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The Great Books COVID-19 Challenge

The Great Books COVID-19 Challenge Written by Ty Fischer
The Great Books COVID-19 Challenge

Got a little time on your hands? A little more time than you thought you would, right? Is fretting about the future really adding a farthing to your purse or anything but anxiety to your life? For most of you the answers to these questions are: Yes, very much YES, and NO! 

So, with the pandemic keeping many of us home, why not use the time to do something that you should have done a long time ago and that will bless you more than you can imagine. Here is the challenge: read three of the Great Books that you should have read but that you have been putting off. 

Let me divide things up into three categories for you: Epic Poetry, History, and Great Novels. Choose 1 book from each of the three lists below and read them during the next COVID-19 disrupted month. First let me give you the list:

Epic Poetry: We read Epic Poetry because it is the literature that is built into the deep foundations of our world. It forms the imagination. Epic poems have fed the souls of humans for thousands of years. Every time I go back to one of these epics and feel the world around me resonate because they are built into the common human experience. Here are a few to choose from:

My favorite is The Comedy, but admittedly it is one of the least accessible. Let me recommend that you pick up or download a copy of The Odyssey during this time. It is the most accessible and one of the most action packed. It takes us through the rollicking adventures of the cunning warrior Odysseus who is, through constant sorrow, making his way home. It helps us consider the value of home and the joy of a journey (which might be really helpful if you are stuck at home). 

The next list is history. We read history because if helps us see our times for what they actually are: common human experience. History is full of wars and plagues. We should not be shocked when we face them. Pick one of these three:

Let me recommend that you consider The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides. It is are larger book, but it is so timely for today. It has great speeches like Pericles famous “Funeral Oration” that cause us to ask the question: what is the value of civilization and community? These are great questions to consider during these trying times. It also has a chilling section about the Revolution in the city of Corcyra that best describes the onset of and the dangers in the kind of political division we are facing today in America. 

Finally, pick one great novel. Novels are stories. They take us away from our current trouble to live through the troubles and joys of others. Sound good to you? Here are a few choices:

Of these, during these times I would recommend Emma. The lightest and most fun of all of Austen’s novels. It takes you into a world of plans gone awry and misinterpretations. It also focuses on relationships and during this time when we are all kept from so many relationships it is good to get your fix. 

If you take this challenge, know this: it will be hard work and it will bless you. If you have not read these books, you should. You will have a fuller life after reading them because you will see the world differently and experience joy and sadness more fully. The other great news is that many of these books are free or close to free in electronic (Kindle) copy and they are very inexpensive in softcover editions. There are also great audiobook versions of all of them, so no excuses! 

In addition, we are going to help you meet this challenge. We are going to have times to meet online, build community, and discuss the works that we are reading. We hope that this can be a joyful and an encouraging time of fellowship for all of us.  

We will host online discussions of the following books. Please check back for times to join these discussions online.  We will be hosting the book groups here - click to join.

  • April 29th - Paradise Lost
  • May 6th - Emma
  • May 13th - The Odyssey 

None of us wants this time of disruption, but when you are faced with hardship, you still have the opportunity to make a choice. Are you going to mope around the house and complain about the virus or the stock market, or will you make the most of the time God has given you? Choose the latter, take the challenge, and you might just leave this month better than you started it.