Books That Inspire 2002

G.K. Chesterton

Great writers have asked, "Can a truly good man ever be happy?" G. K. Chesterton turned this question on its head and asked "Can anybody but a good man be happy?" The protagonist, Innocent Smith, is placed on mock trial for house-breaking, shooting at a variety of people (including his university professor!), and abandoning his wife to chase after a young woman. While he is guilty of all this and more, he is also truly innocent. How this can be is the point of the story.

This is not a perfect novel. Like all of Chesterton's works, the characters are basically theological arguments personified. Some of the viewpoints are clearly dated, and one or two characters are unpleasant stereotypes. But Chesterton's love of paradox, his brilliant and clean writing, his exuberant take on Catholicism and his sheer affirmation of life make this book a joy to read. This is a book about joy, choosing a life, and living fearlessly.
Kieran Mullen
Associate Professor