Please note: I have intentionally decided not to include Amazon links (unless something is available exclusively on Amazon). Instead, if you are interested in reading any of the books I mention, I encourage you to check out your local library or independent bookstore. These places (and the communities around them) need your support, and they are generally quite willing to order any book if they don’t currently have it in stock. However, if Amazon is still the more practical choice for you, it is easy enough to search and find any of the titles that I mention.
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
It’s been well over a decade, and many life experiences, since I first read Brave New World and I honestly didn’t remember very much of it, so this was an interesting re-visit. Huxley’s dystopian utopia does not seem nearly as shocking now as it must have when it was first published in the 1930s, because we are practically living now in the world that he described then. The casual attitudes towards sex, that “everyone belongs to everyone”, the manufacturing of children and the erasure of family life, the unending pleasure seeking and constant stimulation. Huxley was considered an agnostic, though closely associated with Eastern spirituality, which lends another interesting aspect to his view points and criticism of the path that our society was already going down. When I read Orwell’s 1984 not long ago it was chilling because we are still trying to deny those aspects of our current world, but we are already so ingrained in Huxley’s world that we are almost numb to it.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis
This is still probably my favorite of all of the Narnia books. The Odyssey-like theme is one of my favorites in literature, as it allows for so many different adventures and themes all in one story. Dawn Treader also has my favorite cast of characters: Edmund, Lucy, Eustace, Caspian, and Reepicheep. I especially love the story arc of Eustace’s redemption and reformation, which is a close reminder of Edmund’s in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Lewis had really settled into his writing style with this story, and it doesn’t have the sometimes-awkward prose and storytelling of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and that even Prince Caspian had to a certain degree. The storytelling in Dawn Treader has a much smoother feel to it.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightening Thief, by Rick Riordan
I have been wanting to check out the Percy Jackson books for a long time and after another failed attempt at Harry Potter (I only got through the first chapter of the first book before I was already getting annoyed), I decided to finally give Percy his chance. And I actually enjoyed it even more than I thought I would! It was well crafted and researched, and was very satisfying for my love of Greek mythology. Riordan did a good job of coming up with an explanation of how the Greek gods could actually exist in modern day and how they influence Western Civilization. It was also very refreshing to see a piece of work where Western Civilization is still valued and appreciated as a good. The official reading recommendation for this book is ages 10 and up, but I’ll probably wait until my nieces and nephews are closer to 11 or 12 for this one.
G.K. Chesterton: Apostle of Common Sense, by Dale Ahlquist
This book is a really great introduction to the work of G.K. Chesterton. Each chapter give a good overview of one of Chesterton’s major works, with plenty of quotations so that you also get some of Chesterton’s own words, and overall you are able to get a good description and appreciation of Chesterton’s thinking and philosophy. Definitely a top recommendation if you are interested in getting to know Chesterton and his work (which you absolutely should).
Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton
This book is truly foundational to understanding Christianity, along the same line as C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. Chesterton shows how logical and common sense the tenets of Christianity truly are, even while acknowledging the many paradoxes of the Christian faith. The orthodoxy of tradition is something that is so undervalued in our society and culture these days and that will be to our doom. Chesterton talks about how orthodoxy is the only true rebellion left to us, and perhaps that is why it is always so appealing to me. One of my favorite quotations from this book, “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead.”
The Everlasting Man, by G.K. Chesterton
Apparently this was the book that finalized C.S. Lewis’ conversion from atheism to Christianity and I can definitely see why. It is a sweeping look at human history, and even pre-history, and Chesterton presents points of view that I had never even considered before, but that are of course so logical and common sense once they have been pointed out. He shows how humans are fundamentally and undeniably different from other creatures and why that is so significant. He shows why “Comparative Religions” is a fallacy of terms because Christianity and its Judaeo roots are so unlike any of other form of belief. There were two themes in particular that felt significant to me personally: 1) The theme of the Cave. Chesterton begins with an examination of the early cavemen, pointing out how much we simply can’t know about these pre-historic men for the simple fact that they are pre-historic. He then moves on in the second half of the book to discuss how Christ was born in a cave; that God was born below the earth. This theme brought to my mind Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, and is an idea that I look forward to exploring more on my own. And 2) Chesterton points out the significance Virgil’s Aeneid, which was written just a generation or two before Christ’s birth. This story really helped introduce the idea of the virtuous and even heroic victim. The city of Troy was destroyed, utterly devastated, and yet the great city of Rome, at the height of its power, claimed its heritage from Troy with great pride. What better story to set the stage for Christ’s own self-sacrifice? This book is a bit more intense a read than Orthodoxy, but is still one that I think everyone should read.
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