Bookish heavenly virtues

Here’s another banner-waving bookish post which I hope you’ll find at least entertaining, even if not especially enlightening. But don’t decide on which option (or indeed either) till you’ve struggled your way through to the end!

You may remember the Bookish Deadly Sins tag I’d borrowed for a post. You may have wondered if there was a corresponding piece on the sins’ counterparts at the other end of the moral spectrum.

Well, wonder no more: this Bookish Heavenly Virtues tag is one I’ve borrowed from Ola and Piotrek, from their effervescent Re-enchantment of the World blog (Ponowne Zaczarowanie Świata in Polish), itself inspired by the Deadly Sins exercise.

They’ve based it on the traditional Seven Virtues of Roman Catholic doctrine; this is a concept I ought to be familiar with from the catechism my religious upbringing tried to drill into me but to little avail — abstractions are notions I’ve always struggled with.

So to refresh my mind I had an online check on what the seven virtues were. The “seven Christian or heavenly virtues combine the four classical cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and courage (or fortitude) with the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity,” I discovered.

I definitely remember the last three. Who can fail to recall them? They’re certainly popular female names. But the first four? One is another girl’s name (Prudence) while the remaining three (Justice, Temperance and Fortitude or Strength) I recognise as Major Arcana cards in the medieval Tarot pack. However, confusion comes when alternative terms are featured — Chastity instead of Fortitude or Strength, for example.

Anyway, here are the virtues (with their corresponding vices) which will be featured here:

Chastity, not Lust
Temperance, not Gluttony
Charity, not Greed
Diligence, not Sloth
Patience, not Wrath
Kindness, not Envy
Humility, not Pride

This turned out to be not as easy an exercise as I first thought.

Which author, book or series do you wish you’d never read?

First off, if there was a book or author I regretted reading I wouldn’t want to go on and read a series. Secondly, I try to find something of worth in even the direst of titles. But I did find it hard to find much in Mohamed AR’s debut novel The Longed Tales: The Chained King and the Castle of Mystery as my Goodreads review shows. As the phrase goes, there’s a few hours of my life I’ll never get back — thank goodness the author didn’t continue with his projected series! If I hadn’t received it for review I would have given up just a few pages in.

Which book or series did you find so good that you didn’t want to read it all at once, and you read it in doses just to make the pleasure last longer?

Here’s the thing: I’m not into bingeing in general, and certainly not when it comes to books. I like to savour a good piece of fiction, and to leave a decent amount of time between one chapter or instalment and the next. So it was with the individual books in the Robertson Davies Deptford Trilogy, and I shall treat his Salterton Trilogy in exactly the same way.

Which book, series or author do you tirelessly push to others, telling them about it or even giving away spare copies bought for that reason?

Well, you all know the answer to this, don’t you: Joan Aiken‘s books in general and her Wolves Chronicles in particular: I’ve been rabbiting on about them for absolute yonks. In a couple of months time I shall even be exploring some of the villains in the Chronicles for Witch Week 2019…

Which series or author do you follow no matter what happens and how long you have to wait?

I’m not a huge fanboy of any living author and so don’t find myself waiting for their next title or sequel with bated breath. Having said which, I was by the third Harry Potter book as keen as the next Potterhead to read what had happened to the Chosen One, the Boy Who Lived. And now, having very much enjoyed the His Dark Materials series and its associated titles I’m looking forward to The Secret Commonwealth, the second volume in The Book of Dust sequence.

And then of course there is a forthcoming BBC TV serial of the first book of the His Dark Materials sequence due for broadcast very soon. I’m nothing if not predictable in respect of my enjoyment of engaging, even if popular, fantasy writing!

Is there an author, book or series you’ve read that improved with time the most, starting out unpromising but ultimately proving rewarding?

This is the story of my reading life. Almost all those books I either skim-read or never finished as a teenager, classics mostly, have when I’ve revisited them proved rewarding in one way or another. That’s the trouble with maturing, isn’t it, and learning patience, gaining life experiences and so on: it shows up any wilful ignorance or arrogance one adopted in those years as a way of coping with everyday confusion. They’ve all improved with time!

For example, I can barely remember anything except one of two features of Kipling’s Kim and Twain’s Tom Sawyer (both read in my teens), certainly not enough for me to consider rereading them until recently. However, now I’m certain that all those intervening passages that sailed clear over my head then would in a future reread reveal any previously missed significance and relevance!

Which fictitious character would you consider your role model in the hassle of everyday life?

This I found was the most hardest question of all, enough that it merits a double superlative in my answer. In general my vote goes to any character who displays charity and compassion to their fellow creatures, who summons up a modicum of courage when it comes to difficult decisions, and who makes a positive difference to whatever situation they find themselves in.

Do you see my dilemma? Every fairytale character who gives their last piece of bread to somebody more deserving (whether or not they’re rewarded with magic wishes), who makes a sacrifice of some sort to redeem a potential catastrophe, or who by their actions counteracts some evil deed, is a role model. Every unregarded protagonist in fiction, every youngster in a bildungsroman, every individual facing and ameliorating a crisis situation could be a personal ideal. But as for naming just one? I can’t do it.

Which book, series or author do you find most under-rated?

I’m a champion of perceived underdogs, so you won’t find me lauding literary lions that are the current favourites of either prominent fans or media literati. It’s no surprise that I constantly bang the drum for authors like Diana Wynne Jones and Joan Aiken who perpetually seem to float under the surface of public recognition in terms of general acclamation, particularly as they are often seen as ‘only’ writers for children.

And that just about wraps up my bookish virtues. I wonder, if you also choose to take up this meme, whether you will find it as difficult as I did?

42 thoughts on “Bookish heavenly virtues

    1. Thanks for your comment, Samantha. It’s rare that, in one’s ‘day job’, one gets to do exactly whatever’s most desired but luckily I’m like you, in the position of reading what I want when I want, the only constraints being what we set ourselves.

      Interestingly, the creative writing course (leading to a lowly certificate equivalent of a first year of a first degree) which I’m nearly at the end of is challenging but fortunately I’ve enjoyed the range of reading materials we’ve been given — they have actually widened my comfort zone rather than pushing me out of it.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. I’m not sure which character I find most suitable as a role-model for everyday life but if I ever need a lot of courage I’d like the Brothers Lionheart on my side. Which also obviously would have had to be my answer on the charity question…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: Bookish heavenly virtues — Calmgrove – Earth Balm Creative

  3. Yay! Thank you for the shout-out 😀

    I found your answers both entertaining and enlightening, Chris 😀

    Not many things surprised me, which I guess means only that a) you come off as a very steadfast person and b) I read your blog avidly 😉 I do love your answer to the Kindness question, and I think you’ll find a lot of the virtues you described in Pratchett’s Brutha, as in many others 🙂

    I resolve to give a second chance to Pullman. I couldn’t really get into His Dark Materials and I abandoned Golden Compass halfway 😉 Maybe it’s time to attempt a re-read!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks so much for the inspiration, Ola (and Piotrek?)! I found this to be a revealing exercise, finding what a pull my comfort zone has though not quite deciding whether that’s a good or bad thing! But despite being a cautious reader I shall have to explore Pratchett me — if only to discover who Brutha is…

      I hope to, among so many other titles, revisit the second novel of the His Dark Materials trilogy, and maybe my review will persuade you as to the merits of Pullman’s fantasy. Then there’s the second instalment of his new trilogy being issued in October: so many books…

      Liked by 4 people

      1. piotrek

        It’s Ola’s brilliant idea that was coined into a post with a bit of my help. Sins seem to be way more popular these days, but we wanted a more positive tag 🙂 Thanks for joining us, Chris!

        You even did some work that perhaps we should have done, giving more context to the very concept of seven virtues. I guess being Polish we just assumed it’s something obvious 😉

        I’m not going to repeat my pledges to read several of the books you mentioned here 😉 but they are still there, on my TBR. I’m also waiting for the “His Dark Materials” series, I quite liked it and hope to one day give it to my nieces, as a slightly subversive gift…

        Great answer to the “Kindness” question, I decided to name some names, but I like your version more 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Credit to all concerned, Piotrek, whatever their input! Your joint religious inspiration appealed because even though I’ve been completely irreligious since my teens I keen on any poetry I can identify in the concepts. I think atheists like Pullman and Dawkins also appreciate any poetry they can find in religion: His Dark Materials celebrates Milton’s Biblical treatment and even The God Delusion lauds the literary language he grew up with.

          Liked by 2 people

        1. Ditto for blogger awards, which just seem to be an excuse for over-sharing— there’s enough of that on social media and who knows to what nefarious purposes this can lead to these days!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Alyson Woodhouse

    What a fun topic. As a newcomer to your blog, I enjoyed hearing about some of your reading tastes and preferences. As a practicing Christian, I really should have remembered these first four virtues. Hmm.

    I’ve had a similar experience as you with classics improving with age and maturity. I think for me though, my enjoyment in classics has come from the fact that I am now choosing to read them for myself, rather than having been forced to at school or as part of an English Literature degree. I must be a slightly perverse reader however, as for some reason, my favorite novels from well known novelists appear to be most other people’s least favorites. Very strange.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I do so agree that with maturity comes the opportunity for appreciation, especially if themes require a more thorough experience of life and its challenges.

      I’m in two minds about the being forced to read them at school or at degree level: on the one hand it can put you off literature — and particularly the classics — for life; but on the other I am surprised at how many odd bits of knowledge and understanding have flaked off and embedded themselves in my memory, ready to be revived and hopefully placed into a context that is more meaningful.

      As for one’s favourites not being rated as highly as they should by other people, there’s no accounting for tastes!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a pleasure to read this. I would like to do it. Let’s see if I can carve some time for it. I’m positive that you’ll love Kim. I have read Kipling not that long ago, while I homeschool the girls, and he’s a favorite author and poet at home. Like you, everything I read lately is simply better. That’s one good thing about maturing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m sure I’ll enjoy my reread of Kim, Silvia. I have a copy my parents gave me around 1960 — inscribed as well! — and my reading shall be bolstered by fading memories of the little they told me of their childhood and adulthood in India before Partition and Independence.

      I would love to see your take on this tag too, if you decide to do it!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Hmm… I’d find most of it hard but a couple are easy. My Kindness character is undoubtedly Anne of Green Gables – she’s been my role model since I was around eight or nine. So much so that no man has ever quite lived up to Gilbert Blythe in my estimation. 😉 And the most under-rated author is Ken Kalfus. Although I wouldn’t say he was under-rated exactly – he seems to be very highly regarded by those who’ve read him, but not enough people have. I rave on about him regularly but without much effect as far as I can tell, which keeps me humble, thus fulfilling another virtue…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Kalfus is a new name to me, worth me doing a bit of research so thus proving you’ve had some effect at least! Anne of Green Gables is on my Classics Club list so I shall at some stage be seeing what all the fuss is about…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. earthbalm

    FictionFan, I too am a fan of Anne Shirley. I’m surest if you identify with her then you’ll find much to admire in my favourite book character – Tiffany Aching from the Terry Pratchett YA novels.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. He wrote many more than people may realise, not just the Tiffany Aching books Earthbalm mentions but also a trio of featuring a lad called Johnny (here’s a review of one of them:, some others also set in Discworld like the Tiffany novels (The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents is a title that springs to mind) and many others.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. earthbalm

        In addition to Chris’s suggestions there is the Bromeliad trilogy “Truckers”, “Diggers” and “Wings”. Recommended reading that spans Children’s / YA.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Some really interesting questions here. After reading through your answers I read the questions again and worked out my own answers. The author Matthew Stover and the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars figured quite heavily.


  9. What a lovely post. I’m hooked. This is not just a list, it’s a series of vignettes.

    I can’t resist this one, especially since, as you and Lory have discussed above, there’s no compulsion to ‘volunteer’ other people at the end of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is such a great way to think about what we read and what we think about it.

    I second Silvia’s recommendation of Kim. I only first read it a few years ago and really liked it. Of course, as an adult, one recognizes the implied colonial supremacy of white Britons which I would have missed (or rather subliminally accepted it as correct) at the time. But that aside, it is a pretty great adventure story and Kipling’s love of India comes through despite the “white man’s burden” attitude.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting, Ruthiella, and for your kind comments. Kim would theoretically be a reread, but apart from remembering odd plot points from watching the execrable film from the 50s a year or so ago (yet another revisit!) there’s little I recall of the novel apart from the striking opening pages, the broken plate episode, the lama and the cliffhanging moment.


  11. Pingback: Seven Bookish Virtues/Sins Tag | Lizzie Ross

  12. Pingback: Fun for Monday: The Seven Virtues Book Tag – bookforager

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