C.S. Lewis: A Life--Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet  -     By: Alister E. McGrath
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C.S. Lewis: A Life--Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet

Tyndale House / 2013 / Hardcover

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2013 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of C.S. Lewis, and although his writings remain as influential as ever--Lewis himself remains--for many of his biggest fans-- somewhat of an enigma.

Lewis' legacy is as vast as it is varied. He was a towering intellectual figure with impeccable academic credentials and yet a popular novelist for both children and adults publishing both The Chronicles of Narnia and his Space Trilogy. Lewis was also an accomplished apologist and advocate of the Christian faith and completed numerous timeless classics such as Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, and The Four Loves along with a host of other books, stories, and insightful essays.

In C.S. Lewis: A Life, renowned historian and former Oxford professor Alister McGrath paints a definitive and comprehensive portrait of the life of C. S. Lewis. McGrath combines crisp prose with a highly informative but accessible narrative that highlights every corner of Lewis' often obscure world from his days as an introverted child spending endless hours reading and imagining to his ascension to fame as a British novelist. Lewis' complex relationships with his brother, father, Joy Davidman, J.R.R. Tolkien and the Inklings are all examined in detail as is recently discovered personal correspondence. But McGrath also delves into Lewis' psyche and his faith, reexamines his conversion in light of new evidence, and brings the entire story together in a biography that N.T. Wright has called "A penetrating and illuminating study".

C.S. Lewis has, perhaps, influenced more Christians than any other modern writer. But there is so much more to the man than his writings. There is a remarkable story within the storyteller. Alister McGrath tells that story with precision, honesty, and humor.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 350
Vendor: Tyndale House
Publication Date: 2013
Dimensions: 9.00 X 6.00 (inches)
ISBN: 1414339356
ISBN-13: 9781414339351
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

ECPA 2014 Christian Book Award Winner (Non-Fiction)!
Fifty years after his death, C. S. Lewis continues to inspire and fascinate millions. His legacy remains varied and vast. He was a towering intellectual figure, a popular fiction author who inspired a global movie franchise around the world of Narnia, and an atheist-turned-Christian thinker.

In C.S. Lewis—A Life, Alister McGrath, prolific author and respected professor at King’s College of London, paints a definitive portrait of the life of C. S. Lewis. After thoroughly examining recently published Lewis correspondence, Alister challenges some of the previously held beliefs about the exact timing of Lewis’s shift from atheism to theism and then to Christianity. He paints a portrait of an eccentric thinker who became an inspiring, though reluctant, prophet for our times.

You won’t want to miss this fascinating portrait of a creative genius who inspired generations.

Endorsements

McGrath's new biography of C. S. Lewis is excellant. it's filled with information based on extensive scholarship but is nonetheless extremely readable. It not only devotes great attention to the formation and character of Lewis, it offers incisive and balanced analyses of all his main literary works. I devoured Lewis's works in my youth. His impact on me was profound and lasting, and McGrath clearly explains why so many can say the same thing.
-Tim Keller

McGrath sheds new light on the life of the incomparable C.S. Lewis. This is an important book.
-Eric Metaxas,
author of Bonhoeffer

Many of us thought we knew most of what there is to know about C.S. Lewis. Alister McGrath's new biography makes use of archives and other material that clarify, deepen, and further explain the many sides of one of Christianity's most remarkable apologists. This is a penetrating and illuminating read.
-N.T. Wright

Alister McGrath has written a meticulously researched, insightful, fair-minded, and honest account of a fascinating man's life. His book is especially distinctive in its placing of Lewis in his vocational and social contexts, but it also provides a compelling account of the development of Lewis' Christian mind. This will be an indispensable resource for fans and scholars of Lewis.
-Alan Jacobs

For people who might wonder if we need another biography of C.S. Lewis, McGrath's crisp, insightful, and at times quite original portrait of the celebrated Oxford Christian will change their minds.
-Lyle W. Dorsett

A welcome addition to the biographical literature on C.S. Lewis, which includes several valuable new perspectives. McGrath's book will gain a permanent position in Lewis scholarship for his brilliant and, to my my mind, undeniable re-dating of Lewis' conversion to Theism. How we all missed this for so long is astonishing.
-Michael Ward

Editorial Reviews

McGrath does this so limpidly, so intelligently, and so sympathetically that this biography is the one Lewis’ admirers—especially those who, like him, believe that books are to be read and enjoyed—should prefer to all others.
To the question of whether the world really needs another biography of C.S. Lewis, McGrath’s lucid and unsentimental portrait of the Christian champion responds with a resounding “yes.” The year 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of Lewis’s death, and times have changed and evangelical sentiments have matured. McGrath offers a new and at times shocking look into the complicated life of this complex figure, in a deeply researched biography. The author takes us headlong into the heart of a Lewis we’ve known little about: his unconventional affair with Mrs. Jane Moore; his hostile and deceptive relationship with his father; his curiosity about the sensuality of cruelty. McGrath navigates the reader through these messy themes, ultimately landing us onto the solid ground of Lewis’s postconversion legacy. He shows with skill, sympathy, dispassion, and engaging prose that Lewis, like the rest of us, did the best he could with the hand he was dealt. But he got over it, as must all those who would prefer a Lewis without shadows.
A thoroughly researched yet very readable, chronological account of C.S. Lewis’ life, his literature, and his journey from atheism to Christianity. Fifty years after his death, the words of Lewis continue to inspire many, and McGrath’s biography may help to unravel some of the mystery behind his eccentric mind. Staff Pick
Alister McGrath’s C. S. Lewis: A Life now supplies a welcome balance, along with some significant discoveries. Mr. McGrath is well placed, culturally speaking, to understand and sympathize with Lewis. . . . One comes away with a renewed sympathy for a provocative, perceptive, contrarian and somewhat tormented soul
McGrath is not intimidated by Lewis nor overly reverential of him; but he shows him a professional respect that ought to silence those who dismiss Lewis as a theological amateur. He points out that under its clothing of reasoned argument, Lewis’ theology is always founded on a profoundly aesthetic effort: to draw us a picture of the Christian universe and our place in it that moves, attracts and persuades us, so that we say: yes, this is what life is really like, and how much more real it is than we ever imagined. A powerful achievement.
While readers of C. S. Lewis might assume a biography would cover his literature, this account comes from an eminent theologian and focuses on Lewis’ spiritual life and conversion—and therefore is a definitive survey of Lewis’ conversion and faith, recommended for spirituality holdings above all else. Dr. McGrath is the only scholar to analyze the entire collection of Lewis’ letters and archives: his survey is a powerful biography combining elements of spiritual and literary analysis, and is a special pick for any Christian collection.
Rather than canonizing Lewis, McGrath’s meticulously detailed book succeeds in humanizing him.
There have been plenty of biographies of Lewis—I once wrote one myself—but I do not think there has been a better one than Alister McGrath’s. He is a punctilious and enthusiastic reader of all Lewis’s work—the children’s stories, the science fiction, the Christian apologetics and the excellent literary criticism and literary history. He is from Northern Ireland, as Lewis was himself, and he is especially astute about drawing out the essentially Northern Irish qualities of this very odd man. And he is sympathetic to the real oddness of his story.
On the 50th anniversary of his death, this new C. S. Lewis biography succeeds in deepening the appeal of his works…The most abiding gift of C. S. Lewis: A Life is its fierce curiosity about the novels, letters, and books of popular philosophy that are Lewis’ most substantial legacy. McGrath’s biography promises to introduce new readers to those works—and inspire veteran C. S. Lewis fans to visit them again.
If you’re looking for a lively, general introduction to this multitalented thinker and writer, Alister McGrath’s new biography is a good place to start.
An excellent scholarly read encompassing new ideas for Lewis devotees or those interested in religious argument.

Product Reviews

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  1. luvs to cook
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Age: Over 65
    Gender: female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    In depth study of the life & works of C.S.Lewis
    August 28, 2013
    luvs to cook
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Age: Over 65
    Gender: female
    Quality: 4
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 4
    Alister McGrath covered the life and works of C.S. Lewis in great detail, including his flaws and controversial points as well as his superb visionary works that defend the faith and point to the art of communicating ideas and truth to all generations. The books discusses where he grew up, how his father hurt him, what happened in 1917 that added to the hurt, where he went in 1919, who became his cornerstone, and who supported him but died alone in a nursing home. It told what gave him financial security, what caused him to move from atheism to Christianity, what happened when his brother Warnie moved to Oxford, whom he encouraged in his writings who would help him rediscover his Christian faith, how knowing God helps an author, what two worlds Lewis saw, and who also moved significantly on a faith journey. What did the Inklings have in common and what did they do, how was Lewis a literary midwife, what role did Lewis play for BBC in World War II, what caused America to love Lewis, what other books would add to his devotees, what caused him heartbreak in his late 40's, what caused hostility to him at Oxford, and why did he feel isolated there? Why did he invent Narnia, what gave the Chronicles of Narnia such appeal, what happened in 1956 that was strange, when Joy became seriously ill, what did he do, what do Reflections on the Psalms and the Four Loves reflect, and what caused him major legal problems? All these questions and more are answered in this book. If you love Lewis' books, this book will help you understand the man behind the stories. It is so deep however that it is too long to be a fun read.
  2. ajreader
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    C.S. Lewis
    August 27, 2013
    ajreader
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    While nearly everyone who grows up in an American, evangelical Christian home has heard of C.S. Lewis and his writings, I realized that I actually knew very little about his personal history. I knew he converted and subsequently became and influential defender of the faith. Beyond that, I knew nothing...McGrath put together a splendid biography of this great man. Often, biographies can become a dry recitation of facts. McGrath, however, kept the content interesting and engaging, which I appreciated. He remained neutral and objective, as a good biographer should.
  3. Lizzy970
    Fountain, Co
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    The Life of C. S. Lewis
    August 7, 2013
    Lizzy970
    Fountain, Co
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    C. S. Lewis grew up in Ireland until his mother passed away and his father sent him to England to boarding school. He hated the schools until he went to a private tutor. Then he went to the college he wanted to. He wanted to be a poet, but found his calling in writing books. Books about his life and a special series called the Lion, Witch and Wardrobe. He also became a University professor in England at a university he loved. He got married to an American woman who came to England to meet him because she was a writer, too. They got married and although she did pass away from cancer, they still had a good life together, leaving him her son from a previous marriage to take care of. After many books and papers written he passed away also with many honors. Today he is still idolized from many who still read and watch the Lion, Witch and Wardrobe series of movies and books.
  4. bookworm
    Pennsylvania
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    2 Stars Out Of 5
    C.S. Lewis
    August 6, 2013
    bookworm
    Pennsylvania
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    Quality: 3
    Value: 3
    Meets Expectations: 2
    C.S. Lewis: A Life is a book that tells the story of one of Britain's most loved authors. Like many, I read C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia and fell in love with the world that Lewis had created. As I grew older, I read many more of Lewis's books and when I found this book about C.S. Lewis, I just had to read it. Though I enjoyed this biography, I found myself shocked about the kind of life that C.S. Lewis lived. Though I knew he spent his earlier years as a non-Christian and was not the easiest man to get along with, I was shocked to learn what a prejudiced and proud man he was! I have to say that I view "one of my favorite authors" in a different light than I did before reading this book. I had no idea he hated Americans and had little respect for women or children. After reading of his attitudes concerning these things, I am glad that he died long before I was even born because I don't think I would have wanted to meet him. In fact, if I had known of these attitudes as a child, I would have avoided all books that he had written and I will think twice before I read any more books by C.S. Lewis. Though this was a well-written book and very enlightening, I wish I had never read this book because of the old adage: "Ignorance is Bliss"!
  5. Pauline
    Muscatine, IA
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Good look at the man behind the books
    July 27, 2013
    Pauline
    Muscatine, IA
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    Alister McGrath sets out "not to praise Lewis or condemn him, but to understand him." That is why I wanted to read about Lewis' life, to understand the man behind the books I have so much appreciated. This is the kind of biography I enjoy reading (and I don't usually enjoy biographies), one that helps me understand the person without getting bogged down in details of his life unrelated to my interest in him.

    I still learned a lot about his life, things I knew nothing about before regarding his childhood (I had no idea he was Irish!) and education, his unconventional "family" life as an adult, and his friendships with other writers and scholars. I knew a little about his conversion to Christianity and his work as a scholar of English literature, and it was these aspects of his life especially that I was interested in learning more about.

    Apparently there is not all that much to tell about his conversion, because he didn't write a lot about it, either in his published books or his letters (the latter have only recently been made public and were the source of much of McGrath's information). What McGrath does spend a number of pages arguing, regarding Lewis' conversion, is the timing of it. Apparently Lewis himself remembered it wrong, and everyone else has gone along with Lewis' own account. This was mildly interesting, though not worth the number of pages McGrath devoted to it.

    No doubt more could have been written about his work as a scholar, but perhaps that would make the book too long for the typical reader. I would have been interested in learning more about all of his works, including his fiction other than the Narnia books (which many people are unaware of) and his books about the Christian faith. But that could probably take another whole book - or several of them.

    McGrath devotes the last portion of the book, after Lewis' death, to exploring how and why he became such an important - and highly regarded - figure among Evangelical Christians in the United States. The book is a good corrective to the overly adulatory view of Lewis that is common among many American Christians, while recognizing the important contributions he made and how his work can continue to be appreciated even though some of it feels rather dated.
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