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St Athanasius' Book Challenge: The 20 Books My Son and I will Read this Summer - by John & Athan Clark

St Athanasius’ Book Challenge: The 20 Books My Son and I will Read this Summer

By John and Athanasius Clark

After he had taken his last college exam of the year, my son Athan (Athanasius) mentioned to me that he wanted to create a summer reading list for himself. This took me down memory lane to the summers between academic years when I used to take library reading challenges.

The library used to give little prizes for each book read, and consequently, I read dozens of books over the summers. Though I still read quite a bit, I have found that my pleasure reading is often curtailed by reading that I need to do for my various professions. Likely, many of us are in that same boat.

I need to read more, and I need to read differently. So as Athan and I discussed what his list should look like, I decided to make a list of my own.

Saint Athanasius advised that for every new book one reads, he should read two or three old books. The doctor of the Church recognized that we are influenced by what we read—and that we should always return to our roots. His advice helped dictate our choices.

Below is my reading list with comments about why I chose each particular book. Athan’s list follows with his own comments.

Oh, and one last thing—an apology to my mom. As a former homeschooler, I am embarrassed to have failed to read most of these books before now.

Yes, I should have read them already.

10 Books on John’s Summer Reading List:

The Consolation of Philosophy – Boethius

I read a little of Boethius’ work in college and always meant to come back to it. Boethius, sentenced to death for treason in the sixth century, wrote this book in prison, and attempted to answer some of the most profound questions of life and its meaning.

The Great Divorce – C. S. Lewis

Lewis’ last full-length novel borrows a concept from Dante’s Divine Comedy and runs with it.

Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand

Many people whom I trust love this book. I’ll be curious to see how it compares to When Hell Was In Session by Jeremiah Denton, another inspiring P.O.W. survival biography that I loved.

Jane EyreJane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

How long can I put off reading this? If nothing else, I can look forward to making borderline-knowledgeable references to Bronte in dinner conservation with Lisa.

Lord of the WorldLord of the World – Robert Hugh Benson

A dystopian novel written in the early twentieth-century that Pope Francis recently endorsed as almost prophetic of modern times.

Nicomachean Ethics – Aristotle

Athan talked me into reading this one cover-to-cover. It is a reflection by The Philosopher on how to be happy by living a virtuous life. I suspect that Aristotle stands, for all the right reasons, in stark contrast to Pascal and his rather silly wager argument.

The Apology – Tertullian

As with the Nicomachean Ethics and Boethius’ book, I have read passages from Tertullian over the years, but I have never read it all in one “sitting.” But I suspect that, in justice, this third-century defense of Christianity needs to be absorbed that way.

Till We Have Faces – C. S. Lewis

Yes, two books by the same author. But when that author is C. S. Lewis, do you really need to justify your decision?

In the Beginning…: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall – Josef Ratzinger

This is a series of lectures delivered on the Genesis narrative by a former pope and one of the greatest theologians of modern times.

Over Seventy (formerly titled “America, I Like You”) – P. G. Wodehouse

Looking back over this list, it looks pretty serious. Wodehouse is the cure.

10 Books on Athan’s Summer Reading List

Pride and Prejudice

Being that I’ve never read this classic work, it’s a must-read for the summer.

The First Philosophers

The early Greek philosophers took a deep interest in wonder and attempted to make sense of the world around them. They attempted to use logic without having the light of Revelation, and paved the way for later philosophers like Plato and Aristotle.

Selected Myths – Plato

This is a compilation of the major ideas of Plato, taking excerpts from his dialogues.

The Annotated Alice in Wonderland

I have read Alice before, so look forward to this version. As I step into the world of adulthood, I still have one foot in childhood. This is a reminder to keep it there.

Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis

A masterwork of modern apologetics. If you’re going to defend the Faith, it’s good to know how Lewis did it.

Rhetoric – Aristotle

This book has influenced 2,300 years of writers and speakers.

Treatise on Happiness – St. Thomas Aquinas

I read some of this for Ethics class at Christendom. Happiness being the end of man, and Aquinas being one of the greatest philosophers of the Church, it’s hard to be get more relevant than this.

Wealth and Poverty – George Gilder

My dad gave me a signed copy a couple of years ago. One of the foremost defenses on the free market.

Letters From a Stoic – Seneca

Although Seneca was not Christian, his books contains many pithy insights into the virtuous life.

The Victory of Reason – Rodney Stark

Stark examines how medieval Christianity’s embrace of capitalism had a positive effect on culture and the economy.

About John Clark

John Clark is a homeschooling father, a speechwriter, an online course developer for Seton Home Study School, and a weekly blogger for The National Catholic Register. His latest book is “How to be a Superman Dad in a Kryptonite World, Even When You Can’t Afford a Decent Cape.”
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