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

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  1,078 ratings  ·  151 reviews
A journey into the imaginative life of C.S. Lewis exploring the themes and life events that allowed an Oxford don, a scholar of medieval literature who loved to debate philosophy at his local pub, to write one of the most enduring classics of children's literature.

C.S. Lewis was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably the most influential Chris...more
Paperback, 342 pages
Published August 1st 2006 by Zonderkidz (first published October 1st 2005)
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Hoss
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
David
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
Ron
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.
Paul Dubuc
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
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
Michael
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
Patrick
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...more
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
Brian
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....more
Valerie Kyriosity
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...more
Bart Breen
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...more
Ryan
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...more
Matthew
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
Rachel
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
Bianca
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
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,...more
Dave
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...more
Brendan
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
Thomas Umstattd
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.
Ben Kreps
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.
Diane
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.
Diane
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.

Trey
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.
Jason Farley
I enjoyed this thoroughly. It was well written. Sympathetic without being hagiographical and it dug deeply into Lewis' thought without the nonsense of "psychological interpretation." All and all a very well researched and helpful book.
Naomi
Excellent biography on an excellent man. As it was based mainly on the letters and writing of CSL instead of bias or conjecture, I felt it had more authenticity. Of course, this is just my opinion. I really just enjoyed it!
Gwen Burrow
The detail and beauty of Jacobs' exploration is nothing short of astonishing.
Rick Davis
Alan Jacobs does the near-impossible here by giving us a biography of Lewis that gives proper attention to both the biographical details of Lewis's life and the contours of Lewis's thought. Also, unlike many biographers, he doesn't fall into the trap of wanting to identify every event of his subject's life as an "inspiration" for one of his writings. These two projects, a traditional and an intellectual biography, are seamlessly woven together. I feel like I know C.S. Lewis much better after rea...more
Matt
Jacobs shows how Lewis's imagination saved him from rationalism, and thank God it did. If the Great Knock had shaped Lewis more than G. K. Chesterton and Tollers, we might never have been treated to Lewis's beautiful fiction, at least not in the way we have it. Narnia might have read more like the Golden Compass.

Jacobs give us a biography of Lewis's imagination, which at times takes Lewis to task. Lewis would appreciate the criticism but at times Jacobs faults Lewis for not falling in line with...more
Dan Walker
This book was not just a review of C.S, Lewis's life, which was interesting but not dramatically so. Instead, the author tried to delve into Lewis's thinking, which was the really interesting part.

The section I found most fascinating required a second listening (I had the audiobook). In this part the author discusses modern thinking, which refuses to see beauty, or any other characteristic, as inherent in any object or thing. According to modern thinking, seeing beauty in a waterfall, for exampl...more
Daniel
By the last quarter of this book, I was really enjoyed it and, when I finished it, was really glad I read it. A great biography that, unlike most biographies, goes beyond just the happenings of C.S. Lewis' life and tries to ascertain how they influenced his writings. Also, I loved how Jacobs was able to pick up on Lewis' deep pursuit for joy as a thread running throughout his life.

Really a great book, well worth the read. If you're like me, you might find the first 1/4 hard to push through. Jac...more
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3957
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...more
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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.” 6 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.” 2 likes
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