Beloved Christian writer C.S. Lewis died on the same day—November 22, 1963—as President John F. Kennedy and the novelist Aldous Huxley. While Huxley is now largely forgotten and Kennedy remains a symbol of lost promise, Lewis lives on through his novels, stories, essays, and autobiographical works.
Because of the sheer joy the books in the Chronicles of Narnia series continue to bring to children and adults (and no doubt added exposure from the film versions), his books continue to sell more than 6 million copies every year, according to Baker Academic publicist Trinity Graeser. Between now and November, several biographical and critical books, as well as new editions of some of his classics, bring Lewis and his works to our attention yet again, probing the reasons this once-cynical-atheist-turned-Christian-apologist-and-fantasy-author still casts his spell over us today.
Like Lewis, the highly acclaimed Christian theologian Alister McGrath once embraced atheism and then became a Christian whose work on Christian apologetics is widely read. In his C.S. Lewis—A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet (Tyndale House, Mar.), McGrath draws on his extensive archival research into Lewis's more than 3,000 letters to portray a man and writer whose "best art hinted at the deeper structures of reality, helping humanity in its perpetual quest for truth and significance," McGrath writes.
In A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis (Brazos Press, Aug.), Devin Brown (Inside Narnia) chronicles Lewis's journey from atheist to Christian, tracing Lewis's lifelong search for his mysterious object of desire—joy. He provides a close reading of Lewis's writings and an examination of Lewis's friendships with J.R.R. Tolkien and the rest of the literary circle known as the Inklings.
Lewis scholar Don W. King (C.S. Lewis, Poet) brings together a collection of his essays and critical reviews in Plain to the Inward Eye: Selected Essays on C.S. Lewis (Abilene Christian University Press, Jan.). King's writings range over four areas: the Chronicles of Narnia; Lewis's legacy as a poet (a neglected topic in studies of his work); his relationships with Ruth Pitter and Joy Davidman; and perspectives on critical work on Lewis over the past forty years.
Because of his deep work in the Lewis archives, Alister McGrath is able to expand the scope of his C.S. Lewis: A Life, and he offers a more rigorous academic approach to Lewis's works in The Intellectual World of C.S. Lewis (Wiley, April). McGrath takes a fresh approach to Lewis's works by focusing on key themes, including the concept of myth in Lewis's thought; his apologetic method; his intellectual development; and the role of the imagination in making sense of the world.
These books perform the task that all critical books should and also plant a desire in readers to pick up and read Lewis's own work. One of Lewis's most popular works, The Screwtape Letters, offers a satiric portrait of human life told from the perspective of Screwtape, a high-ranking assistant to "Our Father Below." In November, readers will gain new insights into this classic work with annotations, historical background, and explanations of terms in The Screwtape Letters: Annotated Edition (HarperOne). Lewis fans and first-time Lewis readers can also pick up the gift edition of A Grief Observed (HarperOne, Mar.), which he wrote in an attempt to make sense of his wife's tragic death.
Lewis's own books and these others have written about him illuminate this gifted author, whose passion for good writing and deep desire to bring pleasure to readers make his work timeless.