
I was blown away. There is so much good stuff in this book that I have to listen to it again. It is Chesterton’s history of man, although it is not your typical history. It was an amazing first Chesterton read/listen for me, and introduced me to the great author’s ability to express truth with such wit and beauty. My jaw dropped more than once with a startling yet familiar amazement at our world and story as presented by G. K. C.
This article gives a great outline of The Everlasting Man, in case you are curious to know more, but honestly I would suggest just diving in headfirst. It is so beautiful.
Here are some gems to give you the nudge:
“All the great groups that stood about the Cross represent in one way or another the great historical truth of the time; that the world could not save itself. Man could do no more. Rome and Jerusalem and Athens and everything else were going down like a sea turned into a slow cataract. Externally indeed the ancient world was still at its strongest; it is always at that moment that the inmost weakness begins. But in order to understand that weakness we must repeat what has been said more than once; that it was not the weakness of a thing originally weak. It was emphatically the strength of the world that was turned to weakness and the wisdom of the world that was turned to folly.
In this story of Good Friday, it is the best things in the world that are at their worst. That is what really shows us the world at its worst. It was, for instance, the priests of a true monotheism and the soldiers of an international civilization. Rome, the legend, founded upon fallen Troy and triumphant over fallen Carthage, had stood for a heroism which was the nearest that any pagan ever came to chivalry. Rome had defended the household gods and the human decencies against the ogres of Africa and the hermaphrodite monstrosities of Greece. But in the lightning flash of this incident, we see great Rome, the imperial republic, going downward under her Lucretian doom. Scepticism has eaten away even the confident sanity of the conquerors of the world. He who is enthroned to say what is justice can only ask: ‘What is truth?’ So in that drama which decided the whole fate of antiquity, one of the central figures is fixed in what seems the reverse of his true role. Rome was almost another name for responsibility. Yet he stands for ever as a sort of rocking statue of the irresponsible. Man could do no more. Even the practical had become the impractical. Standing between the pillars of his own judgement-seat, a Roman had washed his hands of the world.”
Chills? It’s so good.
Here is a shorter one for you skimmers:
“The place that the shepherds found was not an academy or an abstract republic, it was not a place of myths allegorized or dissected or explained or explained away. It was a place of dreams come true.”
Go get it.
P.S. The narrator of this particular audio book is a fabulous British bonus.
What good books have you been reading lately? What’s your favorite Austen or Chesterton? Let me know your recommendations in the comments, I’m always on the lookout for some new good books.