The following are specific books Servant of God Dorothy Day mentions having read in her diary entries from the 1960s. This summer, I challenge you to read at least three books – one per month in June, July, and August – that formed this remarkable “saint of the poor” in modern times. For each decade of her life, we’re posting a blog with a new list of titles.
Click here for Part 1
Click here for Part 2
Click here for Part 3
All page references are from The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, edited by Robert Ellsberg (2008: Image Books).
1. The Pickwick Papers (1837) – Charles Dickens
2. Barnaby Rudge (1841) – Charles Dickens
3. David Copperfield (1850) – Charles Dickens
4. The Pope Speaks: The Teachings of Pope Pius XII (1957) – Michael Chinigo
5. Main Street (1920) – Sinclair Lewis. “I picked up Main St. yesterday by Sinclair Lewis and Gopher Prairie remains the same and in a way the people too, money making, getting ahead, oblivious to the ugliness of their small towns” (p. 300).
6. Day goes through a period in the early '60s of rereading many books from her past, including The Idiot, Liturgical Piety, and Seeds of the Desert.
7. Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha) (1951) – Mohandas K. Gandhi
8. Letter From Peking (1957) – Pearl S. Buck. “Light but interesting”.
9. Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (1902) – Peter Kropotkin. Day mentions this book as having heavily influenced educator Maria Montessori.
10. Conquest of Bread (1982) – Peter Kropotkin. “In which he talked of the difficulty, once a regime is overthrown, in building up a new economy. Certainly this was one of the difficulties in Cuba” (p. 340).
11. The Eternal Husband (1870) – Fyodor Dostoevsky. “He [Dostoyevsky] always makes me accept more” (p. 352).
12. Newman: His Life and Spirituality (1952) – Louis Bouyer. “It helped me a lot. Resolution to read more studiously and purposefully as a cure too for melancholy and discouragement. Newman read 12 hours a day!” (p. 357).
13. Day mentions reading Blessed Henry Suso’s “Pilgrim” in 1964. This is likely a reference to “Parable of the Pilgrim” by Walter Hinton, which was added as a preface to one of Suso’s works, A Little Book of Eternal Wisdom (14th century).
14. Letters From the Saints (1964); a collection of letters from canonized authors. Day mentions reading a letter from St. John Chrysostom “to an agitated woman about the state of the world. And that of several other saints announcing imminent end of the world because of its evils” (p. 360).
15. Herzog (1964) – Saul Bellow
16. The Problem of Pain (1940) – C.S. Lewis. Dorothy mentions this book in a list of items she carries in her purse, which also include a small New Testament, a Jesus Prayer pamphlet, and letters from friends in Mississippi (p. 367).
17. The Adventures of Augie March (1953) – Saul Bellow
18. The Moviegoer (1961) – Walker Percy
19. Approach to Calvary – Dom Hubert Van Zeller, OSB
20. Pigeon Feathers (1962) – John Updike. “A beautiful tribute to faith.”
21. John: "The Transitional Pope" (1965) – Fr. Ernesto Balducci
22. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1964) – Joanne Greenberg, under the pen name Hannah Green. “A strange story of a girl in a mental hospital, which Judy gave me. She also gave me quotes from Simone Weil, and from Thoreau” (p. 402).
23. Liberation – Marjorie Hope. This is likely a reference to Hope's 1950 book The Breaking of the Circle.
24. Select Essays, 1934-1943 (published posthumously) – Simone Weil
25. The Cloud of Unknowing (late 14th century) – Anonymous
26. Light on C.S. Lewis (1965) - edited by Jocelyn Gibb
27. La Vida (1966) – Oscar Lewis. Day (rather unhappily) reviewed this book for a publication: “Mailed review of La Vida. I will never write another book review. Not a fast reader – they take an immense amount of time, an unnecessary amount” (p. 407).
28. Homage to Catalonia (1938) – George Orwell
29. Life of Jesus (1937) – Francois Mauriac
30. The Power and the Wisdom: An Interpretation of the New Testament (1965) – Fr. John L. McKenzie
31. The Interior Castle (1588) – St. Teresa of Avila. “It is hard to realize I have not read her for 35 years! She will be my encouragement now in writing All is Grace [a book Day never finished]” (p. 419).
32. Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community (1967) – Martin Luther King, Jr.
33. Joy (1946) – Georges Bernanos
34. Applied Christianity (1944 or 1945) – John J. Hugo. A book about the work of Jesuit priest and retreat master Fr. Onesimus Lacouture, SJ (d. 1951)
35. Day mentions reading philosopher Paul Tillich; perhaps it was his "magnum opus", Systematic Theology (1953-1961).
36. Soul on Ice (1968) – Eldridge Cleaver
37. What Are These Wounds? The Life of a Cistercian Mystic St. Lutgarde of Aywières – Thomas Merton
38. True and the Beautiful (1858) – John Ruskin
39. The Divine Comedy Volume 1: Hell (1950) – introduced and translated by Dorothy L. Sayers. Day refers to The Divine Comedy as “a picture of our time. A must.” She then adds that “reading is oil that keeps lamp burning” (p. 446).
40. Revolution for the Hell of It (1968) – Abbie Hoffman. “A terrifying book, bitterness, hatred, hell unleashed. The fruits of war, materialism, prosperity founded on a slave class, whether black or white” (p. 447). Hoffman famously referred to Day as "the first hippie".
41. Zen and the Birds of Appetite (1969) - Thomas Merton. Day wrote in early 1969, “A beautiful book. How I will miss this man of God. He set us an example of hard and steady work” (p.456). Merton had died the year before.
42. The Great Divorce (1945) – C.S. Lewis
43. Arabia Deserta (1888) – Charles Montagu Doughty
44. The Song of Bernadette (1941) – Franz Werfel
45. Strength to Love (1963) – Martin Luther King, Jr.
46. The Spirit of Dostoyevsky (1923) – Nikolai Berdyaev
47. Cancer Ward (1966) – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
48. First Circle (1968) – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
49. The Documents of the Second Vatican Council (1963-1965) - all documents are available on the Vatican website