I recently received a copy of The Quotable Chesterton by Kevin Belmonte from Booksneeze in exchange for a review. I did this with pleasure because I am a huge Chesterton fan. If you are, too, then this is the book for you. It is a compilation of hundreds of excerpts from Chesterton's prolific amount of books. Much of it is theological or apologetical, some of it is his personal observations and commentaries of other writers.
The book is set up rather like a dictionary in that the topics are in alphabetical order. For instance in A you can read Chesterton's insightful comments about Adventures, Agnosticism, and Anarchy. In B you can read what he has to say about Barbarism, Bigotry and Blasphemies. In C he discourses on Capricious Divorce, Christ, Christianity, the Church and so on.
There are quite a few authors that he comments on such as Austin, the Brontes, Bunyan, Chaucer and Dickens. Other subjects include Cathedrals, Architecture, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Modern books, and Religious Liberty.
All quotes have sources numbered and listed in the back. Some quotes are short, some lengthy but all are meaty and thought provoking. Hopefully by reading tidbits of his books the reader will be motivated to go out and read the entire source. I've listed a few of his books below.
If you read no other apologetical work by Chesterton, this is the work you must read. It traces his own conversion largely caused by the illogical arguements of atheists and agnostics. His own logic and wit can be dizzying at times but if one takes the time to truly process what he is saying they will find themselves going "aha!" over and over again.
The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond
A diverting and enjoyable collection of of short mystery stories, all suspenseful and solved by the humble Mr. Pond. These shorts are probably among the most intriguing and one of my favorite of Chesterton's works.
The Ball and the Cross
This story, which is one huge chase scene, is wrapped around a debate between an unbeliever and a Christian (albeit a very Catholic one). Each man, both Scottish, challenge each other to a duel to fight to the death for their zealously held beliefs. They are constantly interrupted from their objective in their flight from the police. Along the way they meet many a strange person who are actually metaphors for different belief systems who argue with the Scotsmen before the arrival of the police drive them away again. Sometimes hard to follow but never dull, The Ball and the Cross is a fascinating story.
The Man Who Was Thursday
And speaking of chase scenes, here's another story where everyone ends up chasing everyone only to find out the whole thing is a, well I won't spoiler. Again it is Christianity versus man made ideals. Ideals that are dressed up as freedom but in reality only produce tyranny and oppression. Gabriel Syme joins a group of anarchists who are only known by days. Syme becomes Thursday. However, he is not really an anarchist but an undercover agent for Scotland Yard. What he finds out is terrifying and unexpectedly wonderful. You'll have to read the book to find out what I'm talking about.
The Father Brown Omnibus
Last but not least, the stories that introduced me to Chesterton, the Catholic priest/murder detective. Father Brown is like a Catholic Sherlock Holmes. Chesterton got the idea for a priest detective when he had a conversation with a priest who gave confessions for prisoners. The priest mentioned some of the crimes and sordid life he was aware of through his confessors. This caused Chesterton to realize that priests were not the naive, sheltered religious figures that so many people peg them as. This realization also caused him to eventually convert to Catholicism and become a leading apologist for Christianity, influencing the likes of C.S. Lewis and Dorothy Sayers.
While the Sherlock Holmes stories are entertaining in how the mystery is solved, the Father Brown stories take it one step further by delving into the character and mindset of the criminal. Each story is really an exercise in apologetics, exploring the desperate nature of man and the grace of God. As many as they are, you'll be sorry when you come to the last mystery of this omnibus.