The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia
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The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia

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3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  713 ratings  ·  209 reviews
THE MAGICIAN'S BOOK is the story of one reader's long, tumultuous relationship with C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. As a child, Laura Miller read and re-read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and its sequels countless times, and wanted nothing more that to find her own way to Narnia. In her skeptical teens, a casual reference to the Chronicles's Christian themes l...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published December 2nd 2009 by Back Bay Books (first published November 25th 2008)
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Emilia P
Like Laura Miller asserts, even in her title, and sticks to very evenly throughout the book, one usually comes with a prejudiced eye to the Chronicles and to Lewis. I am not a skeptic--I am a Christian, and unlike Miller who was enamored of the books as a child, I really didn't come to them completely until I was a senior in college, after lots of spiritual twists and turns, and finally fully accepting that, well, the Church was where I found and celebrated the magic and the mystery of the worl...more
Miriam
Aug 04, 2008 Miriam rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone who loves reading, Narnia, fantasy, ok, all of you.
I don't usually read literary criticism but this is totally fascinating. It stems from Miller's personal love of the Chronicles of Narnia and goes on to analyze them, and their place in the cannon, talk about C.S. Lewis' life, his faith, the role of Christianity in the books and in his life, as well as his relationship with Tolkien. She talks about the nature of reading, the difference between reading as a child and as an adult and in my favorite parts, the dichotomy between the little girls who...more
Nikki
Book reviewer and Salon.com co-founder Laura Miller fell in love with Narnia in the second grade when her teacher handed her a copy of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Several years later, Laura, by then a lapsing Catholic and a junior-high student, read that C.S. Lewis's intent in writing the Chronicles of Narnia had been a recasting of Christian doctrine for children. She felt snookered and angry and did not revisit Narnia for many years. During those years, the Christian aspect of the Nar...more
Shilough
Many books written about C S Lewis are essentially gushing paeans, written by sycophantic acolytes. Written by a non-believer, The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia might be described as a secular appreciation, not only of Narnia, but of Lewis' imagination as a whole, as well as its wellsprings and tributaries. As young reader, Miller fell in love with Narnia, only to become disgusted and appalled when she grew up to learn that her beloved stories had been carefully imbued by the...more
Monica Edinger
I enjoyed reading this tremendously. I'm no longer a "friend of Narnia" as such, but like Miller, sure was as a child. Perhaps not quite as fanatic (my imaginary land of choice being Wonderland), but I did reread them too and loved the Chronicles very much (and, yes, have my Puffin box set among my favorite childhood books).

Then I remember well teaching The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for the first time as a young teacher and being shocked, shocked! at the heavy-handed Christian themes. B...more
Laura
I’m a sucker for literary criticism. I mostly enjoyed the first two thirds of this book, though there were times that it seemed more like Eat, Pray, Love, (a book I utterly despised) than anything the Last Action Hero of Literary Criticism, Harold Bloom would have written. For those who do not know me, I found that . . . off putting.

As a founding member of Salon.com, Miller has had a rare opportunity to talk to authors who have wrestled hard with C. S. Lewis over the years. Neil Gaiman, Philip...more
Sheila
"...The word "spell, as Tolkien mentions in his essay "On Fairy Stories", once meant "both a story told, and a formula of power over living men. Where does this power come from and what is it made of?"

This passage (chapter 26) most accurately summarizes the riddle Laura Miller sets out to answer for herself in The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures In Narnia.

Truthfully, I picked this book out at the library because I just couldn't resist the title. Nonfiction titled The Magician's Book: A...more
Rebecca
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andrew Schirmer
Laura Miller's The Magician's Book owes its genesis to a classic conundrum--what happens when we revisit beloved childhood books with the insight gained through adult experience? In particular, how is one to face the fact that one's beloved fantasy world is in fact an elaborate hodgepodge of myth fronting a Christian allegory? For the author, The Chronicles of Narnia were a gateway into a lifelong love of literature, not merely escapism.

Miller's style can be irritatingly conversational and the...more
Jesse
I fully expected this to be a much-needed attempt at reclaiming The Chronicles of Narnia from the Christian commentary that has essentially annexed this series as a kind of sacred text and regard it as a great theological statement (I know these types of people myself). I would have been just fine with simply that, but the title here is misleading, which, frankly, I should have expected coming from Miller. Instead of marking territory for a battle, she embarks on a pleasantly meandering, extreme...more
Jon
I don't think I've ever read a book of lit crit so quickly or with so much enjoyment. A blurb on the back describes it as "conversational, embracing, and casually erudite" which is exactly right. Laura Miller talks about everything from Beowulf to Led Zeppelin, from Little House on the Prairie to Lolita, all with equally fresh insight. She makes her own prejudice perfectly clear: she is a lapsed Catholic and has no patience whatever with Christianity in any form, and she even describes Graham Gr...more
Mike
Apr 10, 2011 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
I found this book to both “uneven” and interesting, which has made it hard to decide on a ranking and how to review it. Since I was not familiar with the author (as least I don’t recall reading anything by her previously) I did not have any preconceptions about her style, likes, or dislikes. Nor, did I anticipate what “A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia” would be about, except for the obvious. Ultimately, I have decided it is very worthy of reading.

It has been a long time since I read “The Chronic...more
Laura
(Apologies in advance: this is less of a review than it is a reader's response -- more about me than it is about the book. Please feel free to move on down the road.) :-)

I may be remembering incorrectly, but I think the Narnia books were the first books I ever loved best. I didn't get the whole paperback box set at once -- it was years before I read The Horse and his Boy, for one, and I think The Magician's Nephew was on a bit of a time delay for me too -- but those & then the Anne of Green...more
Anne
I fell in love with The Chronicles of Narnia when my friend Melissa told me the story of "The lion, the witch and the wardrobe" and later "the horse and his boy". At our next school book fair, I bought the series for myself and proceeded to read and reread them. I still love fantasy...and pieces of Narnia are part of my family lore/vocabulary and part of my imaginative furniture.

This book is written, beautifully written, by someone who also fell in love with narnia...but then distanced herself f...more
Joel
Narnia is shrouded in darkness. The harsh King Miraz, uncle to the throne’s heir, Prince Caspian, rules the land, and has made certain any memory of “the old days” (as Caspian calls them) is stamped out. But Caspian—having heard tales of Satyrs and Fauns, Nymphs and Dwarfs, Talking Beasts and all manner of magical creatures—longs for more than the drab castle in which he lives. Risking torture and death, Caspian’s new tutor, Doctor Cornelius, sneaks the young prince to the top of the highest tow...more
Terzah
I am not a skeptic in the way that Laura Miller is (she left the Catholic Church and religion a long time ago; I am a practicing (if cafeteria) Catholic). And finding out about the Christian symbolism in Narnia didn't diminish the works for me as it did, for a while, for her. But I related to almost everything she had to say in this wonderful meditation on reading in general and, specifically, what I'll call The Book From Childhood--almost all of us have one, whether as with Miller it was the Ch...more
Manzoid
I like reading books about reading.

The author of "The Magician's Book" was swept away as a child, like many of us were, by the enchantment of that world beyond the wardrobe, and in fact that was her real introduction to the world of books. As a teen, however, (again like many of us) she felt betrayed and repulsed by what she then saw as ham-fisted attempts to proselytize Christianity. "The Magician's Book" is the story of her long journey back to appreciating The Chronicles again, on her own ter...more
Molly Brewer
As a rule I tend to avoid most literary criticism, due mostly to the fact that it very often resides in the realm of the theoretical and academic and very far from the personal. This book is very much not that. I'm actually largely ambivalent about the Chronicles of Narnia; I read and loved The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a kid but just didn't feel the same affection for any of the others at the time. I only read them as an adult, understanding the (now very obvious) subtext, and their m...more
Corinne
As a child in early elementary school, the author, Laura, devoured the series of children’s books by C.S. Lewis called The Chronicles of Narnia. For her, they were the conduit into an entirely new realm of books and reading and, as such, hold a place not only in her literary life but also in her childhood itself. As Laura grew and discovered the barely concealed Christian messages within the books, a sense of betrayal tainted her view of the texts that had so brightly colored her childhood.

In th...more
Rikke
A little girl opens the hinged door of some commonplace piece of household furniture and steps through it into another world. I opened the hinged cover of a book and did the same.

Narnia is the most beautiful landscape I've ever travelled to. Whenever I am asked what fantasy-realm I would prefer to live in, Narnia has always been and will always be the answer. It's a world so rich, so detailed, so magnificent and so real, that I still find myself eyeing large wardrobes suspiciously to this very...more
Nancy
I bought a Kindle. This is the first book I've attempted to read on it. I can see that a Kindle has advantages over physical books in a couple ways: while traveling as you can compress LOTS of books into a space smaller than one paperback and if you wish a book had slightly larger print you can push a couple buttons and make it so. However, for general reading, when space or font size are not a consideration, a "real" book is still preferable.

I checked this book out of a library. It really was...more
Kyle
I love to read. I have for as long as I can remember. I would sequester myself off in the woods during the summer, burying my head in a book as I solved cases with Encyclopedia Brown and the Boxcar Children, wondered if maybe my teacher was an alien, and wished my school was as awesome as Wayside. In the winter time I would crawl into one of my parents' cars, trying to find a secluded and warm spot as I journeyed off to other worlds. And despite my love for the stories and worlds of Louis Sachar...more
eq
I went from being a hater, to actually appreciating this book. I learned a lot and I think my original critique was too harsh for a promotional galley. I mean, one can only hope that the grammatical and editorial errors were corrected in future copies and the Index has more than the word "Index" repeated over and over again. That being said, please take my critique with a grain of salt because I don't know what was actually improved from the galley to the real deal.

My main beef was that the aut...more
Beverly
I liked a lot about this appreciation and analysis of The Cronicles of Narnia, but I also hated a lot. What was most hateful was Miller's misapprehension of the Chronicles as "proseltyzing" and "evangelical". Lewis tries to present Christianity as he understands it and wants others, especially children, to understand it. Take it or leave it. Its vaue as literature takes it way beyond its foundation in faith. Miller's crisis about how you could like this book and hate Christianity is not called f...more
Danny
OK, so admittedly I didn't like this book as much as a good novel. Not as much as the novels of many of the authors quoted within the book: Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke, Philip Pullman, etc.

And a lot of the book was spent on J.R.R. Tolkien and how he was a dour spoilsport who hates fun and children and his best friend C.S. Lewis.

But it was still a lot of fun reading about Lewis' life when he was writing the books, some of the landscape inspirations in England and Ireland, and what all the people...more
Kate
I found The Magician's Book very thought-provoking reading. I read the Chronicles of Narnia more than once as a child and thoroughly enjoyed them. But I've been wary of an adult reread fearing that the Christian content which sailed right over my heathen head in childhood would be so much in the forefront that it would spoil the erstwhile magic. That said, the Chronicles were never of central importance in my reading life, so my relationship with them could never be as fraught as Miller's. It al...more
Robin
This book is so great because Laura Miller writes many of the appreciations I have for reading that I just have not been able to articulate myself. There's so much I wish I had written down while I was reading it.

The Narnia books were never my favorites; but I certainly felt that thrill of recognition in other books that took me into their worlds and transformed me: Lizard Music, Earthsea, Hitchhiker's Guide, and Golden Compass. Even more so, throughout this reading, I enjoyed Miller's company...more
Mary Etta
Mar 03, 2010 Mary Etta marked it as to-read
Recommends it for: Vicky
Shelves: unfinished
This sounds interesting. I've been a fan of C S Lewis since our KS days when a teen-age friend gave the Narnia set to our daughter Chris dealing with brain cancer. Later David and Polly loved reading "Screwtape Letters." Between the two and expanding to other writings we've been fans ever since extending to the grandchildren. Loved a stage play at MSU of which I would have loved to have read the script. (Didn't I see that with you, Vicky?)I think it was "Shadowlands." So this sounds like a good...more
Nancy Butts
As a girl of eight, Laura Miller fell under the spell of CS Lewis in the Chronicles of Narnia and believed in it utterly, wanting passionately to go there. As a teen, this lapsing Catholic felt humiliated and deeply betrayed by Lewis for the Christian symbolism that she hadn't noticed in the books as a child. As an adult—a literary critic for Salon—she went on an emotional and literary journey to reclaim Narnia as her own again. Whatever your feelings may be about the Narnia books, I think you w...more
Dr. Godot
The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventure in Narnia, by Laura Miller

Despite the subtitle, this book is not just for readers of C.S. Lewis. It’s a smart, analytical, broadly focused examination of the intellectual and psychological value, especially for children, of reading fantasy literature. Lewis’s work is the primary focus of this examination, but Miller also discusses works of children’s fantasy by Andersen through Yeats and all the alphabet in between. (The only “Z” I could think of—Zheng...more
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Laura Miller is a journalist and critic. She is a cofounder of Salon.com, where she is currently a staff writer, and is the editor of The Salon.com Readers Guide to Contemporary Authors. A regular contributor to The New York Times Book Review, her work has also appeared in The New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times, Time, and other publications. She lives in New York. Her new book is The Magician's Boo...more
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