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The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis, Abridged
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The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis, Abridged

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  1,958 Ratings  ·  209 Reviews
The White Witch, Aslan, fauns and talking beasts, centaurs and epic battles between good and evil -- these have become a part of our collective imagination through the classic volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia. Yet who was the man who created this world? This audio book attempts to unearth the making of the first Narnian, C. S. Lewis himself.

One of the intellectual giant
Audio CD
Published October 11th 2005 by HarperAudio (first published October 1st 2005)
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May 31, 2009 Kate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed-by-kate
The Chronicles are among my favorite books ever, and I happily reread them all every few years. I took up this biography to learn more about how C. S. Lewis came to create his marvelous stories. But although the book bills itself as a biography of the man's intellectual and creative development, what I find most important and fascinating about that development--just why Lewis became a Christian so relatively late in life, after being an avowed atheist, and how he conceived the Chronicles--remain ...more
Jan 18, 2011 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whoever you think C.S. Lewis was, you are probably wrong, at least in part. This is a really fascinating back-story on how Jack Lewis got from son of an alcoholic, emotionally obtuse father to professor at caimbridge, Oxford and author of many novels and works of scholarship, indluding the Narnia series. Did you know he had a whipping fetish when he was young? It's true! His relationship with the mother of a dear friend he lost in the war was also something I had never fully understood. He clear ...more
Nov 22, 2008 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is not the first biography of one of my heroes. But this one might be the best literary / theological history of the great Christian apologist and theologian. Along with a basic life story, I found it to be a remarkable and fascinating analysis of the evolution of his thought, the inter-relationships of ideas among his novels and books, his friendships and interactions with family, friends, and others, and much more. The book was deeply researched and superbly written, debunking some scanda ...more
Apr 30, 2011 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hodge podge and mish-mash account of Lewis' life. Some parts are thorough, like his account of Lewis and the war. However other parts, such as his relationship to Tolkien, feel more like commentary after the fact. I wanted it to be either or story (covering the major events) or analysis of important themes with connection to events. Jacobs cannot decide which he wants to do.

Speaking of which, sometimes Jacobs irritates me with annoying comments on Lewis' 'sexism' and his critics of Lewis' works.
Valerie Kyriosity
Dec 22, 2011 Valerie Kyriosity rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks
Splendid. I feel I know Lewis a thousand times better after listening to The Narnian. I am especially grateful for audiobooks that are read by the author, as I can trust that the text is being faithfully expressed.

Just one small peeve about the formatting: the tracks ran entirely too long for an audio book. Get distracted for a moment and want to listen to some last little bit, and you might have to go back 5 or 10 minutes to catch it again. So one could spend an entire commute and not actually
Sep 04, 2008 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
Well done. Jacobs did his homework, and expands and explains much that Lewis only hinted at in Surprised by Joy.

Thoughtful passages on Lewis' last decade as he settled into professorship at Cambridge so long denied him by Oxford and came to deal with his own obsolescence, not to mention mortality.
Mar 12, 2017 Mallory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: famous-people
A scholarly, well-written, if at times a bit deep biography on Lewis' life. I loved learning about his struggles with accepting Christianity; I had always assumed he'd been a lifer, based on his works.

Favorite quotes: "The world appears to be full of people who believe that if they did not have a particular experience in a particular context, no one else could have either."

"Nothing, I suspect, is more astonishing in any man's life than the discovery that there exist people very, very like hims
Aug 21, 2009 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lewis, biography
This is a very good biography of C. S. Lewis. Jacobs is a skillful writer and has a great knack for weaving Lewis' own writing and ideas into the events of his life. He brings out the greatness of Lewis' mind and character without hiding his flaws or failing to point out what he thinks are some of his half-baked or somewhat parochial ideas. The thorough research that has evidently gone into writing this book is skillfully crafted into a fascinating narrative; very enjoyable reading. Jacobs convi ...more
Jan 29, 2012 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
This is an excellent biography of C.S. Lewis, the creator of Narnia. Jacobs's biography is dense but well written: I know much more about Lewis, and the factors in Lewis's life that impacted his imagination, than I did before. Jack Lewis was a fascinating and flawed man who--along with his friend J.R.R. Tolkien--would have been happier in a different age than the one they found themselves in (a reality I share with both of them!) The Narnian is comprehensive, well researched, and quite satisfyin ...more
Jan 16, 2011 Patrick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazon Review:

Just in time for the major motion picture Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, from Disney, comes this biography of the man who dreamed up the land and tales of Narnia. Jacobs, a Wheaton College literature professor, does so not in typical chronological style, but according to themes important in Lewis's life. So, in the chapter entitled "red beef and strong beer" (a Lewis quote about what was satisfying and nourishing to him), we encounter the strong male me
RE de Leon
There's been a lot written about the life of CS Lewis. So much so that wonders if perhaps we already have too much of such literature. Alan Jacobs, however, has managed to write a book on the life and works of CS Lewis that is fresh and worth reading, even if you're already familiar with Lewis. How? He wrote an almost-biography. Instead of covering the life of Jack Lewis chronologically from birth to death as most books do, Jacobs has attempted to write a biography of Lewis' imagination, paying ...more
Gwen Burrow
Aug 07, 2009 Gwen Burrow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
The detail and beauty of Jacobs' exploration is nothing short of astonishing.
Sep 22, 2011 Kathryn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: C.S. Lewis fans
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
The Narnian is, as you might guess from the title, a biography of C.S. Lewis. Alan Jacobs, a professor of something or other and a student of Lewisania (if that’s a word), has written a fascinating biography based on his perception that Narnia explains everything about Lewis. I’m not putting it very well, but as Aslan says, “Once a King or Queen of Narnia, always a King or Queen of Narnia,” and by the same token, Lewis himself was a denizen of Narnia many years before he wrote the books.

I was al
Bart Breen
May 19, 2012 Bart Breen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding Biography and Insight into Lewis

Alan Jacobs is a professor of English at Wheaton College, where the largest collection of CS Lewis writings and correspondance has been assembled. So, in addition to the natural talent and warmth that Jacobs brings to the subject, he is also arguably better equipped in terms of access to the private correspondance of Lewis than any prior biographers, and this results in a book that is both riveting and revealing.

The book itself is a refreshing look at
Aug 11, 2012 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not your typical biography. As Jacobs writes, someone else can give you the details about what walking tour Lewis took during which month of the year. Jacobs interacts repeatedly and intimately with Lewis's books and shows the development of Lewis's thought in both fiction and nonfiction. I especially liked the way Jacobs pointed out some common themes between Lewis's essays and his fantasy.

Jacobs is a gifted writer, and I enjoyed reading this book not only for the content but also for the exper
Apr 28, 2008 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
It feels like a long time since I enjoyed a book as much as I did Alan Jacob's biography of CS Lewis, perhaps the last time was reading The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand. I love biographers who dispense with too much historical detail (such as the biography two years ago of Oppenheimer, the physicist who led America's discovery of the atomic bomb) and focus on the imaginative and intellectual lives of their subjects, yet make the ideas come alive by tying them to real events. In such books, ...more
Oct 22, 2010 Bianca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned a great deal about "Jack" Lewis, as everyone called him, probably more than I wanted. He lived for thirty years with a woman named Mrs. Moore who was as old as his mother. His exact relationship with her is a mystery even today. He had a very fraught relationship with his father, but adored his brother Warnie, who battled drink his whole life. Tolkien convinced him of the truth of Christianity, but later, they had a strained relationship because of Tolkien's criticism of the Narnia boo ...more
Sarah Fowler
Mar 17, 2011 Sarah Fowler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alan Jacobs gives here exactly what I've always wanted to know about C. S. Lewis, in as complete a way as possible. It is a masterful exploration of a great man's mind and imagination; a truly lovely journey through influences, circumstances, accomplishments and attitudes.

Indeed, what better to say than the quote from The Weight of Glory with which Jacobs closes the book: "The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not *in* them,
Feb 25, 2014 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent biography! Jacobs weaves analysis of Lewis's works seamlessly with an account of the major events and forces that shaped Lewis's imaginative life. One of the delights of this book is that the author clearly has an impressive knowledge not only of Lewis's works, but of many of the writers and thinkers who influenced Lewis (both positively and negatively). I also appreciated his judicious treatment of several of the controversies surrounding Lewis and his work. Jacobs looks at ...more
Nov 02, 2013 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The "Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis". Jacobs does trace the course of Lewis's life, but his main concern is to examine and understand the development of Lewis' imagination and outlook on life. The over arching theme is Lewis' devotion to 'joy' as the goal of life and the key to Christianity. Quite a heavy read, but enjoyable. I've been prompted to think more carefully about those of Lewis' books I have read and motivated to read others. Some great incidental recommendations of other authors ...more
Thomas Umstattd Jr.
I listened to the abridged version of this book. Lewis lived a very different life than you might expect. A sad life in many ways. I have always found it interesting that the patron sain of modern evangelicalism smoked and drank. But Lewis lived in a different time and place.

This is my first Lewis biography to read so I have little to compare it to as to how accurate it is. I prorobly should have read Surprised by Joy first. The author is very well read.
Nov 22, 2013 Brendan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jack (CS) Lewis was one kooky dude. From atheist to Christian apologist, he lived an awkward yet contentedly cerebral life. His own words are captured here from letters to family and friends, spanning his entire life. I found it instructive that Jack was odds with his surprisingly religious and judgmental friend, JRR Tolkien. Lewis' teaching, professorship and constant writing began long before The Chronicles of Narnia. Religious pushiness aside, he crafted some of the most well-loved young read ...more
Mar 29, 2009 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first I found the style of this biography to be really slow. The author uses literary works read, or referred to, or written by C.S. Lewis to paint an image of his life. Perhaps the first chapters are more difficult because they are things that influenced him and not as directly evident as later quotes from works he wrote.

On the whole, a deep look at a fascinating, wonderful man. An added benefit to the quotations from his books that I now have many other books by Lewis that I want to read. I
Feb 13, 2010 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite Lewis biography and actually enjoyed it more in the audio. Alan Jacobs' book is insightful, outstandingly written and thoughtful. I appreciated that it was not strictly a chronology but provides insight into his thought and those whom have influenced him. I particularly enjoyed hearing of how G.K.Chesterton impacted him and learning more about his relationship with the Charles Williams and of course, Tolkien.

Ben Kreps
Nov 17, 2012 Ben Kreps rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic biography. My admiration for and interest in this singular man was increased ten-fold as a result of this penetrating, insightful book. Jacobs helps us to see all of Lewis' writing, especially the Narnia series, through the lens of his life history and experiences. Owen Barfield once said of Lewis that "somehow what he thought about everything was secretly present in what he said about anything." Read this book to relish how true this observation is.
An interesting perspective and chance to learn something about Jack Lewis. I have read a number of his books and have a push pull relationship with him - after listening to the tape I still would say I like him sometimes and sometimes find him tiresome. Actually, the tape had the same qualities but was a good choice for an audio book and worth listening to. I most enjoyed the picture of the intellectual life in Britain in first half of 20th century.
Apr 12, 2015 Jocelyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Feeding my current C.S. Lewis obsession with a very satisfying biography. Jacobs constructs a balanced and compelling portrait. Since he is an English professor, he focuses his analysis largely on what Lewis read and wrote. This seems appropriate, since reading and writing were two of Lewis's constant occupations. It also seems appropriate that Lewis should be memorialized by someone who writes with as much skill and sensitivity as Jacobs.
Jun 10, 2013 Trey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't read many biographies of authors, tending to prefer biographies of 'men of action' to 'men of thought.' But the vantage point Jacobs chooses for this biography of Lewis was fantastic. He brought together the man and his works, and thus produced a biography that critically engaged with the imaginative life of C.S. Lewis. And that was a treat.
M. L.  Feather
Apr 10, 2016 M. L. Feather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very helpful overall. This book helped me to see that the longing within me is normal and the impulse to search is good, but it can easily be misplaced. Lewis longed for Joy. He didn't mean just the emotion that we call happiness. And he didn't mean what I hear from Christians today. He meant a deep longing for intimacy with Jesus that you pursue. I wish more of us were shaped by such longing.
Jul 06, 2009 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Really quite interesting, and a very informative biography of Lewis. It moves way beyond a simple rehash of Surprised by Joy, and clearly interacts with other Lewis scholars. I didn't really like the bit at the end where he tries to address Lewis's anti-feminism, but that's a minor quibble. Quite enjoyable, and really helpful.
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  • Jonathan Edwards
I grew up in Alabama, attended the University of Alabama, then got my PhD at the University of Virginia. Since 1984 I have been teaching at Wheaton College in Illinois. My dear wife Teri and I have been married for thirty years. Our son Wes begins college this fall, and to our shock, decided to go to Wheaton. I think he will avoid Dad, though.

My work is hard to describe, at least for me, because i
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“Those who will never be fooled can never be delighted, because without self-forgetfulness there can be no delight, and this is a great and grievous loss.” 12 likes
“When we talk today about receptiveness to stories, we tend to contrast that attitude to one governed by reason - we talk about freeing ourselves from the shackles of the rational mind and that sort of thing - but no belief was more central to Lewis's mind than the belief that it is eminently, fully rational to be responsive to the enchanting power of stories.” 4 likes
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