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Monday, April 14, 2008

On the Nightstand

I suffer from the habit of reading several books simultaneously, and as I get older, the quality of books I select increases, which is just a way of saying they're getting deeper and more intelligent. I've been focusing on Catholic books for the past several years, including lives of the saints, or devotional, or thelogical. My collection has been growing, and includes many great books. The problem is, there are so many great Catholic books left to read, that every time I enter a Catholic bookstore, I'm tempted to purchase several more, and the stack of unread books grows and grows.

I say I suffer from this habit because it's getting more and more difficult to remember which book said what, or was written by so-and-so, or I'll jumble up quotations. It can be quite embarassing, for instance, when in the course of a conversation, I'll recall a great quote, but can't recall which book it was in, or who said it, or even remember the entire quote. It's not all that effective to say to someone, "You know, that brings to mind a great quote I just read in this book I'm reading....now was it The Great Heresies or was it Trojan Horse in the City of God? Maybe it was The Sinner's Guide. Anyway, the quote goes something like this..." and then I proceed to botch the whole thing and lose any credibility and end up looking foolish. So I've been trying to end this bad habit of reading four or five books at once, by limiting myself to two. So right now, I'm reading Triumph - The Power and Glory of the Catholic Church by HW Crocker III and Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton.

I started Triumph while on vacation, and have made it through the chapter on the Crusades. I've never had a strong grasp on Church history, and while this book is not in depth, Crocker manages to cram a lot of names, places and dates in this 400+ page volume, and I'm getting a broad overview of the crises and hurdles the Church had to engage and overcome while never wavering in proclaiming the Truth of the Gospel. He uses extensive footnotes, and includes a Bibliography that'll give me plenty more resources to look into once I finish reading. It's been an enjoyable read thus far, and I'm looking forward to wading through the remaining pages.

Orthodoxy is the first Chesterton work I've started. I'm midway through Chapter IV "The Ethics of Elfland", and there are so many phenomenal quotations and statements, that I've been rereading chapters just to get beneath the skin of their meaning, and just barely that. I may just restart this one with a high-lighter in hand. I had always been aware of Chesterton's wit and turn of phrase, but not his depth of philosophy and keen explanation of theology. I watched the first season of "The Apostle of Common Sense" on EWTN, and that is where my interest was piqued. Much of what Chesterton had to say in the early 20th century still applies in 2008; in many ways, he was quite prophetic. He was a sharp observer of human behavior, whose observations still apply in our so-called modern age. Once I finish this book (and who knows how long that will take!), I'm looking forward to tackling another Chesterton classic. Haven't picked one out yet, so I'm open to anyone's suggestions.

The pile on my nightstand still stands tall, with Your Life in the Holy Spirit by Alan Schreck, St Teresa of Avila's The Interior Castle, and several others. If I stick to my new plan, it'll take me longer to get through all of them, but I'll at least remember what I read!