CS Lewis is one of my most favorite authors ever. He has such an amazing way and gift with words, everything of his I read just blows me away. Which is why today I am asking you, dear reader, have you read enough CS Lewis? This is an important question. Like, astronomically so. If you haven't read the proper amount of CS Lewis have you really even lived? No. Definitely not. So I am here today to give a checklist of the CS Lewis must-reads and why they are must-reads.
Get ready to make a list and run down to your local library or bookstore to start reading these magnificent classics!
1. THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA (The Magician's Nephew, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair and The Last Battle)
Set in the fictional realm of Narnia, a fantasy world of magic, mythical beasts, and talking animals, the series narrates the adventures of various children who play central roles in the unfolding history of that world. Except in The Horse and His Boy, the protagonists are all children from the real world, magically transported to Narnia, where they are called upon by the lion Aslan to protect Narnia from evil and restore the throne to its rightful line. The books span the entire history of Narnia, from its creation in The Magician's Nephew to its eventual destruction in The Last Battle.
Of course everyone has read the Narnia books. What self-respecting child has foregone the opportunity to walk through the wardrobe into the magical realm of Narnia (I'm literally itching for these books on my bookshelf now that I'm talking about it.)? Certainly these are Mr. Lewis' most famous and widely-read stories - and for good reason. They were my first introduction to both CS Lewis and fantasy itself and have since remained among my most favorite stories of all time. If you are among the like, two people ever who haven't had the privilege of reading the Narnia series I recommend you start here. Once you get deeper into other CS Lewis books things get even more mind-blowing and Narnia is a great way to start into the fascinating and very intense world of CS Lewis' writing.
2. THE SPACE TRILOGY (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength)
Out of the Silent Planet (1938), set mostly on Mars (Malacandra). In this book, Elwin Ransom voyages to Mars and discovers that Earth is exiled from the rest of the solar system. Far back in Earth's past, it fell to an angelic being known as the Bent Oyarsa, and now, to prevent contamination of the rest of the Solar System ("The Field of Arbol"), it is known as "the silent planet" (Thulcandra).
Perelandra (1943), set mostly on Venus. Also known as Voyage to Venus. Here Dr Ransom journeys to an unspoiled Venus in which the first humanoids have just emerged.
That Hideous Strength (1945), set on Earth. A scientific think tank called the N.I.C.E. (The National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments) is secretly in touch with demonic entities who plan to ravage and lay waste to planet Earth.
If you are unfortunately unaware that CS Lewis penned a magnificent sci-fi/dystopia trilogy that includes space travel, the most unique and beautiful aliens of ever, newly created planets, evil organizations, Roman mythology, political conspiracy, Christian theology, dystopian overtones, British legends with an actual Merlin coming alive and walking around 1940's England then, my poor, poor friend, you are MISSING OUT.
Seriously, if you really loved Narnia and you also have any amount of interest in sci-fi or the 40's or mythology or political conspiracy then you should definitely stop what you're doing and go READ THESE BOOKS. I will even forgive you if you log out of my blog post to go do it. They are seriously amazing and ridiculously underrated. If you haven't read The Space Trilogy what are you doing with your life? I promise that your experience with these books will be life-changing (although I don't think one can read a CS Lewis book without some sort of life-change).
3. THE GREAT DIVORCE
The narrator inexplicably finds himself in a grim and joyless city, the "grey town", which is either Hell or Purgatory depending on how long one stays there. He eventually finds a bus for those who desire an excursion to some other place (and which eventually turns out to be the foothills of Heaven).
This was my second venture into CS Lewis novels and left a profound impact on my life. The whole concept of the story was so fascinating and the way that Lewis time and time again delivers simple and honest observations about the finer and yet most obvious points of reality never ceases to blow my mind. This is a short book, easily read in an afternoon, but not easily forgotten. The ideas and image from the scenes of Heaven will stay with you long after reading the last page.
What more can I say about this completely compelling and thought-provoking novel? Why, that you should go and read it of course!
Also, if you are a Christian, this book is going to deeply challenge some of your beliefs and views on the afterlife, I don't think that CS Lewis intended his vision to be portrayed as fact at all, but I do think that there is much to be gleaned from this image of Heaven that he paints.
If you aren't a Christian, I'm pretty sure you can and will enjoy this book. It's too epic and interesting to not.
4. TIL WE HAVE FACES
A retelling of Cupid and Psyche, based on its telling in a chapter of The Golden Ass of Apuleius. This story had haunted Lewis all his life, because he realized that some of the main characters' actions were illogical. As a consequence, his retelling of the story is characterized by a highly developed character, the narrator, with the reader being drawn into her reasoning and her emotions. This was his last novel, and he considered it his most mature, written in conjunction with his wife, Joy Davidman.
The first part of the book is written from the perspective of Psyche's older sister Orual, as an accusation against the gods. The story is set in the fictive kingdom of Glome, a primitive city-state whose people have occasional contact with civilized Hellenistic Greece. In the second part of the book, the narrator undergoes a change of mindset (Lewis would use the term conversion) and understands that her initial accusation was tainted by her own failings and shortcomings, and that the gods are lovingly present in humans' lives.
I read this just last year. I don't understand how Mr. Lewis was so blessedly gifted in the realm of fictional inspiration, but man...this story is another one of his many masterpieces. Again, so ashamedly underrated that it hurts, but I do my best to promote his other works to the best of my ability.
This story is a beautiful retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. Each member of the small cast of characters, particularly Orual, is wholly fascinating and likable (in my opinion). If you've ever wondered about the "How could a loving God..." question then this is an excellent book to read.
It's an excellent book to read anyway.
5. THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS
A Christian apologetic novel written in a satirical, epistolary style and while it is fictional in format, the plot and characters are used to address Christian theological issues, primarily those to do with temptation and resistance to it. First published in February 1942, the story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle's mentorship pertains to the nephew's responsibility in securing the damnation of a British man known only as "the Patient".
One day I was really feeling under the weather and pulled this book off the nearest shelf to entertain me in the throes of my discomfort. I was finished in an afternoon, unable to put it down. It was at once incredibly interesting, convicting and startling - as most of CS Lewis' books turn out to be.
Theology on demons seems very few and far between and to read about these creatures watching over a specific person and possessing a frightening level of intelligence in how to cause him to stumble the best was certainly disconcerting - but not unwelcome. I really enjoyed this story because it opened my eyes and my mind in a lot of ways to the spiritual activity around me. Well, well, well worth a read for Christians and non-Christians alike.
6. A GRIEF OBSERVED
A non-fiction reflection from author and theologian C.S. Lewis on the process of grieving for his wife, who died of cancer after three years of marriage.
I also read this last year (on a CS Lewis fix) and since the book is very, very short I got through it quickly. I would recommend not reading it TOO fast though, there is a lot to be taken in here. Whether or not you have ever lost a loved one this is a book to touch any soul and really make you think about the life you're living with the people around you and also about death and what it takes and how to move through it. It is NOT a light-hearted read and may even bring some tears, but more than that it will get you thinking - not just with your head but with your heart - and that I believe is the most beautiful and universal affect of CS Lewis' works.
Well, there you have it, folks. My very favoritest CS Lewis works and why I think you should go out and make them your favorites too. It's a personal mission of mine to make the lesser known CS Lewis classics known to those around me because I truly believe that everyone should read them. That includes YOU. So, what are you still doing here? Go out and get yourself a copy of something on this list and start on in!
What's you're very favorite CS Lewis book? Or have you not read any CS Lewis at all (you poor, poor soul!)? Let's remedy that, if there's a book on this list that you haven't read that stands out to you let me know which and why and I will encourage you to give it a shot! Happy reading everyone!
“Hell is a state of mind - ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind - is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce