Dr Constantine Cavarnos [* see the end of this post for an update], head of the Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studes in Belmont, Massachusetts, has for a number of years been a writer of discernment on matters Orthodox, with a special emphasis on traditional expressions of Orthodoxy in Greek culture. His books are numerous (see those listed on the IBMGS site), and all the ones I’ve read have always been as informative as they are edifying. It’s a rare talent to accomplish the two regularly, but Dr Cavarnos succeeds entirely.
His series on Modern Orthodox Saints is a case in point. The series is 15 volumes (short descriptions here). The first of these that I ever picked up was volume six, on Saint Arsenios of Paros. I’ve appreciated the quality of both the writing and the books ever since. On the quality of the books, it is perhaps sufficient to note that the paper is a thick, smooth, and of a cream colour, obviously acid-free, with sewn bindings in both hardcover and softcover. The softcovers have particularly sturdy cardstock for covers, thicker than is usual. The quality of both the writing and the book production are suitable to the subject matter. The books are well-organized and full of information, but these are not academic treatises. They are more like a cross between biographies and extensive modern hagiographies. As these saints are all relatively recently reposed, some indeed very recently, there were numerous sources available to give accurate detail to their lives, including photographs of the saints and their surroundings, where available. Several of the saints were even interviewed by Dr Cavarnos, and so we benefit from his sharing this primary source material. I cannot recommend them highly enough.
Here is the list of volumes:
1: St. Cosmas Aitolos
2: St. Macarios of Corinth
3: St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite
4: St. Nikephoros of Chios
5: St. Seraphim of Sarov
6: St. Arsenios of Paros
7: St. Nectarios of Aegina
8: St. Savvas the New
9: St. Methodia of Kimolos
10: Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene of Lesvos
11: Blessed Elder Philotheos ZeArirvakos
12: Blessed Hermit Philaretos of the Holy Mountain
13: Blessed Elder Gabriel Dionysiatis
14: Blessed Elder Iakovos of Epiros, Elder Joseph the
Hesychast, and Mother Stavritsa the Missionary
15: Saint Athanasios Parios
The Modern Orthodox Saints volumes are all available from the Institute itself. One may also find the volumes at Saint Nectarios Press. I’ve only had good experiences with both. Saint Nectarios Press offers a large selection of Lives of Saints, some of them very inexpensive indeed, ranging from thick books to pamphlets of a few pages.
While it may seem thoroughly medieval of me, I thoroughly enjoy reading the lives of the saints. I recommend stocking up on them.
* Update on Dr Constantine Cavarnos:
Dr Cavarnos, in the last year of his life, moved to and became a monk at St Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona. He was tonsured a Monk of the Great Schema. Schemamonk Constantine reposed there on the third of March, 2011.