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A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis

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C. S. Lewis is one of the most influential Christian writers of our time. The Chronicles of Narnia has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide and all Lewis's works are estimated to sell 6 million copies annually. At the fiftieth anniversary of his death, Lewis expert Devin Brown brings the beloved author's story to life in a fresh, accessible, and moving biography thr C. S. Lewis is one of the most influential Christian writers of our time. The Chronicles of Narnia has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide and all Lewis's works are estimated to sell 6 million copies annually. At the fiftieth anniversary of his death, Lewis expert Devin Brown brings the beloved author's story to life in a fresh, accessible, and moving biography through focusing on Lewis's spiritual journey. Although it was clear from the start that Lewis would be a writer, it was not always clear he would become a Christian. Drawing on Lewis's autobiographical works, works by those who knew him personally, and his apologetic and fictional writing, this book tells the inspiring story of Lewis's journey from cynical atheist to joyous Christian and challenges readers to follow their own calling. The book allows Lewis to tell his own life story in a uniquely powerful manner while shedding light on his best-known works.


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C. S. Lewis is one of the most influential Christian writers of our time. The Chronicles of Narnia has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide and all Lewis's works are estimated to sell 6 million copies annually. At the fiftieth anniversary of his death, Lewis expert Devin Brown brings the beloved author's story to life in a fresh, accessible, and moving biography thr C. S. Lewis is one of the most influential Christian writers of our time. The Chronicles of Narnia has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide and all Lewis's works are estimated to sell 6 million copies annually. At the fiftieth anniversary of his death, Lewis expert Devin Brown brings the beloved author's story to life in a fresh, accessible, and moving biography through focusing on Lewis's spiritual journey. Although it was clear from the start that Lewis would be a writer, it was not always clear he would become a Christian. Drawing on Lewis's autobiographical works, works by those who knew him personally, and his apologetic and fictional writing, this book tells the inspiring story of Lewis's journey from cynical atheist to joyous Christian and challenges readers to follow their own calling. The book allows Lewis to tell his own life story in a uniquely powerful manner while shedding light on his best-known works.

30 review for A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Dragina

    I have no words . . . . This book was absolutely beautiful and I see C. S. Lewis in a totally different light. (His step-son gives a foreword on the book) I recommend this to anyone who has read C. S. Lewis. It's so eye-opening. And I'm so happy right now!! I can't even express the JOY I feel!! 💕 **Disclaimer** I skim read the whole book for a report. I have no words . . . . This book was absolutely beautiful and I see C. S. Lewis in a totally different light. (His step-son gives a foreword on the book) I recommend this to anyone who has read C. S. Lewis. It's so eye-opening. And I'm so happy right now!! I can't even express the JOY I feel!! 💕 **Disclaimer** I skim read the whole book for a report.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    Another valuable book on Lewis, this time focused solely on his spiritual journey. Again, it's mostly a reminder of Lewis facts I already know, but I liked the author's voice and enjoyed this refresher. In some sense this seemed like a reorganization of pre-existing facts and quotes into a very basic narrative. I'm not sure what the argument is (though I'll let that slide since this is a simple biography). But it fell into an easy and enjoyable rhythm as the author supported his claims by immedia Another valuable book on Lewis, this time focused solely on his spiritual journey. Again, it's mostly a reminder of Lewis facts I already know, but I liked the author's voice and enjoyed this refresher. In some sense this seemed like a reorganization of pre-existing facts and quotes into a very basic narrative. I'm not sure what the argument is (though I'll let that slide since this is a simple biography). But it fell into an easy and enjoyable rhythm as the author supported his claims by immediately diving into varied parts of Lewis's writing for exemplification. A great book to hand to any Lewis layman. But still, most books on Lewis nowadays leave me wanting more. Specifically, I wish there was more lengthy analysis of Till We Have Faces in here. While I've wanted to get my hands on the three volumes of Lewis's letters for a while now, this book strengthened that want!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Ultimately the biographer spends so much of the page quoting from Lewis's (published) letters and writings that I'd rather read those and draw my own conclusions. Ultimately the biographer spends so much of the page quoting from Lewis's (published) letters and writings that I'd rather read those and draw my own conclusions.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Crimm

    Prob 25% quotes from his books, but strung together in a way that enlightens reader re beloved’s spiritual growth and development. As ever, touched, strengthened and challenged by him.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Why of all the biographies of C.S. Lewis, including his own Surprised By Joy, should you read this biography? That's a fair question but rather than try to answer that outright, I will tell you what I liked about this particular biography. First, it is a sympathetic biography without being a hagiography. Brown accepts Lewis on his own terms while also recognizing his faults and foibles--particularly his priggishness as a young scholar prior to his conversion. The only place where this might be op Why of all the biographies of C.S. Lewis, including his own Surprised By Joy, should you read this biography? That's a fair question but rather than try to answer that outright, I will tell you what I liked about this particular biography. First, it is a sympathetic biography without being a hagiography. Brown accepts Lewis on his own terms while also recognizing his faults and foibles--particularly his priggishness as a young scholar prior to his conversion. The only place where this might be open to criticism is on the subject of his relationship with Mrs. Moore. Some might think he handled Lewis's relationship with his war-time friend's mother with kid gloves. I'd say he was probably being circumspect with regard to matters open to speculation. Second, this is a good work of scholarship, which exposes the reader not only to writings they would already know, but also to his correspondence, some of which has only recently been released. We hear Lewis in his own words and see the care with which he writes to friends and total strangers. And Brown does all this in a book of modest length. Third, Brown explores a motif of Lewis's life, his ideas about Joy throughout his life. One sees a person who not only discovered Joy as a signpost to greater realities, but also one who tremendously enjoyed his life--his scholarship, his friends, his wife, appropriately enough named Joy, and even his last years and the anticipation of his own passing. We follow Lewis from boyhood to his last years, which while punctuated by the death of his mother and of Joy, and a horrendous grammar school experience, was a journey into Joy. Finally, I appreciated some of the new insights this book brought me into his conversion and the role played by friends like Hugo Dyson and J.R.R. Tolkien. It was also delightful to read Brown's account of the Inklings and the ways Lewis and Tolkien in particular encouraged each other in their writing projects--would we have the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings otherwise? Likely not.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David Allen White

    In the last year or so I have read four books on C.S. Lewis, and each time I start one I wonder how I could possibly learn anything I didn't already know, but this author has done an excellent job of showing us more of the spirituality of Lewis than anyone else. It is well worth reading. In the last year or so I have read four books on C.S. Lewis, and each time I start one I wonder how I could possibly learn anything I didn't already know, but this author has done an excellent job of showing us more of the spirituality of Lewis than anyone else. It is well worth reading.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Macy

    I read this book years ago, and I remember it being full of good content but also being really boring for my taste.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I was looking forward to reading A Life Observed by Devin Brown, primarily because I had the pleasure of meeting Devin at Taylor University’s Colloquium on C.S. Lewis & Friends in 2012. (One of the many wonderful things about this event is the opportunity to dialogue with other Lewis enthusiasts, scholars, and authors!) However, having just re-read Surprised by Joy, Lewis's autobiography of sorts, I found the first half of Brown's book to be a bit of a repetitive experience for me as he seems to I was looking forward to reading A Life Observed by Devin Brown, primarily because I had the pleasure of meeting Devin at Taylor University’s Colloquium on C.S. Lewis & Friends in 2012. (One of the many wonderful things about this event is the opportunity to dialogue with other Lewis enthusiasts, scholars, and authors!) However, having just re-read Surprised by Joy, Lewis's autobiography of sorts, I found the first half of Brown's book to be a bit of a repetitive experience for me as he seems to be summarizing and quoting from it predominantly until chapter five. Yet, Devin does a fine job of illuminating areas Lewis did not write about in his book. He does this primarily through various letters written by Lewis over the course of his life, along with correspondence about him by friends and family, such as J.R.R. Tolkien and his brother, Warnie. The Pilgrim’s Regress and A Grief Observed are two additional autobiographical works which Devin explores. He also points out examples in Letters to Malcolm and The Screwtape Letters that would seem to give us even further insights into Lewis’s own spiritual journey. Because of these added sources, I enjoyed the second half of the book far more than the first half. I also appreciate that unlike some biographies on Lewis that may seem to lack heart, leaving them stale and dry, A Life Observed is truly engaging and full of the life of Jack. Or as Douglas Gresham wrote in the forward, of the numerous biographies that have been written, “some of them are very good books about Jack, but – here’s the rub – Jack is not in them.” Then, about Devin’s book, Gresham writes, “I grew up with Jack as my guide. This real Jack whom I knew walks the pages of this book.” I can’t think of much higher praise than that! Overall, it was well written, enjoyable to read, and I will most likely read it again in the future. You can read more of my book reviews on my blog: www.neyhart.blogspot.com

  9. 4 out of 5

    John

    Judging from what I found on the shelves of my local library, there has been about one new biography of C.S. Lewis written every other year since 2000. I've read none of them until this one (written in 2013, the 50th anniversary of the year of Lewis' death), but I believe I know enough about Lewis to surmise that he would be either astonished or appalled (or both) to know that that much paper was expended on his life. In my view, the essential biographical works about C.S. Lewis are "Jack," writt Judging from what I found on the shelves of my local library, there has been about one new biography of C.S. Lewis written every other year since 2000. I've read none of them until this one (written in 2013, the 50th anniversary of the year of Lewis' death), but I believe I know enough about Lewis to surmise that he would be either astonished or appalled (or both) to know that that much paper was expended on his life. In my view, the essential biographical works about C.S. Lewis are "Jack," written by George Sayer in 1988 (and the only book I own that was signed by its author), "The Letters of C.S. Lewis" (the earlier compilation; not the entire four volumes that has since come out) and his own "Surprised by Joy." It might be worth inserting here that Lewis' friends and family always called him Jack, never Clive, even though Clive was his name. "A Life Observed" wouldn't make my essentials list, but I don't regret reading it. The author does a particularly good job of showing how themes from Lewis' life work their way into his books. Example: I knew that Lewis had unfortunate experiences in schools, and I knew that schools come off badly in the Narnia Chronicles, but I never really connected the two before. Reading "A Life Observed" also has led me to think it's time to reread all of Lewis' works that I own, and I own most of them. This time, I'm going to try to read them in the order he wrote them, starting with "A Pilgrim's Regress." I think my favorite moment in "A Life Observed" is when the author talks about the week he spent in the Kilns, the Lewis homestead near Oxford, while leading a seminar. He writes: "I got to sleep in Jack's bedroom -- as far as I can tell, the thing I have done in my life which has most impressed my mother."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Aisling

    A thoroughly researched and convincing book. I am a big fan of C.S. Lewis and was eager to read this biography of the interesting spiritual journey that led Lewis back to God and Christianity. The book does not disappoint. The author Dr. Devin Brown uses Lewis's fictional works, non fiction, and private letters as well as correspondence about him by others (like Lewis's brother, Warnie, and his good friend J.R.R. Tolkien). What emerges is a clear picture of Jack (as C.S. Lewis was known to famil A thoroughly researched and convincing book. I am a big fan of C.S. Lewis and was eager to read this biography of the interesting spiritual journey that led Lewis back to God and Christianity. The book does not disappoint. The author Dr. Devin Brown uses Lewis's fictional works, non fiction, and private letters as well as correspondence about him by others (like Lewis's brother, Warnie, and his good friend J.R.R. Tolkien). What emerges is a clear picture of Jack (as C.S. Lewis was known to family and friends) and the lifelong evolving relationship he had with faith. An inspiring and moving biography.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Laura Lee

    A lovingly written book about C.S.Lewis and his journey to becoming a Christian. The author doesn't dwell on any occurrences in Lewis's life but rather the reaction of Lewis and how it relates to his journey. As a child Lewis believed in God, though a more frightening one. He later went through many other beliefs, even atheism. I did not know anything of Lewis's life and have never read any of his works, however I will now. He was a sensitive man, filled with wonder. The book portrays him this w A lovingly written book about C.S.Lewis and his journey to becoming a Christian. The author doesn't dwell on any occurrences in Lewis's life but rather the reaction of Lewis and how it relates to his journey. As a child Lewis believed in God, though a more frightening one. He later went through many other beliefs, even atheism. I did not know anything of Lewis's life and have never read any of his works, however I will now. He was a sensitive man, filled with wonder. The book portrays him this way and at the end of it you are glad to have met him.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joanna Calder

    Despite being a huge Narnia fan (I wrote my BA Honours thesis about an aspect of the Chronicles) and having read - many years ago - the planets novels and the Screwtape Letters. I have never read a detailed biography of Lewis or his own autobiographical works. I knew the broad brush strokes of his life from a variety of sources over the years. This is not a biography in the classic sense of the word, however; it is, as the title says, a spiritual biography. How did he move from a by-rote Christi Despite being a huge Narnia fan (I wrote my BA Honours thesis about an aspect of the Chronicles) and having read - many years ago - the planets novels and the Screwtape Letters. I have never read a detailed biography of Lewis or his own autobiographical works. I knew the broad brush strokes of his life from a variety of sources over the years. This is not a biography in the classic sense of the word, however; it is, as the title says, a spiritual biography. How did he move from a by-rote Christian, to an atheist, to a "deist", and finally to a deep, meaningful and sincere true Christian with a deep, meaningful, sincere and non-judgemental faith and a sympathetic understanding of the nature of Christianity and the struggles that believers face in their faith. I truly enjoyed this book, and found it very informative and, indeed, inspiring. I now want to go back and re-read those books I read so long ago, and read more of his Christian writings. My only quibble with the book is the style. It begins with a style that made me wonder if the author was writing for young people, but he soon drops the pseudo-simplistic voice and, while still retaining a very accessible style, "gets serious" about his topic. Is it an accurate assessment of Lewis' journey? I'm not sure - I haven't read enough other sources yet. But one thing the author does not do, which he says other biographers have done, is question the honesty of Lewis' faith or the veracity or interpretation of the very words that Lewis himself wrote.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andy Dollahite

    Not exactly a “typical” biography, although it does follow CSL’s life in a fairly chronological trajectory. Brown works to weave Lewis’ own writings into his spiritual development, somewhat retrospectively. He depends primarily on Surprised by Joy, but utilizes Narnia/Screwtape/Grief Observed frequently too. Although mentioned, very little is explored reference his life with Mrs. Moore, his professional setbacks at Oxford, or his relationship with the Inklings.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Paul J

    Devin Brown gives us a different perspective in terms of a biography by concentrating on the religious background of C. S. Lewis and the spiritual progress that brought him to the point of embracing the Christian faith. It is a fascinating approach and a good read. I certainly recommend this to you.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Steve Visel

    I've read many books over the last few years which I've enjoyed, but few, if any, that have left me a feeling of satisfaction and quiet joy. A Life Observed is not a biography, but rather a spiritual biography of the esteemed CS Lewis. It presents the story of how Lewis came to faith and how that faith transformed his thinking, his writing, and his life. I've read many books over the last few years which I've enjoyed, but few, if any, that have left me a feeling of satisfaction and quiet joy. A Life Observed is not a biography, but rather a spiritual biography of the esteemed CS Lewis. It presents the story of how Lewis came to faith and how that faith transformed his thinking, his writing, and his life.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Melody Hitchner

    A beautiful tribute tracing Lewis’s spiritual growth from Atheist to believer and Christian apologist. Brown talks just enough about each book to make me want to go and buy all of them (which I tried, but my local used booksellers say they cannot keep his works in stock).

  17. 4 out of 5

    Merrilee

    After taking an online course about CS Lewis at Hillsdale College I wanted to learn more about the life his life. I found this biography to be interesting and informative about his life and works. I am reading the Narnia books for the first time, too.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jane Glen

    I can't even begin to explain how much I loved this book. I savoured every word as this author explores Lewis's spiritual journey with reference to many of his other works; both fiction and non-fiction. What a delightful read. I can't even begin to explain how much I loved this book. I savoured every word as this author explores Lewis's spiritual journey with reference to many of his other works; both fiction and non-fiction. What a delightful read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brannon Shortt

    I particularly appreciate how much of Lewis is quoted in this book. Not a biography that is full of assumptions, but A biography that beautifully depicts Lewis‘s life through multiple sets of eyes… Including his own

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Hardy

    Having read some other pieces such as Surprised by Joy, I really appreciated this external perspective which offered new insight to me on Lewis's Journey. In my perspective, this one may actually be more helpful for someone on their own journey a spiritual exploration. Having read some other pieces such as Surprised by Joy, I really appreciated this external perspective which offered new insight to me on Lewis's Journey. In my perspective, this one may actually be more helpful for someone on their own journey a spiritual exploration.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ace

    Tremendous. Highly recommendable to just about anyone. I listened to the mountain goats album The Life of the World to Come while reading this book, which I feel greatly enhanced the experience.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel Lainson

    This book is a wonderful journey of learning Lewis the man behind the lion. If you want to know who Lewis was as a human being, read this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Lovely biography of CS Lewis' spiritual journey and his writing Lovely biography of CS Lewis' spiritual journey and his writing

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mary Reilly

    Huge C S Lewis fan and I have been reading quite a bit about him and some works by him lately. This book is his spiritual biography which I found well written and insightful.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    I listened to this book. I don’t know if I could have read it. I am not the intellectual that CS Lewis is but I did enjoy learning about his upbringing and spiritual growth.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Diana Maryon

    I am already very fond of this new ‘Life’ of Lewis: while it doesn’t essentially add any information to the modern record, it does constitute a rich new synthesis, a sensitive account of Lewis the ‘mere Christian’ which contrasts quite sharply with the well-known if not notorious Freudian and atheistic versions. It is well worth having if only for some fresh emphases on the links between Lewis’ life, thinking and writing. He was after all that rarest of beings, a truly integrated man. Buy this a I am already very fond of this new ‘Life’ of Lewis: while it doesn’t essentially add any information to the modern record, it does constitute a rich new synthesis, a sensitive account of Lewis the ‘mere Christian’ which contrasts quite sharply with the well-known if not notorious Freudian and atheistic versions. It is well worth having if only for some fresh emphases on the links between Lewis’ life, thinking and writing. He was after all that rarest of beings, a truly integrated man. Buy this account if you buy no other. There are some misprints: on p. 32 Brown must mean to write “casual” not “causal”, and on p. 59 the original “completely” not “competently”. There are some solecisms: p. 14 “equally as”, p. 103 “different ... than”, p. 158 “continued on”, p. 207 “Reverend Farrer” without the article. There is some “valley-speak” in the shape of “like” as a conjunction in place of “as if” or “as though” [pp. 28, 104, 192, and possibly in other places which I have missed]. Lewis’ wife never was “Mrs. Joy Lewis” [p. 29]: she could have become that only if he had divorced her before he died. The author has the matter of how many degrees Lewis earned when he read Mods., Greats and a year of the English School right in spots, but mostly he repeats the standard misunderstandings [p. 87 “two other first degrees”, pp. 106-7 “each of these degrees”]. If I had accepted Oxford’s best Classics scholarship for women in 1956 I should have read Greats as he did. This is the University of Oxford's Classics course, and is divided into two parts, lasting five terms and seven terms respectively, the whole lasting four years in total. Honour Moderations is taken at the five-term mark, and unless one is failed the result makes not an atom of difference to one’s final class-mark. The whole course of studies leads to Finals and ONE (1) B.A. degree. He no more got two degrees, let alone three after his extra work on the English School, than I got four degrees after four Parts of the Cambridge Tripos. Because Cambridge is different (Surprise, surprise!), and does not classify its degrees, only its examinations, one speaks there of a Double, Triple, or even a Quadruple First; but one still finishes up with ONE (1) B.A. We Cantabrigians do not write Finals as undergraduates, just one or more Tripos examinations. The reference to the Guardian as a religious paper [p. 187] may confuse some readers. There was an Anglican weekly of that name from 1846 to 1951. I don’t‎ think that Lewis could have invited anyone to lunch in Merton College [p. 200]. Brown does not address the conundrum of the bluebells at Whipsnade in September on a “crisp fall day” [pp. 155-6, pp. 160-161]. McGrath’s very recent solution needs to be taken on board at this point. It would chime with the two other places where Lewis’ typical vagueness about chronology is noted by Brown. The one area where this book strikes me as a little bit ‘thin’ is the matter of Lewis’ emotional life as it related to the opposite sex in the long years before his marriage. The “huge and complex episode” through which his “earlier hostility to the emotions was very fully and variously avenged” must surely have been more than his simply moving in with the Moores. That the relationship with ‘Minto’ was simply erotic rather than also sexual in nature I do believe to have been possible — but not completely certain. If Lewis was not virginal when he was converted, one can indeed be certain that he became chaste afterwards; but not only was he very needy emotionally at that earlier time, he felt no moral scruples of any kind. I do suggest that a second edition is urgently needed, not necessarily because of this particular gap, but to take care of all my other points of criticism including the purely typographic errors.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marek Oziewicz

    I really enjoyed this quiet book. One of the greatest questions in human life is how we become what we are. The process has no end, but it does have stages and it is these that we care about in our personal development as well as in all educational practices we design. We seek to find meanings, we ask unanswerable questions, and we aspire to transcend what we are or know at any given moment. This unquenchable thirst that most people experience strongly suggests, as Lewis would say, that there is I really enjoyed this quiet book. One of the greatest questions in human life is how we become what we are. The process has no end, but it does have stages and it is these that we care about in our personal development as well as in all educational practices we design. We seek to find meanings, we ask unanswerable questions, and we aspire to transcend what we are or know at any given moment. This unquenchable thirst that most people experience strongly suggests, as Lewis would say, that there is something that can satisfy it. That thing, in Lewis’s parlance, is Joy. No matter what name you give to it, we’re all questers for it, whether we know it or not. On this road, biographies of exceptional people are some of the best signposts to look at. In them we see our own struggles reflected, surprisingly relevant though they usually happened in very different circumstances. “You too?,” we ask surprised, “I thought I was the only one…” This last sentence, by the way, comes from Lewis’s own description of how friendship arises. The way it suggests that friendship involves discovering invisible connections is a very apt description of Devin Brown’s superb achievement in A Life Observed. What this book does is not just shed light on Lewis’s life: it illuminates ours too, reaching across time, space, and circumstances of Jack’s life to connect them with ours. Here are my three bottom line reasons why I consider it brilliant. One: Brown’s focus is on Jack’s life as a quest for Joy. Although it seems common knowledge that all of Lewis’s life and work was part of his own spiritual quest, no one has ever attempted a biography that foregrounds that perspective. Perhaps no one has dared. A Life Observed is first and foremost a spiritual biography. Read it and you’ll see how Brown succeeds in this formidable task. Two: Brown speaks Lewisesque. Although I’m way less knowledgeable about Lewis’s oeuvre than Brown is, I’m sufficiently familiar with Lewis’ style, imagery, characterization and logic to see how Brown’s own writing “speaks” Lewis(-esque). This is not just on the level of language or imagery, but also on a deeper level of sharing the quest for Joy and understanding what it means. Three: This book is simply fun to read. It’s not scholarly and not hagiographic either; it’s packed with information but not overwhelming. Brown’s conversational style—again, read any essay by Lewis and you’ll see similarities—has a warm, inviting tang to it. This book is a mine of little treasures and Brown helps the reader become its confident explorer. C.S. Lewis is one of the most influential authors and Christian thinkers of the 20th century. Devin Brown is perhaps the greatest Lewis scholar writing today. When the two meet, we get extraordinary yet unassuming gems such as A Life Observed. Highly recommended!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Aidan

    I quite like the idea that a biography can be about a particular aspect of a person rather than their entire lives. After all, how many biographers are expert in so many fields that they can perfectly describe someone with many talents and characteristics? In this book, Devin Brown writes the beautifully moving story of Lewis' conversion to Christianity. Each point is backed by something Lewis said, which makes it all the more compelling. And who knew he was such an fascinating guy? Between his pr I quite like the idea that a biography can be about a particular aspect of a person rather than their entire lives. After all, how many biographers are expert in so many fields that they can perfectly describe someone with many talents and characteristics? In this book, Devin Brown writes the beautifully moving story of Lewis' conversion to Christianity. Each point is backed by something Lewis said, which makes it all the more compelling. And who knew he was such an fascinating guy? Between his prison-like schools, time in ww1, and founding of the Inklings, C.S. Lewis obviously lived an interesting life. His experiences with God and faith, already explained so clearly in some of his non-fiction works are given new depth here as they are compared to events he lived. It's worth noting that this book only picks up steam after the first 30 pages or so. Before that it drags a little, but after that it's very hard to put down. The reason I couldn't give it five stars is that I was hoping more for the character of CS Lewis. What was he really like? Maybe this is asking too much of a non-contemporary, but it seemed that for most of the book, he was just an idea of a person floating through space. Perhaps this comes from an over-reliance on Lewis' letters; he's very unlikely to describe himself in one! And all the other people he interacted with (his teacher, Tolkien, Joy) are described only in the briefest biographical terms. I have no real understanding of what traits any of these people had. This makes the book slightly less powerful. On the other hand, I feel I know a lot more about the author than I usually do. He explained why he wanted to write this, and how he went about doing it. It added a nice touch to the book. Maybe authorial interjections don't sound like an appealing feature, but they help you envision the importance and possible impact of the book. When I was done, it inspired me to re-read some of his works, especially a Grief Observed. As, I suppose, was the point of the book. Hopefully anyone who reads this will have at least a passing interest in picking up his non-fiction works. Overall, it shed a lot of light on a truly inspirational man, and did so in an engaging way.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nick Jordan

    This is not a good biography. It's limited to only publicly available and widely published sources, with apparently no original research. The first half is a summarizing of what is better available in Lewis' own writings, particularly Surprised by Joy. The second half was better written and more compelling, but that couldn't redeem this book. I bumped it up from two stars because it does make me want to read and re-read more Lewis. This is not a good biography. It's limited to only publicly available and widely published sources, with apparently no original research. The first half is a summarizing of what is better available in Lewis' own writings, particularly Surprised by Joy. The second half was better written and more compelling, but that couldn't redeem this book. I bumped it up from two stars because it does make me want to read and re-read more Lewis.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    I have rarely, if ever, defined a book as “life changing”. Several have had a great influence on the way I think. Aristotle's Poetics comes to mind, as does St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas but probably more because they formed my thoughts in a parochial high school. I'm also a devoted fan of Wm. Shakespeare but I can't say he changed my life although I'm certainly richer for having read him. However, when a friend sent me C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed, I really think reading that did make a cha I have rarely, if ever, defined a book as “life changing”. Several have had a great influence on the way I think. Aristotle's Poetics comes to mind, as does St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas but probably more because they formed my thoughts in a parochial high school. I'm also a devoted fan of Wm. Shakespeare but I can't say he changed my life although I'm certainly richer for having read him. However, when a friend sent me C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed, I really think reading that did make a change in my life at that time. I certainly felt that without it I may never have recovered my sanity. So when I saw A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis, I was looking forward to reading an account of how this man, who had written so eloquently of his grief at his wife's death, had gone through his conversion process. I was familiar with the story….an atheist as a young man, Lewis came gradually to belief in God and was a reluctant convert to Christianity. He eventually became became one of the most famous Christian apologists of the 20th century and one of its best selling authors. He is known to children the world over as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia which still sell in the millions. So also do his books on Christianity. A Spiritual Biography does a good job of following the tale of Lewis' conversion through his life story and especially through his writings. Dr. Devin gives very good examples from many of the published works, especially The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity that illustrate this journey. He does a good job with quotes from the people that knew C.S. Lewis personally. What is lacking is any sense of emotional investment. When I came to the end, what I felt is that if I wish to learn about a journey of faith, it's best to learn it from the person who took the journey.

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