For those unfamiliar with this Wilford Brimley doppelgänger from the early 20th century, the portly and prolific Christian author G.K. Chesterton wrote nearly 80 books, 4000 articles, 200 short stories, hundreds of poems, and even a few plays.
In other words, fans of Chesterton owe editor Kevin Belmonte a note of thanks for wading through such an immense literary output in order to create A Year with G.K. Chesterton. He could have compiled A Decade with G.K. Chesterton (Part 1 of 10) considering Chesterton's considerable contributions to the world of words. Fortunately, as the author of Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G.K. Chesterton, Belmonte knew where to start in order to create this devotional.
Multiple stories provide evidence of Chesterton's weighty wit, which shines through in much of his writing. While in London during World War I, a woman asked him why he was "not out at the Front," with "the Front" referring to the battle lines of their fellow countrymen. Chesterton promptly replied, "If you go round to the side, you will see that I am."
Chesterton took humorous criticism as well, as heard in this exchange between himself and playwright George Bernard Shaw:
Chesterton: "To look at you, anyone would think a famine had struck England."
Shaw: "To look at you, anyone would think you have caused it."
One could surmise that Chesterton brought all of his 6'4", 290-pound frame to bear on every pen-stroke of his writing. He could be equally as serious as humorous, as spiritual as practical, and as specific as to be universal. To read Chesterton is to read an author unlike any other.
Like many similar devotionals, the book's structure stays true to form. 365 readings correspond to each day of the year. Most sections span a page with the longest sections reaching two pages. Each reading begins with a short verse of Scripture, followed by the intellectual "meat" of the book—excerpts from Chesterton's works. Literary trivia buffs will appreciate the last part of every reading where Belmonte relays what happened on that particular day in Chesterton's life.
Even though these readings take only a few minutes, Chesterton's words are worth taking in slowly. While the outdated grammar and syntax may be offputting to some (he wrote from 1900-1936), the essence of what Chesterton attempts to convey still remains spiritually solid.
Personally, his winsome, thought-provoking, and sometimes seemingly contradictory phrases caused me to often re-read certain sections in order to ensure I fully gathered his meaning. Even if I had understood his train of thought, the re-reading often provided a wider perspective on what he was trying to convey. Since the readings in A Year are so short in the first place, it's little extra effort to take the time to parse his sentences for a better grasp.
Even if the devotional fails to grab your attention on a certain day, particular passages may lead you to read the fuller work where it was found, expanding your literary horizons to include an author whom C.S. Lewis cited as a major influence on both his conversion and his writing.
I recommend A Year with G.K. Chesterton for those already familiar with his works, for those who appreciate thoughtful, artful prose, and for those who have yet to be introduced to this unique voice in Christian literary history.
A Year with G.K. Chesterton is published by Thomas Nelson and will be released on October 30, 2012.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”Buy Now