In a previous post I pointed you to two recent books on reading published by Crossway, one of which I have referenced several times since (L.Ryken’s A Christian Guide to the Classics) and one to which I have not yet returned.
Tonight I point you to that second title, Writers to Read: Nine Names That Belong on Your Bookshelf, by Douglas Wilson (2015). Once again I give you the publisher’s brief description of the book:
If books are among our friends, we ought to choose them wisely.
But sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. In Writers to Read, Doug Wilson—someone who’s spent a lifetime writing, reading, and teaching others to do the same—introduces us to nine of his favorite authors from the last 150 years, exploring their interesting lives, key works, and enduring legacies. In doing so, Wilson opens our eyes to literary mentors who not only teach us what good writing looks like, but also help us become better readers in the process.
The first writer Wilson directs us to is the Brit G.K. (Gilbert Keith) Chesterton (1874-1936), who was baptized Anglican, left the Christian faith while dabbling in free thought, and then returned to Christianity and joined the Roman Catholic Church. In that connection it may be noted with interest that Chesterton also had a deep influence on C.S. Lewis and his return to the Christian faith.
I was introduced to Chesterton while in college and began reading his Father Brown mysteries for fun (I still have that first collection found in a used bookstore) until later on I read some of his more serious works – Everlasting Man, Orthodoxy, and Brave New Family. Though no friend of Calvinism (he criticizes it severely at certain points in Orthodoxy), Chesterton is an excellent writer and one who ought to be read at some point in one’s life – even if it is only his Father Brown stories. 🙂
Wilson points us to several reasons why Chesterton ought to be read and studied as a writer. I give you a couple of them in this post.
Chesterton once said that a paradox is truth standing on its head to get attention. He was a master of paradox in this sense, having an adept way of turning everything upside down so that we might be able to see it right-side up. Chesterton’s great gift is that of seeing, and being able to get others to see it the same way also. In a world gone mad, a dose of bracing sanity is just what many of God’s children need to get them through yet another round of the evening news. He bends what is bent so that we may see it straight.
When Chesterton writes about anything, each thought is like a living cell, containing all the DNA that could, if called upon, reproduce the rest of the body. Everything is somehow contained in anything. This is why you can be reading Chesterton on Dickens and learn something crucial about marriage, or streetlights, or something else.
The world is not made up of disparate parts; the world is an integrated whole. God sees it all together and united. When men see glimpses of it as all together and united, we say they are prophetic. We call them seers and poets. Chesterton was this kind of man. Not one of us can actually see it all, but a handful have been gifted to act as though the ‘all’ is actually present there (pp.17-18).