Top Ten

Though all of C.S. Lewis’ 30 plus books are well worth reading, below is, in alphabetical order, what Jackson Presbyterian Examiner considers his ten absolute best. The majority of these books are available through the Jackson-Hinds Library System, They are also available at the Leland Speed Library at Mississippi College.

1. A Grief Observed

Originally a journal, never intended for publication, Lewis eventually consented to have his reflections on his young wife’s death to cancer published, in hopes that it might help other grievers. One of the most personal of all of Lewis’ books, A Grief Observed, is sure to resonate with anyone dealing with deep loss and struggling to find God in the midst of it.

2. God in the Dock

A compilation of numerous essays Lewis wrote over the course of three decades, God in the Dock was published posthumously and has become one of Lewis’ most revered books. Lewis explores a wide range of topics—the Deity of Christ, Christianity and culture, the commercialization of Christmas, the importance of reading old books, the conflict between science and religion, etc… As an apologist, Lewis is at the top of his game in God in the Dock.

3. Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

The last book Lewis ever wrote, Letters to Malcolm is a window into his views on prayer, both private and corporate. In this book, more so than any other, Lewis opens up about his views regarding the sacraments, liturgy, and prayers for the dead. Feeling it would be presumptuous to write an instructional book on prayer, Lewis instead framed this as a series of letters to a fictional friend on the topic of prayer. Readers feel like they have the privilege of over hearing a fascinating conversation between Lewis and “Malcolm.” Congenial as always, one reviewer said that in this book Lewis effectively took the “protest out of Protestantism.”

4. Mere Christianity

The most important book Lewis wrote, Mere Christianity is the summit of Lewis’ contribution to Christian literature in the 20th century. Setting out to explain and defend the beliefs that have been held in common by all Christians in all times and in all places, Lewis persuasively shows readers why Christ is who he claimed to be, why his death and resurrection reconciles the world to God, why Christian morality reflects how God originally designed human beings to function, and why the doctrine of the Trinity is central to the Christian life. Accessible, brilliant, witty, and profound–if Mere Christianity had been Lewis’ only contribution (thank God it wasn’t), he still would deserve to go down in history as arguably the best Christian communicator since apostolic times.

5. Out of the Silent Planet

In this, his first of three science fiction novels, Lewis turns the age old fear of being invaded by creatures from outerspace on its head: in this story, wicked men from earth travel to Mars, intending to corrupt the locals. Containing rich Christian symbolism, Out of the Silent Planet introduces the Mars inhabitants, or Malacandrans, as an unfallen race who’ve never known sin. Though all three installments of the Space Trilogy are worth reading, Out of the Silent Planet is the most accessible.

6. Reflections on the Psalms

An amazingly original perspective on the Psalms, this book showcases Lewis’ appreciation for the Old Testament, as well as his unique view of Scripture in general. Beginning with what he feels to be the difficult or problematic passages in the psalms, Lewis ends by exploring the extent to which the psalms foreshadowed the coming of Jesus Christ. Even when making assertions evangelicals can’t agree with (such as that Scripture contains error and contradiction), Lewis’ charitable and irenic tone endears him to readers, and will edify even those who won’t always concur.

7. The Great Divorce

Arguably Lewis’ most profound work of fiction, this “theological fantasy” takes readers on a journey from hell to heaven, where conversations between lost spirits and redeemed spirits are overheard. Lewis explores what motivates the lost to cling to their rights rather than give in, as well as the nature of repentance itself. No other Lewis book, with the possible exception of Screwtape Letters, shows Lewis’ depth of understanding of human nature better thanThe Great Divorce.

8. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The most beloved installment of the seven volume Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobeintroduces readers to a Narnia oppressed by the wicked witch, Jadis, who makes it always winter, but never Christmas. Through a magical wardrobe, four English children find themselves in Narnia with the task of helping to break the witch’s curse. One child turns traitor, though, and can only be saved through the sacrificial death of Aslan, the great King, the Lion who created Narnia ages ago. Full of Christian imagery, Lewis’ book re-tells the gospel in a way that captures the imaginations of children, as well as adults.

9. The Problem of Pain

“How can an all-powerful, good God allow evil and suffering in the world?” That age old question is tackled by Lewis in this, his first apologetics book. Published in 1940, as England was engaged in World War II, the book carried a poignant message for its original audience, but it is no less relevant today. Lewis argues that God’s goodness and love towards creatures means that he loves us too much to “leave us alone” when we are separate from him, and that much of the pain we experience is simply God’s effort to draw us back to the realization of our need for him. Never patronizing or condescending, Lewis explores hard doctrines such as the Fall of Man and the existence of hell. The book closes with a poetic description of heaven, arguably the most heavenly description of paradise, outside of the canon.

10. Yours, Jack by C.S. Lewis

In his lifetime, Lewis often viewed keeping up with his correspondence as a daunting task, as he made it a priority to personally answer every serious letter received. Though it would’ve been easy to see such constant letter writing as tedious, a distraction from his important writing, it turns out that the content of his letters has proven to be some of Lewis’ most inspiring work. In this volume, letters from the 1930s to the 1960s have been gleaned for spiritual/devotional insights from Lewis. Warm, personal, and pastoral, these letters are a pleasure to read and re-read.

Dum dum de dum…

Guess who’s getting married and has two thumbs? This gal.

Yup. As far as I can see right now, it’s an actual thing. We are going to meet with Rob Renfro to discuss on Friday. I’m excited and freaking out.

CS Lewis Reading List

In Reading the Classics with C.S. Lewis, editor Thomas Martin and the other literature professors who
contributed to this essay collection detailed the works of classic English literature that helped form Lewis
as a Christian thinker. (See “Reading the Classics with C.S. Lewis” in the Summer, 2005 issue of Heart and
Mind magazine.)
While trying to compile a reading list from the literature cited in these essays, I emailed Dr. Martin asking
for advice. He kindly sent me some reading recommendations for both primary and secondary level students.
I have also included a list of various other books mentioned in Reading the Classics with C.S. Lewis.
One suggestion straight from Lewis: familiarize kids with the classics through picture books and children’s
versions, making it easier for them to read the originals on their own when they are older. Also, many of these
titles would make excellent family read-alouds.
A word of caution: Do a bit of research before handing these books to your children. Some are written in
archaic language which requires extra help to comprehend. Some might have levels of violence or sensuality
or other adult themes that you feel your child is not yet ready for. And there is not a little anti-Catholicism in
several books on the list, including Puritan’s Progress, The Faerie Queene and Paradise Lost.
Dr. Thomas Martin’s reading recommendations:
Primary level:
Andersen, Hans Christian, The Snow Queen
Bunyan, John Pilgrim’s Progress
Grahame, Kenneth The Wind in the Willows
Juster, Norton The Phantom Tollbooth
L’Engle, Madeline A Wrinkle in Time (series)
Lewis, C.S. The Chronicles of Narnia (series)
MacDonald, George The Princess and the Goblin
The Princess and Curdie
The Light Princess
The Golden Key
The Princess and the Goblin
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit
The Lord of the Rings
Secondary level (essential):
Alighieri, Dante The Divine Comedy
Chaucer, Geoffrey Canterbury Tales (selections)
C.S. Lewis-Inspired Reading List
Lesley Rice
©2005 Heart and Mind
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
Defoe, Daniel Robinson Crusoe
Dickinson, Emily Selected Poems
Donne, John Selected poems
Hawthorne, Nathaniel The Scarlet Letter
“Young Goodman Brown”
“Ethan Brand”
Henry David Thoreau Walden
Herbert, George The Temple (selected poems)
Homer The Iliad
The Odyssey
Marlowe, Christopher Doctor Faustus
Melville, Herman Moby Dick
Milton, John Paradise Lost
Shakespeare, William Julius Caesar
Romeo and Juliet
Shelley, Mary Frankenstein
Swift, Jonathan Gulliver’s Travels
Tolstoy, Leo “Master and Man”
Virgil The Aenid
Secondary level (additional):
Alcott, Louisa May Little Women
Buck, Pearl The Good Earth
Cooper, James Fenimore Last of the Mohicans
Clark, Walter Van Tilburg The Ox-Bow Incident
Lee, Harper To Kill a Mockingbird
London, Jack White Fang
Call of the Wild
Potok, Chaim My Name is Asher Lev
Twain, Mark Huckleberry Finn
Tom Sawyer
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Verne, Jules Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
White, E.B. Charlotte’s Web
White, T.H. The Once and Future King
More books mentioned in Reading the Classics
with C.S. Lewis:
Austin, Jane Persuasion
Mansfield Park
Sense and Sensibility
Boswell, James The Life of Samuel Johnson
Carroll, Lewis Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
©2005 Heart and Mind
Haggard, Rider King Solomon’s Mines
Kingsley, Charles The Water Babies
Kipling, Rudyard Kim
Rewards and Fairies
Milton, John Paradise Lost by Milton
Norton, Mary The Borrowers
Potter, Beatrix Squirrel Nutkin
The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Spenser, Edmund The Faerie Queene
Swift, Jonathan Gulliver’s Travels [For an interesting analysis of this satire from a
Christian perspective, see Anne Barbeau Gardiner’s article, “Swift
Prophet:The Christian Meaning of Gulliver’s Travels” in the
October, 2004 issue of Touchstone magazine. Call 800-783-4903
or visit]
White, T.H. Mistress Masham’s Repose
Also mentioned as Lewis favorirtes: Charlotte Bronte and poets Wordsworth, Herbert,
Keats and Shelley.
More reading lists:
The University of New Mexico Department of English, master’s program reading list:
Also, see UNM’s Ph.D. reading lists in English Literature at
Rutgers-Newark Department of English reading list:
©2005 Heart and Mind
Lesley Rice is editor of Heart and Mind: A
Resource for Catholic Homeschoolers. Read
her comprehensive review of Reading the
Classics With C.S. Lewis in the
Summer 2005 issue. To order a
back issue or to subscribe, visit
Order Reading the Classics
With C.S. Lewis from Baker
Academic, P.O. Box 6287,
Grand Rapids, MI 49516,
(800) 877-2665 or visit www. Cost:
$19.92 plus $4.49 shipping
and handling.
Lewis’ Top 10 Books
Phantastes by George MacDonald
The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton
The Aenid by Virgil
The Temple by George Herbert
The Prelude by William Wordsworth
The Idea of the Holy by Rudolfo Otto
The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius
The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell
Descent into Hell by Charles Williams
Theism and Humanism by Arthur James Balfour

In His Hands

I just had a terrible dream. I dreamt that we lost Cole. In my dream none of us were accepting the truth. I took Kyle to school one day, and the next day I went to take him again and he said he couldn’t stand to go because everyone “kept trying to convince him and asking about Cole.” I can’t even fathom this horror, but as painful as it is for me, I can’t even start to think about what it would do to Kyle. That is the most heartbreaking thought for me. Please God don’t ever let this horrible nightmare come true!

When I woke up, the song playing in my head was By Your Side by Tenth Avenue North. The lyrics are below. Thank you God.

Why are you striving these days
Why are you trying to earn grace
Why are you crying
Let me lift up your face
Just don’t turn away

Why are you looking for love
Why are you still searching
As if I’m not enough
To where will you go child
Tell me where will you run
To where will you run

‘Cause I’ll be by your side wherever you fall
In the dead of night whenever you call
And please don’t fight these hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

Look at these hands at my side
They swallowed the grave on that night
When I drank the world’s sin
So I could carry you in
And give you life
I want to give you life

And I’ll be by your side wherever you fall
In the dead of night whenever you call
And please don’t fight these hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

Here at my side wherever you fall
In the dead of night whenever you call
And please don’t fight these hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

‘Cause I, I love you
I want you to know
That I, yeah I’ll love you
I’ll never let you go, no, no

And I’ll be by your side wherever you fall
In the dead of night whenever you call
And please don’t fight these hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

Here at my side wherever you fall
In the dead of night whenever you call
And please don’t fight these hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you
Here at my side, my hands are holding you