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

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  2,455 ratings  ·  263 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 ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 11th 2005 by HarperOne (first published October 1st 2005)
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 ·  2,455 ratings  ·  263 reviews

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Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A long and enjoyable romp through the life and ideas of Lewis. This book is not for the casual reader. It takes ages to get through and the writing is thick and circuitous (in a good way). But it is so much more than a biography: it explores the thoughts of Lewis. It's an exploration not only of his life, but his work. I don't know how else to describe it. This book is a magnificent journey, if you're willing to go on an adventure!

A wonderful Lewis biography right up there with McGrath's C. S.
Dan Glover
Jan 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
I loved this biography of Lewis and, in particular, of his imagination. I have praised it left, right and sideways, when people have asked me about it. So for the record, I wish to add my voice to the chorus of praises being sung about this book, and will not restate the many strengths of this book here. However, unlike many reviews I've heard or read, I cannot praise it without reserve. Epecially since its one glaring error finds its place between the covers of the same book that does such a ...more
May 31, 2009 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
Sep 13, 2015 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;
Apr 30, 2011 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.
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
A good bio of Lewis, though McGrath's is still my favorite. Full of quotations from Lewis's books/letters, and interacts with alot of the literature about Lewis. I listened on audio and wished for a different narrator, but perhaps that's too picky. Solid book overall.
Jan 18, 2011 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 ...more
Nov 22, 2008 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 ...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
Sep 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, lewis, history
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, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: life-changing
My book of the year for 2017, even though I don't normally like biographies, and even though I tragically didn't finish it until 2018 (if only I could bring myself to stop reading the texts I assign in class)...

This book has everything I love. It is equal parts biography of Lewis, whom I respect; spiritual insight, which I value; and literary analysis, which, I have recently come to realize, probably gets my heart racing even more than a good action plot. For example, the chapter on Lewis's
Diana Nelson
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love when biographies encompass the subject's entire life, and this book does this exceedingly well. I was a little apprehensive to read it based on the title, thinking it might only focus on Lewis as the author of the Narnia books. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book was extremely well balanced in terms of chronology as well as in terms of perspective (Jacobs, though thoroughly respectful to Lewis, does not sugar coat or even wholesale believe some "well known" ideas ...more
Kyle Keating
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful exploration of the life and thought of C.S. Lewis. My favorite chapters were Jacob's analysis of the major themes in Lewis's writing, whether in Narnia, the Space Trilogy, or his apologetic works. Jacobs skillfully weaves them together, showing how works of diverse genre and purpose could, at the same time, capture a unified vision of Christianity as plausible at a time when many in England found it increasingly implausible. I particularly loved Jacob's argument at the end that what ...more
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 21, 2009 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 ...more
Jan 29, 2012 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 ...more
Jan 16, 2011 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
RE de Leon
Jan 04, 2011 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
Jason Farley
Apr 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
G.M. Burrow
Aug 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, inklings
The detail and beauty of Jacobs' exploration is nothing short of astonishing.
Eleazar Diaz
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
C. S. Lewis, a man that managed to bring his love for fairy tales and his love for Jesus together into one world... Narnia. Where the great lion Aslan “came bounding into it” and “pulled the whole story together”.
A man whose sehnsucht (longing) for joy lasted a lifetime and yet had but brief visitations of it. No wonder he would conclude that "Joy is the serius bussines of haven" may he be getting lots of it now.
I have been deeply touched by this man's life and imagination!
This author did an enormous amount of research on the life and times of C S Lewis. Why am I surprised that an author whose books I love to read was a person of many parts? If any book can give a solid idea how it was to know or live with Mr Lewis, this is the one. Being a student in one of his classes would be a rare privilege.
However, the book being long, and my time to read being limited, I have had to give it up for now. I will try hard to get back to it in the future and finish it.
Erin Langworthy
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was difficult to read; the prose was dense and I had to read it much more slowly than I am accustomed to reading. But it was so, so worth it. I have new appreciation for the life and work of CS Lewis. He was a remarkable man with great insight.
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So much background information that really helped me understand where Lewis was writing from, both in a historic and personal setting. I found so many interesting things about him, and I'm looking forward to reading his autobiography Surprised by Joy next.
Jacob Vahle
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
About as good of an intro biography as you can get - not just sequential events but instead a weaving together of Lewis’ life and his imagination, showing specifically the narrative and theological threads from his life that ended up in his works.
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Very well done book on not just CS Lewis' life, but how he developed his thought process... how he became a Christian. His views changed throughout his life... there was a lot of things I didn't know about him.
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. C.S. Lewis had many faults but he was a prolific writer, incredibly loyal and kind. As a fellow author who is not nearly so good, I found his life story very interesting and inspiring.
Aaron Ventura
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Not the best stand-alone biography of Lewis nor as edifying as Joe Rigney's works, but an enjoyable read nonetheless. Recommend.
Sep 22, 2011 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
Bart Breen
May 19, 2012 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
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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
“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.” 16 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.” 5 likes
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