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Book Review—The Quotable Chesterton

For the record: this book was received free from Booksneeze, part of Thomas Nelson Publishers.  They send the free book, I write the free review, and everybody's happy. Check it out for yourself if you're so inclined.

The Quotable Chesterton: The Wit and Wisdom of G.K. Chesterton

As you can tell by the above graphic and the oh-so-not deceptive blog title, today we're looking at Kevin Belmonte's The Quotable Chesterton. 

If you're like me, your first question was: Chesterwho?  Well, Belmonte has another book out right now that's a biography of Chesterton, so I'll just give you a short bio.  Chesterton was primarily a literary critic at the end of the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th.  He was also a Christian. He wrote, spoke, and was renowned for his insights into a great many things. The main thing I remember his name attached to was that, when a London newspaper asked the question "What is wrong with the world? Who is to blame for our problems?" and Chesterton replied: "I am."  (or something of the sort.) Wit, wisdom, and writing make for the three parts of Chesterton, from what I can tell.

So, this book is actually a collection of quotes from Chesterton's various writings.  They are organized by topic and listed alphabetically.  A few of them are more than two paragraphs, but most of the quotes are a paragraph or shorter.

Strengths? The first is by nature of the book: the short quips and condensed wisdom are there to be found without having to read the whole books.  The second is that Belmonte has endnoted each quote for reference purposes.  There can be no question if Chesterton wrote each thing attributed to him, since it can be easily referenced.

Weaknesses?  Just a couple that I noticed.  1.) Context issues.  Just as an observation, Chesterton lived in England, and much of his commentary comes from the perspective of a lifelong Londoner.  I'd like to see a few footnotes to clear up historical context where the quotes reference a definite geographic location or current event in Chesterton's time.  2.) Also a type of context issue, and that is there are some quotes lifted from Chesterton's novels.  Having not read them, it's hard to place the character names referenced.  Now, I recognize that this is the fault of my own barbaric lack of reading, but many other readers might have slipped in this manner as well.  I'm not sure how Belmonte could have remedied this short of providing synopses of each novel, so it's probably just going to remain a drawback.  Instead, since many Chesterton's complete works are free on Kindle, I'll be catching up that way.

The question of usefulness of this book is kind of a toss-up.  If you're looking for a good quote or two to fill in a speech or spice up your writing, it's a good source.  However, in some circles, you'll be met with the same opening question you had for me: Chesterwho?

If you've got time to enlighten your audience, though, it's worth it for them to know him, because it's well worth you reading him.

Doug

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