This book is a collection of essays by GK Chesterton, with topics ranging across literature, anecdotes from his travels and religion. The essays on literature cover both writing, in “How to write a detective story” and reading, including his insights into Macbeth and King Lear among others. On religion he warns in a couple of essays of the folly of trying to separate religion from the rest of life, for example as is now common in education; while in his travel anecdotes he finds significance in the small details the rest of us may not notice.
The title of the collection comes from a BBC radio broadcast Chesterton made on that topic. Here he warns against seeking happiness in only external pleasures, but calls the listener to find the joy of being alive; “a man when he is alone can be happy because he is alive”. He laments the impact of technology on people’s lives, as providing more and more “noises”, when it is quiet and time to think that we need.
As you would expect from Chesterton, these essays are eloquent and wise, often giving a new perspective or insight on his topic, and frequently humorous. However, many of the essays, by their nature, are disappointingly short and don’t feel as satisfying to read as his longer works. I’m left wanting to go deeper and spend more time with his thoughts than these allow. So while I have enjoyed this collection I would be more likely to re-visit one of his longer books than this.