The first time I picked up a copy of From the Library of C. S. Lewis I was quite excited about it. I consider myself a casual Lewis fan. His writings, fiction and nonfiction, have had a deep impact on my way of thinking. This book offers readers a glimpse of the writers who impacted his spiritual thought and formation.
In the Introduction we are promised a “smorgasbord” of short impressions of the authors he valued, and this book does not fail to deliver on that promise. From the Library pulls from more than 100 authors who influenced his thinking.
Lewis was a literary scholar, and this book demonstrates, above all, just how eclectic his tastes were. Here’s a sample:
- Catholic thinkers such as G.K. Chesterton and Baron Friedrich von Hugel
- Reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin
- Contemporary authors Austin Farrer, Dorothy Sayers, and Joy Davidman
- Church fathers such as Augustine and Athanasius
- Mystics like Bernard of Clairvaux, Julian of Norwich, and Thomas à Kempis
- Literary critics such as Samuel Johnson, William Hazlitt, and Samuel Coleridge
- Poets and novelists like George MacDonald and John Donne
- Puritans like Richard Baxter and John Bunyan
For a sample of this book read chapter one.
What I like about this book
James Stuart Bell has done his homework. The pieces quoted come from Lewis’ personal library housed at the Marion E. Wade Center in Wheaton, Illinois. To the hardcore Lewis fan, this book is perfect primer on the authors that made him who he was.
Lewis was a fan of “old books,” believing the best literature were those pieces that had stood the test of time. This anthology of short snippets is ideal for someone who is really serious about looking for older authors.
This book would also be good for someone who is preparing a Bible study or sermon. The quoted passages are deliberately short and divided by general topic. This is how I plan to use this book: as a desk reference of poignant quotes.
What I don’t like about this book
If you are looking for each page to really engage you with fascinating insights, this book does not do that. At times I found myself not understanding why Lewis found a particular author so enjoyable.
The quoted texts are just long enough so that you have to read them through carefully and thoroughly, but short enough that you’re on to the next author too quickly, and then you are faced with a whole new writing style and different perspective. For this reason, the book really fails to capture the readers attention. This is not a “read it from cover to cover” kind of book.
To someone like myself who is more of a casual Lewis fan, I’m not motivated to read these texts to give me insight into Lewis’ mind (which is the primary reasons these texts were compiled). Really, the book is a clever way to introduce Christians to profound thinkers of the past, but it will probably fail to keep many readers’ attention long enough to pique their interest in these quoted authors.