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Book review-A Year with CS Lewis

Contrary to the title of this book, very few readers will get a year of reading out of it. These selections of Lewis’ writings are too good. Reading one per day is about like eating one potato chip. Count on two months, maybe.

Editor Patricia S. Klein obviously knows C. S. Lewis like the back of her own hand, both his life and writings. Many days are footnoted with major events of the author’s life, e.g., when his major works were published, when he was injured in WWI, and when his beloved wife Joy died. We know and appreciate the man as much as his ideas by the end.

This anthology serves well as a refresher course on those already familiar with Jack Lewis, as an introduction, or simply on its own as a study of all but his fantasy and science fiction. I was particularly taken by selections from The Weight of Glory which I have never read. These unravelled a longstanding mystery for me regarding why a scholar of his calibre was never given a full professorship at Oxford. Meditations on “Membership” and “The Inner Ring” told me enough about the pettiness, point-scoring, and one-upmanship in which he refused to participate, choosing instead true friendship with his fellow “Inklings” which gave him half the pleasure of his life. He spoke on this topic in his fiction That Hideous Strength which I read many years ago, but these pieces of the jigsaw puzzle made me understand fully for the first time how we are tempted to betray Christ and ourselves for a false “belonging” based on ego rather then genuine love, friendship, and good shared values.

This is a good antidote to what contemporary philosopher Ken Wilbur calls “spiritual flatland” where there are no higher truths, no spiritual ascent, and no excellence in anything. Lewis is able to teach us a real hierarchy of values, and therefore morality. He then goes on to charm and challenge us to right living.

I am particularly grateful to the editor Klein for the February 29th entry. Not only is it good for a leap year, but gives one more snippet of wisdom for the other three. It happens to be about the propriety of striving for moral perfection, but you will want to read it for yourself.

Reviewed by Br. Thomas Crutcher
A Year With C.S. Lewis
Daily Readings from His Classic Works
HarperSanFrancisco, 2003, 397 pp