Read: The Complete Father Brown, G. K. Chesterton. This single-volume collection includes five separate volumes of Father Brown stories, so I’m counting it as five books. And if you object, neener neener to you!
I rather liked the moral universe that Chesterton builds up over the course of the stories. Chesterton doesn’t pretend to be friendly to atheists, or to spiritualism, or really to any religion that isn’t Catholicism - but at least he’s fairly overt about his prejudices on that front. If you ignore his attitude that there’s only One True Faith, though, he has some wonderfully cogent moral points that he builds right in to the stories. Father Brown spends his time dealing with thieves, murderers and criminals of other assorted sorts - and the way he handles them in-story demonstrates just what Chesterton thinks one should do about sin and crime (not always the same thing).
I think my favorite moment is toward the end of “The Chief Mourner of Marne.” While it’s not the best story in the collection, Father Brown gets to make a fantastic point about forgiveness and charity. I won’t spoil the story by telling you the context of the speech, but the point is that it’s easy to forgive things that seem forgivable (for example, crimes of passion). Our greater duty, though, is to try to understand and forgive and offer compassion when the act seems unforgivable and even incomprehensible. That is true compassion - to be compassionate even when it seems impossible.
On a lighter front, I also loved the way that Father Brown is constantly trying to explain how the crime was done mid-story, but no one ever listens to him because he’s so quiet and mild-mannered. Hee.
By the way, if my keeping a reading list here will bother you, this is the time to speak up. I’m going to try to include capsule reviews for purposes of not being too boring, but I can’t promise I’ll always have time to write about what I’m reading. Writing about my reading is one of my New Year’s resolutions, though, so I hope you folks are interested in hearing it!