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  • Writer's pictureMegan

Book Review: "Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know"

I was so excited by the pre-publication information for Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know that I set it up as a pre-order. Fortunately, it has more than lived up to my excitement!

The author, Joseph Pearce, has a verbose style of writing that makes reading this book not something I have to do when I'm able to concentrate. The one section I was able to put to immediate use was the list of 100 Great Works of Literature Every Catholic Should Know, which I made liberal use of when planning out my 6-12th grade literature selections. Each of the works on the list is addressed in chronologically ordered chapters. While it is a cohesive work that could be read cover to cover, I find it more useful as a reference work that I can pull out when preparing to teach a specific work or author.

In that light, when I was pre-reading Memoria Press materials for our upcoming study of The Hobbit, I pulled this title out to see a firmly Catholic perspective. What I found was an incredible way of looking at this story! Joseph Pearce parallels Bilbo's physical journey with his spiritual growth in virtue and sanctity and then adds on that this entire work is a metaphor for our own journey through life. Not only does Pearce speak of this moral aspect of the story, he also draws parallels between Bilbo Baggins, Thorin, and Smaug that are more typical to what I would expect in a traditional English class. I paraphrased the section for Emma and will assign it as part of her study. Pearce's work develops Bilbo's growth as a person, which is a great way to emphasize how Tolkien's Catholic faith influenced his work, a fact which is woefully overlooked in the MP Study Guide.

This is not a curriculum or a lesson plan. This is not a place to pull reading comprehension questions. What it is is a spine style book useful in planning a multi-year literature progression and providing an overarching and unabashedly Catholic perspective on the chosen texts.

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