May 14, 2014
**Today I'm welcoming a friend of mine, Colin, who's done something fantastic.  He's started a periodical called the Catholic Review of Books.  He's a thinker, he is, and this journal covers every kind of book you can imagine - from teenage sic-fi thrillers, to theological texts about St. Augustine and everything in between.  And he's Catholic to boot, and cares deeply about good Catholic literature.  Check out his site - you won't be disappointed. 

I gratefully accept my dear friend’s, Sarah’s, invitation to speak here about the journal I have begun, The Catholic Review of Books. It is easy to take up an invitation like this, one to speak about what is dear to one’s own heart, especially when it the request is made by a person like Sarah.

For those who have not yet had the chance to view this brand-new magazine, perhaps I might whet your appetite with an invitation to view its online version: We post a lot of good content there, but to get the full ‘experience,’ you have to see the printed journal. There is very little duplication of material. Generally, the reviews you see online are not in the journal, and vice versa.

So what is it? It is my baby! Finally, a source for dependable news about books, from the perspectives of Catholics. I’m a convert, and so I know what it’s like to meander around, trying your best to figure out how to inform yourself about God’s world. One of the big obstacles you encounter in this are books written by people who have motives other than spreading the truth and helping others to grow in holiness. Simply put, there are a lot of ‘haters’ out there. How can you distinguish a good book from their books? The simple fact is, until you get to know the issues, the authors, the publishers, you will not be able to.

As a dad I find that especially frustrating. I want my kids to read, not watch TV. I want them to think and to learn, not text and tweet. But what books are good for them? I wouldn’t abandon them to a conversation with a complete stranger, but that is in effect what you are doing if you let them read just anything. Kids are forced to grow up too quickly today. Evil forces don’t want them to enjoy their childhood, but to sexualize them early and to fill their minds with trivialities. There are so many good adventure stories out there to fuel their imagination, but who has the time to do the research? And, just because my kids like these books doesn’t mean I will. Let the writers at the Review help with this.

I am an academic, and so the Review doesn’t only deal with popular literature. I still get frustrated when I enter a book store, and, wanting to expand my knowledge about something like the Crusades, I can’t tell a good book from one that simply wants to use the occasion to attack the Church. It’s not my field of expertise and so I have to remember to ask a friend who is an expert. That’s what the Review is – asking friends who are!

I don’t want to relieve Catholic readers of the important task of confronting ideas hostile to their faith. The Review is a compass, not a GPS: I like different points of view, albeit ones operating from within the threshold of good faith and love for the Church. Our reviewers all fit into this category, but, we are not all the same. We do not all agree about literary beauty. They say ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ but I’d like to think we’ll even fight about that!

Although we are just in our first year, if I myself can serve as an example of what the Review can do for people, I can say that, despite the fact that I have four university degrees, I have learned so much! I love being introduced to authors I hadn’t heard of and to works I’ve been wondering about. For sake of the Review, and for sake of my own research, I read so many books a month. But, because I am myself an avid reader of the Review, my ‘must read’ list is just getting longer and longer! That’s a good thing. I see all the books people I trust recommend and it makes me want to see what all the fuss is about.

I like the thought that I am helping Catholics to become more literate, spiritually, historically, philosophically and politically. Catholics have always made the biggest impact evangelizing when we were masters of the thought of the age – think of the Fathers of the Church in the Early Church and the Jesuits of the 17th and 18th Centuries. We won’t win the culture wars otherwise.

Books have made, and continue to make, an immense difference in people’s lives. How many people have been profoundly changed by their encounter with The Little Flowers of St. Francis, The Theology of the Body, St. Therese’s autobiography, Lewis’ works, Augustine’s Confessions, The Imitation of Christ, the works of Dostoevsky? I want the Review to occasion such divine encounters.

And, I’m all ears. I welcome the contributions of good Catholic people, of all walks of life. Don’t think that your interests aren’t someone else’s too. I would never have read the Divergent books, but, so far, they have been our most popular online draw. People want to know. I want to know. My life has been one long love affair with books. I know that’s the case for many of you. Please, check us out online and think of taking up a subscription to our quarterly journal, so we can stay in business!


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