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The Four Loves Paperback – September 29, 1971

4.6 out of 5 stars 309 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Four Loves summarizes four kinds of human love--affection, friendship, erotic love, and the love of God. Masterful without being magisterial, this book's wise, gentle, candid reflections on the virtues and dangers of love draw on sources from Jane Austen to St. Augustine. The chapter on charity (love of God) may be the best thing Lewis ever wrote about Christianity. Consider his reflection on Augustine's teaching that one must love only God, because only God is eternal, and all earthly love will someday pass away:
Who could conceivably begin to love God on such a prudential ground--because the security (so to speak) is better? Who could even include it among the grounds for loving? Would you choose a wife or a Friend--if it comes to that, would you choose a dog--in this spirit? One must be outside the world of love, of all loves, before one thus calculates.
His description of Christianity here is no less forceful and opinionated than in Mere Christianity or The Problem of Pain, but it is far less anxious about its reader's response--and therefore more persuasive than any of his apologetics. When he begins to describe the nature of faith, Lewis writes: "Take it as one man's reverie, almost one man's myth. If anything in it is useful to you, use it; if anything is not, never give it a second thought." --Michael Joseph Gross


"A rare and memorable book." —Saturday Review

"The Four Loves deserves to become a minor classic as a modern mirror of our souls, a mirror of the virtues and failings of human loving." —New York Times Book Review

"[Lewis] has never written better. Nearly every page scintillates with observations which are illuminating, provocative and original." —Church Times

"What is interesting about these chapters is the extent to which a non-believer can follow the argument and receive enlightenment … Lewis has a keen eye, a large measure of human sympathy, wit, and a command of simple words … By writing so well and so perceptively about ‘natural’ human conduct, Lewis makes the strongest case for examining his conclusions with respect. He is writing, presumably, for the unconverted as well as for Christians, and whatever the former may believe or disbelieve about God they are persuaded that he could only exist as a culmination in absolute terms of their deepest moral convictions."—Times Literary Supplement

Product Details

  • Series: Harvest Book
  • Paperback: 156 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 2nd Printing edition (September 29, 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156329301
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156329309
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (309 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954, when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year. His most distinguished and popular accomplishments include Mere Christianity, Out of the Silent Planet, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and the universally acknowledged classics The Chronicles of Narnia. To date, the Narnia books have sold over 100 million copies and been transformed into three major motion pictures.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves was not a book that I expected to reshape my thinking. I first picked it up while following the reading guide at the end of Lindskoog's Mere Christian. I thought it would be a fun read during valentine's season. One often is most vulnerable to the trap when one is not alert...
And so, once more, C.S. Lewis has changed my thought on a broad portion of life. He's done it to me before--the Narnian Books, Mere Christianity, An Experiment In Criticism--have all been books that have greatly shaped me. Now I can add the Four Loves to the list.
One does not often sit down and ponder the different kinds of love. One may have generalized "loved ones" such as family and friends, we may "love" certain activities or places, we may even say we are "in love" ... but do we stop to consider our words?
Lewis spends time surveying the lay of love's different lands. Building on blocks of seemingly deepening emotion, he moves from looking at affection to friendship to erotic love (Eros) to the love of God (Agape). Each is looked at in detail, their meaning and impact on life is explored.
The most helpful thing about this book is that Lewis allows the reader to think about how they deal with their own loves in life. Does one stress a certain kind of love in an unhealthy way? Do we ignore the possibilities of one love because another kind holds too much sway in our lives?
I believe Lewis makes the case that God's love should be primary in the lives of humans. The other loves, though they can be wonderful in their place, can be used unnaturally and ineffectively to try and fill in for Agape if it is not felt. A healthy life will involve all four loves. Yet they must be rooted and grounded in Agape.
My own favorite passage in this book is in the friendship section.
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Format: Paperback
I was not especially expecting to be engrossed by a book about four greek words, but I was wrong. This was one of the better books that I have ever read. Lewis overviews each of the four types of love: storge (affection), phileo (friendship), eros (romantic love), and agape (charity or God-love). Each discussion was extremely insightful, especially the friendship one.

He desribed storge as the kind of love we have for people whome we spend a lot of time with, but whom with we do not necessarily have a lot in common with. For example, if you have a sibling whom you do not share many interests with but whom you love nonetheless, it is probably storge. These are people whom you probably would not be friends with if you were not related to or neighbors to these people. Lewis notes that these are people we often do not really realize how much we loved until they are gone (or until we realize that they are those kind of people to us).

He had an amazing chapter on phileo and the gift of friendship as well. I won't go into much detail so that you can enjoy it more when you actually get around to reading it. Let me just say that it made me appreciate my friends much more, and changed my views on what a friend is. He had the amazing insight that each friend brings out a different part of you. He noted that his friendship with J. R. Tolkien was not quite the same after Charles Williams died, because Williams brought out parts of Tokien that Lewis did not. Very insightful.

Lewis' discussion of eros was very insightful as well. He discussed the nature of romantic love, and what romantic love looks like in a marriage. His main point seemed to be that eros loves the other person, and does not try to make the other person become more like himself.
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Format: Paperback
I used to think that if I just found the "perfect" way to do relationships, I would never get hurt or have my heart broken.

Lewis counters that kind of thinking. Love is vulnerable, and you will get hurt, he says, and the only place you can fully escape from the "dangers and perturbations" of love is in Hell.

This book helped me, and I hope it will help you, to break free from the mindset of seeking to avoid hurt in relationships, and replace it with a desire to truly love other people.

We can never entirely avoid hurt or pain in relationships, but if we approach relationships with the mindset of avoiding pain, we will never experience the joy of true love.

This book's scope is not limited to one kind of relationship. It is the "Four Loves," after all. Four kinds of love...affection, friendship, eros, and charity.

Lewis truly goes through the whole gamut of love. He covers what he calls the "likings and loves for the sub-human" (like a pet), simple affection for other people and family, the love that friends share, romantic love, and then God's love--the fullest expression of love.

I think perhaps this is one of the best books on love and relationships (for the two are inexplicably bound up in each other) that I have ever read. I don't think you will be able to read this book without being changed.
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Format: Paperback
I own nearly 1000 books, of which a few I have multiple copies of: The Bible, Sun Tzu's The Art of War, The Prince. This book I have only one copy of, but have bought at least 5 that I can recall off-hand. That's because I loan it out, and it rarely gets returned (folks always return the Bibles, for some reason...). Anyone concerned with the nature and types of love should read this book. C.S. Lewis compares and contrasts love of God, Family, Lovers, and Friends in a way that makes good sense, is easy to understand, and is practical in real life. Should be required reading for anyone that has just started a relationship of any kind, or just ended a relationship for any reason.
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