The final category in the C.S. Lewis-themed staff picks for November is Academic Works. Lewis was a professor of English Literature. He contributed a volume on sixteenth century literature (excluding drama) to the Oxford History of English Literature. He also wrote a work on medieval literature, The Allegory of Love. We didn’t pick those academic works, but look forward to reading them.
Alain’s Pick: Preface to Paradise Lost
This is an introduction to Milton’s epic poem that probably makes much more sense if you’ve read Milton. I’ve read Preface with out reading Paradise Lost. I should probably correct that soon.
Heather’s Pick: An Experiment in Criticism
This is my pick (just when you thought that the store had come to life and was writing blog posts in the first person). I love this book. I’ve read it multiple times. It is an easy read, but not a light read. Every time I read it I think “now I’ve got it.” Then I read it again and I get it better than before.
In the spirit of this blog post that asks readers to talk about books that actually changed your life, here are some books (or sets of books) that have changed my life. These are in not ranked in any way, this is just the order in which they came to mind.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I cannot pick only one from this set that has changed me – the whole set and the world they define has an ongoing influence on my thinking about life and faith. I’ve been reading and re-reading the series for longer than I care to admit. There are key phrases from the works that echo in my head: “He’s not a tame lion” and “Farther up and farther in!” are two examples. A key idea that echoes in my head is Aslan reminding various characters that he only tells them their own story, not other people’s story, and never what might have happened. The creation of the world when Aslan sings everything into existence is an incredibly powerful scene. One other thing that sticks with me from this series is the idea that all the characters are moral agents who make decisions and are held responsible for their decisions. They are never held responsible for the actions of others, but they are firmly held responsible for their own actions. Aslan is very clear about that. I think that is a very important thing that I learned from those books.
Susan Howatch’s Church of England books and including the three set at St. Benet’s. I’m not sure this series has an official name (Starbridge?) but all of these books influenced me. If I had to pick one of the nine, I’d say Mystical Paths is one possible key book for me, but it might also be Absolute Truths. How was my life changed by these novels? Well, for one thing, I went out and got a spiritual director because the books impressed on me how important such a person could be for a person in ministry. I think the books have also influenced me in other ways – not that I always agree with the characters or how Howatch presents theology, but they all give a clear picture of the possibilities and pitfalls of ministry work.
Let Her Speak for Herself, edited by Marion Ann Taylor and Heather E. Weir. Hey, that’s a book with me on the cover! This book influenced my life because it showed me that publication was possible, and that writing was not always the easy choice. Plus since this book was published I am officially an author, and that is life-changing all by itself.
What about you? Which books have actually changed your life?
Crux carries mysteries by Julia Spencer-Fleming featuring the Episcopalian priest Claire Fergusson. Take a study break with a good mystery!