Books by C.S. Lewis - Books about C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) was an enigmatic literature professor at Oxford University. He became known to kids as an author of a series of children's fantasy novels, known to science fiction readers as the author of a sci fi trilogy, known to philosophers as a serious theologian, and the subject of numerous biographers who were interested in his devoted love for a woman.

Clive Staples Lewis made a transition in two decades from atheism to Christianity. Before, during and after this transition, his fiction used symbolism and allegory to represent moral strength and virtue. Like interpreters of an ink blot test who see what they expect to see, some readers say that his fantasy fiction for kids is purely adventurous, in the same genre as The Wizard of Oz, while others describe it as "children's Christian literature."

The Fantasy Fiction

The most popular fiction by C.S. Lewis is The Chronicles of Narnia (Paperback) ; (Hardcover). This boxed set of all seven books in the series, assembled as a box set in 1994, has moved periodically on and off the New York Times children's books bestsellers list and the children's books bestsellers list for several years. These books feature gorgeous illustrations by artist Pauline Baynes -- take a look at her artwork for the boxed set's front cover.

Publication sequence for the seven books of
The Chronicles of Narnia
  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  2. Prince Caspian
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  4. The Silver Chair
  5. The Horse and His Boy
  6. The Magician's Nephew
  7. The Last Battle

The purist fans of C.S. Lewis warn us that that the author intended these seven books to be read the order in which they were completed and published, not in chronological order. HarperCollins, the publisher of the boxed set, automatically numbered the books in chronological order. Therefore, for your reference, we list the recommended reading sequence, in the opinion of the literary connoisseurs.

The whole set is also available as a set of audio books on cassette tapes [abridged], which appears periodically on the bestsellers list for children's audio books. Among the performers on that audio book edition are actors Michael York and Ian Richardson. Another popular audio production is the BBC radio play of book #1, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, available since 1996 on cassette tape.

Many readers who are somewhat older than children, particularly science fiction enthusiasts, may say that Lewis's best work was his Space Trilogy. This series consists of volume 1 - Out of the Silent Planet, volume 2 - Perelandra : A Novel, and volume 3 - That Hideous Strength : A Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-Ups. If interested, consider this paperpack binding of all three books.

The Theology Books

To philosophers and scholars, C. S. Lewis was primarily a theologian. In some of his books, he analyzed individually several of the timeless religious questions, as in 1946, when he tackled the problem of good and evil in his book The Great Divorce, and in 1947, when he wrote Miracles.

In 1952 he compiled his material from several of his 1940s BBC radio lectures on the subject of religion to write Mere Christianity (Paperback) ; (Hardcover). In this volume, he set out, in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas, to show that certain religious principles can be proven with logic. The books contain an insightful foreword by Kathleen Norris. The same publisher, Harper San Francisco, also provides Mere Christianity unabridged on audio cassettes, read by Geoffrey Howard. A different publisher, Walker & Co., offers a paperback large print edition. Stacey Bianco has graciously given us approval to reprint her book review of Mere Christianity.

Lewis also used humorous fiction to as a medium for serious theological discourse. In The Screwtape Letters (Paperback); (Hardcover), written in 1942, Screwtape, a devil in hell, writes a series of letters to a fellow devil, Wormwood, offering advice on how Wormwood should proceed with his new assignment to subvert the soul of a World War II pilot. Greg Fontenot has offered this comment: "I thought the most intriguing part of the book was Screwtape's idea that the best way to 'win a man's soul' to the devil was to make him indifferent about good and evil; to make him feel that he's a 'pretty good' Christian, so he doesn't have to strive to become better."

Publishers have taken steps to compile Lewis's theological works into single volumes. In 2001, Harper released the 432 page Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters - Collector's Boxed Set (Hardcover) . This set contains another acclaimed foreword by Kathleen Norris. It makes a beautiful gift edition -- here are some pictures of the box set closed and the set opened.

But these more serious works were not the first books Lewis wrote after his religious conversion. The first book he wrote after this conversion, and his first novel, was The Pilgrim's Regress : An Allegorical Apology for Christianity Reason and Romanticism (Paperback). (Lewis didn't worry that the word "apology" has negative connotations, and he welcomed the description of himself as a "Christian apologist.") This book is an answer to John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. It takes the form of a trip to an enchanted island, and a satire of popular philosophies. It is also available as an audio book on cassette tapes or audio CD, narrated with enthusiasm by the talented Robert Whitfield.

Lewis referred to moral relativism, and the public education which he believed promotes it, as "the abolition of man,", which became the title of one of his essays in 1943. In this connection, I recommend the book C.S. Lewis for the Third Millennium : Six Essays on the Abolition of Man, edited by Peter Kreeft.

The Literature Textbook

After teaching at Oxford University since 1925, in 1954 Lewis was offered, and he accepted, the position of Chairman of the Department of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University. It was shortly thereafter that he wrote his college textbook Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature.

The Autobiography and the Biographies

In 1955 C.S. Lewis wrote his autobiography Surprised by Joy : The Shape of My Early Life (Paperback) ; (Hardcover) ; (Audio Book on Cassette Tapes - Unabridged). Here he covered his childhood and his later religious conversion. This is his "real" autobiography, as contrasted with the allegorical representation of his spiritual conversion that he had provided in The Pilgrim's Regress.

C.S. Lewis and the American poet Joy Davidman Gresham, who had met in 1952, were married in 1956. She died in 1960. In 1961 he expressed, in terms of his faith, his feelings about the loss of his wife, in a book entitled A Grief Observed. The available edition is a reprint; Lewis wrote under a pseudonym in the first edition. Added to this highly personal book are a foreword by Madeleine L'Engle and an afterword by Chad Walsh.

This book has been combined with some of Lewis's theological works with the convenient 2001 release of The C.S. Lewis Signature Classics : A Grief Observed / Miracles / The Problem of Pain / The Great Divorce / The Screwtape Letters / Mere Christianity.

The story of C. S. Lewis and Joy Gresham was told in the play Shadowlands, written by William Nicholson (1991, paperback). The play was later performed theatrically on stage and TV. In 1994 it was made into a movie, Shadowlands (VHS) ; (DVD). Anthony Hopkins plays Lewis, and Debra Winger plays Gresham. It was produced by HBO and directed by Richard Attenborough. Its running time is 2 hours and 13 minutes. The DVD edition is available only in widescreen format, and includes a behind-the-scenes featurette.

To most readers, the definitive biography of Lewis is Jack : A Life of C.S. Lewis, by George Sayer. (Many of Lewis's friends called him Jack). Lewis and Sayer were friends for 29 years, which makes the personal observations genuine. It's a 457 page paperback.

Somewhat less popular than Sayer's book is C.S. Lewis : A Biography, by Roger Lancelyn Green (Paperback, 320 pages). The strength of Green's book is that, in addition to the fact that Lewis and Green were friends, Green wrote it with access to all the family papers and records. The book includes some photographs not available elsewhere.

Generally, Lewis's biographers have taken great interest in the his relationship with Joy Davidman Gresham. The inverse is true as well: Lewis is a main theme is the biography of Gresham -- A Love Observed : Joy Davidman's Life & Marriage to C.S. Lewis , by Lyle W. Dorsett.

Douglas H. Gresham, Joy Gresham's son by her previous marriage, and Lewis's stepson, gave his perspective in his book Lenten Lands (1994 paperback reissue). The author didn't intended it primarily as a biography of his famous mother or stepfather, but as his recollection of his childhood growing up with them. While not a bestseller, it is filled with touching stories about a loving family, and includes 20 photos from the family album.

Probably the least intimate biography of Lewis, but mainly a look at the "religious leader" aspect, is C. S. Lewis - Writer and Scholar by Sam Wellman. Mr. Wellman is a "series" biographer who wrote this volume, along with his biographies of evangelist Billy Graham, missionary David Livingstone, and others, as part of his "Heroes of the Faith" series. In fact, Wellman has quite a few series, having composed biographies of singer Mariah Carey and actor Ben Affleck for his "Galaxy of Superstars" series, and Michelle Kwan and Kristi Yamaguchi for his "Female Figure Skating Legends" series. I'll stop short of calling this approach assembly-line biography writing, but merely recommend any of the deeply intimate biographies mentioned higher on this page.

Other Books

C. S. Lewis died on the same day as President John F. Kennedy and philosopher Aldous Huxley, November 22, 1963. Peter Kreeft wrote a book of fiction entitled Between Heaven and Hell, wherein these three gentlemen meet in purgatory and have a lively conversation.

Written by Mike Lepore for

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