I used to have a rule that it was good to take a C S Lewis book on holiday every year, and that way make progress in his so varied body of work as one of the great twentieth century writers and thinkers. It’s a good rule. Start with Mere Christianity, then try The Screwtape Letters or the Four Loves, and then maybe a book of essays like First and Second Things to get a wider sense of his thinking. But that is only to scratch the surface of his work, and the more you read the more you wonder about the author. That is why I can’t recommend too highly enough Alister McGrath’s brilliant biography, C S Lewis – A Life. Eccentric Genius, Reluctant prophet. This is the story of his life, told by a fellow Irishman who is also a great Oxford academic apologist and one of our best minds, yet written in a way that is accessible to a wide audience.
C S Lewis is an enigma. Loved by many most of all for his children’s fiction, his greatest work was in the area of literary criticism, yet he is known most among Christians as an apologist. He should also be known as a committed young Oxford atheist who reluctantly became a Christian. McGrath explores his troubled childhood, his dreadful days at Malvern School, and then his defining years next to my native Leatherhead where he was tutored by ‘the Great Knock.’ He charts his journey through the trenches of the First World War to his settling in Oxford in the relatively new discipline of modern English literature, and also his irregular relationship with ‘Mrs Moore.’ Then we are plunged into the intellectual and spiritual agonies through the 1920s and the early days of his academic career that led to his conversion in 1931-32. It was no intellectual surrender, but rather the logical solution to the intellectual and imaginative riddles that had troubled him from his youth. Continue reading “Great summer reads 2: C. S. Lewis-A Life by Alister McGrath”