Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Off the Shelf: six types of reading

Last time, there were various comments about reading habits. So in this video I provide a typology of six types of reading.

Books mentioned in this video:

And since I've mentioned Chesterton's book on Aquinas, here's a delightful account of how the book was written – this is an excerpt from Dale Ahlquist, G. K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense (Ignatius Press 2000), chapter 9:

When G. K. Chesterton was commissioned to write a book about St. Thomas Aquinas, even his strongest supporters and greatest admirers were a little worried. But they would have been a lot more worried if they had known how he actually wrote the book.

Chesterton had already written acclaimed studies of Robert Browning, William Blake, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Chaucer, and St. Francis of Assisi. Nonetheless, there was a great deal of anxiety even among Chesterton's admirers when in 1933 he agreed to take on the Angelic Doctor of the Church, the author of the Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas.

Without consulting any texts whatsoever, Chesterton rapidly dictated about half the book to his secretary, Dorothy Collons. Then he suddenly said to her, “I want you to go to London and get me some books.”

“What books?” asked Dorothy.

I don't know”, said G. K.

So Dorothy did some research and brought back a stack of books on St. Thomas. G. K. flipped through a couple of books in the stack, took a walk in his garden, and then, without ever referring to the books again, proceeded to dictate the rest of his book to Dorothy.

Many years later, when Evelyn Waugh heard this story, he quipped that Chesterton never even read the Summa Theologica, but merely ran his fingers across the binding and absorbed everything in it.

[...] And what kind of book did he write? Étienne Gilson, probably the most highly respected scholar of St. Thomas in the twentieth century, a man who devoted his whole life to studying St. Thomas, had this to say about Chesterton's book: “I consider it as being without possible comparison the best book ever written on St. Thomas.”


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