From his pen

One longtime fan of Chesterton acknowledges that learning to read him is a bit like learning a second language. Once the language is learned, though, the rewards start pouring in.

The best place to begin reading Chesterton is his Autobiography. This book gives the gist of his life, but even more so the gist of his style and thought. It's a great place to learn the language.

The second round of reading consists of Heretics, Orthodoxy, and The Blatchford Controversies, gathered in volume 1 of the Ignatius Press Collected Works. The Blatchford essays appear last in this edition, but they were actually written first and provide a good introduction to the other two books.

At least four reading tracks proceed from here.

The fiction track includes Father Brown stories and the novels Manalive, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, The Flying Inn, and The Return of Don Quixote. Brave souls who wish to tackle The Man Who Was Thursday may want to check out The Annotated Thursday, edited by Martin Gardner (Ignatius, 1999).

For a poetry side-trip, add The Ballad of the White Horse. Ignatius Press reissued the tenth edition of this historical verse epic, with reproductions of Robert Austin's 1928 woodcuts, in 2001.

The theology track takes in The Everlasting Man, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas, and The Well and the Shallows.

What's Wrong with the World, The Outline of Sanity, and A Short History of England provide a good entree to Chesterton's social and cultural commentary. His newspaper columns offer more examples. These can be found in collections and floating around online. IHS Press reprinted The Outline of Sanity, a key distributist text, in 2001.

Highlights of Chesterton's literary criticism include The Victorian ...

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