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

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  1,838 Ratings  ·  196 Reviews
The White Witch, Aslan, fauns and talking beasts, centaurs and epic battles between good and evil—all these have become a part of our collective imagination through the classic volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia. Over the past half century, children everywhere have escaped into this world and delighted in its wonders and enchantments. Yet what we do know of the man who cr ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 11th 2005 by HarperOne (first published October 1st 2005)
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Community Reviews

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Kate
Jul 31, 2009 Kate rated it it was ok
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
James
May 08, 2011 James rated it really liked it
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
Nov 22, 2008 David rated it it was amazing
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
Brian
May 08, 2011 Brian rated it liked it
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
Feb 07, 2015 Valerie Kyriosity rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Ron
Mar 23, 2009 Ron rated it really liked it
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.
Paul
Aug 08, 2016 Paul rated it really liked it
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
Michael
Feb 02, 2012 Michael rated it it was amazing
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
Patrick
Jan 16, 2011 Patrick rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 04, 2011 RE de Leon rated it really liked it
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
Mar 25, 2011 Gwen Burrow rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
The detail and beauty of Jacobs' exploration is nothing short of astonishing.
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
...more
Kathryn
Sep 22, 2011 Kathryn rated it really liked it
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
...more
Ryan
Dec 04, 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
...more
Matthew
May 24, 2008 Matthew rated it really liked it
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
Rachel
Mar 12, 2014 Rachel rated it really liked it
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
Jocelyn
Apr 12, 2015 Jocelyn rated it really liked it
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.
Bianca
Nov 10, 2010 Bianca rated it really liked it
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
Apr 11, 2011 Sarah Fowler rated it really liked it
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
M. L.  Feather
Apr 10, 2016 M. L. Feather rated it really liked it
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.
Dave
Mar 29, 2009 Dave rated it really liked it
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
Nov 22, 2013 Brendan rated it really liked it
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 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.
Mike
Sep 13, 2015 Mike rated it it was amazing
Jacobs is never afraid to sanely deal with issues other biographers have quibbled over; he interweaves the life with the imagination in a wonderful way, never trying to prove more than can be proved but always coming to sound conclusions; and he dialogues with his reader in a way that some biographers might not think was the done thing, but which gives us insight into Jacobs’ own thinking.

The basic ‘facts’ of Lewis’ life are by now well-known: he was a confirmed atheist until his late twenties;
...more
Deborah
Sep 20, 2014 Deborah rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Random find in the audiobooks section of the library. Loved it - listening in the car while commuting was perfect because I doubt I would have had the patience for the author's minutia had I been ploughing through the book.

CS Lewis (Clive, but known for most of his life by his friends as "Jack") was an interesting character who ran around with JRR Tolkien and TS Elliott. He died on the same day Jack Kennedy was shot, a year short of his 65th birthday.

Lewis was most known for his popular series
...more
Nathan Albright
Mar 15, 2016 Nathan Albright rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge
As someone who tends to read a lot of books by and about C.S. Lewis [1], it is always intriguing to see what new angle a particular book has to offer, given that many books tread over the same ground. As any competent work about C.S. Lewis would do, this one has a lot of quotes by and about him from the lengthy body of works that Lewis wrote during his lifetime, including his highly intriguing body of letters [2]. As this is a biography of Lewis’ imagination, and how it came to develop, it focus ...more
JJ
Nov 03, 2014 JJ added it
Excellent. I read a few biographies of Lewis when I was in high school/college to indulge my natural interest in one of favorite authors, but they skirted over a few of the more delicate and complex personal issues of Lewis's life. Jacobs remedies that problem admirably, while also nobly doing battle with the revisionist tendencies of A.N. Wilson, who, though he wrote a formidable life of Lewis, was polemical and harsh in some of his judgments of Lewis. Jacobs firmly takes Wilson in hand and set ...more
Ben Kreps
Dec 26, 2012 Ben Kreps rated it it was amazing
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
May 06, 2009 Diane rated it liked it
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.
Rob
Nov 06, 2015 Rob rated it it was amazing
While not myself a super-fan of the Narnia universe, I found this portrait of its creator valuable and fascinating for a number of reasons.

Trying to understand the interior life of any thinker can be daunting, by Lewis was notably silent in several areas, including World War I and his relationships with women. Jacobs does a good job of analyzing that which we can (and cannot) know, while never veering into the distasteful (to me) temptation to overly speculate, or project imagined motivations on
...more
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  • On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature
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  • Jonathan Edwards
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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.” 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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