Beach Books

This past winter was one of the coldest ever, but now that summer has finally arrived, I for one am looking forward to hitting the beach. I'll slather on sunscreen, play volleyball with the grandkids, and try to avoid getting womped on the head by Frisbees. But I also plan to do something I never have enough time for the rest of the year: read some good books-books that rejuvenate my soul while I rejuvenate my body. And I'd like to recommend a few of my own favorite novels that you'll maybe want to tuck into your beachbag this summer, along with the soft drinks and Doritos. My all-time favorite novel is The Brothers Karamozov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. There's a murder at the heart of this story. And Dostoyevsky dissects, in fiction, the great moral quandaries debated by philosophers through the ages, which he boils down to one, unforgettable dictum: "If there is no God, then everything is permissible." If you like science fiction, try C. S. Lewis's space trilogy. That Hideous Strength is my favorite. As with Lewis's other works, the storyline is structured along great Christian themes. Then there's Walker Percy's thriller, The Thanatos Syndrome. This novel deals with today's life and death issues like abortion and euthanasia. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I will tell you this much: You won't see copies of The Thanatos Syndrome in the waiting rooms at Planned Parenthood clinics. If you're looking for something lighter, grab a few of the Father Brown murder mysteries, written by the great Christian social critic G. K. Chesterton. Follow his clean, clear logic as Father Brown solves his cases, proving that if you immerse yourself in God's truth, you'll become a more rational thinker. Now, I don't know about you, but when I check out what other folks are reading at the beach, I see a lot of paperbacks with steamy titles and even steamier cover art-as if the beach wasn't hot enough. The books I'm recommending may seem a little more serious, but that doesn't mean they're dull or tame. Like today's bestsellers, great literature deals with themes of human depravity as well as human greatness. The difference is how great literature treats those themes. For example, The Brothers Karamozov touches on murder and adultery. But instead of offering them up for the reader's titillation, the way popular writers do, Dostoyevsky uses them as a springboard to explore the human soul. He reveals both goodness and depravity for what they are. One of the reasons we read fiction instead of moral treatises is because fiction helps train the moral imagination. As the late Russell Kirk put it, the battle for our hearts and minds will be fought in the "land of the human imagination." So make some room in your beachbag for one or more of these great books. Try reading one in between searching for that lost Frisbee and wiping sand off your hot dog. They're books that will nourish your mind-and replenish your soul.


Chuck Colson



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