In honor of the 50th anniversary of C. S. Lewis' death, celebrated Oxford don Dr. Alister McGrath presents us with a compelling and definitive portrait of the life of C. S. Lewis, the author of the well-known Narnia series. For more than half a century, C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series has captured the imaginations of millions. In C. S. Lewis - A Life, Dr. Alister McGrath recounts the unlikely path of this Oxford don, who spent his days teaching English literature to the brightest students in the world and his spare time writing a best-selling fantasy series for children.
Dr. McGrath uses his extensive research and thorough examination in chronological order of Lewis’ correspondence and archival materials to present a new picture of Lewis’ life. This definitive biography paints a portrait of an eccentric thinker who became a compelling, though reluctant, prophet for our times. You won’t want to miss this fascinating portrayal of a creative genius who inspired generations.
©2013 Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (P)2013 Oasis Audio
Alister McGrath paints a picture of the life of C. S. Lewis that ignites my curiosity and allows me to appreciate the writings of Lewis even more! I found that I was making excuses to do things that allowed me to finish this book over the last three days. I have loved Lewis's writings for years, but have never known the back story which makes me think I will have to re-read Lewis and once again enjoy the expansion of my logic, desire, curiosity, and imagination. McGrath, a well known theologian and academic, looks in depth at all available C. S. Lewis books, journals, letters and what others who knew Lewis wrote and comes away with his own cohesive understanding of Lewis and his writings. He also frequently makes note of the historical context and things that were going on in England which shaped the course of Lewis' life. Lewis' complicated relationship with his father (in which he at times deceived him), his conversion from Atheism to Christianity, his unexpected falling in love with a dying woman who seems to have orchestrated meeting Lewis and their subsequent common law marriage are documented with clarity and precision. Also each book that Lewis wrote is placed in the context of Lewis' journey through life. I think Lewis is able to articulate so clearly the human experience because he was: so honest with himself, a genius, and came to faith later in life. Just like someone who learns how to do something innately hard for them, later in life, will likely be a better teacher, Lewis learns about humility in the context of being a grown up self-focused man. In the context of his adult life, he learns to merge the critical analytical life which governs what he believes, with the inner workings of his powerful imagination which through the conquest of his desire culminates in finding the True Myth which all myths point at, namely Jesus Christ.
I love theology, the classics, biographies, and bussiness books. I sometimes even enjoy a little modern fiction,
This biography gives us a very human look at a man trying to follow Jesus. That over simplifies what I want to say. C.S. Lewis lived a very complicated life. In his life you see the broken nature of humanity and the sin nature that all those of us who follow Jesus struggle with. Yet in spite of his contradictions, or maybe precisely because of them, God uses this man in an incredibly powerful manner. I found hope in the fact that if God can use Lewis in spite of his many struggles he could use me as well.
I've been following Jesus for over 26 years and Mere Christianity was the second "Christian book" I read after deciding to be a Christ follower. Since that time I've read almost everything he has written. Lewis' books have had an indescribable influence on my Christian life. Understanding a little more about his life just makes his written words all the more powerful.
I'm also a huge Tolkien fan and though I knew Tolkien was influential in C.S. Lewis' conversion to see how instrumental Lewis was in the Lord of the Rings was a treat. This is well worth the listen.
This is clearly a book for C.S. Lewis aficionados. Whether he experienced his conversion in 1929 or 1930 takes up endless time. Did it take place on a trip to the zoo with his brother, or a trip to the zoo by himself? I'm sure some people care, but I don't. If you're writing a thesis or dissertation on Lewis, you would be able to use this book. If you're a listener who wants to go right to the heart of what made Lewis tick, this may be too slow and scholarly for you. It was for me.
Robin Sachs was a treasure (I especially love his Harry Hole readings) but the plodding quality of this prose did not give his wonderful range as an actor anything to work with.
When I drive, I read... uhm listen. I like SciFi, Fantasy, some Detective and Espionage novels and Religion. Now and then I will also listen to something else.
While prof. Alister E. McGrath - the writer of ‘The twilight of Atheism’ and ‘The Dawkins Delusion’ - didn’t know C.S. Lewis personally, this biography seems to be that of an admirer… maybe even a disciple. Being himself a well-known Christian apologist, it can be expected that McGrath read with a religious eye when he did his research for this biography. He has read through all the correspondence of Lewis and some of his contemporaries in chronological order. Only thereafter did he engage with secondary literature. Hence you should not be surprised that this book focus more on Lewis’ thought life and its development than on dates, numbers and solid historical facts.
That said, the biography is in no way ignoring facts. It is carefully written, though at times cursive. McGrath thinks it is highly significant that he could determine that the traditional date set for Lewis conversion to Christianity (1929) is wrong. It happened in 1930.
I found this book valuable as it helped me to gain an understanding of who C.S. Lewis was as well as his importance. Yet, I must confess I am an outsider. I didn’t grow up with Lewis, Narnia or the Screwtape Letters as might be the case in many English and American households. English is not my mother tongue. Only as an adult I became aware of his work. I therefore suspect that though McGrath paints a good picture with broad brush strokes of Lewis’ life, then colours it with his world of thought, a hard-core Lewis fan might want a bit more out of this biography. That said, McGrath writes very clear and is easy to follow.
He comes over very sympathetic towards C.S. Lewis. His formulations around possible scandal is very considerate and Lewis seem to get of light when it comes to value judgements about his life. Rhetorical questions leaving certain judgements with the reader/ listener abounds especially at the beginning of the book.
The book is very accessible. Anybody that has listened to it will have a better understanding of who C.S. Lewis was and will be able to appreciate his contribution to uplifting and directing the collective mind of the British nation during the Second World War and how his work has stood the test of time (even though some of it being dated). McGrath also appreciates Lewis’ Irish roots more than seems to have been done in the past (probably because he himself is Irish). Yet the biography’s strength lies in McGrath’s focus. I found that McGrath’s illumination of Lewis’ apologetic arguments very satisfactory. His extensive coverage of Narnia and especially the lion, Azlan, also should be commended. I didn’t knew that Lewis wrote science fiction!
The deep baritone voice of Robert Sachs surprised me. When I started listening to the biography, I couldn’t make up my mind if it fitted or not. He definitely brings ‘something’ different to the listening experience, but it is for the listener to decide if it is good or bad. Sachs’ reading is superb.
I enjoyed the ear candy at the end of the audiobook - hearing C.S. Lewis’ own Oxford accented voice, was quite satisfying. It gives the audiobook an edge over the printed copy (… which might have some photos included).
On a more technical level, I downloaded the biography in two parts. There is an overlap of more or less 20 minutes between the last part of the first audio file and the first part of the second audio file. I am not sure if this is a mistake of Oasis audio or just a download glitch at Audible.
While listening ‘C.S. Lewis - A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet’ I couldn’t help wondering how much Alister E. McGrath was writing about himself. As someone who is able to bring a lot of facts together through identifying overarching themes, McGrath seems to have identified themes that resonates well with what is known about himself. The parallels between Lewis’ life and his own are striking. One gets the feeling that he might be following the latter’s example in his own career.
This biography is well-written, easily accessible, has just enough historical data not to overwhelm the listener, but deals more with the development of Lewis’ apologetic mind. It is splendidly presented and like most of Oasis’ audio books, it starts off with an interview with the author. A superb listening pleasure!
Book blogger at Bookwi.se
This is the best bio of Lewis I have read and one that is well worth reading. It is a popular biography and McGrath says he is going to do a more academic biography later, which I look forward to. This one is highly readable and hits all of the right notes. McGrath had access to newly released letters and that seems to have made a big difference. There are some new details that have come out as a result of this biography and some may take issue with them, but McGrath seems to have documented them fairly well. I do wish there was more about Lewis' spiritual development. Other than the Inklings he does not seem to have had a Christian community around him, or at least it was not well discussed. I also wanted more about his interaction with his stepsons before and after their mother's death. And connected with the spiritual development I wish there had been more discussed about this theology.
In spite of the areas that were lacking this is still a 5 star biography.
My full review is on my blog.
I'm an avid reader of many genres and issues. Audiobooks sometimes bring books into 3D , and when that happens its brilliant!
How many times can one man's life be interpreted?
There have been many bios of C.S. Lewis, this one written for the 50th anniversary of his death. The author is an Oxford scholar, and Anglican clergyman and positively disposed to his subject.
I found it doesn't add much to those who know a deal about Lewis' life, but his exploration of his subject's work as a Christian apologist, and his later theological writings are well- explored and helped me to understand Lewis through his life and writings.
There was little hagiography, but the continued publication of Lewis suggests that he will be an influence within mere Christian circles for the foreseeable future.
The reader voice was a little flat, but kept me engaged once I got accustomed to his cadences.
If said friend were a) a reader of fantasy, b) an inquisitive Christian, c) a lover of biographies, or d) a deep thinker, then yes, absolutely. And all my friends fall into at least one of those categories.
One of the biography's foci is C.S. Lewis's conversion to Christianity, and the telling of that story contains many memorable moments, including a conversation about mythology between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien that not only influenced Lewis's spirituality but also prefigured both writers' major works of fantasy.
Sachs's stately performance embodies the erudite world of Oxford academia that serves as the backdrop for most of the book. Sachs should also be commended for pronouncing most of the book's arcane and foreign literary terms correctly, no easy feat.
As a long-time reader of Lewis's work, and of the medieval literature that was so central to his intellectual development, I found many moments in the biography quite moving, even those that most readers would probably pass over. The descriptions of some of Lewis's epiphanies about Narnia will probably resonate with most readers.
This audiobook features an interview with the author preceding the book itself. After the biography's conclusion, we're treated to two recordings of Lewis himself at his deep-timbres lecturing best. Both the book itself and the audio edition are masterful additions to the corpus of C.S. Lewis research.
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