Virtually everyone is familiar with The Chronicles of Narnia, his beloved fantasy series for children. Most know about Mere Christianity and Screwtape Letters. Many, however, stop there and never go beyond to explore some of his other works.
|C.S. Lewis or “Jack” to his family and friends|
1. Abolition of Man – This is perhaps Lewis’ most prophetic book. He warned of a future where science has been replaced by scientism, a religious belief in the supremacy of science to answer all of life’s questions. Values and objective truth are done away with and culture collapses, all the while leaders wonder what happened. He gives a spirited defense of natural law and education as a means to train the next generation with the proper viewpoints and attitudes.
Quote: “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful.”
2. The Science-fiction Trilogy – Yes, I’m cheating a bit by putting all three of these on there, but … it’s my list. Each one is deserving of your time as each deal with an exciting adventure concerning Professor Ransom (loosely based on Lewis’ friend J.R.R. Tolkien) confronting other worldly evil, on our planet and across our solar system. The last in the series, That Hideous Strength, is essentially a fictionalized version of Lewis’ fears from Abolition of Man.
Quote (That Hideous Strength): “There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there is never more than one.”
3. The Dark Tower and Other Stories – “The Dark Tower” is an unfinished manuscript by Lewis that was discovered by his friend and editor Walter Hooper. It seems to be connected to the science-fiction trilogy, as some of the same characters are mentioned in both. “The Dark Tower,” however, is concerned with a version of time travel, rather than space travel. The only negative about this book is the fact that it is unfinished. I began to be caught up in the story just as it abruptly ended. The book also contains other short stories by Lewis, in addition to “The Dark Tower.”
Quote (“The Dark Tower”): “… even if one was taken in there – which would be worse than merely seeing one’s double there – it wouldn’t be essentially different from other misfortunes. And misfortune is not hell, not by a long way. A man can’t be taken to hell, or sent to hell: you can only get there on your own steam.”
4. The Great Divorce – What makes heaven heaven and hell hell? In this theological fantasy, Lewis explores a field trip from “grey town” (hell) on a bus to the outskirts of heaven. The narrator sees many of his bus mates being confronted with what it would take for them to leave hell and enter heaven. The vast majority choose to go back to hell because they are comfortable with it. While not to be taken as a literal image of what heaven and hell will look like, Lewis does seemingly capture a lot of what makes those places what they are.
Quote: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”
5. Til We Have Faces: A Myth Retold – His last novel, Lewis believed this to be his best. Written with his wife Joy, Til We Have Faces is a retelling of the Ancient Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche told from the perspective of Psyche’s older sister Orual, who is unable to accept the existence of the wonderful, but invisible, world Psyche initially inhabits with Cupid. In the end, the gods are vindicated in the mind of Orual and she learns that she must not hide behind masks in an attempt to conceal who she is.
Quote: “I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”
Bonus 5: If you are looking for even more Lewis to read (and who isn’t?), these are all excellent books: A Grief Observed (Lewis’ journal dealing with the death of his wife), The Problem of Pain (his apologetic work discussing the problem of evil), Surprised by Joy (the autobiography of his early life), Letters to Malcolm Chiefly on Prayer (letters to a fictional character that explore the idea of communicating with God), and God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (one of the better anthologies of essays by Lewis).
What is your favorite C.S. Lewis book? Is there one you enjoy that is not one of his more famous works?