From the American Chesterton Society’s blog, this is just hilarious. G. K. Chesterton answers the books meme that’s been going around. Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:
4. One book that made you laugh.
I solemnly assure the reader that I have read whole books about education written by intellectual people with great ingenuity; and I can only describe the effect on my mind by some kind of wild parallel. It felt as if I were reading a book called “How to Breed Horses,” and it was all written like this: “Many people can enjoy the sweet voices of the horses singing at daybreak who nevertheless know little of the way they build their nests; and who (when they have tamed them) will often neglect to clean out their cages and be content merely with occasionally smoothing their feathers.”
[ILN May 30, 1908 CW28:111-112]
5. One book that made you cry.
Now I opened the other day a book which I believe to deserve the praises it has received; a book somewhat in the manner of “Lux Mundi,” written by a group of the younger academic writers, some of whom I have met and all of whom I admire. Yet here again my tragic fate pursued me. I opened on the very first sentence of the introduction, which began something like this: “To-day the world is asking questions”: and I stopped dead. The
world has always been asking questions; and the only difference between us and our more orthodox ancestors is that they occasionally got some answers. However, I went on to the next clause.
The writer then said, I think: “Christianity arose in a world very different from that in which we live.” That is true enough; and I felt encouraged. I hoped I had cleared the first fence for the first time; and perhaps I might be able to read a whole book properly after all. I went on to find out what, in the author’s opinion, were the great differences between living under Augustus Caesar and living under George V. And the sentence began something like: “For them the stars circled round a stationary earth and—- ” Then did I cast the book to the vultures and the jackals and the eagles of my garden; then did I beat my bosom and wail aloud, so that the clamour of my weeping was heard from the Chilterns to the Thames.
[ILN Nov 1, 1913 CW29:577]
6. One book that you wish had been written.
Of one thing I am quite absolutely convinced, that the very idlest kind of holiday is the very best. By being idle you are mixing with the inmost life of the place where you are; by doing nothing you are doing everything. The local atmosphere finds you unresisting and fills you, while all the others have filled themselves with the stuff of guide-books and the cheerless east wind of culture. Above all, refuse – refuse with passion – to see any places of interest. If you violently decline to see the Castle of Edinburgh, you will have your reward, a delight reserved for the very few: you will see Edinburgh. If you deny the very existence of the Morgue, the Madeleine, and the Louvre, the Luxembourg, the Tuileries, the Eiffel Tower, and the tomb of Napoleon, in the calm of that sacred clearance you will suddenly see Paris. In the name of everything that is sacred, this is not what people call paradox; it is a fragment from a sensible guidebook that has never been written.
[ILN Oct 14, 1905 CW27:36]