2019: A Year of Reading: The Nerd Bit, with Charts

“With such wishes for the New Year as still seem possible”
~ C.S. Lewis to his father from the WWI trenches in France

“Except at my job—where the machine seems to run on much as usual—I loathe the slightest effort. Not only writing but even reading a letter is too much…. Do these notes merely … confirm the monotonous, tread-mill march of the mind round one subject? But what am I to do? I must have some drug, and reading isn’t a strong enough drug now.”
~ C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed

As a PhD student it is–was, as of the fall–my “job” to read and write about what I read. 2019 was an exceptionally difficult year for me, but one that ends in hope. At the end of 2018, I was writing at a terrifying speed. By the end of this October, my dissertation was successfully defended, minor modifications complete, a postdoc applied for, and classes well underway. My relief for finishing 2019–and the decade–with a PhD complete is beyond words.

Yet, I continue to struggle. There is damage left behind by the years of neglect–damage that emerges in variable and interesting ways. Like Lewis upon the death of his wife (see the epigraph), I have found work this autumn to be incredibly difficult. My mind and body are lazy, so that unless a task is before me, it seems impossible. Unlike Lewis, it is to reading rather than writing that I turned for a medicinal draught. I now realize that the strong reading I did through the spring and summer to prepare for my Viva was actually a way to heal my body, to rest my mind, and to cover my laziness. That spell continued into the fall, so that 2019 was a crazy year for reading.

I had a few goals for 2019:

  • Ease off my reading to 100 books (averaging 320 pages/book)
  • Read 120 articles, shorts stories, essays, or other short pieces
  • Listen to or watch 10 lectures series or classes
  • Read one theological or devotional book each month
  • Achieve a 1:2 female:male ratio of authors (as I did in 2018)

My goals this year were really about:

  • focusing my reading to be successful in completing my PhD with strength, including a rereading of key C.S. Lewis books and Lewis studies texts
  • reading for course prep (which overlaps with my PhD program)
  • extend my reading of L.M. Montgomery‘s catalogue and other Canadian authors, complete Stephen King‘s Dark Tower Cycle (including the tangibly connected books), and finish my chronological reading of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld

So, how did I do?

Once again, I did not manage to reduce my reading, radically increasing it to just shy of 50,000 pages and 154 books. Here’s hoping for 2019! My average word length went down, though, to an average of 323 pages/book (from 333 in 2018).

Though I didn’t reduce my book-reading, and I only read 2/3 of the short pieces, I met most of the individual goals, including reading Lewis, King, Pratchett, and Montgomery. And I completed my thesis well, and probably over-read for my Viva and final dissertation submission.

As is pretty usual for me, my reading was seasonal:

  • Winter and Early Spring: I completed my too-slow autumn reading of Harry Potter in a season largely dedicated to the closing chapters of my thesis. I did a great deal of reading about gender and C.S. Lewis (basically, this bibliography) and larger questions of feminism and theology, including work by Dorothy L. Sayers, Roxane Gay, and Anna Fisk. I also taught my annual course on Lewis’ fiction at The King’s College (NYC), and read the fiction along with the students through May. In that late-stage PhD period I also read a number of Lewis studies books, some for the second or third time. For bedside reading in the cold Canadian winter, I finished the terrible Tom Clancy book, The Bear and the Dragon, and read some Stephen King, Terry Pratchett, and L.M. Montgomery–as I did throughout the year.
  • Late Spring and early Summer: Because of the Tolkien biopic and some writing I was doing about it, I did some background reading, including John Garth’s Tolkien and the Great War. I had a turn to the apocalyptic for a paper I presented at the International Conference on Religion and Film, including the Hunger Games trilogy. I reread The Stand (the restored version, this time), and did some reading on literature and spirituality. Otherwise, the spring was mostly about submitting my thesis.
  • Summer: When I was free of the thesis, I sort of went mad reading, especially SF: Suzanne Collins, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Haruki Murakami, Walter Miller, Charlie Starr, P.D. James, Orson Scott Card, H.G. Wells, N.K. Jemisin, and Margaret Atwood’s nonfiction collection on SF, In Other Worlds. It was a great summer, though I did little writing about those great books!
  • Autumn: I indulged in Stephen King‘s Dark Tower cycle throughout latter-2018, with only the final volume remaining for 2019. I picked it up again by rereading Gunslinger in the summer (the edited version, this time), before finishing The Dark Tower. In the fall, I then read the tangibly connected books, like Rose Madder, The Regulators, Desperation, and Doctor Sleep–which isn’t connected, but I read it just for fun. The fall reading was otherwise defined by my “C.S. Lewis and Mythologies of Love and Sex” course, and you can see the eclectic reading list here. Beyond more L.M. Montgomery, I extended my Canadian reading in the fall with Emily St. John Mandel’s lovely Lola Quartet, and with two brilliant new novels: Atwood’s The Testaments and Michael Crummey’s The Innocents. Add a little T.S. Eliot, Neil Gaiman, and the completion of Pratchett’s Discworld for a full fall reading.
  • Early Winter: November saw a shift for me as I began to prepare for Winter classes, including C.S. Lewis’ fiction and local courses on “Christian Literature” and “Japanese Religion and Culture.” The result is an increase in Japanese fiction, like Shūsaku Endō, Yasunari Kawabata, Arthur Golden, and some nonfiction. Nervous about teaching Flannery O’Connor for the first time, I read three of her books in December.

Throughout the year I had a few projects:

  • I was obviously very focussed on C.S. Lewis, with 23 Lewis books, 28 Lewis studies books, and dozens of other articles
  • I finally completed my chronological Discworld reading with 7 books, including #35 Wintersmith on New Year’s Day 2019, and concluding with #41, The Shepherd’s Crown, in December.
  • 10 Stephen King books, most of which were connected to the Dark Tower cycle,
  • 7 L.M. Montgomery books, and 5 other Canadian books

The chart shows the Lewis focus well, and shows that I didn’t get to read as much Tolkien as I’d like. I always think that I could have broken down the SF&F category into science fiction and fantasy, but it shows that this kind of reading is about 1/4 of my year, down from last year in ratio but not in sheer numbers of books. Feminism is a section I split off from nonfiction two years ago (what remains is mostly history and literary criticism), but I may change it again next year as I focus on particular projects. I met my theology goals, though much of the theology I read is under the C.S. Lewis category.

Here’s a pretty version of the same thing:

My last goal was to achieve a 1:2 female:male ratio of authors. This is tough to do when your primary author is male (C.S. Lewis), his primary partners are male (Tolkien and the Inklings), my field has been largely male (theology), and I’m trying to read through catalogues of Stephen King and Terry Pratchett. I wanted to increase my feminine voices in a few ways this year, but mostly succeeded in keeping steady with 2018. Working against me was that I didn’t do a full annual Harry Potter readthrough this year, and I intended to read Montgomery’s poetry, which didn’t happen. These were offset by some great recent SF and apocalyptic lit by women, and a focus on feminist theology, Lewis and gender, and spirituality.

As a whole, I achieved a slim 1:2 ratio on books (34% women authors), as well as nearly 40% of my overall reading.

There are limits to how effective tracking of reading by gender (or other categories) can be, but when designing my upcoming “Christian Literature” class, it helped me create a more engaging curriculum.

The Goodreads app is kind of limited, though you can check out my 2019 infographic. They have a thousand possibilities for creating infographics including gender, language, geography, genre, and popularity, yet they choose not to give us that power. This year, I also tracked books by era, with some mixed results. The charts are a bit lopsided as 5/6ths of my reading is since WWII–despite studying figures that were active in the “modernist” period, which was only 10% of my book reading.

What does 2020 look like? As long as I’m doing literary scholarship, it will be weighted upon the last century. Looking ahead, the first half of the year is heavy with Lewis, the Inklings, and Montgomery as I move into the June conference season. After that, I have no idea. Who knows where this adventure in reading may get me!

Until next year, here is my old-fashioned reading excel sheet list. I wish I was infographically-inclined, but I do like lists! Here is my list of reading form 2019. “CSL” below means “C.S. Lewis.” I’ve linked some of the blog posts that connect with the things I’ve read. Are any of these books or papers yours? If so, feel free to link my list. If you have your own year-end list or best-of blog, make sure you link it in the comments.

Jan 01 Carolyn Curtis, “Was C.S. Lewis sexist? Is he relevant today?” (2015)
Jan 01 Crystal Hurd, “The Enduring Influence of Flora Lewis” (2015)
Jan 01 Paul McCuster, “What do we make of Lewis’ relationship with Mrs Moore?” (2015)
Jan 01 Alister McGrath, “On Tolkien, the Inklings – and Lewis’ blindness to gender” (2015)
Jan 01 Colin Duriez, “C.S. Lewis and the friends who apparently couldn’t really have been his friends, but actually were” (2015)
Jan 01 Devin Brown, “Are the Chronicles of Narnia Sexist?” (2015)
Jan 01 Steven Elmore, ““The Abolition of Woman”: gender and hierarchy in Lewis’ Space Trilogy” (2015)
Jan 01 Joy Jordan-Lake, ““She is one of the great ones.” The radical world of The Great Divorce” (2015)
Jan 01 Brad Davis, “Setting the Man-Woman Thing to Rights” (2015)
Jan 01 Christin Ditchfield, ““She is one of the great ones.” The radical world of The Great Divorce” (2015)
Jan 01 J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005)
Jan 01 Selections of Christine Hoff, Marcella Maria Althaus-Reid & Lisa Isherwood, Joy Davidman, Ruth Pitter, Valerie Saiving
Jan 01 Terry Pratchett, Wintersmith (2006)
Jan 04 Rachel Held Evans, Year of Biblical Womanhood (2012)
Jan 04 Don v. Devil” and other Lewis pieces in Time (1947)
Jan 07 Selections from A.N. Wilson, Roger Lancelyn Green & Walter Hooper, Stella Gibbons, Kathryn Lindskoog,  Candice Fredrick & Sam McBride, Corbin Scott Carnell, Karla Faust Jones, Nancy-Lou Patterson, Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, Kath Filmer, Don King, Adam Barkman
Jan 07 Margaret Hannay, “C.S. Lewis’ Changing Attitudes Toward Women” (1976)
Jan 07 Dorothy L. Sayers, “Are Women Human?” (1938)
Jan 07 Dorothy L. Sayers, “The Human-not-quite-Human” (1947)
Jan 08 Doris T. Myers, “Lewis in Genderland” (2007)
Jan 08 Joe R. Christopher, “Gender Hierarchies and Lowerarchies: A Response to Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen and Adam Barkman” (2007)
Jan 08 Harry L. Poe, “Lewis and the Ladies” (2007)
Jan 08 Diana Pavlac Glyer, “‘We are All Fallen Creatures and All Very Hard to Live With’: Some Thoughts on Lewis and Gender” (2007)
Jan 09 Ann Loades, “C.S. Lewis on Gender” (2010)
Jan 10 Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, A Sword between the Sexes?: C.S. Lewis and the Gender Debates (2010)
Jan 10 CSL, The Four Loves broadcast (1958)
Jan 11 Selections from Courtney Reissig, A.N. Wilson, Sarah Bessey, Joe Rigney, Monika Hilder
Jan 11 David Birkett, “The Lewis Bonfire Case” (2011)
Jan 11 Margaret P. Hannay, “C.S. Lewis: Mere Mysogynist?” (1975)
Jan 13 Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy: A Story of Faith, Tragedy and Triumph (1977)
Jan 14 Selections from Laura Lee Smith, Margaret Hannay, Monika Hilder, Terry Glaspey, William Griffin, Kath Filmer, David Mark Purdy
Jan 14 Peter J. Schakel, “The Satiric Imagination of C. S. Lewis” (1989)
Jan 15 CSL, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1949)
Jan 15 J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007)
Jan 16 CSL, The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast (1941)
Jan 16 Rob Fennell et al, Both Sides of the Wardrobe: C. S. Lewis, Theological Imagination, and Everyday Discipleship (2015)
Jan 21 CSL, Prince Caspian (1950)
Jan 21 CSL, The Four Loves (1958)
Jan 22 Kameron Hurley, The Geek Feminist Revolution (2016)
Jan 23 Kath Filmer, The Fiction of C. S. Lewis: Mask and Mirror (1992)
Jan 24 CSL, Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1950)
Jan 25 Selections from Edith Humphrey, Kathryn Lindskoog, Alister McGrath, Joe Laconte, Don Williams, Margaret Hannay, Kath Filmer, Monika Hilder, Colin Duriez
Jan 26 CSL, The Horse and His Boy (1953)
Jan 26 John Owen, The Mortification of Sin (1656)
Jan 30 CSL, The Silver Chair (1951)
Feb 01 Selections from John Beversluis, Kath Filmer, Laura Miller, David Llewellyn Dodds
Feb 01 Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist (2014)
Feb 02 Robert Bishop, review of The Magician’s Twin (2018)
Feb 02 CSL, The Magician’s Nephew (1953)
Feb 04 Sørina Higgins, Caduceus (2012)
Feb 04 Selections from Christine Chou, Devin Brown, Wesley Kort, Joe Rigney, Louis Markos, Kathryn Lindskoog
Feb 05 Alan Jacobs, The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis (2018)
Feb 05 Stephen Fry, Victorian Secrets (2018)
Feb 05 John Stackhouse, selections of Making the Best of It (2008)
Feb 06 CSL, The Last Battle (1953)
Feb 09 A.N. Wilson, C.S. Lewis: A Biography (1990)
Feb 11 Andrew Walker & James Patrick, eds. A Christian for All Christians: Essays in Honour of C.S. Lewis (1990)
Feb 12 A.N. Wilson, The Man Behind Narnia (2013)
Feb 13 Selections from Nancy-Lou Patterson, Doris Myers, Sr. Sheila Galligan, Kathryn Lindskoog
Feb 14 Stephen Prickett, “Informing the Inklings: C.S. Lewis’s Debt to George MacDonald” (2018)
Feb 14 CSL, Preface to George MacDonald: An Anthology (1947)
Feb 14 Stephen King, Everything’s Eventual (1994-2000)
Feb 16 Terry Lindvall, Surprised by Laughter: The Comic World of C.S. Lewis (1994)
Feb 18 Selections from Kathryn Lindskoog, Jeff McInnis, William Gray, James Williamson, Rolland Hein, Catherine Persyn, Glenn Edward Sadler, Gisela H. Kreglinger, Caroline Simon, Peter Schakel, Doris Myers
Feb 20 CSL, The Great Divorce (1944-45)
Feb 20 Selections from William Calin, Joe Velaidum, Northrop Frye, Nancy-Lou Patterson, Curtis Weyant, Till Kinzel, Jared Lobdell, Richard Brett Campbell, Paul Rovang, Kath Filmer, David Downing, Don King, Anna Fisk, Don Williams, John Fleming, René Girard, Stephen Logan
Feb 22 Lindsey Fitzharris, The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine (2017)
Feb 23 Adrian Thatcher, God, Sex, and Gender: An Introduction (2011)
Feb 23 Selections: Gretchen Bartels, Alicia Burris, Nancy-Lou Patterson, Kath Filmer, Susan McCaslin, Jean Graham
Feb 24 Don W. King, ed., The Collected Poems of C.S. Lewis: A Critical Edition (2015)
Feb 25 Selections from Duncan Forrester, David Hein and Edward Hugh Henderson, Wayne Morris, Michael Gorman, Matthew Dickerson and David O’Hara, Andrew Linzey, Tony Richie, Don Williams, Ann Loades, Monika Hilder, Kyoko Yuasa, Alan Jacobs
Feb 25 Elizabeth A. Dreyer, Retrieving Women’s Voices in the Christian Theological Tradition: Four Doctors of the Church (2017)
Feb 27 Selections from: Kyoko Yuasa, Don Williams, Paul Fiddes, David Downing, Robert Moore-Jumonville, Owen Barfield, Chris Armstrong
Mar 01 George Sayer, Jack (1988)
Mar 01 Selections from Paulette Saunders, Nancy-Lou Patterson, Doris Myers, Paulette Saunders, Kath Filmer, Sanford Schwartz, W.H. Auden, C.S. Lewis, Monika Hilder, Amber Dunai
Mar 03 Tom Clancy, The Bear and the Dragon (2001)
Mar 04 Selections from Michael Ward, Nancy-Lou Patterson, Steven Paul Mueller, David J. Hawkesworth, Wayne G. Smith, Devin Brown, Sr. Sheila Galligan, David Downing, Don Williams, Kathryn Lindskoog
Mar 06 Gilbert Meilaender, The Taste for the Other: The Social and Ethical Thought of C.S. Lewis (1978)
Mar 07 Stephen King, Black House (2001)
Mar 08 Alan Jacobs, The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis (2005)
Mar 09 Ben Fulford, Introduction to Divine Eloquence and Human Transformation: Rethinking Scripture and History through Gregory of Nazianzus and Hans Frei (2013)
Mar 11 Selections from W.W. Robson, Don Williams, Terry Lindvall, Richard Brett Campbell, Monika Hilder, Kath Filmer, Don King, Brian Melton, Howard Worsely, Brian Hudson, Colin Manlove, David Emerson, Nancy-Lou Patterson, Devin Brown, Emily Rose Kempton, Crystal Hurd, Stephen Logan, Harry Reader, Aaron Cassidy, Peter Schakel
Mar 11 CSL, “On Three Ways of Writing for Children” (1952)
Mar 11 CSL, “The Weight of Glory” (1941)
Mar 11 Don King, “The Childlike in George MacDonald and C.S.
Lewis” (1986; 2014)
Mar 11 David Bentley Hart, The New Testament (2017)
Mar 13 Joseph Pearce, C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church (2004)
Mar 14 Sarah Williams, Mapping Gender (2010)
Mar 17 CSL, Out of the Silent Planet (1937)
Mar 20 Theologia Germanica, translated by Susanna Winkworth (14th c.)
Mar 22 Armand M. Nicholi Jr., The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life (2003)
Mar 25 Marilynne Robinson, What Are We Doing Here? (2018)
Mar 27 CSL, Perelandra (1943)
Mar 27 Selections from Michael Gorman, Adam Mattern, Joe Rigney, Sr. Sheila Galligan, Arend Smilde, Lucy Bregman, Donald Williams, Kath Filmer, Gilbert Meilaender, Victor Reppert, Greggory Bassham, Alan Jacobs
Mar 27 CSL, The Abolition of Man (1943)
Mar 28 Alister E. McGrath, Luther’s Theology of the Cross: Martin Luther’s Theological Breakthrough (1986; 2011)
Mar 30 Phillip K. Dick, Blade Runner, originally published as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)
Apr 01 Terry Pratchett, Making Money (2007)
Apr 01 L.M. Montgomery, The Alpine Path (1917)
Apr 01 Carolyn Curtis & Mary Pomroy Key, eds., Women and C.S. Lewis: What His Life and Literature Reveal for Today’s Culture (2015)
Apr 04 CSL, That Hideous Strength (1945)
Apr 07 Derek Tidball et al, The Atonment Debate: Papers from the London Symposium on the Atonement (2005)
Apr 07 Selections from Nancy-Lou Patterson, Monika Hilder, Alan Jacobs, Wesley Kort, Michael Ward, Adam Barkman, Richard Sturch, Alister McGrath
Apr 11 Judith Butler, Gender Trouble (1990; 1999)
Apr 13 Patti Callahan, Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis (2018)
Apr 15 Terry Pratchett, Unseen Academicals (2009)
Apr 23 CSL, Till We Have Faces (1954)
Apr 25 Diana Pavlac Glyer, The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community (2006)
Apr 26 L.M. Montgomery, The Blue Castle (1926)
Apr 29 N.T. Wright, Paul: A Biography (2018)
May 04 CSL, “The Efficacy of Prayer” (1958)
May 04 CSL, “Work and Prayer” (1945)
May 04 CSL, “Petitionary Prayer: A Problem Without an Answer” (1953)
May 06 CSL, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (1963)
May 09 Selections of Sr. Galligan, Monika Hilder, St. Augustine, Jared Lobdell, Marsha Daigle-Williamson,
May 13 John Garth, Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth (2003)
May 14 Arthur G. Holder, The Blackwell Companion to Christian Spirituality (2005)
May 15 James Como, C. S. Lewis: A Very Short Introduction (2019)
May 16 Heather Walton, selections from Literature, Feminism, and Theology (2007)
May 16 Northrop Frye, The Great Code: The Bible & Literature (1983)
May 17 Elisabeth Jay, “Now and in England” (2007)
May 17 David Jasper, “Study of Literature and Theology” (2007)
May 18 Cleo McNelly Kearns, “Modernism” (2007)
May 19 Christopher Rowland, “Apocalyptic Literature” (2007)
May 20 Cath Filmer-Davies, “C.S. Lewis” (2007)
May 21 Joseph Loconte, A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and a Great War (2015)
May 23 Abigail Santamaria, Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis (2015)
May 25 Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight (2010)
May 26 Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)
May 29 Stephen King, The Stand, Complete & Uncut Edition (1978, 1990)
May 31 Kyoko Yuasa, C.S. Lewis and Christian Postmodernism: Word, Image, and Beyond (2016)
Jun 01 Josh Malerman, Bird Box (2014)
Jun 03 Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien: A Biography (1977)
Jun 06 Selections from Mitchell Reddish, N.T. Wright, John J. Collins, Donna Bennett, Kyle William Bishop, Kathryn A. Cady and Thomas Oates, R. Rubinkiewicz, Jonathan Kirsch, Frank Kermode
Jun 07 Charlie W. Starr, The Heart of Light (2014)
Jun 07 Robert J. Joustra and Alissa Wilkinson, How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the World (2016)
Jun 08 Gregory A. Boyd, Cross Vision: How the Crucifixion of Jesus Makes Sense of Old Testament Violence (2017)
Jun 08 Walter Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959)
Jun 11 CSL, The Screwtape Letters (1940-41)
Jun 12 Selections from John J. Collins, Maud Ellmann, Eleanor Cook, Jonathan Kirsch, Frank Kermode, Stacey Abbott
Jun 12 W. Scott Poole, Wasteland: The Great War and the Origins of Modern Horror (2018)
Jun 15 Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook (1962)
Jun 17 Owen Barfield, Owen Barfield on C.S. Lewis (1964-1988)
Jun 17 N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season (2015)
Jun 19 P.D. James, Children of Men (1992)
Jun 25 Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games (2008)
Jun 25 Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker, selections from Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Saves Us (2001)
Jun 28 Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (1990)
Jul 01 Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire (2009)
Jul 02 Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay (2010)
Jul 05 N.K. Jemisin, The Obelisk Gate (2016)
Jul 09 Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction (1968)
Jul 10 Stephen King, Gunslinger (The Dark Tower I; 1982-2003)
Jul 11 CSL, Spirits in Bondage (1916-19)
Jul 11 Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)
Jul 12 Bruce A. Demarest,  Bradley Nassif, Scott Hahn, Joe Driskill, Evan Howard, Four Views on Christian Spirituality (2012)
Jul 16 Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality (2003)
Jul 17 L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams (1917)
Jul 19 Selections from Alana Vincent, Cecily Devereux, Gillian Thomas, Mary Rubio, Carole Gerson, Virginia Careless, Ethel Chapman, Carol Gay, Rosemary Ross Johnston, Nancy Huse, Katharine Slater, Rea Wilmhurst, Nancy Holmes, Rita Bode, Elizabeth Rollins Epperly, Laura M. Robinson, Caroline E. Jones, Elizabeth Waterston, Lesley D. Clement
Jul 19 Stephanie L. Derrick, The Fame of C. S. Lewis: A Controversialist’s Reception in Britain and America (2018)
Jul 21 CSL, Christian Reflections (1939-1963; 1967)
Jul 22 Pamela Bedore, “Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature” (2016)
Jul 23 Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985)
Jul 24 Anne Arnott, The Secret Country of C.S. Lewis (1975)
Jul 28 CSL, Screwtape Proposes a Toast, and Other Pieces (1941-59; 1965)
Jul 31 Corbin Scott Carnell, Bright Shadow of Reality: Spiritual Longing in C. S. Lewis (1974)
Aug 01 Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology (1962)
Aug 01 Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology (1972)
Aug 03 Terry Pratchett, Snuff (2011)
Aug 04 N.K. Jemisin, The Stone Sky (2017)
Aug 08 Elizabeth R. Epperly, “‘This Enchanted Shore’: Anne’s House of Dreams” in The Fragrance of Sweet-Grass: L.M. Montgomery’s Heroines and the Pursuit of Romance (1992)
Aug 08 Craig Childs, Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Ever-Ending Earth (2012)
Aug 08 Selections from the work of Laura M. Robinson, Elizabeth R. Epperly, Rita Bode, Jean Mitchell, Nancy Holmes, Mary Henley Rubio
Aug 09 Margaret Atwood, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination (2011)
Aug 15 Stephen King, The Dark Tower (Dark Tower VII; 2004)
Aug 17 Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game (1985; 1991)
Aug 21 Gary S. Selby, Pursuing an Earthy Spirituality: C. S. Lewis and Incarnational Faith (2019)
Aug 23 Susan Wise Bauer, “The Words we Use” Laing Lectures, Regent College (2010)
Aug 28 CSL, The Problem of Pain (1939)
Aug 29 CSL, The Four Loves (lectures, 1957)
Aug 29 Stephen King, The Regulators (1996)
Sep 01 Terry Pratchett, Raising Steam (2013)
Sep 02 J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-stories” (1939; 1947)
Sep 03 Sam Reimer & Michael Wilkenson, selections from A Culture of Faith: Evangelical Congregations in Canada (2015)
Sep 03 Selections from Reginald Bibby, David Seljak, Stephanie MacPhail, Phyllis Tickle, Peter Berger, Callum Beck, Peter Beyer, Alyshea Cummins, Scott Craig, Meagan Campbell
Sep 05 Lisa Chilton, “Receiving Canada’s Immigrants: The Work of the State Before 1930” (2016)
Sep 05 Lisa Chilton, selections from Agents of Empire: British Female Migration to Canada and Australia, 1860s-1930 (2009)
Sep 10 Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Shadow (1999)
Sep 10 CSL, The Four Loves (1960)
Sep 11 Emily St. John Mandel, The Lola Quartet (2012)
Sep 13 James Stephens, “The Threepenny Piece” (1913)
Sep 13 CSL, “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to be Said” (1956) and “It Began with a Picture….” (1960)
Sep 16 Plato, The Symposium (384 BCE)
Sep 16 Edith Humphrey, Further Up and Further in: Orthodox Conversations With C. S. Lewis on Scripture & Theology (2017)
Sep 17 CSL, The Four Loves (lectures, 1957)
Sep 23 William Levitan, trans., The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse (12th c.)
Sep 24 CSL, “Courtly Love” from The Allegory of Love (1928-1936)
Sep 25 Chrétien de Troyes, William Comfort, trans., Four Arthurian Romances (1170-1190)
Sep 26 Alan Jacobs, “Evangelical Has Lost Its Meaning” (2019)
Sep 26 Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith (2009)
Sep 27 L.M. Montgomery, Kilmeny of the Orchard (1908-10)
Oct 01 Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
Oct 01 William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet (1595)
Oct 07 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, trans. Catherine Hutter (1774)
Oct 09 Margaret Atwood, The Testaments (2019)
Oct 09 Reginald Bibby & Angus Reid, selections of Canada’s Catholics (2016)
Oct 13 Chaim Potok, My Name is Asher Lev (1972)
Oct 14 Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)
Oct 15 Kim Phuc Phan Thi, with Ashley Wiersma, Fire Road: The Napalm Girl’s Journey Through the Horrors of War to Faith, Forgiveness, and Peace (2017)
Oct 16 H.G. Wells, The Invisible Man (1897)
Oct 16 Laura Smit, “Theology of Beauty” (2017)
Oct 28 Chaim Potok, The Gift of Asher Lev (1990)
Oct 30 Selections from Jacques Sys, James Patrick, Anna Fisk, Chaim Potok, Sallie McFague, C.S. Lewis
Oct 30 Simon Chan, Spiritual Theology (1998)
Oct 30 N.T. Wright, “Grappling With Galatians” (2019)
Nov 01 William Matthews, selections from Later Medievval English Prose (1963)
Nov 01 J.R.R. Tolkien, A Secret Vice, eds. Dimitar Fimi & Andrew Higgins (1930s; 2016)
Nov 04 Michael Crummey, The Innocents (2019)
Nov 04 Stephen King, Desperation (1996)
Nov 06 Susan Wise Bauer, The History of the Renaissance World: From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople (2013)
Nov 08 Selections from Roger J. Davies, David Clough, Giuseppe Pezzini, Paul Tankard, J. Patrick Pazdziora, Greg Cootsona, Erik J. Wielenberg, Stephanie L. Derrick, Malcolm Guite, Katrina Bolman, Rebecca Hans, Jon Fennell
Nov 11 CSL, Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1950)
Nov 11 Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia (1977)
Nov 15 T.S. Eliot, The Poems of T.S. Eliot (1905-1965)
Nov 16 Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere (1996; 2016)
Nov 18 Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist (1988)
Nov 19 G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (1908)
Nov 19 Brenton Dickieson, Sara Brown, Liam Daley, C. S. Lewis and the Mythologies of Love and Sex (2016)
Nov 22 John Wain, “C.S. Lewis” (1964)
Nov 24 Stephen King, Doctor Sleep (2013)
Nov 26 C.S. Lewis, Brian Aldiss, Martin Amis, “Unreal Estates” (1963)
Nov 29 Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha (1997)
Nov 30 Alison Milbank, Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians (2007)
Dec 06 Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find, and Other Stories (1955)
Dec 10 Shūsaku Endō, Silence (1966; 2016)
Dec 10 Terry Pratchett, The Shepherd’s Crown (2015)
Dec 12 Flannery O’Connor, Everything That Rises Must Converge: Stories (1964)
Dec 12 Steve Turley, “Classical vs. Modern Education
A Vision from C.S. Lewis” (2014)
Dec 13 Yasunari Kawabata, Snow Country (1948)
Dec 16 Stephen King, Rose Madder (1995)
Dec 20 Selections from Daniel Sargent, Irene Gammell, Janet Wesselius, Gillian Thomas, Northrop Frye, Eugene Peterson, J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Ellwood, George J. Tanabe, Mitsutoshi Horii, Ian Reader, Winston Davis
Dec 20 Stephen King, Different Seasons (1982)
Dec 21 Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood (1952)
Dec 31 Sallie McFague, Speaking in Parables: A Study in Metaphor and Theology (1975)
Dec 31 L.M. Montgomery, Rainbow Valley (1919)
Dec 31 J.R.R. Tolkien, Return of the King (1955)

Continue reading

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2019: My Year in Books: The Infographic

Happy New Year everyone! I will have some fun putting together the data in an upcoming post, including some new date charts. It’s not often I get to play with graphs and charts, so I’m looking forward to it. Meanwhile, I wanted to share the Goodreads “My Year in Books” infographic. I’m pleased to say that I met my goals this year, and exceeded them to a startling degree. I took great comfort in reading this year. Make sure you share your own reading journeys in the comments or on twitter for others to follow along. You can see the online infographic here.


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Mythopoeic Awards 2020: Call for Nominations (Friday Feature)

Here is a call for nominations for the important Mythopoeic Awards for fantasy literature, fantasy studies, and Inklings studies. In 2018, I had a chapter in a book edited by Sørina Higgins, The Inklings and King Arthur, which won the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies. Last year’s scholarship winners include Dimitra Fimi and Verlyn Flieger, and past authors include many that we have mentioned here, including Clyde Kilby, Walter Hooper, Kathryn Lindskoog, Humphrey Carpenter, Paul Ford, Tom Shippey, Peter Schakel, Joe Christopher, Christopher Tolkien, Doug Anderson, George Sayer, Charles Huttar, David Downing, Verlyn Flieger, Michael Drout, John Garth, Janet Brennan Croft, Diana Glyer, Dimitra Fimi, Michael Ward, and Grevel Lindop, with his recent biography of Charles Williams. It is not hard to become a member of the Mythopoeic Society if you would like to nominate a book you loves in 2019.

Individual members of the Mythopoeic Society are invited to nominate books for the 2020 Mythopoeic Awards, and/or to volunteer to serve on any of the committees. (You need not join the committee to make nominations.) The deadline for committee volunteers and for nominations (limit of five per person per category, please!) is February 15 2020; please send nominations to the awards administrator (see contact info below) via e-mail (preferred) or U.S. mail. Authors, publishers, and their representatives may not nominate their own books for any of the awards. Books published by the Mythopoeic Press are not eligible for the awards. The Mythopoeic Society does not accept or review unsolicited manuscripts.

The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature is given to the fantasy novel, multi-volume novel, or single-author story collection for adults published during 2019 that best exemplifies “the spirit of the Inklings”. Books not selected as finalists in the year after publication are eligible for a second year. Books from a series are eligible if they stand on their own; otherwise, the series becomes eligible the year its final volume appears.

The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature honors books for beginning readers to age thirteen in the tradition of The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia. Rules for eligibility are otherwise the same as for the Adult literature award. The question of which award a borderline book is best suited for will be decided by consensus of the committees. Books for mature “Young Adults” may be moved to the Adult literature category.

The Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies is given to books on J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and/or Charles Williams that make significant contributions to Inklings scholarship. For this award, books first published from 2017 through 2019 are eligible, including finalists for previous years.

The Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Myth and Fantasy Studies is given to scholarly books on other specific authors in the Inklings tradition, or to more general works on the genres of myth and fantasy. The period of eligibility is three years, as for the Inklings Studies award.

Winners of the 2020 Mythopoeic Awards will be announced at the 51st Annual Mythopoeic Conference (Mythcon 51), to be held July 31-Aug 3, 2020, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Please contact Vicki Ronn, the Awards Administrator, to nominate books, volunteer for committees, or ask questions about the Mythopoeic Awards process.

Dr. Vicki Ronn
Friends University2100 W. University Ave.
Wichita KS 67213

See announcement link here: https://mythsoc-rohan.blogspot.com/2019/12/mythopoeic-awards-2020-call-for.html.

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The Inside is Bigger than the Outside: A Christmas Thought from Narnia for Our World Too

Tumnus & Lucy with Christmas packages

I worked this older blog post into a short children’s sermon on Sunday, on the shortest day of the year, following the children’s Christmas concert. I think this moment in Narnia is always worth sharing this time of year. The salvation of Narnia comes when the curse is broken–the curse that makes it Always Winter and Never Christmas. And the magical land of Narnia ends–or finds its fulfillment–with a return to the stable. I hope this talk deepens your Christmas day.

“Always winter and never Christmas.” This is the condition where we first discover Narnia in The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe. It is not so much blanketed in white as smothered in it, frozen by it. Anyone in my part of the world, Canada, will immediately know that this is a curse: all those dreary winter nights, locked indoors to escape from the bone-chilling cold, the sun squeezing through a frozen sky only a few hours a day. In winter I yearn for light. To never experience Christmas, where all of eternity tilts towards the sun and light grows once again–to me, that would be a great curse.

The turning of the solstice and the coming of Christmas, for me, is really the birth of spring. Christmas is the first day of the Easter season. Most of the winter lies ahead where we live, yet I somehow have the resources to face it. The curse is broken, I think. Likewise, the strange, almost incongruous coming of Father Christmas into the Narnian Woods signals the breaking of Narnia’s long winter, the beginning of the end of the curse. And the coming of that Narnian Christmas is also the beginning of the Narnian season of Easter.

White Witch Edmund TildaSwinton

But do not think there is a one-to-one relationship between our world and the world of Narnia. C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles are not allegories like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress or George Orwell‘s Animal Farm. Aslan is not Christ, precisely; neither is Edmund the biblical Adam or Judas, nor the White Witch the historical Satan. Narnia is a different world altogether. Unlike our great great grand-humans, Adam and Eve, the first Narnians did not flee from Eden. Christ is not Aslan, per se, because what is broken in our universe is not the same thing that is broken in the Narnian universe. The Deep Magic works out differently in each cosmos, though is rooted in the same principle. It would be more accurate to say that Aslan is what God would be like wrapped in Narnian flesh. And Edmund is much more like me than Adam or Judas–if one might substitute chocolate peanut butter balls for Turkish Delight as the shadow temptation of a deeper concern.

But as the appearance of Father Christmas in the first Narnian chronicle seems to blur the lines between the worlds (there is no Aslan birth narrative, after all), so there is a place in the last chronicle where the worlds seem to meet.

The Last Battle by CS Lewis

After the last great battle for Narnia, with the kings and queens and faithful servants of Narnia pressed to the wall against foreign invaders and Narnian traitors, those loyal to the last king of Narnia, Tirian, are forced into a small stable at the top of a hill. At the beginning of the story the stable housed an unwitting Aslanic imposter, and now houses the terrifying god Tash, summoned by unwitting invaders paying lip service to their own god. As they are forced into the stable, they do not meet the grotesque Tash in the darkness of the barn. Instead, they find that it is another world. Unlike most of the other of Narnia‘s royalty, King Tirian has never travelled between worlds. So he peeks back through the stable door to see the fading fire beside the stable, Narnia on its last evening.

Tirian looked round again and could hardly believe his eyes. There was the blue sky overhead, and grassy country spreading as far as he could see in every direction, and his new friends all round him laughing.
“It seems, then,” said Tirian, smiling himself, “that the stable seen from within and the stable seen from without are two different places.”
“Yes,” said the Lord Digory. “Its inside is bigger than its outside.”
“Yes,” said Queen Lucy. “In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.” It was the first time she had spoken, and from the thrill in her voice, Tirian now knew why. She was drinking everything in even more deeply than the others. She had been too happy to speak (102-103).

Tirian discovers that the stable is a place where “its inside is bigger than its outside.” Then Lucy, in a spell of wonder, notes that this pattern has been seen once before–and in a stable, no less. In doing so, C.S. Lewis makes a rare break of the overt Christian story into Narnia. My son, who sat with me when he was seven as I read all but the last chapter of the Chronicles, said, “He is putting Christianity in here.” And when he read them again as a preteen, he saw that Lewis has put “Christianity in” all throughout the Chronicles.

Lucy’s point about Christmas, though, is a profound one. Have you considered what was contained in that little stable these many centuries ago? Many puzzle about the miracle of parthenogenesis that is Christ’s virgin birth. But granted there is a God who holds all the molecules of the universe together, that little moment is hardly so stunning. Indeed all the universe with its infinite leagues of mass tumbling away from long ago was brought into being by a word. A virgin birth is a mere thing, really.

But think about the physics of containment in that little stable, for a moment. This God, who is certainly bigger than all creation, was wrapped in human flesh and began converting H2O into CO2 in the musty dank of a distant barn. And that child’s first breath prefigured his last, when all the moments of eternity would once again collapse on a single place and time. It is why Christmas is the beginning of Easter: they are the breaking of Adam’s curse by the Deep Magic of our universe.

How did the walls of that stable not burst oh so many years ago? It is the last turn of the season, so that we will one day find our way back to Eden, where it is always Christmas and never winter.

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More Relevant Than Ever: Why the Wade Center Authors Like Lewis and Tolkien Still Matter (Friday Feature)

The Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College is the premier American special research collection of papers, books, and manuscripts from seven British mythopoeic authors: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dorothy L. Sayers, George MacDonald, Owen Barfield, G.K. Chesterton, and Charles Williams. Here are some articles about my experiences at the Wade centre:

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Can Cod-liver Oil Cure Us of Poetry? A Thought on the Uselessness of Poets in Today’s Economy from L.M. Montgomery’s Rainbow Valley

It was probably unfair that I had this much fun in a government meeting, but it is even more unfair that the fun came at another’s expense.

It is no secret that North American state, provincial, and federal governments view academic higher education as an economic tool. It is such a tool, I believe, and a powerful one at that. Besides breathtaking innovations in health and the sciences, and besides the training of most of our managerial, public service, and white-collar jobs, the four-year undergraduate degree–including all its inefficiencies and foibles–is a highly effective place for preparing students to engage in the workforce. There are lots of failures, and 10 to 1 plumbers will make more money than poets. But in North America, the University is a multi-trillion-dollar industry that remains one of our most powerful economy-shaping tools.

It is rare enough when politicians and bureaucrats recognize this fact, and rarer still when they truly understand the power of the University as social formation tool. Even when they do, the University often gets reduced to its sheer economic utility. In a 1967 stump speech for a room in the California governor’s mansion, Ronald Reagan argued that the “state should not subsidize intellectual curiosity.” You know, reading history for the sheer love of it. Or philology–what’s the point of all those old words? Or philosophy, a discipline that needs a good hard dose of reality if there ever was one.

And don’t let me get started on poetry. All those years of having bleary-eyed students take precious time from being the future accountants and statisticians and economists of the world, talking about paths dividing in woods and battered hearts and the quality of assonance in Eliot’s lyric….

Anyhow, that’s the mindset of much of the bureaucratic background of higher education, and is even becoming a dominant view from Presidents’ offices. I was a higher ed student for eighteen years, I have worked in government policy development, and I have taught in five institutions over fourteen years. This utilitarian viewpoint is real and present.

So, I must admit, that on this particular day, I took great pleasure in frustrating a good ole utilitarian.

We were working on some policy development, where I consistently pushed for a bigger vision of what it means to shape students for the future. There were the usual mixed motives in the room: people who benefited from a liberal arts education, people who did a job-track education like accountants, statisticians, and economists, and people who were trying to hold together public opinion and public good–usually things that are in conflict where we live. And, no doubt, there were people who just wanted to go to lunch and wished that we could get the job done.

I had been waiting for it, and it didn’t take long. One of the accountants-statisticians-economists, a spiritual grandson of Gov. Ronald Reagan, said,

“It’s all well and good that people want to take history or religious studies or English, but we’re paying half the bill and students have to find a way to pay off those student loans.”

It’s a common refrain. Anyone that has struggled to pay a student loan knows that it has a good amount of truth in it. Americans feel this heat more as governments contribute less, so the debt question is even hotter there. Still, it fails to understand the whole picture

I smiled to myself and pushed back–though I knew that I would ultimately lose this one.

As I was on the data team, I had the figures in front of me. I showed the lifetime earnings figures of graduates, a study on twenty-year discipline earnings, a report on recession resilience (we were recovering from a near-recession at the time), and our plans for population development. This had little effect on my number-crunching accountant-statistician-economist, who was clearly getting upset at this warm-hearted, dreamy-eyed nonsense. So, I reminded him that “we”–the government, the community, the people that pay us to argue about these issues–only pay 42% of the bill, and the economic spinoff of the University was such that was almost a 3:1 GDP return on investment. Knowing that using Denmark as an example would cause his colour to deepen from a frustrated pink to an angry crimson–any time you want to frustrate a Canadian bureaucrat, bring up Scandinavia–I instead asked him if he would like to hear the academic CVs of the University’s leadership, board, and seven-figure donors.

He wouldn’t like that, actually. My accountant-statistician-economist friend shot back with a student loan figure–quite accurately–and put his hands up with a “what are you going to do with guys like this?” kind of exasperated salute. One of my friends in the room who is sympathetic with my cause but much more practical, turned to me with a smile and asked:

“What is it that you are doing your PhD in, Brenton?”

Without a pause, I answered:

“Fantasy literature. It’s like studying poetry, but even less useful.”

There was a hearty chuckle at my self-deprecation, and the policy meeting moved on. Our government continues to support higher education at a level that would make many working-class students in the world heart-sick with longing. In particular, if you are a strong PEI student and work 15 hours a week, you can probably get a Bachelor degree–even in poetry–with no student debt. But our support is such that the University will slip away from its role as a place to explore ideas and think freely to a white-collar vocational institute–though one with a better pub and bigger library than most trade schools. The proof will be what happens when the poets, literary critics, philosophers, and historians in the faculty of Arts retire or move on. What they do with those faculty positions will be the statement of the University’s 21st-century heart.

It is a hard age for poets and lovers of literature–even as studies argue that readership of poetry among Millennials and Gen Z has doubled in the last few years, and there is evidence that the Harry Potter bounce in youth readership has settled into long-term trends. The irony of poetry and literature being under threat in Prince Edward Island is particularly pungent. Though we are in many measures the poorest province in Canada, a great deal of our economic strength comes because of L.M. Montgomery. Her Anne of Green Gables has captured the hearts of millions throughout the world, and tourists from all over travel to visit the land of Anne, this island of Lover’s Lanes and Rainbow Valleys and Lakes of Shining Waters. Tourism is PEI’s 2nd biggest industry, contributing 6.5% to the Island’s struggling economy. Anne is quite right that “PEI is the loveliest province” in “the finest country in the world” (Rainbow Valley, ch. 2), but there are many beautiful places on our globe. Thanks to Montgomery, little Prince Edward Island is on the map.

And, of course, L.M. Montgomery was a poet, publishing more than 500 poems in her lifetime. She is the perfect picture of someone who could have put her hand to a quite literal plough and supported her family and community in tangible ways. Instead, she took the risk to become a writer. It’s true that she was not anything as useless as a scholar of fantasy literature, but as a poet she was pretty close.

So I find it interesting to find in one of Anne’s books a surefire way of getting rid of poets–and presumably other people who get in the way of economic progress. In this case, Susan Baker–the stolid, dependable, no-nonsense and good-hearted manager of the Blythe household–is probably concerned with the moral failure of most poets. We all know how poets can be rascals. But her solution to Walter’s dreamy plans of being a poet could be one that we could try to cleanse the University of non-utilitarian students: an “emulsion of cod-liver oil.” The scene is the Blythe kitchen, where Anne, Susan, and Miss Cornelia are talking about the importance of good heart work–a clear picture of old fashioned Scotch-Presbyterian sensibilities at play. Anne’s children are, as usual, chasing fairies and fireflies in Rainbow Valley, between the Blythe house and the Presbyterian manse.

“Where is Walter?” asked Anne.

“He is up to no good, I fear, Mrs. Dr. dear,” [Susan answered]. He is in the attic writing something in an exercise book. And he has not done as well in arithmetic this term as he should, so the teacher tells me. Too well I know the reason why. He has been writing silly rhymes when he should have been doing his sums. I am afraid that boy is going to be a poet, Mrs. Dr. dear.”

“He is a poet now, Susan.”

“Well, you take it real calm, Mrs. Dr. dear. I suppose it is the best way, when a person has the strength. I had an uncle who began by being a poet and ended up by being a tramp. Our family were dreadfully ashamed of him.”

“You don’t seem to think very highly of poets, Susan,” said Anne, laughing.

“Who does, Mrs. Dr. dear?” asked Susan in genuine astonishment.

“What about Milton and Shakespeare? And the poets of the Bible?”

“They tell me Milton could not get along with his wife, and Shakespeare was no more than respectable by times. As for the Bible, of course things were different in those sacred days—although I never had a high opinion of King David, say what you will. I never knew any good to come of writing poetry, and I hope and pray that blessed boy will outgrow the tendency. If he does not—we must see what emulsion of cod-liver oil will do.”

Fortunately, Susan’s cure fails to drive the poetic pulse from Walter’s heart. But the next novel, Rilla of Ingleside, is a stunning demonstration in a time of war of the powers of good poetry. And it may serve, a century later, as a warning of what a world of utility and technology and government looks like when stripped of its poetry and fairy tales.

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The Grand Miracle: Daily Reflections for the Season of Advent (Friday Feature)

While I am a bit late in making this notice, I still think it is still worthwhile. The Christian History Institute in cooperation with the Marion E. Wade Center has produced “The Grand Miracle: Daily Reflections for the Season of Advent.” This is a full-colour, 64-page booklet features the writings of “Wade authors,” C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dorothy L. Sayers, George MacDonald, Owen Barfield, G.K. Chesterton, and Charles Williams. Named for Lewis’ Easter sermon, “The Grand Miracle,” the booklet includes reflections by modern scholars, poets, and writers like Michael Ward, Christin Ditchfield, Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson, Ralph Wood, Carolyn Weber, Jennifer and Edwin Woodruff Tait, William O’Flaherty, Mark Noll, Andrew Lazo, Matthew Dickerson, Marjorie Lamp Mead, George Marsden, Chris R. Armstrong, Max McLean, Colin Duriez, Luci Shaw, Patti Callahan Henry, Suzanne Bray, Diana Pavlac Glyer, Bob Trexler, and Wade centre co-directors Crystal Downing and David Downing.

You can purchase this booklet from the Christian History Institute, and a full PDF is available here. My friend, William O’Flaherty, also did a podcast on the advent booklet. I hope this makes your Christmas season richer.


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