"In Defense of Sanity" – Review

In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton
G.K. Chesterton

I’ll admit what few are willing to say: it’s tough to read G.K. Chesterton. Now when I say that, I’m not just talking about his complexity or abundant use of paradox, though both are certainly difficult. I’m referring to the fact that Chesterton was so unbelievably prolific that determining where to start is a real challenge. He published scores of book, hundreds of letters, and more than five thousand essays throughout the twentieth century. So where to begin?

Thankfully, for those of us who can’t wade through all of his material, we now have a great solution. A trio of the world’s leading Chesterton authorities—Dale Ahlquist, Joseph Pearce, and Aidan Mackey—have joined forces to collect his greatest essays into one volume, In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton (Ignatius, paperback, 387 pages).

Chesterton’s essays provide a great introduction to his thought. According to Ahlquist, “The breadth of G.K. Chesterton’s achievement as an essayist is matched only by its depth. He is incredibly prolific and stunningly profound. Reading his essays not only provides a perfect lesson of this art form, but a lesson on everything else.”

And he truly means everything else. These 67 essays cover everything from Charles Dickens to mystics to barbarians to the difference between stained glass window and fireworks. They could have easily titled the book, “G.K. Chesterton’s Guide to Everything.” And because the essays are only 5-6 pages each, the book is easy to pick up and read in spurts.

Orthodoxy remains Chesterton’s most famous book, and his novels, mysteries, and poetry better reveal his imagination. But In Defense of Sanity offers the most complete introduction to Chesterton’s worldview. It’s intelligent, entertaining, and whimsical, just like Chesterton himself, and it reveals the characteristic sanity which makes him the true Apostle of Common Sense.