The 2020 Close Reads Schedule

Plus Amazon affiliate links (and some other stuff)

Hey everyone,

Happy Friday. As you know if you follow us on Facebook or Instagram, yesterday we announced the list of books we will be reading in 2020. Here it is (in order):

We curated this list with your help. In fact, most of these books were chosen because many of you asked for them, or because you expressed an interest in discussing more books by a particular author (see: Greene, Graham). Or, as in the case of The Catcher in the Rye, because you won the auction item that gave you opportunity to choose a book. (Yes, you can blame those auction winners if you hate that book! :) ) We always cover at least one book geared more toward children and families and it seems right to finally turn to Ann with an E. She will be a fascinating counter point to young Holden Caulfield, we figure.

We’re excited about this list. Hopefully you are, too.


Affiliate Links

Many of you already own these books, or at least several of them, but if you’re planning to buy any (or maybe just want to get your hands on a different edition), then we’d sure appreciate it if you purchased using these affiliate links with Amazon:

Please note: Just by following these links you can help us out when you purchase these books in any format. Same goes for Christmas shopping, too, it turns out.

ARE YOU PLANNING TO GIVE AUDIBLE AS A GIFT THIS YEAR? WHAT A GOOD IDEA. CLICK HERE TO DO THAT AND CONTRIBUTE TO THE CLOSE READS CASUSE AT THE SAME TIME. :)


The Schedule

But you want to know the schedule not just the names of the books. So here it is, for your planning pleasure, beginning with the next few weeks when we finish out this year with A River Runs through It and Peace Like a River. Please note: The dates below correspond to the weeks that the episodes will air, not the exact day they will be pushed to your devices.

A River Runs through It — December 2, 9, 16 (Q&A)

Peace Like a River — December 23, 30, January 6, 13, 20, 27 (Q&A)

The Catcher in the Rye — February 3, 10, 17, 24 (Q&A)

Anne of Green Gables — March 2, 9 16, 23, 30, April 6 (Q&A)

The End of the Affair —April 13, 20, 27, May 4, 11, 18 (Q&A)

Frankenstein — May 25, June 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, July 6 (Q&A)

The Sun Also Rises — July 20, 27, August 3, 10, 17, 24 (Q&A)

Home — August 31, September 7, 14, 21, 28, October 5, 12 (Q&A)

The Moviegoer — October 19, 26, November 2, 9, 16, 23 (Q&A)

Death Comes for the Archbishop — November 30, December 7, 14, 21, 28, January 4 (Q&A)


Well that about covers it. Thanks for reading. We’re excited to read our way through 2020 with you.

Happy reading,

David and the CR crew

Close Reads Mailbag 2.0

On sports, music, pies, Til We Have Faces, Sprite, and a bunch of other stuff

Greetings Close Readers,

As promised, it’s time for another mailbag. You sent some questions, we have some answers. I can only hope our answers live up to the quality of your questions. Here we go.


Question 1 is from Tabitha and boy is it important: Have you tried the new LeBron James Sprite Cranberry? The new holiday flavor is out/back.

I assume you mean this?

As the resident soda expert on the podcast (for better or worse), I can assure you that I have indeed tried this. It’s better than the Canada Dry cranberry ginger ale and is quite delicious (unlike this travesty), but ultimately the best multi-purpose holiday soda is still this. I’m so glad you asked. This is important stuff.

Question 2 is from Rachel: How do you balance a love of sports and a love of reading/literature/the arts? My nine-year-old is a big sports fan, but we want to foster a love of literature in him, too!

I think about this question all the time. Every day. People who know me (or follow me on Twitter), know how much I love sports. I can watch almost any sport. I played football and basketball and love baseball and can even watch soccer from beginning to end. It drives my wife crazy. Part of this love comes, I suspect, from my family’s heritage in Green Bay, Wisconsin, a city synonymous with the Packers, and a city whose prosperity is wrapped up in the team. In Green Bay the Packers are more than a team you root for. So maybe it’s that. But I also think I love sports because sports are full of stories. Every game is a story, with a form. You could argue that every athletic competition contains the classic elements of story-telling. Conflict. Rising action. Characters. Denouement. Sport is poetry.

I mean:

This, of course, brings us back to your question.

It’s a shame that there’s a divide between sports-based sub-cultures and the more literary ones. Historically, it doesn’t make any sense. A truly classical education was always an education in balance. You couldn’t be educated if you didn’t appreciate and pursue athletic endeavors ( to some degree - you can be educated and be a poor athlete but you can’t be educated if you don’t try). Even our new friend Frank Prescott saw this. Charlotte Mason wrote about it.

So I guess I would show your son that you value his love of sports and that you see why he loves it. But then also keep reading to him. Put great books in front of him like you do great games. Show him the similarities between football games and stories, between athletes and characters. And all that might work. But I’m not sure I really want to give you advice on “fostering a love of literature” because the truth is you can’t guarantee anyone will love books the way you do. You can work hard to give him the gift of great literature, and even if he never truly loves it as much as he does basketball or soccer or whatever, it will still do him good.

One final thought: I would highly recommend you give him some great sports writing. There have been some truly remarkable writers covering sports over the last hundred years. People like Grantland Rice, David Halberstam, Frank Deford, George Plimpton, and more recently John Jeremiah Sullivan, Wright Thompson, Jackie MacMullan, Mina Kimes, and Brian Phillips. They embody the connection between literary pursuits and sports enthusiasm.

Question 3 is from Erin: What is a book that gives you comfort? (Whether it be that the content provides solace, or that reading it helps you relax, or an entirely different kind of comfort...)

Tim and Heidi were actually recording a new episode of The Play’s the Thing when I sent them this question so, hilariously, they paused to discuss. Here is what they each said:

Tim: “A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, a book about Hemingway & his first wife in Paris, making ends meet and having nothing but each other in the greatest city in the Western world.”

Heidi: “The Anne of Green Gables series, which I reread ad nauseum to remind me that an ordinary life is holy.”

For me, it’s either a crime novel by Ross Macdonald or one of the Jeeves and Wooster books by Wodehouse. Also Jayber Crow and True Grit.

Question 4 is from Amy: I know you love to cook and bake (especially pies). With Thanksgiving (aka pie season) upon us, could you share some tips for the perfect pie? Also, what's the most interesting or challenging thing you've ever cooked?

Ah, yes, the most wonderful time of the year. I can’t wait. Some friends put on our friendsgiving every year and I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what to bring. As for the pie . . . these aren’t original tips but these are the musts: 1) LARD. LARD. LARD. You have to use good lard in your pie crust. Makes all the difference. 2) White Lily flour makes the best pie crust. King Arthur a close second. 3). Don’t touch the pie crust too much. 4) Keep it super cold. 5) Bake yoru pie on the bottom rack of the oven. 6) Egg-wash. You have to brush an egg wash on that top crust.

I will have to think about the most challenging thing I have cooked (although it might be getting Pad Thai right, honestly), but some of the most interesting things are various middle eastern and asian dishes. I love cooking Ramen from scratch. You can get really creative with it but it takes all day to do it right, almost like a good bolognese.

Question 5 is from Sarah: How about a short bio of Tim and Heidi so I know who these delightful people are?

Good idea. In this issue, you will get to know Heidi. Next time, Tim. I asked Heidi to answer the same questions I asked Sarah-Jane last week and these were her answers:

Where did your love of literature come from? Who nurtured it? 

My parents were readers and our house was full of books. We were not allowed to watch much TV, so, out of pure boredom and expedience, I became a reader. When I was nine, my grandfather died. His death marked a change in culture in our family; my parents were distracted by fracturing family dynamics. I was often alone. One day I picked up Anne of Green Gables at random. It is not exaggerating to say that this book saved my life. In its pages, I met another lonely girl who was saved through encountering goodness, truth, and beauty in an ordinary life. After that, I was a voracious reader. I’ve never looked back.

What are your three most beloved books? 

Well, the Anne of Green Gables series. Brideshead Revisited is my favorite novel. The Great Divorce is a close second.

If you could have a lunch with three writers who would you choose? 

This is a question to which I have given an inordinate amount of thought. I even have a Google Doc with a list of questions for this imaginary luncheon. C.S. Lewis, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Oscar Wilde. In other news, that same Google Doc has tattoo ideas (I do not have any tattoos, nor do I plan to, but if I did, it would say EX LIBRIS).

What book do you most love to teach? 

I love to teach the epics. Whichever one I’m teaching at the moment is my favorite, but I think that the Odyssey is my favorite-favorite to teach, particularly in making connections between the Odyssey and the life of Christ.

What literary-themed place do you most want to visit? 

Oh, Paris. I have been to Paris once, for one day, and it was wonderful, but a whirlwind. Many of you may have seen my photos of Paris on Facebook a few months ago. It is a beautiful city for any amount of time, but one day is simply not enough. I want to return and linger.

Question 6 is from John: What kind of music do the hosts like to listen to?

I figure if we can discuss sports and Sprite flavors we can talk about music too. Personally, I will always love Bob Dylan, U2, The National, and Bruce Springsteen, and I listen to a lot of Miles Davis, especially when I’m writing and reading. Other jazz I like: Kamasi Washington. And, while they’re not deep dives, I absolutely love Moonlight Sonata and Bach’s Cello Suite 1. I love the cello. Wish I could play. Alas.

Here is Heidi’s response: “Like most folks, I like a lot of different music. We listen to Andrew Peterson every morning while the kids are getting ready for school. Our family likes to browse iDagio, a classical music app, for playlists and composers. On the contemporary side, lately, I’ve been into The National, Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton. I’m in love with Bruce Springsteen’s new album, Western Stars. For some fire, I like ZZ Ward and Brandi Carlile.”

Tim didn’t get back to me yet so I’ll include his answer in a future issue. :)

Question 7 is from Hope: Heidi mentioned once that she has students trace a concrete item through the scriptures. Could you share the specifics of how you craft this assignment so as to not be overwhelming and what type of results the kids have? 

Good question. Here is Heidi’s response:

“When I teach the Bible as literature, I emphasize the concrete, physical, earthy nature of the objects and images in Scripture. Things like water, sheep, light, fire, blood, and bread. The students and I make a list together that they keep in their commonplace books all year. The list can be a worksheet as well. Weekly, each student chooses one of these objects/images—it is perfectly fine with me if they repeat an object/image from the list or choose a new one each week. Their assignment is to use a concordance (an online tool like Bible Gateway is fine in my class) and locate verses that mention their chosen object/image throughout the Bible. They copy one verse or passage from Old Testament narrative, one from OT poetry, and one from the New Testament. Then they must write a paragraph that explains why they chose those verses and how they work together to develop the object/image.

Here’s an example:

Genesis 1:3-4: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.”

Jeremiah 4:23: “I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light.”

John 8:12: “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ "

At first the world was literally dark and then God created light, and it was good. Later, Jeremiah uses darkness figuratively as a symbol of the sin of the Israelites who had fallen away from the goodness of the light of God. In the New Testament, Jesus is the ultimate Light—the Light of the World—that illuminates our spiritual darkness.

Question 8 is from Hayley: What’s the story behind the lack of love for Til We Have Faces?

I’ve been saving this one for last and I’m so glad you phrased it this way. Because it’s not that I hate that book (although that does seem to be my reputation), it’s just that I don’t think it lives up to his other work, particularly his non-fiction and The Great Divorce. I think it has some flaws in its characterization and dialogue, but I am willing to accept that I don’t have perfect taste. I promise to give it another try sometime soon.


Well, that is all for this mailbag issue, but don’t forget we’ll be starting A River Runs through It soon.

Here’s the schedule:

Week of 11/25: A River Runs through It
Week of 12/2: A River Runs through It
Week of 12/9: A River Runs through It Q&A

At that point, we will begin Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River, with which we will end the year.

In the event that you don’t already have these books and in the event that you are intending to buy them through Amazon, please note you can buy them through our new affiliate links. No pressure, of course, but it does help us out. For easy reference here they are:

And don’t forget you can support the show on Patreon. This helps us pay the contributors to be on the show, Logan to edit it, and for the various fees that it costs to get the shows to you. Join us?

Thanks so much for being our partners in this whole endeavor.

Until next time, happy reading,

David

Getting to Know Sarah-Jane Bentley, Welsh Stews, and Future Schedules

Plus the next Shakespeare play, new Amazon affiliate links, and more

Greetings Close Readers,

It’s time for an update!

Hopefully you are aware that we are well into our series about Louis Auchincloss’ novel The Rector of Justin. You’re reading along, right? If you are (or if you’ve been listening to The Play’s the Thing lately), then you already know about Sarah-Jane Bentley, a new contributor to the network. She’s a literature teacher at Eton College in England (a school somewhat similar to Justin Martyr in the book) and a great conversationlist and we’re very glad she’s agreed to join the Network from time to time. I am confident everyone will love what she brings to the show (including her recipes for traditional Welsh stews—more on that later!). But, of course, Sarah-Jane is new to most of you and you don’t know her very well. I can sense you saying, “there’s got to be more about her than her English accent and her job at Eton.” So to let her prove that theory correct I sent her five questions that will allow her to reveal a little bit about herself. Here they are along with her responses:

Where did your love of literature come from? Who nurtured it? 

My parents cultivated in me a love of literature and a love of the Word. They read to me and my sister throughout our childhood (doing all the voices, of course) and I can remember the page of The Hobbit where the dwarves sing the song ‘carefully, carefully with the plates’ was worn thin. They encouraged us to memorize poetry—sacred and profane. Bible verses, especially the Psalms, were recited at the front of chapel on Sundays but I also remember silly poems from Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, too. Poetry is at the heart of Welsh culture and the annual Eisteddfod Yr Urdd (a national arts festival) meant that poetry declamation was a routine part of my education. Through my teens I loved fantasy fiction and Victorian novels. My mother would say, “What, you haven’t read Jane Eyre?” and then we’d be off to the local library to borrow Brontë. I discovered years later that she had rarely read the novels herself. In my final two years at school I was taught by a former Benedictine monk and I loved discussing theology with him through our study of Dr Faustus, Hamlet, andThe Wife of Bath. 

What are your three most beloved books? 

The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer; Astrophil and Stella, Philip Sidney; The Complete Poems of Thomas Hardy

If you could have a lunch with three writers who would you choose? 

Flannery O’Connor, Muriel Spark, and Emily Dickinson would make for a fascinating and somewhat awkward lunch party—that’s if Dickinson could be persuaded to leave the house. Given Spark’s penchant for dexedrine, O’Connor’s lupus, and Dickinson’s (possible) anorexia, I doubt any of them would have much of an appetite. So I’d take them for high tea in a grand old country hotel somewhere with peacocks roaming the grounds (for Flannery) where they’d sit in gigantic wingback chairs and be served impossibly tiny cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off and exquisite little pâtisseries. No doubt there’d be arguments about punctuation and consensus over brevity. 

In another mood I’d invite Taliesin, Dafydd ap Gwylim, and R S Thomas. We could cover the entire history of Welsh poetry in one luncheon. It would have to be in a dark old pub with a smoky inglenook fireplace and the conversation would run along the lines of Thomas’ poem “Poetry for Supper”: 

Listen, now, verse should be as natural
As the small tuber that feeds on muck
And grows slowly from obtuse soil
To the white flower of immortal beauty.

What book do you most love to teach? 

That’s got to be either Hard Times by Charles Dickens or Macbeth by William Shakespeare. 

If a listener were to visit England, what literary site would you say is a must-visit?

Wales. It would be a long journey but the Lleyn Peninsula is spectacular. It’s not hard to imagine poet R. S. Thomas standing outside Sarn-Y-Plas, his stone cottage, contemplating the darkness between the stars to the roar of Porth Neigwl (Hell’s Mouth) immediately before him. A little further around the coast road you can visit St Hywyn's church which stands right on the beach. He preached here as vicar of Aberdaron. And if you don’t mind a quest on winding country lanes, you’ll find Llanfaelrhys nearby, a remote hilltop church, and his wife Elsi’s inconspicuous slate gravestone that says R. S. Thomas is there in spirit. He was an enigmatic character. 


Upcoming Schedule

Times runs ever on, as it is wont to do, and so before we know it we’ll have moved on from Auchincloss and dived into Norman Maclean’s A River Runs through It, a book Tim has been pushing for since the beginning (practically). It’s not a long book so we will spend three weeks on it, beginning the week of November 25th. (Please note this is a week later than we had initially planned.) So that means the schedule looks like this:

Week of 11/25: A River Runs through It
Week of 12/2: A River Runs through It
Week of 12/9: A River Runs through It Q&A

At that point we will begin Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River, with which we will end the year.

In the event that you don’t already have these books and in the event that you are intending to buy them through Amazon, please note you can buy them through our new affiliate links. No pressure, of course, but it does help us out. For easy reference here they are:


Meanwhile, over on The Play’s the Thing Heidi and Tim have been chatting their way delightfully through the Tempest and if you’re not listening you’re truly missing out. What a resource that show is—if you’re teaching Shakespeare, or you love Shakespeare, or you want to love Shakespeare, you should tune in (or whatever we do when we listen to podcast). Up next: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


So I said I’d come back to Welsh stew and here we are.

If you listened to episode two on The Rector of Justin (and you made it to the end) you heard Sarah-Jane explain that she was making a traditional Welsh stew in honor of her visiting sister. Naturally (as one does) I asked her to send me the recipe so I could a) cook it, of course; and b) share it with you. So here it is, in all its glory. Unless you live somewhere in the UK it seems likely you’ll have to do some substituting for the very specific ingredients the recipe calls for (or else some crafty online shopping), but either way I hope you’ll give it a crack—and share some photos while you’re add it. I plan to.

Ingredients

1.5 kg Gower Salt Marsh lamb: best end of neck on the bone 
A large onion 
10 whole black peppercorns
Halen Mon sea salt
4 large carrots 
3 parsnips
3 large Pembrokeshire potatoes 
1 medium-sized swede
4 leeks
3 litres of Brecon Garreg mineral water
Calon Wen organic salted butter
Fresh flat leaf parsley
Snowdonia Black Bomber Cheddar
Thelma Caerffili 
Crusty white bread

Steps

1. Put the lamb in a large stock pot with the whole peeled onion, peppercorns and a generous pinch of salt; cover with two litres of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 hours. 

2. Remove the lamb with a slotted spoon. Fish out the onion and throw it away. Leave the stock for an hour or so to cool then skim off the fat.

3. When the lamb has cooled, discard the bones and trim off the fat. Put the meat back in the pot.

4, Peel and chop the swede, parsnips and carrots. They should be cut into edible chunks that will fit respectably onto a soup spoon.

5. Melt a chunk of butter in a big pan and add the prepared vegetables. Stir them around with a big wooden spoon until they are hot and coated in butter then add them to the stock pot.

6. Add more water to cover the vegetables and bring to the boil.

7. Peel and chop the potatoes, again dicing them quite small. Add them to the pot, too. Simmer for 15-20 mins.

8. Let it cool. Slice the leeks and add them to the pot. Then put the lid on and put it in the fridge overnight.

9. When you’re ready to eat it, bring it back to the hob and gently simmer until it’s piping hot. Add water and season as required. 

Serve with plenty of salt and pepper, freshly chopped parsley, a wedge of cheese and chunk of buttered bread. Serves 6-8 people.


That about covers it for this issue of the newsletter. Next time I’ll be back WITH ANOTHER MAILBAG. So get your questions ready.

Talk to you then.

Happy reading,

David



Bad News. But Not Very Bad News. Depending on How You Look at It.

Featuring a bonus episode, an update on schedules, and a new book of awesome poetry

Hello, Dear Close Readers:

Alas, alas, alas. I have bad news. Disappointing news. Grim news. The saddest sort of news. With a heavy heart, I must inform you that we have had some scheduling issues the last week or so and thus we are behind on releasing the first episode on The Rector of Justin. Insert the saddest emoji you can find. Also, that one where the face is making the gritted teeth emoji as if to say, “sorry, I know it’s not the best situation but don’t be too mad.” Everyone’s schedules are massively full right now and so we’re adjusting slightly for this ten-day period. However, I promise we will back very soon. We champing at the bit to get started.

But in lieu of that first episode, and by way of apology, I posted a bonus episode: the episode that Tim, and Heidi, and I did for our Patreon subscribers a few months back about Hemingway’s “A Clean Well-light Place.” It’s one of my favorite episodes we’ve ever done. So maybe that will tide you over for a while. Check for it wherever you get the podcast.

So this means that you should just plan to bump everything back a week as far as The Rector of Justin goes. Again, I apologize and promise that we will be back soon!

(And the episode of The Play’s the Thing on The Tempest will be up SOON).

While I have you I wanted to let you know about a book that comes today that I love. Really love. I’m not being paid to talk about it, and we’re not being sponsored by the publisher. I don’t even have an affiliate link set up. It’s Maurice Manning’s Railsplitter, which is a book of poems that is told from the perspective of Abraham Lincoln after he’s been assassinated. He’s looking back at his life—from his childhood, and through his Presidency—and he’s contemplating the ramifications of his choices, and the things that he lived through. I’m not normally a fan of concept albums, so to speak, but this book is so imaginative and endearing and thoughtful that I feel the need to champion it. If even half of the listeners of this podcast buy the book it will go a long way. Books of poetry are often hard to sell, but books this good deserve to get purchased. I say we harness the power of The Close Reads Community and help out a poet who deserves it.

You might know that I interviewed Manning for FORMA and also the FORMA podcast, and if you need any convincing those two conversations should help. In the magazine interview, we discussed poetry more generally, and in the podcast, we chatted about this new book at length.

Here is some video we took of Manning reading poems from the book when we went to visit him at his Kentucky farm.

Today’s episode of The Daily Poem also features Manning reading one of his favorite poems, “Boy Wandering in Simms Valley” by Robert Penn Warren. I think you’ll like it.

And Manning’s publisher even put together a playlist on Spotify that includes the music that inspired the book and let me tell you it’s great.

Anyway, you should buy this book. And if you do, go ahead and snap a picture of yourself with the book and post it online and let us all see it because you’re going to be in for some fun and we all need to see those smiles.

Here is the Amazon link and here is the publisher’s link.

That’s all for now. Talk soon.

Happy Reading,

—David


Talking about Noble Books

Good afternoon Close Readers,

Last week, in the debut edition of our mailbag email, I answered a question about how we go about choosing the books for the Podcast. And I explained that I generally try to get a sense of what books are being discussed on the Facebook page, that I try to mix up genres and eras, and that I try to make sure that women authors get decent representation. All of that is true, but I have been thinking about this question a lot since I answered it initially. It’s been stuck in my head. And I think the answer I gave is incomplete.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there is also something intangible that guides me. Something about the characters that I lean toward, the kind of prose I tend to choose. Given that I have never consciously thought about it, I suspect it’s instinctive as if there is a desire deep within me to read books of a certain nature, at least with this particular crew.

I have always known that when I settle on a book for the show I am asking you to trust me, and I am aware that you have impeccable taste and demanding predilections. That’s why this community is so delightful and it’s why I like to ask around and get nominations and votes and maybe even the opinion of people worth trusting. I know you have limited time to read, let alone listen to podcasts, and I know there are many, many, many, many alternatives, so I try to be considerate. I know there’s no accounting for taste, of course, and that’s fine, but nonetheless I do my best to choose books that are truly worthy of the amount of attention we are going to collectively give them.

And I realized last night that there is a word that sums up what I’m looking for in these books (that we are all looking for, I suspect). Nobility. I think that’s it. I think I am looking for books that are noble. That doesn’t mean they need to be about noble people all the time (and they are rarely actually about The Nobility), but the books that we tend to identify as worth loving so often have a noble spirit about them. There is nobility in the ideas they present, in the sentences, in the way characters grow and change (or don’t), and in the manner that the stories are told (even when things seem bleakest).

Nobility is more than chivalry or courage or posture. It’s vaguer than that, more abstract. It’s harder to identify and quantify. But I think sometimes you feel it when you see it. You know it in your gut. We can tell instinctively if a person or a work of art has any nobility in it. It slippery, but it’s a worthy target.

On a whim, I punched “nobility” into thesaurus.com and these are some of the words that came up: “dignity,” “generosity,” “grandeur,” “virtue.” (Also “patricians,” “peerage,” and “elite” but we can skip those for now). And for “noble” you find words like “benevolent” and “charitable” and “gracious.” I love the idea that books can be dignified or gracious or charitable. We talk about books like friends, so why not? Certainly we have relationships with them, and they often play the part. So why not seek out books that have those characteristics.

That doesn’t mean they’re not rough around the edges or about difficult things or complicated. A book can be both challenging and benevolent at the same time, right? In fact, sometimes a book’s dignity comes in the way it presents difficult things in an appropriate way. That’s why we close read . . .

I’m sure that some of the books we have read on this podcast over the last four years have missed the mark, but I love the idea that this is a standard for choices moving forward. And I guess it’s a standard for our conversations as well, now that I think about it. Let’s hope we live up to it.


Speaking of noble things: I am confident that The Rector of Justin is a noble book and I’m looking forward to discussing it with Matt Bianco and Sarah-Jane Bentley, our newest contributor. If you’ve been listening to The Play’s the Thing then you already know her. She’s great. And she teaches at Eton College in England, so she has plenty of perspective on the all-boys-school environment. We will discuss the first five chapters soon.

Meanwhile, Tim and Heidi will be diving into The Tempest post-haste, so be sure to subscribe to that show.

A few other things you should know about:

  • We have a new podcast with Joshua Gibbs, called Proverbial, in which he will be contemplating a different proverb each week. The first two episodes are up now. It’s amazing and you should subscribe.

  • We also have a new book out: The Lawgivers, a Plutarch translation from David Hicks and his brother, Scot. We are really excited and proud of this book and hope you’ll check it out. It’s a modern translation, but it’s very attentive to the original language, and it includes plenty of notes and illustrations and maps and the like.

  • Remember to follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

As always, thanks for reading and thanks for listening and happy reading.

Cheers,

David and the CR Crew

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