In very early 2018, Tim Feldhausen and I decided we needed a Hobbit Club. Our club would be a book club of local friends, most of whom had read little to nothing of J. R. R. Tolkien, but who were willing to read both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings alongside Joseph Pearce’s Tolkien companion books, Bilbo’s Journey and Frodo’s Journey. Tim and I knew Middle Earth was ripe with Christian (and specifically Catholic) imagery, and we wanted to read these treasures with others who would appreciate the beauty of Tolkien’s worldview and the power it has to shape our lives for good. We met monthly for more than a year, and you can read about those meetings here.
Along the way, a few of us decided we wanted to meet more often than monthly, and we wanted to read hard classics that most or all of us had never gotten through. We decided on a weekly scheme and began with Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.
Just as we were getting things going with Brothers K during the week and we were making our way through Lewis’s Space Trilogy at Hobbit Club on once-monthly Sundays, the pandemic hit and everything changed. The Hobbit Club voted to dissolve, but the Tuesday Night Classics club agreed to move to Zoom. And, what a precious, life-giving gift those Tuesday nights were during those long weeks of lockdown! Our weekly meetings, while we read Russian authors, were like air to us. It gave us a sense of normalcy in a time that was anything but normal.
Three years later, my Tuesday Night Classics Club is going strong and getting ready to return to The Brothers Karamazov for a re-read starting in January 2023. Since we started, our group has doubled in size to a nice number of 13, and not everyone who is now a member had a chance to read Dostoevsky. And, as an understanding of how one classic informs our understanding of others, we felt that all of our group needed to be invited into the world of the Russian authors before we went much further.
For the most part, we come to these meetings with no formal plan. Just good friends, good snacks and drinks, and a good reading assignment to discuss. When you see more than one title in the month, it is usually because we were trying to read two books at once and discuss both. I do not recommend this strategy. We had good reasons for doing it, but it was much more trouble than it was worth in the end.
You can listen to several of our podcast discussions about these meetings:
Whenever I share this story, online friends bemoan that they do not have such a club. I understand that. I didn’t either until the Lord brought this together for me. I encourage you to pray, and when prompted, find a friend or two and just start.
I do have one suggestion for those who feel they could benefit from a little discussion support . . . when we did Dante’s Divine Comedy, we used Roman Roads Press’s Old Western Culture reading assignments and videos to help. They were a huge hit for our group. Everyone loved Wes’s insights and his approach, and it absolutely enriched our discussion.
February – April: Brothers Karamazov by Fydor Dostoevsky
May – June: Crime and Punishment by Fydor Dostoevsky
July: Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
August: The Chosen by Chaim Potok
September – November: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy & The Iliad by Homer
December: King Lear by William Shakespeare & A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
January: A few Flannery O’Connor short stories
February – April: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens & The Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen
May – June: The Inferno by Dante
July: The Power and the Glory by Graham Green & Roverandom by J. R. R. Tolkien
August: Purgatorio by Dante
September: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
October: Paradiso by Dante
November: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
January: Vita B: The Life of St. Norbert by his first followers
February-March: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
April: Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
May: The Odyssey by Homer
June: more Flannery O’Connor short stories and Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail
July: Selections from The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison
August – September: The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
October – November: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh and Macbeth by William Shakespeare
December: The Death of Ivan Illyich by Leo Tolstoy and The Chimes by Charles Dickens
Return to The Brothers Karamazov by Fydor Dostoevsky