Tagged for a meme

I have been tagged for a meme by Argent

In no way to I think this is exhaustive.  It is just what quickly came to mind.  I spent a summer doing nothing but reading 19th c. English novels.  You could do the same. 


Three fiction books everyone should read:
1) J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings
2) F. Dostoevskii: Crime and Punishment
3) E. Corti: The Red Horse

Three non-fiction books everyone should read:
1) Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics
2) D. McCullough: John Adams
3) David Halberstam: Summer of ’49

Three authors everyone should read:

1) Shakespeare
2) Dante: at least the Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise (trans. Dorothy L. Sayers)
3) The Psalmist

I tag:

Commonplace Book of Zadok
Hermeneutic of Continuity
Way of the Fathers


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. RBrown says:

    A. I have never been able to get into “Lord of the Rings”.

    B. You might mean “John” Adams instead of “Samuel”. On the other hand, Sam Adams has some superb Christmas beers, among which, Winter Lager and Ole Fizziwig Ale.

    3. Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”?

  2. andrew says:

    Sam Adams….
    Always a good decision.

  3. Blaue Blume says:

    The “cradle documents”, to be known by all:

    1. The Bible (containing those books as listed by the Council of Trent, Fourth Session, “integros cum omnibus suis partibus” [Denzinger 1504])

    2. Homer, The Iliad, The Odyssey (the Lattimore or Fagles translation)

    3. Virgil, The Aeneid (the Fitzgerald or Fagles translation)

    4. Dante, The Divine Comedy (I like the Singleton translation, esp. its copious notes, yet I guess there’s better)

    5. Shakespeare, Complete Works (or just about everything he wrote)

    – and, after finishing above, and if time permits, and because there are really only three quests – Odysseus’, Galahad’s, and Faust’s –, and because (if memory serves me right) Randall Jarrell said that when modernity comes to its end, on its tombstone will be written “Here lies Dr. Faust”, so:

    6. Goethe, Faust, Parts I & II (I guess the Passage translation will do); and

    7. Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte Darthur – but by all means avoid Caxton’s version, an utterly choppy mess, and use instead the Winchester Manuscript version, found in: Malory, Complete Works, Eugène Vinaver, ed., 2nd ed., OUP; or for an abridged version with modern spelling, Le Morte Darthur: The Wincester Manuscript, Helen Cooper, ed., OUP. If you’re short on time, just read the “Sankgreal/Sangrail” parts. If you wish Malory’s source (I find it a shade tiresome), then The Quest of the Holy Grail, P. M. Matarasso, ed. and trans., Penguin Books.

  4. Tom Burk says:

    Sam Adams – not a bad brew. Not sure I could spend the summer with it, though!

  5. Al says:

    Given that the only Adams McCullough wrote a bio about was John Adams I think that Sam Adams is a typo (esp since the link is to John Adams.) The bio is 1 of the best of John Adams I have ever read (& as a big fan of John Adams I have read quite a few.).

  6. RBRown: Good catch. I made the correction. Also, though I like the aforementioned beer (when I have to drink beer, that is) I am less likely to order it now after that nasty dust up about it a few years back.

    If you haven’t gotten through LotR, you should.

    Chaucer… great! Everyone should read it. However, the meme asked for three. I am sure this makes Chaucer sad. I hope this doesn’t get on to Sir Geoffrey’s blog.

  7. What was my reasoning in picking these?

    For the 3 fiction works: All three concern the decisions people make concern good and evil, and all three are written from a “Catholic world view” without being overtly Catholic.

    I picked the 3 non-fiction books everyone should read because 1) you can’t understand anything going on in ancient and medieval Christian literature without Aristotle’s Ethics; the list needed a biography and the Adam’s book not only is simply one of the best biographies I have ever read, but it spans a critical period of the world’s history; also the Summer of ’49 is a riveting account of an amazing summer and two of the greatest players who ever played the one game God truly blesses. Also, the author just died recently so it was on my mind. Moreover, frankly, sports writing is some of the best writing being done in the last 40 years. Finally, everyone should read those three authors because if you don’t you just don’t know anything or grasp anything in any important literature you will ever read.

    There is not way this list is exhaustive. Could I have picked other works? Sure! But this is a reasonable summer list and… after all… it’s just a meme on a blog.

  8. RBrown says:

    1. I referred to certain Samuel Adams (Samuel L Jackson?) Christmas beers, not the birra normale, Boston Lager, which I don’t particular like–it tastes too much like Budweiser (also a lager).

    BTW, I am not really much of a beer drinker, usually only about one a week, with grilled hamburger or BarBQ ribs. If I’m at the local brew pub, I usually have their Raspberry Wheat beer.

    2. Fr Z: I’ve tried and failed with LotR. I was an English major, and so I’m familiar with the corpus of English literature–that might have something to do with it. Many years ago John Senior turned me into a Chaucerian, so the Cant Tales would be where I looked. (I also recommend Sir Gawain and the Green Knight).

    A priest, whom I’ve known for 20 years, has an MA in English and devours books. He can’t get through it either, saying he cannot suspend belief. Maybe that also describes my experience.

  9. “when I have to drink beer, that is”

    May I suggest you familiarise yourself with traditional English ales?


    “Budweiser” (shudders at the thought)

  10. RBrown: Of course you don’t have to like LotR. I just think it is a book everyone should have read.

  11. I think LofR is good but not that good.

    Dostoyevskii is essential for understanding the modern crime novel. The Brothers Karamazov is the Agatha Cristie type where there is a murder and the reader and detective try to solve the crime together. Crime and Punishment is the Columbo type where the reader knows who dunnit and the fascination is seeing the detective get to the truth. And The Idiot is the type where the whole book is lead-up and the murder comes at the end (innumerable modern examples, though I can’t think of one at the moment!)

    I’ve never heard of the Red Horse but have ordered it on the strength of your recommendation.

    Your non-fiction books sound incredibly boring. What on earth happened in the summer of 49 anyway?

    I agree totally with your three authors. Most people never get beyond the Inferno with Dante (ok, most people never get as far as the Inferno but you know what I mean), yet Purgatorio and Paradiso are absolutely wonderful.

  12. SirF: I am stunned you don’t know about ’49. All the more reason to check out this great book! That was the summer Joe DiMaggio was on his consecutive game hitting streak and Ted Williams was hitting for the Triple Crown. It is also a great snapshot of the postwar USA and what made it tick, before the Korean War started.

  13. Julie C. says:

    Thanks for the great reading list. Has anyone ever read Alessandro Manzoni’s The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi)?

    It’s a wonderful read, chronicling the intertwined destinies of young Lucia and REnzo who are separated before they can be married because of the machinations of a local villain intent on abducting Lucia. Involving a famine, a war and climaxing with the Plague of Milan, the novel is an absorbing tale with great character studies, nature descriptions (especially of the Lake of Como), all enlivened by the author’s really entertaining ironical comments throughout.

    It’s very well known in Italy and Europe, but in the U.S. it never really caught on–too Catholic, I suppose.

  14. CDB says:

    Bravo for including The Red Horse. It is not as well-known as it should be in the English-speaking world. Corti’s other books (some of which are also available in English) are a fascinating read as well – another picture of WWII. And I must say his take on post-war Italy makes one think of the Scouring of the Shire with a not-so-happy ending.

  15. RBrown says:

    May I suggest you familiarise yourself with traditional English ales?
    Comment by English Catholic

    I’ll only say that I’ve had a pint or two at Ye Old Cheshire Cheese, Dr Johnson’s favourite pub.

  16. Fr. John: I gather from your comments that ’49 is something to do with baseball, which as an Englishman I have zero knowledge of!

    Julie C. mentions Manzoni’s The Betrothed, which I entirely second – a great read. Cardinal Borromeo is one of the characters if I remember right. Did you know that Verdi’s Requiem was written for Manzoni’s funeral?

    The book that made the greatest impression on me at the time was Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. Not sure that I’d relate to it now though.

    Many Catholics seem to think highly of Sigrid Undsett’s trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter. I’ve read the first volume and am about to start the second. It’s a remarkable work by any standards.

  17. Dan says:

    Julie C, I am a big fan of I Promessi Sposi. I read it in Italian. The English translations I have seen are, in my opinion, poor (I judge a translation of I Promessi Sposi by how it renders the end of Chapter 8).

    Not that anyone asked for it, but here are my responses (to make it easier on myself, I’ve limited mine to things written in the modern era):

    Must Read Fiction

    1. The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky (I haven’t read Crime and Punishment)
    2. The Leopard (Il Gattopardo), by Giuseppe di Lampedusa (somewhat atheistic in outlook but still a brilliant book)
    3. Viper’s Tangle, Francois Mauriac and Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor (tie)

    Must Read Non Fiction

    1. The Gulag Archipelago, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (an incredible book)
    2. The End of the Modern World, by Romano Guardini
    3. Introduction to Christianity, by Joseph Ratzinger

    Close runner ups in non-fiction: The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II; A Guide for the Perplexed, E.F. Schumacher; The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn; Miracles, C.S. Lewis; Waiting for God, Simone Weil; What Is History, E.H. Carr; In Cold Blood, Truman Capote; and, The Habit of Being, Flannery O’Connor.

  18. Really enjoying The Red Horse!

  19. SirF: A hard book, but good. Very moving. I had to put it down a few times.

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