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A reading plan for the works of Evelyn Waugh (Photo Gallery)

A reading plan for the works of Evelyn Waugh

John Touhey | Aleteia

John Touhey - published on 04/08/24

The books of this great British writer, a Catholic convert, are essential reading if one wishes to make sense of today’s world through the lens of faith.

The popularity of Brideshead Revisited will ensure that the novelist Evelyn Waugh will be read for decades to come, especially among Catholics. Funny, moving, romantic, and insightful, the novel is well-deserving of the attention it gets. However, Brideshead often turns out to be the only Waugh book that many people read – and that is deeply unfortunate.

Imagine scoring a table at the world’s best restaurant, run by a master chef, and you and everyone else at your table order his signature dish, the one he is famous for. All the other diners around you have naturally done the same thing – except for a little man at the next table who is happily devouring a different dish. With a smile he tells you that he is a regular. “Every time I come here, I order something different,” he says, “and it’s always amazing!” Happily, the signature dish you ordered turns out to be delicious – but doesn’t that make you even more eager to return to that restaurant and try something else?  

A diverse menu

I love Brideshead Revisited, but there is at least one other Waugh book that surpasses it in my view (as you will discover in the Photo Gallery below). Personally, I find that all of Evelyn Waugh’s books are not only worth the time investment, but make for essential reading. Here are a few reasons why:

  • As a writer, Evelyn Waugh is a superb craftsman at both the level of story and individual sentences. His books are a pleasure to read and will make you a smarter reader.
  • Waugh had a keen understanding of our world. Though he died almost 60 years ago, the underlying cultural and political realities he depicts have only changed superficially in the decades since. If you find today’s world frenetic and incomprehensible, read Evelyn Waugh and he will help you perceive why things are this way.
  • He understands that Christianity can be easily sentimentalized or turned into a series of moral platitudes and has no patience for such nonsense. Whenever divine grace appears in Waugh’s books, it comes not through some great spiritual enlightenment or ecstatic emotional experience, but through a tangible, concrete event. Waugh understands that this is what makes the Christian claim so exceptional among the world’s religions.
  • Finally, Evelyn Waugh was a very funny writer. His is the best kind of humor, in my humble opinion, because it speaks truth (some of it bitter) and provokes not just laughter but thought. Certain outrageous characters and comic situations will stay with you long after you finish his books.  

What should I read after Brideshead?

So, go ahead and try Waugh’s signature dish. But after you have read Brideshead, order something else from his menu. And if you would like a little more guidance on what to read next, check out the PHOTO GALLERY below where you will find An Evelyn Waugh Reading Plan.

BooksCatholicismChristian virtues
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