It’s a brand new blog series! For the next couple of months, I’ll be rounding up some of my favorite authors, giving a little background on their life as a writer, and sharing my favorites of their works.
I can’t think of any better start than the amazing C.S. Lewis. Perhaps my single favorite author of all time, Lewis is one of the greats who made me want to be a writer in the first place. There’s something about his friendly, peaceful writing style that makes his books universally appealing.
But the C.S. Lewis that we know on the page wasn’t always so. Lewis was no stranger to tragedy and sorrow. His mother died when he was very young and the loss permanently altered his relationship with his father. After making his way through the brutal harshness of his boarding schools, Lewis eventually served in WWI where a particularly bloody shelling killed two of his friends and left him critically wounded.
Where he could have become an angry, bitter man even more deeply entrenched in his disbelief in God, he was instead, slowly but surely, transformed into the writer we know today and through the very determined mentoring of his friends became a Christian. It was in his years as a professor at Oxford that he did the bulk of his writing and where we get some of his greatest works. While Lewis penned many of my favorite books, here are my top three favorites of his works.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
There’s no better place to start with C.S. Lewis than the book that put him on the map. The story follows the four Pevensie siblings who are sent away to live with an old Professor in the English countryside to protect them from the Blitz in World War II. While exploring the house the youngest, Lucy, discovers a magical land in the back of a wardrobe, and all four siblings are set on an adventure that will change them forever.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was the first Narnia book to be published in the series and the inspiration goes far back to an image Lewis had in his mind for years of a faun holding an umbrella and some parcels in a snowy wood. It took years for the story to form and reach the paper, but when it did it became one of the most well-loved children’s books to date. Within that framework, Lewis crafted a beautiful allegory for Christ in the form of Aslan the lion, and his noble sacrifices to save the same ones who betrayed him.
What’s interesting about The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe beyond the allegory alone is Lewis’ mixing of different mythologies to make his fantasy world. It may seem commonplace now wit how long we’ve had these books, but such a mixing was not always done. In fact, the choice was strange to the point of causing some contention between him and his peers. J.R.R. Tolkien disapproved of the decision and wanted Lewis to alter the work.
Luckily for us, Lewis stuck to his guns and we the readers get a Narnia where anything is possible from fauns with parcels, talking animals, and even a visit from the enigmatic Father Christmas. Lewis pulls it all off with unapologetic charm and marched his way into the heart of classic children’s fantasy.
The Last Battle
Not to skip from the beginning right to the end, but Lewis’ epic conclusion to the Chronicles of Narnia firmly belongs in a top-three round-up of his works.
There’s not much that can be said on the plot without spoiling many other aspects of the series, but there is, to a certain degree, a hint in the name itself. This is the final book of the Narnia series and Lewis inserts a certain level of gravitas into this work that, while not lacking from the other six books, strikes home just a little deeper than the rest. It’s the grand finale, and he doesn’t pull any punches in making it exactly that.
More than just an ending to a series, The Last Battle brings young readers face to face with some difficult questions that we all face sooner than later. How do you have courage when all hope is lost? How do you stand firm when everyone else runs? How do you stand for truth when everyone around you is falling for lies? How do you fight a battle that feels lost before you even begin?
C.S. Lewis does what he always does best and simply trusts young readers to follow him into the midst of those big questions. He doesn’t condescend. He doesn’t water down. He simply tells it as he sees it and trusts his reader’s intelligence. The result is a book with deep and lasting meaning to a reader of any age. The Last Battle is an artful conclusion to an amazing series that truly leaves readers satisfied.
Besides his amazing works of fiction, C.S. Lewis is one of the greatest Christian apologists in modern history. His incredible ability to defend Christian faith in watertight arguments showcases his absolute mastery of logic and critical thinking (It also gives some insights into Professor Kirke’s alarmed “Logic! What do they teach you in schools these days?”, but that’s another matter).
Mere Christianity is exactly what it sounds like. In the course of the book, Lewis takes the reader through a step by step argument of faith, God, the nature of good and evil, and more. What makes his work so incredible is that he consistently finds a way to meet a reader wherever they might be and work from there. He has words for the atheist, the agnostic, the drifter, and the doubter. No argument is out of reach or out of time.
Even though Mere Christianity is made of much more complex and heavy subject material, it still reads with Lewis’s calm, peaceful approach. In many ways, the whole book reads like you poked your head into his study with some questions and he invited you to pull up a chair and chat about it. It’s a good thing too because this is not easy subject material to handle.
When all is said and done, you can absolutely never go wrong pulling out a book by C.S. Lewis.