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C. S. Lewis - A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet [Kindle Edition]

Alister McGrath
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (137 customer reviews)

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Book 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.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Medievalist, Christian apologist, and fantasist C. S. Lewis (1898–1963) has had exponentially more readers since his death than he enjoyed in his lifetime. Biographies and studies of his work are legion. Despite that copious documentation, Oxford theologian McGrath discovered a major inaccuracy in all previous accounts of Lewis, including his glowing spiritual autobiography, Surprised by Joy (1955). Diligent combing of Lewis’ correspondence disclosed that his conversion to Christianity—the catalyst for virtually all his creative work—occurred in 1930, not 1929. Well, Lewis admitted he wasn’t good with dates, and a plethora of anxiety-inducing deadlines involved in the major developments in his life rather justify his confusion. McGrath doesn’t speculate about how Lewis’ chronic achronology may have affected his work. Instead, he limns Lewis’ major experiences—early loss of his mother, horrifying schooling, WWI service (about which he never spoke), long Oxford fellowship, BBC-fostered celebrity in the 1940s, creation of Narnia, late-career move to Cambridge, and brief marriage to Joy Davidman (1915–60)—his great friendships (especially with J. R. R. Tolkien), and his books. 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. --Ray Olson


"This multifaceted biography and analysis of C.S. Lewis's life and works would challenge even the most dedicated audiobook narrator. The late Robin Sachs clearly has a keen understanding of the work and the life he is recounting. The book is divided into segments that include the various events of Lewis's life. His relationship with his father, the death of his wife, and his ongoing relationship with his brother influenced his literature. Additionally, his conversion from atheism to Christianity transformed his character. With a tranquil tone and fluid delivery, Robin Sachs leads the listener through these various sections with quiet perception of the man and thoroughly reveals Lewis's complex nature. It's a stellar performance and a stunning biography." 
E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award - © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

Product Details

  • File Size: 4524 KB
  • Print Length: 449 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1414339356
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (February 18, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008PX0GPI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,272 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
100 of 107 people found the following review helpful
C. S. Lewis--Jack to his friends--looms large in the American evangelical mind.

On the one hand, this is surprising. A communicant in the Church of England, Lewis was generically orthodox but not specifically evangelical in theological or spiritual emphases. His closest lifelong friends were a homosexual Unitarian (Arthur Greeves) and a traditionalist Roman Catholic (J. R. R. Tolkien). And he drank and smoked prolifically, at one point having a barrel of beer in his rooms at Oxford for the use of his students.

On the other hand, Lewis's influence on American evangelicals is not surprising. After World War II, American neo-evangelicals shook off their Fundamentalist separatism and irritability and began to actively engage culture with an eye toward changing it. Lewis--the Oxford don who wrote well-regarded studies of medieval English literature, well-written works of Christian apologetics, and well-loved children's stories--modeled the kind of influence evangelicals wished to exercise on culture high, middlebrow, and popular.

Writing about Lewis is thus something of a cottage industry among American evangelicals, with new titles on this or that aspect of his thought or life appearing regularly. Alister McGrath's new biography of Lewis is part of that cottage industry--though McGrath is a British evangelical--but nonetheless a welcome addition to it. The broad outlines of Lewis's life have been sketched before, by Lewis himself (in
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57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courageous Exploration of Lewis March 5, 2013
Two of the most influential voices in evangelicalism were not evangelicals themselves, though they have been claimed for evangelicalism and many younger thinkers can't imagine their not being evangelicals. Those two are Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an orthodox Lutheran, and C.S. Lewis, an Anglican with the sensibility of a "mere" kind of Christianity. In their day neither was claimed by the kind of evangelicalism that then existed, which was more like the very conservative side of evangelicalism today. One could probably tally up a lengthy list of folks who are "claimed" by some group but who in their day were not in that group.

What cannot be denied though is that C.S. Lewis has become a saint for evangelicalism. The focus of his biography is not on that dimension of Lewis, even if he has one of the better sketches of that story, but on the life, development, theology, and career of C.S. Lewis. I'm speaking of Alister McGrath's exquisite new biography of C.S. Lewis. I can't say McGrath's two categories (eccentric genius and reluctant prophet) are addressed head-on but these two expressions certainly form deep structure themes in this book. Lewis was eccentric and he never did want the attention he garnered.

I have read four other biographies of Lewis -- Green, Wilson, Sayer, Jacobs -- and McGrath. McGrath is now the best of the lot because it provides more perspective and critical interaction than the others. Wilson's remains too critical and suspicious while Green's is now the dated volume. Jacobs set out to do more of an examination of imagination but offered more of a biography than a thematic exploration.

McGrath spent 18 months reading everything from Lewis in chronological order.
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Why Lewis is Still Read 50 Years Later February 20, 2013
Let's get the first question out of the way by asking another question: Can there really be a "perfect" biography of anyone? While it's true that a person could compose a imperfect book, to do the total opposite actually asks the wrong question. That's because you have to consider the target audience of a book, what approach is used and what the credentials of the writer are. For those not familiar with Dr. McGrath, he is a historical theologian who is currently Professor of Theology, Ministry and Education at King’s College London, UK. This fact may make some people think he has written a rather "dry" biography that would only be of interest to other professionals. This is not the case at all. The book is a well organize volume covering the life of Lewis without being overly concerned with providing every detail possible (which would make for an impossibly long book if it tried). Yet in the 400+ pages you do get an adequately detailed look at his life. In a recent interview by Will Vaus on the HarperOne C.S. Lewis blog, McGrath stated his biography was aimed at individuals who mostly know about Lewis from the recent Narnia movies or have just heard about him without knowing much at all. Thus his aim was to "show why this man was so interesting." Is this just another work to mindlessly applaud Lewis? Not at all, as McGrath states in the book itself, "This biography sets out, not to praise Lewis or condemn him, but to understand him."

Consider the subtitle of the book, "Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet." While it provides a nice takeaway line that does reflect a positive view of Lewis, McGrath doesn't hesitate to show Lewis's warts. Prior to a return to the faith, Lewis treated his father very poorly and McGrath admits there likely was a sexual relationship with Mrs. Moore.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed and entertaining
The details in this biography are quite deep, and the overall flow of writing makes you want to keep going. I loved this.
Published 9 days ago by matt rieniets
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Well written, excellent biography! Made me want to reread and read other CS Lewis works...
Published 19 days ago by MGR
5.0 out of 5 stars this is a great book.
In depth study of Lewis' life and it's influences on his writings. Well documented sources and references. Read more
Published 22 days ago by timw
A very informative biography, citing many sources. So happy I read this book. Will definitely seek out more books by Lewis and this author.
Published 29 days ago by Patricia J. Parry
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
History of his youth, and his early adulthood, very interesting...then became tired of wading through all the verbage.
Published 1 month ago by cboth
5.0 out of 5 stars Have a look,
This book differs with its view and assessment of an author so beloved but perhaps not aways well understood. Read more
Published 2 months ago by dgj
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A good book on Lewis by an able scholar. A bit gossipy!
Published 2 months ago by Doyle Peyton
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Well written biography.
Published 2 months ago by Scott R Graybill
5.0 out of 5 stars Great bio
Having read Walter Hooper's biography, I was interested in reading this modern bio. I was not disappointed. Like Lewis, live a life of impact.
Published 2 months ago by Bob Ace
5.0 out of 5 stars Biography of C S Lewis
Well written life story of an Irish scholar, religious writer, novelist, professor of medieval and renaissance literature. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Buzzybet
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More About the Author

Alister E. McGrath is a historian, biochemist, and Christian theologian born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A longtime professor at Oxford University, he now holds the chair in theology, ministry, and education at the University of London. He is the author of several books on theology and history, including Christianity's Dangerous Idea, In the Beginning, and The Twilight of Atheism. He lives in Oxford, England, and lectures regularly in the United States.

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