Friday, September 25, 2009

If I have never read G.K. Chesterton...

Before I began blogging on Catholicism, I was not very well read. Now that I've been blogging for several years.....I'm still not very well read. I spend way too much time focused on current Catholic events and feel like I am really missing something by not dedicating some time each day to wholesome reading. In fact, I know I am missing something.

I enjoy reading about the lives of the saints. Their heroic virtue, and even moreso - their humble simplicity - offers lessons for every day living. But, I want to expand into other types of works. G.K. Chesterton came to mind, but I see that his works are various. He has written everything from stories to philosophical type works.

If you are a Chesterton reader, I would like to hear where you think I should start if I want to get introduced to his works Tell me why I should start there.

When I browse the selections I get dizzy wondering whether some things should be read in sequence. Should I go according to when they were written?

What say you?

Please note that there could be a delay in moderating, so bear with me. I'll try to moderate as time permits.

I may have more questions as answers come in. Hopefully, it will be informative for others who have never read Chesterton.


The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!

38 comments:

Ana said...

Hi Diane,

I would recommend contacting my pastor, Rev. George W. Rutler (Church of Our Saviour, NYC). He's an expert in Chesterton's writings and would be pleased to guide you through the process of exploring them.

TruthSeeker2 said...

I started my Chesterton reading with Orthodoxy. That is my suggestion for his non-fiction. If you desire to start with fiction, I would recommend The Ball and The Cross or The Man Who Was Thursday.

JamesP said...

I'm far from an authority in this matter and I don't know if this is the "best" place to start, but I began with two books called Heretics and Orthodoxy which form a sort of trilogy in two parts.

Heretics is very readable because it is Chesterton criticising the famous thinkers of his time (people like HG Wells) and it's good because most of the mistakes they made are the same as the mistakes people make today.

Orthodoxy is the book he wrote when somebody said "Hey! You can't just go around criticising everybody! What do you believe?" and as such is a short and sweet explanation of how he came to be a Catholic.

I think I may have done it backwards and read Orthodoxy first...

Brian McFarland said...

I too began with Heretics and Orthodoxy and couldn't imagine a better place to begin (or end for that matter).

For fiction, I too would recommend The Man Who Was Thursday. A very readable and really quite jarring book.

Side note to Ana,

Glad to see the connection to Fr Rutler. His writings belong right beside Chesterton's. Every Catholic should read his treatment of St John Vianney and the Seven Last Words (Adam Danced). I still regret that it was shortly after I moved away from Our Saviour's parish that Fr Rutler came to be pastor there.

Lionel Yaceczko said...

I recommend The Everlasting Man. When I taught at a boys' school, I asked the faculty each to recommend one book that was most influential in their lives. I used these recommendations to compose a reading list which I distributed to my colleagues with the hope that a more literate culture would bring solidarity, sympathy, and cooperation to the faculty.

The president of the school recommended Everlasting Man. I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it.

Charles Morgan said...

I would start with The Everlasting Man (it converted a young atheist named CS Lewis), then Orthodoxy. The Everlasting man is abou Christ while Orthodoxy is about Christ's Church. After that read what subjects you are interested in, since he wrote on almost everything. His collected works are available from Ignatius Press.

For fiction, I'd suggest Manalive, The Man Who Was Thursday, or The Flying Inn. Personally, The Ball and The Cross, although it has good parts, just doesn't flow along as well.

Jon Winterburn said...

I would recommend the trilogy of non-fiction stuff:

1. Heretics
2. Orthodoxy
3. The Everlasting Man

Also, poke around at some other, more open-ended stuff. I know there are several anthologies out there. But I would recommend the above sequence. It will blow you away. God bless.

John Hudson said...

You can't really go wrong with the Father Brown stories.

Marcus Toft said...

Chesterton's autobiography might not be a bad place to start either. In it you won't find out so much facts about his life but in a way you do get to know him and I think it's a good introduction to his other works. References he makes in his other works will make more sense if you read the Autobiography and have some of that background information. Other than that, I would recommend Orthodoxy like many others have done.

Jeff Miller said...

Difficult since there is so much good stuff. Advice given so far is pretty good.

Everlasting Man is a fine place to start for non-fiction and Manalive for fiction.

You also might consider the books of Dale Alquist who has written a couple great introductions to Chesterton that also answer this question of what to read first.

Orthodoxy is so awesome that it is a book you can't read just once, but annually. But then again most of his works are worth re-reading.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

Wow! This is great feedback to read. I hope others who have not ventured into Chesterton will do so.

I was wondering...

Would his non-fiction works be considered philosphical, or would it have a more appropriate label? Apologetics?

by the sea said...

I would read The Everlasting Man by Chesterton--interesting reflections on the human condition. I think it is available at most bookstores. I would also read somebody else's biography on St. Francis, and then read Chesterton's. His biography of St. Francis is written differently and provides an interesting juxtaposition.

Note that Chesterton's style of writing is a lot different, so don't give up after the first chapter. After you've read several chapters, you'll probably really like him. I think it requires a lot of thought to read his writing.

After you've finished reading one of his books, how about giving us a book report on your thoughts?

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

OK - another question on reading Chesterton.

With the non-fiction works, how do you read it timewise? Do you sit down and read it straight thru - like in 1-3 sittings? Or, do you limit how much you read.

For example, when I read the works of Carmelite saints, I like to read no more than one full chapter per day because I like to chew on it. It's more meditative reading.

How about the non-fiction works of chesterton?

Mateo said...

Orthodoxy is a very "Chestertonian" work, and would probably be of great interest to you as a Catholic. I'd recommend starting with it.

Manalive was one of my favorite novels.

Dino said...

I read a little of Chesterton in college, but was much more taken by Thomas Merton. These many years later, facing retirement, it is probably a good time to revisit GKC.

The Bovina Bloviator said...

Orthodoxy.

An Anxious Anglican said...

A recommendation: The Collected Works Of G. K. Chesterton, Vol. 3
The Catholic Church and Conversion; Where All Roads Lead; The Well and the Shallows; and others. This volume is quite accessible and provides a variety of writings.

Another recommendation: read slowly, especially in your initial forays into his writings. His style takes some getting used to, but is worth the effort. Do not be discouraged if you are frustrated the first few times, and don't think that Orthodoxy or the Everlasting Man are his easiest/most accessible works just because everyone recommends them: the sad fact is that they are more discussed than read. His biographies of Francis and Aquinas were actually very enjoyable and accessible.

As far as a characterization, try "philosophically apologetic."

Idiota said...

I heartily agree with the advice of An Anxious Anglican.

After the big three (Heretics, Orthodoxy, Everlasting Man) I have loved and recommend the short articles and essays on various subjects. Truly he is the apostle of common sense. For light fun I recommend googling for "the disadvantage of having two heads"

God bless,

Stu said...

The Ball and the Cross

...with forward by one of my fellow Crusaders.

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Ball-and-the-Cross/G-K-Chesterton/e/9780760783283/

JamesP said...

My experience of The Everlasting Man is that it was a very difficult book to read the first time through.. it was only a couple of years later when I was more familiar with Chesterton's way of writing that I was able to read it again and this time it was much easier because I "got" it.

Miki Tracy said...

(gasp) A Carmelite unexposed to G.K.? How on earth did this happen???

I agree with Stu, the Ball and the Cross is fantastic--read the heavy stuff later; you're already Convinced. Then again, you could start with my own personal favourite, The Napoleon of Notting Hill....

Want a copy? I happily mail you one!

On an aside, which monastery are you attached to?

In His Grace, miki

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

(gasp) A Carmelite unexposed to G.K.? How on earth did this happen???

Was Chesterton a Carmelite? (just kidding - LOL)

I spent the bulk of my life being a lapsed Catholic in the pew. It was only in 2005 that I took a closer look at my faith. Inspired by what I was learning I took to blogging so I could share my liturgical photography. But, the blog took a turn, focusing on current Catholic events.

I didn't get to read Chesterton after I made that turn, despite many good intentions to read him, and others, only to find myself losing much time to...... blogging current Catholic events.

Thus, I have committed to cutting back a little on the blogging so that I can actually squeeze some wholesome reading into my schedule.

I've also never been much of a book reader. But, I collect and reference them extensively. I'm wanting to read more and am doing so more often. Unfortunately, the only time I can read is evening, before retiring and I get sleepy really quick when reading at that time.

Mary said...

"The Man Who Was Thursday" or the Father Brown mysteries.

Athos said...

Jeff Hendrix here. To answer your question, I strongly suggest having a distilled and yet very faithful companion guide you through GKC first. Therefore, start with Dale Ahlquist's superb G. K. Chesterton – Apostle of Common Sense.

He will give you some excellent clothespins from each of Chesterton's major works, then you'll be confident to choose whatever you wish. Cheers/blessings

by the sea said...

I will generally read a chapter or two of Chesterton per sitting and per cup of coffee. ;)

byronfrombyron said...

Manalive, Heretics, The Everlasting Man, St. Thomas Aquinas: the Dumb Ox. The point is to start somewhere. Chesterton's writing and thought is vast, and the best starting point is the point you set your eyes upon.

Catholic Mom of 10 said...

Intrestingly our Catholic Women's Book Club intends reading Chesterton next..so this is very helpful. There is " Brave new Family..." I think...

Anonymous said...

What's Wrong with World - timely when written, still timely as our problems really haven't changed.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Stu, The Ball and the Cross is an excellent read, although I found the forward to which he refers to be rather verbose and pompous and has an air of arrogance about it.

I wouldn't bother reading Dale Ahlquist's books either, but go directly to Chesteron's works. The Man Who Was Thursday is another good read.

If you're looking for non-fiction then I like The New Jerusalem. But all in all you can't go wrong with any of his writings, including his poetry.

Mary Stella

Anonymous said...

This is the definitive order : )

(1) Orthodoxy
(2) St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox
(3) Everlasting Man
(4) The Man Who Was Thursday
(5) Heretics
(6) St. Francis Assisi
(7) Up to you from there . . .

Ardella Crawford said...

What an interesting question! Start with *Orthodoxy* and then maybe *The Everlasting Man.* For fiction, definitely the Father Brown stories is the place to start.

Don't miss Hilaire Belloc, either. His *Path to Rome* was one of the more surprising and pleasurable reading experiences I've ever had.

Ardella Crawford

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

I can't thank everyone enough for the interesting feedback on Chesterton's works.

I just want to provide an update. A friend has loaned me Dale Ahlquist's book, "G.K. Chestrton - The Apostle of Common Sense".

She is also going to loan me the three books most recommended here: Orthodoxy, Heretics, and Everlasting Man. I have decided to read them in that order.

I'm 28 pages into Ahlquist's book and I must say that I had several spontaneous bursts of laughs at some of the quotes. This one really cracked me up:

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably generally because they are the same people."

I wasn't sure whether I should dive right into Chesterton or read about him the Apostle of Common Sense. I'm glad I took this route because it is giving me an appreciation for who he was and what he was about before I start reading his works. I like the sampling from each book.

I do believe I am going to like Chesterton based on how well I'm enjoying the few quotes I've gone through. I didn't realize he wrote in paradox form, yet I love that kind of stuff. I am big on analogies, but I'll see how the paradoxical works on me in the full bodies of text.

Perhaps I should just give updates or thoughts in the main part of my blog. If I do post anything about what I am reading, I'll try to make a link back to this post for convenience.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

Check that...since I have a G.K. Chesterton label, you'll be able to click that to see any entries I may make. I keep labels at the bottom of my sidebar.

sirhair said...

I started unwittingly with his Bios of Thomas and Francis... great beautiful work that lead me to read more...
Orthodoxy is amazing.

And the Fr. Brown stories are fun, interesting, light reading.

I was quite jarred by "The Man who was Thursday" and I wouldn't recommend it as a first book... I still haven't grappled my head around it, and need to reread it.

lizaanne said...

Diane - I can't thank you enough for this!!! I have been wanted for the better part of this year to dig into Chesterton, and didn't know where to start myself. This discussion has put me on the road, and I think I will start with Orthodoxy. I too have to really dig into something, read sections over again before moving on, and not just blow through. So I think this will be a good winter reading project as soon as I'm done with C.S Lewis' Weight and Glory.

Thanks! God bless!

Miki Tracy said...

Liza Anne, just an fyi: everybody who gets him (especially diehard Chestertonians) reads Chesterton again and again--like Bible passages, you'll always find a new facet you hadn't seen before.

And just a suggestion...it may sound seriously stupid, but Chesterton is best (and really meant to be) read aloud--especially Orthodoxy. Trust me; the day you find yourself reading G.K. all alone in a faux British accent, you'll totally understand....

In His Grace, miki

lizaanne said...

Ooo Miki Tracy! I'll have my husband read to me then, he has a real one!! ;-)

Miki Tracy said...

Liza Anne, all I can say is I envy you! So funny.... ;o)